Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mission 2013 #20. What is an Addiction?

I will always be grateful to Dr. M. Douglas Reed for teaching me so much about addictions. He taught me a new definition of addiction that has helped me and thousands of Ministers and Peer Helpers around the world.

Here is the Formula: AB = C + D

Addictive Behavior--Equals--Compulsions--Plus--Dependency

You have possibly heard Counselors use all these terms as though they are the same. They are similar but have important differences. A person can be Dependent and not be Addicted. He/she can be Compulsively taking drugs but not be addicted.We tend to think that anyone who does drugs and cannot seem to stop even though they are harmful to him/her and others is an addict. A person may take drugs compulsively and not be dependent or depend on drugs but not be addicted.

This means that to help a person that is harming self with drugs we need to look and heal the roots of  a compulsion and for a dependency or maybe both.

Compulsions are the behavior associated with trying to medicate the pain of inner problems. People can act compulsively to lower the discomfort of anxiety, guilt, shame, fears, rejection, etc. Many compulsive people have suffered traumatic and adverse events in life and have turned to a drug to reduce its intensity. Unfortunately, a drug does not cure the pain and may make it worse.

Dependency arises when a person takes drug to get high but not because of inner pain.In the Sixties and Seventies many of my students at the University of Cincinnati used marijuana to get high. They were not medicating pain but simply living the high life. However, after a while, their bodies can be dependent on that substance.

Addictions are the combination of Compulsions and Dependencies. We do drugs to lower our guilt and shame and get a high. The relief is short because we start to feel worse since we have done something immoral or illegal. That sets us up for more inner pain which can lead to more dope which leads to, ...

Some attempts to reduce drug abuse actually make it worse if the Helpers increase guilt and shame or fail to provide an alternative high, legal, moral high. Churches and organizations that are gracious, merciful and provide spiritual highs are the best ways to treat the addict.

Get my book Hope and Change for Humpty to learn more. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mission 2013 #19. Addictions

My advice about helping you help people who are in a very deep well of addiction comes after years of trial and error. It also comes after establishing an in-patient unit for people with a Dual Diagnosis of both Addiction and Mental Distress.

Several Points:

1. Peer Helpers can be very important to addicts seeking sobriety. They must SEEK it.
2. Just because a person is involved in Addictive behavior, it is not hopeless. Change is possible.
3. Change is hard work and no one can make another person change. The key to all change is Motivation of the Client. The Seeker must be motivated enough to stick it out and do some of the hardest work ever.
4. Trying too hard to Motivate another person to change can actually slow it down. Many people enter this kind of field and ministry out of deep compassion. When we are too compassionate and feel their pain too greatly it can lead to "Enabling their Addiction" rather than Encouraging their Recovery". If I am more concerned about his/her addiction than he/she is I am Enabling!
5. Everyone is Motivated but not to do what is healthy, good, godly or right.
6. Relapse is not unusual. Make sure you are prepared to be patient and long suffering.
7. Find good resources for referrals. Know who has Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Alanon, Celebrate Recovery, etc. I strongly recommend any and all or these groups.

Go to the Sweeten Life web and get the book Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty. It will cost you $10.00 for a downloadable pdf. file that you can read online and print. It will save you thousands of hours of hassle, headaches, horror, half efforts and hurting people. It is specifically written to train Christian Helpers, Peer of Professional.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mission 2013 #18. Call for Papers About Disability

All you writers and wannabe authors are hereby on notice that you can send your papers and articles in to an interested audience. You will see if they are worthy of publishing in a journal about disability and Christians.

Frustrated Moms, Eager Dads, Wise Doctors, Insightful Counselors, Prophetic Preachers, Here is your chance to make a difference. Here you can speak to the universe of interested people. Now you can tell all of us how to improve things for you and the people impacted directly by disability. Here is the alert I received today.

*CALL FOR PAPERS* * * *The Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability (JCID) announces a call for papers for future journal issues. The next issue will focus on Friendship. Future journal topics will include: Leadership and Disability, Maturity in Disability Ministry, The Old Testament and Disability, Christianity and Disability Studies, Special Education in Christian Schools, Education of Students with Severe Disabilities, and Human Services. * * * *Authors are also invited to submit original work for review in other areas of interest.

Go check it out. I will probably submit something about the research we did on families who have a member with a disability. Go to our web page and read all about the SweetenLife VIP Family  Care Program. Or, maybe I will write about the terrific way Butler County Help Me Grow is taking our Self Assessment and using it with their families. (New Link

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mission 2013 #16. Disability in the USA

Ed Stetzer from the Southern Baptist tribe is a guy who does his best to find out what research data has to say about the state of the nation and the various churches and church leaders who minister here.  He recently blogged about disability and what the churches were doing, if anything, about ministry to those impacted by it. Some of the data he harvested is listed below. I took it from a post on the sweetenlifeblog by Brenda Drexler. 

If we are going to minister to families, we need to at least recognize what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Biblically speaking, ignorance is bliss but it is no a good preparation for ministry.
  • 7% of children ages 3 - 17 have ADHD. 11% of boys, 4% of girls
  • 8% of children ages 3 - 17 have a learning disability. 10% boys, 6% girls
  • 10% of children have an anxiety disorder
  • 13% of children ages 13 - 17 have a developmental disability (ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism).
  • 41% of children with a developmental disability have multiple disabilities
  • 17% of Americans will experience a communication disorder at some point in their life, which includes sensing, interpreting and responding (i.e. auditory processing disorder).
  • 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder. 1/54 boys, 1/252 girls.
  • 1.6 % of children will receive an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis at some point in their lives. 2.6% boys.
  • 37.5% of individuals who receive an ASD diagnosis will go on to lose that diagnosis.
  • 41% of people with an autism spectrum disorder have an intellectual disability (which means that 59% do not necessarily have an intellectual disability).
  • 19% of Americans are classified as a person with a disability, which equals the population of the states of FL and CA combined. Both the number and percentage of Americans with a disability has risen in recent years. 
  • (The state of Ohio lists 20.9% of the kids between birth and 17 have a disability. This means that 1/5 of your congregation is impacted by disability. )
  • We at Sweeten Life can help you figure out the best way to minister to these families.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mission 2013 #17. What the Parents Need

The yearlong research we did with the parents of disabled kids revealed many things to us. Some of them are no surprise to anyone who has a family member that suffers from a chronic illness but to the general public and the folks who are professionally involved with there families, it seems to be completely foreign.

America and other western nations tend to operate on a model of humanity that assumes that having a a sick person in the family leaves everyone else untouched. As a family therapist I studied a philosophy that assumed the opposite. It is built upon the notion that any activity, action or event that impacts one member of the family affects every member. The most common metaphor is "Throw a rock into a pond and the waves touch every part of the pond.

This also goes for generational behavior. Sin, guilt, death, destruction and pain, if not resolved in my grandparents generation, will flow down into my parents and from them into me. The transmission process is largely invisible and silent but not impotent. My dad's father died when he was a small child and it left Dad with unresolved grief, pain and anger that never completely dissipated. Then his first born son died at birth and the grief was revived and virulent.

My Uncle suffered from a fever induced brain trauma that left him intellectually at age three or so. It impacted my Grandmother's life drastically. It led to an early death and enormous family suffering. The research we did showed just how drastically and dramatically rearing a disabled child can impact the rest of the family members.

Some 21%, 500,000 children, one fifth of all kids in Ohio from birth to 17, have a medical diagnosis. We assessed the psychological, social, spiritual and physical needs of these families and discovered the following facts: Families with a disabled child have many unmet family support needs. A child with a disability and their relational support system decreases by ½ at the onset of the illness. This is the opposite of what is needed.  Poor families suffer at even greater rates.  We also found that parents are:
a) Isolated, lonely, and depressed
              b) Stressed by complex, time-consuming responsibilities parents spend 30 hours each week caring the the child.
c) Experience great financial pressure due to high medical demands of $30,000.00 annually
d) Lack the desired emotional & physical support from friends and family
e) Lack desired spiritual support from churches and spiritual leaders 
f) Have higher rates of medical use
g) Have higher rates of marital conflict, dysfunction, and divorce 
h) Are confused about how to get the support they need

Anyone interested in supporting these families can  begin by being friendly and doing practical things to help them. One of our research families told the story about a neighbor whom she did not know well but who came over and raked the leaves in the yard in the fall. Another neighbor helped catch the dog when she ran off. Another brought food and another drove mom and baby to the doctor.

You do not need a full blown church ministry program. Try being nice, kind and helpful.

If you want to learn more go to the web and read the materials in the VIP Family Life section. For more on the biblical views of the family system get my books. Look for the video on the You Tube site linked to our web. We have over 20 free videos.

If you want to start a program in the church see Joni And Friends.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mission 2013 #15. Special Families

 Let the children come to me!
Are You Trying to Reach Your Community? Here is how you can draw thousands to your church.

Profile of Children with Special Health Care Needs in Ohio
Anthony Goudie, Ph.D. and Gerry Fairbrother, Ph.D.
Lisa Simpson, MB, BCh, MPH, FAAP Keith Mandel, M.D.
Summary of Children with Disabilities in Ohio
Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) constitute a vulnerable subpopulation with elevated needs and complicated utilization of health care services. Based on analysis of the 2008 Ohio Family Health Survey (OFHS) an estimated 570,000 children have special health care needs, representing 20.9% of all children aged 0-17 in Ohio.
This report addresses three aims in attempting to understand the health care needs and problems CSHCN encounter; the first is to present a profile of who these children are; secondly, what kinds of problems and barriers do they encounter when interacting with the health care system, and finally to determine the magnitude of these problems in comparison to children without special health care needs.
The findings demonstrate that compared to children without special health care needs, CSHCN have 1. difficulty accessing a required level of professional help to align care and referrals among different health care providers and services,
2. have higher unmet needs, and
3. incur more impediments to health care access in general.
4. Families with CSHCN face higher major medical costs than families who do not have a child with special health care needs.
5. Lack of health insurance and poorer health status are associated with greater levels of unmet needs and health care access.
Based on a national sample of children aged 0-17 years from the 2000 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) CSHCN accounted for 42.1% of the total health care expenditures in this age category (not including dental costs).
Families with CSHCN were two and a half times more likely to have spent more than $1,000 out of pocket in health care expenditures than families who did not have a child requiring special health care needs.4
There are a number of factors that predispose (e.g. age, gender, race /ethnicity) and enable (e.g. insurance coverage, usual source of care) access to needed and adequate health care. Along with the nature and severity of the illness or condition, these factors determine what level of health care access a child receives. Much of the academic research studying health care access for CSHCN focuses on the child’s level of health care insurance.5
What do CSHCN look like in Ohio?
An estimated 570,913 Ohioan children (20.9%) under the age of 18 had at least one special health care need in 2008 (71.7% of children did not have a special health care need and the status for 7.5% is unknown). Most children who “screen in” with special needs do so after commencing grade school, hence a disproportionate number of CSHCN are in older age categories (43.5% age 6-12, 39.3% age 13-17) and tend to be more male (58.8%) compared to children without special health care needs.
Black children are disproportionately represented as having a special health care need with 16.2% “screening in” compared to non-CSHCN where Black children represent 13.6% of this population (tbl 1).
CSHCN are more likely to reside in a household with a divorced or separated parent (19.8%) than non-CSHCN (14.1%). More than 60% of all parents surveyed in Ohio have at least some college education and there is no difference if they are caring for a CSHCN or not. However, the level of college education differs as 32.8% of parents who are not caring for a CSHCN have completed a 4-year college degree compared to 27.1% of parents who have a child with SHCN.


We have a terrific partnership with the people in Butler County who oversee the programs for families with a disabled member. Help Me Grow is a program in every Ohio County that supports parents with any disabled child from birth to age 3. Then a combination of schools and The Board of Developmental Disabilities, formerly The MRDD.

Butler County is on the cutting edge of innovation and creativity when it comes to staffing and programs. We at Sweeten Life have been working closely with them to develop tools for helping parents and care givers to identify their most important needs.

We are also working closely with Cornerstone UMC and several businesses. If you are interested in learning more contact us.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mission 2013 #14. Family Life Under Attack

 The family is the basic building block of a church, a city, a state and a  nation. It is where we all learn how to treat other people, relate to God and develop self esteem. If families are dysfunctional, all other institutions are doomed to fail as well. 

Here is your opportunity to comment on the state of family life as it is today in your home, your church and your city.

Do you believe that families are under more stress today than in the past?

Do you see families stressed to the point of conflict and even divorce?

Do you think it is a great challenge to rear children in today's culture?

Do you have a strong commitment to assist families who struggle with serious stresses?

Do you think churches ought to have programs to teach couples how to have a great marriage? 

Do you think churches ought to teach parents how to rear children and discipline them?

What programs does your church have for families?

Program Name-------------When?--------------------------What?

Pre-Marital Preparation

Marriage Enrichment


Conflict Management


Parenting and Nurture of Children

Developmental Stages of Children

Spiritual Development in the Family

Healing the Family Tree


The person nominating a church with the most dynamic family ministries will get a free book.

Go to our web page to see You Tube Videos and Vimeo Videos on Healing the Family. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Mission 2013 # 13. Dr. Sweeten: Health Advice from the Doctor

As we all know, there are numerous studies about how to live longer, healthier lives. However, the poor consumer is confused because scientists seem confused about not only global warming but also how to eat what is healthy. Finally, Dr. Sweet En has come up with a Q&A that resolves all that. (The name says it all.)


Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is
this true?
A: Heart only good for so many beats, and that it...  Don't waste on
exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make
you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving
faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have body and you have fat, your ratio one to one. If
you have two body, your ratio two to one.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: Oh no. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine, that mean they
take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way.
Beer also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular
exercise program?
A: Can't think of single one.  Sorry.  My philosophy: No pain ... good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU NOT LISTENING!  Food fried in vegetable oil.  How getting more
vegetable be bad?

Q : Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the
A: Oh no! When you exercise muscle, it get bigger. You should only be
doing sit-up if you want bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: You crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best
feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is shape!

Well... I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had
about food and diets.

And remember:
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of
arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to
skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other -
body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO, what
a ride!!"


For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on
nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those
conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart
attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks
than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently
what kills you!

  Remember, God told St. Peter that He had made all food clean.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Generational Healing This Weekend

I am privileged to do another "Dialogue Sermon Series" with Charlie McMahan, Lead Minister at Southbrook Christian Church in Miamisburg. Our topic is Regenerate and the focus is on building a healthy family system from generation to generation.

Charlie and I are friends and we have traveled the road of family Regeneration together for some time. Now we are sharing our insights with the congregation and others for the month of January. You can catch it live this weekend or go to the Southbrook web and watch it on video. They also have some additional resources on using Genograms in your own life.

You can also get my big book on healing the family tree, called, How to be Me in My Family Tree, at the Sweeten Life web.

I have been studying my family tree for almost 30 years and I am still learning about myself. Until you see the dynamics and patterns of three to four generations on your Genogram you cannot understand where you came from and who you are. Nor will you fully understand your current family and how to leave a great legacy.


Gary Sweeten

Third pregnancy, second living child, family role as a Prodigal until sickness made me a hero to seven years then back to Prodigal. Left my blue collar family tree to get an education that has been denied by family of origin.

Still learning about Me in My Family Tree.  What about you?

Mission 2013 # 12. Bitter Revenge

In 1824, the Prussian government decreed that a long-standing practice that Non-Christians could not attend schools was to be enforced. A Jewish attorney named Hirschel, who lived in Trier, Germany, converted to Christianity in order not to be discriminated.

Hirschel’s six-year old son Karl could not understand the situation. The boy asked his father: "Why must we surrender our Jewish faith and start to attend Lutheran services here in Germany?”

The father replied, "Son, we must abandon our faith so that people will accept us and support our business adventures!" The young lad never got over his disappointment and bitterness. His faith in his father and in his religion were crushed.

After Karl graduated from the Berlin University, he went to England to study at the British Museum where he formed his philosophies for life. From those intensive investigations he wrote a book that changed the world called, "The Communist Manifesto”. From that book one-third of the world fell under the spell of godless Marxist ideology. The name of that little boy was Karl Marx. He influenced billions of lives for more than 100 years and brought to them ruin, imprisonment and death.

Bitter roots cause us to make judgements of legalism, justice, penalty, pain and death. Little Karl Marx never forgave his father, the government, businesses, people in authority, etc. His bitter judgments led to the death of millions and the destruction of many nations.

It is especially important to keep bitter, angry people out of places of authority. Vengeful men and women in government, military, police and churches do unimaginable harm for generations. They attack men and women who are successful, productive and well off. They are jealous, covetous  and unforgiving.

Those who have read or watched Les Miserables will immediately see these characteristics in one of the characters. Which one do you think it is?