Photo by Neil Moralee

A new look at addiction and recovery

By Glen Doss, Major 

It is commonly understood within the medical community today that alcohol and drug addiction is an involuntary disability, which, if left untreated, can be terminal. The new Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) recovery program for those seeking membership in The Salvation Army acknowledges the chronic nature of the disease, incorporating the disciplines of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-step program into its official text.

In so doing, the “Called to Be God’s Own” program, using the manual by the same name, recaptures the original vision of The Salvation Army founder William Booth.


“Major Doss superimposes the AA 12-step program with The Salvation Army’s doctrines to create a synthesis that can help address the disconnect between the ARC alumni and adherents with the corps,” said Major John Greholver, Sacramento ARC administrator. “His use of Scripture, personal stories, ‘questions to think about,’ and wisdom from Salvation Army leaders combine to create a potential blueprint for effectively bringing the recovery model into the local corps and into other levels of Salvation Army service. In this sense, the book captures the original vision of William Booth in creating a movement driven by saints in recovery from sin, sharing their witness of a Christ who can do all things.”

Booth was familiar with alcoholism. Drunkards, thieves, prostitutes and gamblers were among his first converts to Christianity. Known as the “Hallelujah Army,” these converts spread out of the East End of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities. They became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as now, as Salvationists.

Addiction may start out as sin but develops into a disease; consequently, in helping addicts, the needs of the whole person must be addressed. Booth understood this well, declaring alcoholism “as clearly a disease as opthalmia or stone.” He taught that Christian salvation in a moral and wholesome environment may save both the body and the soul. The AA basic text, “Alcoholics Anonymous,” also recognizes this: “We have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.” Because the disease is chronic—the addict can never safely resume drug or alcohol use—the treatment must be far-sighted. Working the 12-step program must be an integral part of the daily life of the recovering person.

The wholesome environment provided by a welcoming church home can make the difference between life and death. Research shows that those engaged in a full recovery program—participation in a home church as well as AA/NA meetings and 12-step work—rarely relapse. Recovering addicts find that they are still dependent, but now their dependence has shifted to a loving God and the inner strength they acquire in a relationship with him as they worship him within a church body.

If ARC and corps officers can agree on integrating the 12-step model into corps membership coursework, then the “Called to Be God’s Own” program may have fertile ground in which to grow. We want our men and women in recovery to keep their walk with Jesus Christ current and active. This is their only hope for lasting sobriety, inner peace and eternal life.

Accordingly, I propose the following:

(1) An adherent course, using the text “Called to Be God’s Own” (perhaps along with supplementary materials), be made available to ARC beneficiaries after they have more than 45 days in the program. ARC alumni and others in recovery should be invited to join. The course should meet weekly for 10-12 weeks either at the ARC or local corps. When those who complete the course are ready for soldiership, then a class covering only supplementary material may suffice.

(2) A soldiership course, using the text “Called to Be God’s Own” (perhaps along with supplementary materials), be made available to ARC alumni with at least nine months of sobriety, as well as others in recovery with similar time in sobriety. It should also meet weekly for 10-12 weeks, and in some cases might be in supplement to the adherent course.

From the pages of “Called to Be God’s Own”: “A key element in recovery is the recognition that we are engaged in spiritual warfare….It is not enough to simply surrender; now we must press on, actively and obediently following our Captain’s orders. If we do not do so, we lose all we have gained: ‘We trust infinite God, not our finite selves.’”

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