Healthy Tips for Elders

Unhooking From Habits That Hurt

Every so often I receive an email or a phone call from someone who has questions about whether or not alcohol and caffeine are truly harmful substances that warrant our abstinence. With studies suggesting the benefits of wine, coffee, or dark chocolate, many wonder whether the Seventh-day Adventist Church should rethink its teaching of abstinence from harmful substances and focus instead on moderation. It is easy sometimes to find the evidence when we want to support our own preferences and desires, not realizing that we may be opening ourselves to being “hooked” onto something that may lead to brokenness and pain.

It is easy for us to deny the fact that some church members, leaders, and pastors have addictions. We forget that without Christ, we are all addicted to sin, and our enemy is trying to hook us onto habits that not only harm our health but also impair our thinking process, our emotions, and our relationships with people and with God.

But it is not easy to talk about addiction. We don’t want to believe that many who attend services regularly may be hooked to practices and behaviors that will destroy their bodies, damage their ability to discern good from evil, and result in illness and brokenness. 

The good news is that there is hope. God has lovingly given us the road map to recovery. In Christ, we have all we need not only to discern what choices are best for our well-being but also to get the power and strength to become unhooked from these habits that may seem innocent and ”beneficial” but, in fact, eat away at our spiritual and mental vigor.

As spiritual leaders, elders need to be realistic about the issue of addiction and become educated in the process of recovery from it. We are talking not only about “high-profile” addictions like smoking, tobacco, or drugs, but also about pornography, gambling, the Internet, and food. Unless our leaders understand how and why people become addicted and how the process of recovery works, many individuals and homes will remain broken, drifting farther away from Jesus.

Does your church care about this issue? Does it have a ministry in place that can help people who are seeking the path of recovery? Adventist Recovery Ministries (ARMin) exists to address this need. This ministry aims to provide training and resources for church leaders and members who care about this issue. Some of its resources include:

• A new 12-step resource called Journey to Wholeness, available for churches who would like to initiate a support group or small group focusing on the path to recovery.
• A free newsletter called Journey to Life, which educates people about this very important need and is available in English, Spanish, and French.

For more information about this ministry and these resources, visit

As we continue to focus on Revival and Reformation, the Holy Spirit calls us to advance in our own journey to wholeness. As we do, we will be better equipped to meet the needs of the individuals, families, and communities around us who are crying for a way to be free and unhooked from those things that hurt them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The path from addiction to recovery can be challenging at times, but the process is ultimately freeing. We must follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance to discern when to abstain and when to use moderation.

Christ “has shown to us the path of Life” (Ps. 16:11). Let us walk in it as we recover from our brokenness and destructive habits. And let us also invite others to join us on this journey to wholeness and become better equipped to help them along the way. In Christ we are healed.

Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for the North American Division.