Raymond Alvarez, MS, LCSW
As I began working in the field of substance abuse, I learned that addiction and Christianity have more in common than one might think. Four years ago, I was asked, “Why substance abuse?” At the time I shared that it is nice to work in a field where there is so much potential for change. Now I have learned that there are many points of intersection between my faith and my work. Discovering this has not only strengthened my personal faith but also made me a better clinician.
Every Christian is familiar with the “ABC’s of Salvation,” but may not know how to rattle off the first three steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program. In reality, these two seemingly unlikely statements are related. In the AA program, an alcoholic must start with these three steps: admit they are powerless over alcohol, believe that God can restore them to sanity, and make a decision to turn their will and life over to God. I soon discovered that these are the same steps that I took when I became a Christian. I admitted that I was powerless over my own sin, believed that Jesus died in my place to restore me to a right relationship with God, and committed my life to God by placing him as the Lord of my life.
Now working with addicts on a daily basis helps me to remember some important lessons. First, I have my own sin that I battle against. As I remember that I am not perfect and that I do not have all the answers, in and of myself, I display more empathy and compassion for the clients sitting on the other side of the desk. Secondly, that I am not in control. I have very limited power to do things on my own. Sometimes as clinicians we have trouble with becoming too emotionally involved in the process of helping others change and end up burning out quickly. If I remember I’m not in control, this takes a great weight off of my shoulders. As Christians our belief in God should help us to have continual hope for our patients. God can and does desire people to be restored to both mental and spiritual health. Lastly, working with addicts has helped me to daily surrender my life both personally and professionally to God. I hope you can all practice with me these three valuable lessons as we follow Jesus’ command to “take up my cross, and follow me.”
Raymond Alvarez, MS, LMHC, is a licensed clinical social worker and a qualified supervisor who was born and raised in Miami, FL. He received his undergraduate degree at Penn State in Psychology with a minor in Business. Raymond completed a master’s degree in social work at Florida State University in 2007 and moved back to South Florida. He has worked with youth, adolescents, and families in primary prevention and in-home counseling, and adults struggling with substance abuse issues.