This section provides some examples of people who have resolved behavioral problems, such as addiction and compulsive behaviors, more complicated conditions like depression, and traumas, and other feelings.
The Impact of Addiction Addiction is a serious problem in our society today and the treatment of addiction is both costly and ineffective. Almost everyone has been touched by addiction in a family member, in a friend, or in a co-worker and many of those touched have been damaged emotionally and financially by them. Approximately 90% of those in our jails and prisons have addiction problems that lead them repeatedly back to prison and jail in spite of their participation in treatment programs.
The Problem with Treatment Programs Almost all treatment programs are based upon the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which are good, biblically-based principles for living. In addition, most treatment programs teach clients about the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol in their lives and teach them "relapse prevention" principles to learn to recognize when they are about to slip so that they can take actions to avoid slipping. Although these principles can be useful they do not address the underlying emotional issues that lead people to abuse drugs or alcohol. These programs are primarily educational programs and these treatment programs do not help individuals resolve their feelings of grief, anger, and shame that are the reasons why they have urges to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to numb their feelings.
The Basic Addiction Principle
Many young people experiment with alcohol and drugs but most of them do not continue using them to the point that they become addicted because most people do not like to get drunk or high. Those who begin using drugs or alcohol regularly do so because of unpleasant emotional feelings such as anger, grief, sadness, and shame. When they use drugs or alcohol and find that it numbs their emotions they become addicted because it relieves their negative feelings. Once they become addicted it is extremely difficult to quit using permanently unless the negative emotions are resolved.
An example of this principle was seen in a middle-age woman who came for some grief counseling after losing her son. She told me how her son began using drugs in high school and then developed a serious addiction after high school. He entered a treatment program in his early 20s and was converted to Christianity and began reading his Bible and attending church. His mother was thrilled to see this change in her only son and he remained clean and sober for five years. However, his depression returned and one day he called the local police and told them he was about to shoot himself and he gave his address where he could be found so that his mother would not have to find him. A policeman was next door and ran over to his house to try to talk him out of his suicide plans, but the young man shot himself in front of the officer and took his own life in spite of the officer's efforts. This young man remained clean and sober for five years but his underlying negative emotions were never resolved so he ultimately took his life due to the pain he was carrying inside.
Set Free From Addiction
Treatment programs do not know how to set people from from grief, anger, or shame. I say this from personal experience (Dr. Gardner) because I tried for 25 years to help people with these emotions and was unable to do so. The research on grief, anger management, and PTSD confirm that therapists are very inadequate in helping those with these feelings, and if we are unable to help people with grief, anger, and shame we cannot help those with addictions. The three primary negative emotions that addicts have that lead them to abuse drugs and alcohol are grief, anger, and shame. In order to be set free from addiction individuals need to experience freedom from the negative emotions that lead them to seek relief through drugs. Once they receive healing from their grief, anger, and shame their urges to use drugs or to drink stop and they are able to remain clean and sober without going through a daily battle as those in AA or NA experience.
In order to learn how to resolve feelings of grief, anger, sadness and shame read the preceding sections under this heading. Once you take these steps and allow Jesus to release you from these painful emotions you will discover that Jesus does, indeed, heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.
A Christian woman developed an addiction to pain pills a year ago after taking them for her pain from suffering a broken leg. She got off the pain medications but then felt so badly that she began drinking in a desperate attempt to feel better. Her family was very concerned for her and removed her children from her out of concern and threatened to have them taken from her legally if she did not get help. They strongly urged her to go into an inpatient treatment program but she and her husband decided to wait and see how our prayer sessions went before doing this. We met four times and each time we prayed about some past losses, anger, and feelings of shame. Each time she was able to resolve more traumas and losses from her past and she left feeling better, and each time her urges to use drugs or alcohol decreased.
The last time I saw her she had gone two weeks without any urges and she said she felt "great!" Her husband agreed and said, "I feel extremely good about how she is doing." We reviewed all of the trauma areas and losses we had prayed about and she had prayed through on her own, and she reported feeling no lingering feelings of sadness, grief, or anger. She quit taking the psychiatric drugs that her Christian doctor had prescribed for her and said she has felt no depression for over two weeks. She said that she felt the medications actually increased her depression. Last week she was laughing at one of her children and her son said, "That's the first time I've seen you laugh in a long time." She didn't realize how depressed she had been but it was good to hear that her children were noticing the difference in her. She said that she is being a better mother and wife and the prayer sessions had improved her relationship with her husband "100%". Her husband agreed and said, "It's amazing!"
We were all rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord and praising Him for being such and amazing God. What a joy it is to see this woman set free to love her children and husband the way she always wanted to. We will, of course, continue to follow-up with her to make sure she has truly resolved all of the underlying negative emotions that were driving her addiction but it is clear that she is doing much better and is likely to continue doing well. She and her husband are so excited about her changes that they want to share their story with others. She allowed us to videotape her sessions so that others can benefit and rejoice with her in her newfound freedom. These videos will be made available for purchase in the near future.
As we go into the local jail each week we have the privilege of introducing men and women to Jesus and to see many of them come to salvation. However, many of these converts are released but then continue to struggle with alcohol and drug addictions and eventually return to the jail. So we began to teach them how to pray for emotional healing and we began praying with them individually so that they could resolve the underlying emotional issues that lead them to chronic substance abuse.
One man had been involved in an addiction ministry with his wife and had been leading Christian recovery group meetings four or five nights per week but he still relapsed and went to jail. His wife was heartbroken and so disappointed that she would not visit him in jail. We met with him and explained that he needed Jesus to take away the negative emotions he had from his past that continued to lead him to abuse drugs. He was interested in praying with us to learn to pray for emotional healing. During our first meeting I gathered background information about this man and made a list of his prayer needs, including a list of individuals toward whom he was angry, a list of unresolved losses, and a list of unresolved shame issues.
The following week we met with him and prayed with him about his anger toward his father and he was able to release his anger and felt peace and calm when talking about his childhood abuse. He was then released from jail but we continued to meet with him outside the jail to help him resolve the other issues on his prayer list. Over four more prayer sessions we prayed with him about other individuals whom he resented, about his unresolved grief issues, and about some feelings of shame he felt. Each of these emotions contributed to the negative feelings he carried around that led him to repeatedly seek comfort through drugs.
As we prayed through his prayer needs he became progressively more peaceful in his heart, began getting along better with his wife, and became increasingly more able to talk with the Lord and experience closeness to Him. He learned quickly how to pray about his emotions and began praying on his own about the matters written on his prayer list so that he could speed the process up. After the fourth session he stated that he was no longer experiencing any urges for drugs or even thinking about them. He was able to stay clean and sober without a daily battle with his emotions and with powerful urges to use again.
Many Christians engage in compulsive behaviors such as obsessive-compulsive behaviors, hoarding, ritualistic behaviors, and other compulsions that are driven by fears and other emotions. Once these feelings are exposed and the source of them is identified they can find freedom through prayer.
Depression affects many people and studies have shown that 26% of all U.S. adult females experience it at some time, and 17% of all U.S. males experience it at some time during their life. Chemical Imbalance Theory therapists and physicians have promoted the belief that depression is due to a chemical imbalance, when serotonin levels are low. This theory has been touted as fact for over 20 years but it has been tested repeatedly and no evidence has been found of any chemical imbalance in individuals who are depressed.
The Chemical Imbalance theory was officially buried in 2011 when Dr. Pies stated that "no well-informed psychiatrist believes in a chemical imbalance" in depressed people. Psychiatric textbooks have rejected the chemical imbalance theory of depression since about 2001, but in spite of this it continues to be used by pharmaceutical companies to market their medications and it is still believed by 87% of all Americans.
The truth is that antidepressant medications are also very ineffective and studies have repeatedly shown that they are no more effective than placebos. In fact, the FDA labels for these medications warn of adverse side effects that include aggression, agitation, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts. Many people who have tried antidepressants testify to the fact that they had nightmares, suicidal impulses and thoughts, and violent thoughts while they were on antidepressants. I personally know individuals who had family members commit suicide while taking antidepressants.
The Cause of Depression
In contrast to the Chemical Imbalance theory of depression, a study known as the Virginia Twin Study found that 87% of all depression was the result of some type of loss. In addition, sexual abuse has been shown to contribute to depression as well. In my practice I have found that most depression is related to grief and loss. Of course, there are no effective secular therapies for grief so this is why treatment programs for depression are so ineffective. When I focus on identifying the source and starting point of depressive episodes it is usually easy to identify the cause of most depression. As I pray with individuals about their unresolved grief, most depression is resolved very quickly, many times in a single prayer session.
Case Study: Set Free from Depression in One Session
I saw a woman who had been depressed since childhood as a result of numerous losses in her life. She was a Christian woman and had refused to take any psychiatric medications; she said she just stayed busy doing ministry and outreach activities. When I suggested that she could resolve her grief and overcome her depression she was surprised but very receptive to trying it. I explained that she needed to do two things: be completely honest about her loss by listing everything she missed about the person she lost, and then give her grief to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to take her grief from her.
She said that her greatest loss was the loss of her mother five years earlier, so we made a list of everything she missed about her mother and gave her grief to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to carry it for her. She was shocked afterwards at how her grief suddenly lifted. When I saw her two weeks later I asked her how she was doing and she said, "It has really helped. Sometimes I would see someone in a store with white hair like my mother's and it hurt my heart, but I saw someone with white hair this week and I smiled. I just had good memories." She said that she spoke with two of her sisters and gave them a copy of my booklet on "How to Overcome Grief" and they both wrote down their losses and gave them to the Lord, and both of them felt better. She also said, "Most Tuesdays I was in a black mood due to my mother's death on a Tuesday. Now, I feel good on Tuesdays and have begun to do some visitation."
I asked her to rate her depression on a 10-point scale and she rated it as a 0. She feels no more depression after giving her grief to the Lord, even though she has been depressed all her life! She told me that she wants to share this with her brother who is a minister, and she asked me for more copies of the Grief booklets. Isn't it wonderful how the Lord sets us free in such a simple way? Wouldn't it be wonderful if every pastor and minister would teach this from their pulpit to spread the word about how the Lord can heal the brokenhearted and set captives free?
RECOVERING FROM DIVORCE
Divorce can be a devastating experience, both for the divorcing parents and for the children. For the partners it can be devastating, lead to long-term depression, damage their relationships with others (including their children), lead to substance abuse, interfere with their job performance, and lead to impulsive decisions about new relationships.
One woman had been depressed for 25 years and had begun abusing alcohol because of her divorce. After a couple of sessions in which she released her anger and grief she was suddenly free of her emotional bondage to her former husband and she was able to see him and speak with him without any difficulty. She was also able to remain sober after that and began rebuilding her life and planning for her future. Studies have shown that divorce can have a profound and long-term impact on the children of the divorcing parents. It can lead to anxiety disorders, depression, angry outbursts, oppositional behavior, and substance abuse and the impact of the divorce on the child can last their entire life. However, the good news is that it is possible to release all the negative feelings resulting from a divorce so that you do not carry it with you and allow it to damage your life. The Lord wants you to release these emotions and allow Him to carry them for you.
THE EMOTIONAL COMPONENTS OF DIVORCE
In order to remove the negative emotional impact of a divorce it is necessary to identify the individual emotions you are experiencing and to deal with each of them. Fortunately, these emotions usually fall into the following four categories: Grief, Anger, Sadness, and Shame. It is important to recognize the emotions you are experiencing and then to deal separately with each of them. There is a separate page on this website to help you deal with each of these four emotions and the way to deal with each is described on these pages, listed just prior to this page.
ANGER: Anger and disappointment ( a mild form of anger) are some of the most common emotions experienced by those affected by divorce. For the involved adults it may be anger about many incidents from their past, it may be anger about an affair, anger about the legal or financial matters relating to the divorce, or numerous other matters. Children affected by divorce may be angry at one or both parents due to their perception of who caused the divorce and how it affects their life.
GRIEF: Loss of a spouse through divorce, or loss of a family unit for a child, usually triggers off strong feelings of grief that need to be dealt with separately from anger, both by the spouses and the children. This grief is not based upon distorted thinking but it needs to be acknowledged and released through the prayer-based process described previously. The longer one holds onto this grief, the greater the likelihood that it will lead to negative consequences in the individual's life.
SADNESS: Sadness is a separate emotion that often affects those who have experienced a divorce. There are some aspects of a divorce that are definitely sad and need to be identified and released. For example, it is sad that the family unit has been destroyed, it is sad that the children cannot live with both parents, it is sad that one spouse may be unable to witness the daily life and development of their children, and it is sad that divorce often damages other relationships such as their relationships with church friends and grandparents. Once you recognize these feelings of sadness, you should take yourself through the simple steps given in the page on sadness to release these feelings.
SHAME: Guilt and shame are common in divorcing couples who recognize that they may have contributed to the marital break-up, and many times they blame themselves for aspects of the divorce over which they had no control. For example, an affair can occur due to no failure on the part of the abandoned spouse and this spouse can blame himself or herself for it. Children often blame themselves, erroneously, for their parents' divorce and this is false guilt or shame. Such feelings of guilt and shame need to be addressed and resolved or they can lead to long-term damage in the person's life. Steps for replacing the internal lies underlying feelings of shame are described in the page on shame.
HEALING FROM DIVORCE:
Full recovery from divorce occurs when an individual identifies the various emotions they are experiencing and resolves each of them, one by one. The end result will be that they will experience God's peace again so that talking about or thinking about the divorce or the former partner does not provoke feelings of sadness, grief, anger, or shame. Even though things may change drastically after a divorce, the Lord wants to give you His peace and comfort as you learn to cast all your cares upon Him and to replace your internal lies with His truth. He loves you still and wants you to experience full recovery so that you will continue to grow in your faith and follow Him.