Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Addiction: I’m the pastor it won’t happen to me:

Addiction: I’m the pastor it won’t happen to me:

            I was reading “The Christian Post” today and they reported that on December 15, 2017  Rev. Darick Favors of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Dallas, Texas was found dead of an apparent “Overdose” (I use the word apparent overdose, because the actual cause of death has not been announced).  Pastor Favor was only 42 years of age.

            I am not going to assume to know anything about Pastor Favors life, his experiences as a youth, his history of surgeries, if he was addicted to Opiates, Cocaine, or liked to drink in excess, or what would lead him to check into a hotel and use drugs, that resulted in his death.  However, I do have a fair understanding of addiction after nearly 25 years in the field as an alcohol and drug counselor, having worked in both the Christian Based recovery community, and secular agencies.  

Over the years I have learned a couple of things that I believe Pastors need to learn, whether we are talking about Life-controlling substances such as Alcohol, Opiates, Cocaine, marijuana, meth, gambling, or porn!

Here’s my list of four revelations I’ve learned as a Pastor!

  1. I cannot believe all the press releases I’ve read or have heard about myself!
  2. I am human and the devil will use that against me every chance he gets!
    •  I have a physical body that suffers from cravings, unhealthy thinking, greed, and desire for pleasure.
  3. I need to surround myself with Godly people that are not caught up in the hype of me being pastor and preacher!
  4. I need to avoid the temptation of believing that I am in control of my thinking and that I am above sinning because I am the preacher!

I do not claim to understand or know what Pastor Favor was thinking when he walked into that hotel room.  However, I do know what we personally believe to be our best thinking can sometimes create the recipe for disaster.  Honestly, I do not have the answers to the question: Why this happened?  However, I do know with the recent deaths of pastors and church leaders because of drugs, it is time for Pastors to start re-thinking their choices and lifestyles and begin making better choices, maybe it is time we learn from Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12 step groups. 

Here is my summary of what I need daily!

  1. IF I USE drugs, alcohol, gamble or watch porn my life will get out of control very quickly!
  2. I need to GET HONEST with God, myself, family, and church leadership and ask for and accept help to overcome any life controlling problems in my life “Right NOW”
  3. I need to pray and seek wise (counsel) men/women that can call me out on my bad (or some call it the stinking) thinking, and support me when I am doing good to stay focused on God, and not end up as part of the statistics.


For more information of this topic, check out my book “The Drug Epidemic and the Impact on our Families and Churches! There is a Roaring Lion in the House!” @ www.revdonallenjr.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sad reality within the church~

The impact of Suicide, even within our churches today!

            Reports have emerged that Pastor Bill Lenz who was founder and longtime senior pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church in Harrison, WI died Monday by committing Suicide.  Bill was a strong advocate within the Christian community for Suicide Prevention, and along with his brother created Life Promotions, that ministers and teaches folks about Suicide Prevention and how to recover from those thoughts.

            Reports that I have read have stated that Pastor Lenz reported suffering with Anxiety,  Panic Attacks, and Depression for about three months, and his staff and board responded by providing support and encouragement including giving him time to seek counseling and treatment.  However, the depression became overwhelming and on Monday, he chose to take his own life.   My prayers are with his family, friends, staff, and members of his church.  Having provided Suicide Prevention training to staff members at churches and other organizations I am not sure what could have been done differently, and I will never point fingers.  I have concluded the one key that will help is providing a RAFT for Suicide Prevention!  Every staff member in every church needs to be trained in Suicide Prevention; there are dozens of appropriate trainings out there both Christian based and secular.

            Sadly, I can already hear the theology debate “Is he in Heaven or Hell?” After 38 years of ministry and working in the counseling field for 25 of those years my answer is always the same!  “God knows the individuals heart at the moment he stepped into eternity, and I’m not God.”  

I am going to be blunt, willing and ready for the critics when they come.  I’m so tired of these egotistic, legalistic, self-proclaimed theologians and pastors that can without hesitation say this person is in hell because they made a bad choice in the moment of depression.

            Suicide is a horrible tragedy that is sweeping the country. However, there are things we can do both before for the individual makes that choice, and after the fact for the survivors!

Before the events:  We can provide a RAFT for Suicide Prevention when we suspect something is going on!

·         Reach out to them

·         Ask them the tough question (Are you thinking about killing yourself?)

·         Focus on solutions

·         Transfer them to additional help

After the event: What do we do for the Survivors?

·         Be supportive and encouraging!

·         Focus only on the good points of the individuals life

·         Pray with them for their own peace of mind

·         Assure them that God knew their heart!

In conclusion to this thought!

            Having been around great Christian believers with more faith than I can ever imagine, knowing their testimony and their BATTLE with Depression and Anxiety I realize that this is not an isolated instance.  This can happen in my church, to my friends, and what is even scarier in the right circumstances it could happen to me.  If you are struggling today, please find your friends, family, and professionals that can provide that RAFT!

The original post I read at Christian Post today 12/8/17 …

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Free Advise to the Opiate Czar:

If I could give some FREE ADVICE to the newly appointed Opiate Czar:

            With the White House’s recent announcement that President Trump is considering appointing Kellyanne Conway as Opiate Czar as some are reporting, or if she is simply the point person to help direct the Presidents policy on the Opiate Epidemic in America. If I were given the opportunity to sit down with her, I would share the following advice!

Remember the numbers keep rising according to the CDC:  The National Center for Health Statistics estimated 52,898 Opiate overdose related deaths in 2016 (these numbers are not conclusive due to all the data not being in) and it is a good possibility that this number could rise.  Some health care professionals and those in Law Enforcement are reporting these numbers could top 70,000 in 2017!

What should be the government policy or agenda as I see it!

1)      Treatment for those that are abusing Opiates, either prescribed by a doctor or drugs such as Heroin and other opiates they are buying from dealers off the street.  In the state of Ohio, I work as an Alcohol and Drug counselor and they have a mandatory policy for those stopped for DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol) the person must go through a 3 day education program and evaluation for possible need of further treatment.

I would propose a similar law for Opiates, if a person overdoses and 911 is called or the person is taken to the emergency room the person must undergo an evaluation by a professional addictions counselor and determine if treatment is needed.  No, I am not trying to build up the profits of Alcohol and Drug counselors across the country.  My recommendation is simply based on the fact that from my experience, most people will not seek help for Opiate Addiction until forced to either by the court, family or friends, or health related issues. 

I’m going to inject a personal thought here when it comes to treatment, which some will not agree with me and others will say Amen!

It is time for the government (including federal, state, and local) to get out of the way and let the Faith Based Treatment organizations do what they do best.  There are studies upon studies, that show organizations such as Teen Challenge, Rescue Missions, Salvation Army, and many more have great success rates in helping individuals address the Opiate Addiction.  There should be a push to provide funding to these organization’s with no strings attached (if they want to pray with the individual, share a Bible verse, or disciple them in their Christian walk, or any other faith walk) they should be able to help the person get clean, and develop a sober life style.

2)      Dealers/Pushers:  Sadly, there are individuals that make a profit from the suffering of others: There are two types of Dealers/Pushers; 1 is considered legal and other is illegal. However, the reality is they both need to be stopped.

·        First is the doctor with his prescription pad!  Do not misunderstand me, I thank God for the doctor’s ability to write prescriptions for pain medication and over the past 40 years I have used it more than I care to admit. With having 13 knees injures, including two total knee replacements, Achilles tendon surgery, and kidney stones. I have used my fair share! However, I have also been very lucky that the doctors I had would monitor my use and would not allow me to stay on the drug very long after the surgery. 

In my opinion those doctors that give Opiates out like candy are guilty of ethical violations, as well as breaking the law.  In addition, they should be held accountable, and even charged with a crime.

·        Second is the street dealer! Selling Opiates is serious, and those that do it need to be held accountable both legally as well as punitively.  In my personal opinion if someone is dealing Opiates and someone he/she sold to dies, he/she should be charged with manslaughter.  In addition, the family should be able to sue the individuals that have property and money.

3)      Education: From first grade on drug education should be a part of the everyday fabric of our educational system.  However, education should be based on the facts of what the drugs do both physically, and mentally to the individuals and not based on the bias opinion of the instructor or those that have a political agenda for legalization.

We should also be educating those that are being impacted by this national epidemic such as family, friends, co-workers and etc.  We should be educating them on what to watch for, and other key information such as where to lead, help, and take your friend or loved one to get help.

Rev. Don Allen, PhD, LICDC-CS has been an Alcohol and Drug counselor in the State of Ohio, for over 25 years and has worked with individuals within the Christian recovery community, secular inpatient, and outpatient programs, as well for the past 13 years working for the State of Ohio Department Mental Health and Addictions within a State Psychiatric Hospital.  He is also the author of the book The Drug Epidemic and the Impact on our Families and Churches!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There is a sad relity!

There is a sad reality! But we can help it change

            According to National Institute of Health Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. When we use the word Opioids we are referring to, pain medication that is prescribed by our doctors for various issues, including Dental work, surgeries, or broken bones they include such drugs as Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other drugs that are prescribed to deal with pain. Opioid also includes Heroin that generally bought of the street.  The individuals in law enforcement, medical community, and treatment providers are estimating the in 2017 that number could be in excess 150 per day. 

            Within the church I’m seeing more and more the desire or willingness to turn the responsibility for treatment  over to the secular community and para-church community (such ministries like: Rescue Missions, Christ based treatment programs, ministries like Salvation Army and Teen Challenge).  Despite the fact that these ministries have done an awesome job helping folks, my question is WHAT HAS YOUR CHURCH DONE?”

            Please understand that as I write this, I come from a unique perspective: I have been involved in Pastoral Ministry for over 38 years, and I have been working as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor for over 26 years, having been a counselor and program manager in both Christian based para-church ministries including a Recuse Mission and Teen Challenge, as well as worked within secular treatment programs (secular non-profits or state run programs)

            The question I ask every church is simple:

1.      What are you doing to help individuals that are dealing with a substance abuse problem (could include the Opiates, but also could include Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, and multiple of other drugs.)?

2.      What more should you be doing?

How can you help those that are addicted?

1.      Provide prayer for their struggle as they deal with the outcomes from their use.

·        This could include broken relationships, injury to their body, or injury to someone else either physical or emotional.

2.      Provide a non-judgmental attitude

·        I understand there will always be a debate between the concept that alcohol and drug use is a “Disease” or that it is a “Sin” regardless of where we fall in the disagreement. Hopefully we can agree on the fact “This person needs people to love, encourage, and pray with them through the process of healing and recovery.

3.      Providing a safe environment where drugs and alcohol are not accessible. 

·        This may require you to re-evaluate your policy or personal position on drinking alcohol or other drugs. When the Apostle Paul’s writes in Romans 14: 20-23 (English Standard Version) to the church in Rome beginning in verse number 20 he states:

(20) Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (21) It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.[a] (22) The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. (23) But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin

4.      Provide a strong support network of encouragement for sobriety and discipleship as they grow in their Christian walk alcohol and drug free.

If you would like more information on this topic, please check out my book @ http://www.revdonallenjr.com/p/books.html

Monday, October 16, 2017

Suicide ... How many more lives will be lost?

On Sunday, October 12, 2014 I asked this question, in a blog post on this site, and I think the question is still relevant!

Suicide … How many more lives will be lost?

Again and again I hear of pastors and Christian leaders that have choose to end their own lives. I remember an incident that happened when I was a young preacher in the town where I grew up. A pastor shot himself in the head in his office holding his Bible. This happened only a few hours after he was confronted by the church leadership over an affair that they had discovered he was having with one of his parishioners. Believing that his ministry and marriage were over, he chose to take his own life instead of coping with the shame and guilt. Some would say that his action was honorable; others would call him a coward.

However, we don’t know what this pastor was thinking about that gave him permission to take his own life. And just like today, as we continue to hear the news of pastors/ministers committing suicide, we really don’t know what they are thinking. Sadly, the culture of the church not has created a way for clergy to share the fears and hardships they are struggling with.  Many pastors who have been put on a pedestal fall, and then do not know how to properly address the shame, guilt, or humiliation they have caused, with the very people that had elevated them.

Over the years I have heard dozens of stories by Pastors, Ministers, and Lay people in the church that have expressed the thought of giving up or quitting; some of them have even said they had considered suicide. However, they were able to find an alternative to the permeant solution that they had considered. They used the steps of the acrostic: TALK

Tell someone what you are thinking
Ask someone for help
Listen to what people share to help you
Keep focused on the positive

And Choose Life

            Today we should be encouraging our pastors/ministers to choose life by providing a safe place for them to TALK where they may engage openly within a fellowship of caring pastors who encourage and help them walk through traumatic experiences.

            I have been involved in ministry for over 35 years and have been hurt by a lot of people. Ironically, no one has hurt me more in the church than other pastors. There are probably a thousand reasons why pastors commit suicide, but I think the main reason is that other clergy did not or did not know how to support and encourage them daily. I can’t answer for you pastor, but I can ask myself:
Do I give others the freedom to tell me what they are thinking?

Am I willing to provide help when they ask, and do I hear/see the non-verbal cries for help?
Do I really listen to what they share with me, or I’m too busy focusing on the next sermon or big program at my church?
Am I tearing them down instead of building them up?

Pastors, it is time we focus on Life and help others in the ministry to do so today.

Three simple challenges!

Call a pastor and encourage him in his role as a minister!
Ask a pastor to how he is doing, and then really listen to what he says!
Commit to praying for 12 pastors in your area that you know personally. Ask God to encourage them and to allow you to influence them for LIFE!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Invitation to an upcoming event!

If your in Greater Cincinnati/Tri-state area we would love to see you @ this upcoming event!

Drop us an e-mail and let us know your coming!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Resharing my thoughts from 2011

This post was originally posted in September of 2011, and re-share it with you today!

Dr. Don Allen, Jr.

Reflecting on my memories of 9/11 …

As I sit here reflecting back to ten years ago, it is hard to believe the horror and fear that swept the nation and world that morning. I sat at my desk here in Cincinnati, when my wife called and said someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center in NYC. I was in shock, and even considered that she was joking. However, soon I realized that it was no joke; it was the nightmare that hit to close to home. I remember standing with friends at work watching the second plane hit the tower, the Pentagon getting hit, and hearing of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania.  I remember to this day hearing the words come out of my mouth, “I wish there was something I could do.” God heard those words.
Three months later my family and I are visiting in NYC as a candidate for the position as Director of the Hope Center, a post 9/11 organization being put together by the Assemblies of God churches on Staten Island, to minister to the folks affected by that horrifying day. In May of the 2002 I would move with my family to Staten Island, NYC and for the next ten months would talk with people in person, and on the phone about that day that had become seared into their mind. I spent time at ground zero with a police officer that was only yards away when the first tower came down, watching people being crushed under falling debris and nothing he could do. I talked and prayed on the phone with a fireman that was at home in Long Island with the flu, who had called in sick that morning, realizing as he watched the news his engine company went into the tower and never came out. I spent hours standing at the gate of recovery zone, with a Salvation Army Major that had been one of the first counselors there to help counsel folks that morning.  For nine months I drove by Fresh Kills Garbage dump where the remains of bodies, and debris were separated remembering the smell, and the sights of watching the trucks pull away, stays clear in my mind.  I still talk with many of my friends, that were counselors at Ground Zero, as bodies were found, and responders needed to talk.
It has been ten years; I still hear the stories in my mind and realize that even with not being there in NYC on that day, it has affected my life in an enormous way.  Today I reflect on the memory, realizing that too many individuals were affected by an event that was motivated by hatred of a radical few. But that has affected millions around the world, even today.
As you reflect on today … 9/11 …
·         What is your memory of that day? 
·         As a Man or Women of God what have you learned from the event and the aftermath over the past ten years?
·         Has the nightmare of that day, drawn you and kept you closer to God than you were on September 10, 2001?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Can I really believe Racism is OK and be a Christian?

In the New King James Version Acts 17: 26 reads: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings and the same verse is translated in the New Living Translation: From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.”

As I reflect on the racism tearing our town, cities, states, and country apart I’m reminded of the Christ sitting at the well drinking water with the A Samaritan Woman, now if there was ever a situation where Christ could have shown true racism it is within the context of this passage in John 4: 5 – 42, she was a Samaritan: 

The dictionary gives the definition as “a member of a people inhabiting Samaria in biblical times, or of the modern community in the region of Nablus claiming descent from them, adhering to a form of Judaism accepting only its own ancient version of the Pentateuch as Scripture.”  The hatred between the two groups of people goes back over hundreds of years, and had boiled on occasions into fierce and bloody disputes.  As Christ sat there on the well he knew the history better than anyone else. However, despite this he choose to stay and drink from the well, in Samaria, from water drawn by a Samarian women that had five husbands (divorced) and was living with another guy.

Notice with me a couple of things in the passage:

1.      Christ didn’t acknowledge her challenge about Racism (You’re a Jew, and you don’t talk to people from Samaria).

2.      He talked about the needs, she needed a relationship with Christ (PERIOD)

3.      He ministered to her and all she knew

My brother by different mother (I.e. my Best Friend outside of my wife) is an African American pastor in Cincinnati.  We have spent hours talking and sharing our hearts, outside of my wife there is no one that knows more about me than Robert. See it is now about the Skin color, it is not about where we grew up, and it sure is now about what others say.  Racism is taught, then it is caught, and then shoved down people throats!

We want to stop the Race War in America we need to quite teaching it.  Let me be clear that is on both side of the tracks.  I deploy what has recently been happening I think the KKK, and Nero-Nazism is a joke, and a group of cowards that most likely have a mental illness called stupidity.  However, I also believe that there are folks within the Black, Latino, Asian and other communities that have the same hatred for other races.  I grew up as a Military brat, and with that I grew up on Air Forces Bases. On an Air Force base as a kid a least the way my dad and mom taught I didn’t see black, white, or yellow people I saw Blue and Tan uniforms.  Any disrespect was not allowed of anyone.

When my dad retired when I was 13 years old we moved to Flint, Michigan less than 60 miles from Detroit a rascal hotbed at times during the 70’s and 80’s.  We moved into a racially diverse neighborhood, I attended a high school that was over 70% African-American several of my good friends where black, and functioned through life realizing that Racism is a state of mind not a fact of life.

  Have blacks done bad things to me? Yes. However, so have white people! Do I hate either one, I’m going to take a bat and hurt them, go into their neighborhood and smash windows, drive a car into a crowd of people or set their business or home on fire? The answer is NO!

Back to my original question “Can you believe Racism is Ok and be a Christian”  Truth be told only God knows that answer.  However, when I look at Galatians 5: 17 – 21 and read this list of Sins of the Flesh … I think God is clear when he uses the word “Hatred” we find it comes from the Greek word “├ęchthra, ekh'-thrah;” which is also translated as enmity is in the scripture which means to be: hostility; by implication, a reason for opposition:

If I want to be in the perfect will of God I cannot be a Racist against anyone, because God didn’t make white, black, yellow or red.  He made one race and based where our ancestors lived  and the sun, weather our body adapted a coloring to help us survive (You may not agree with my understanding of how we got our colors, but I know for sure that Adam and Eve were one color and NO I don’t have a clue nor do I care what shade of skin they had.  When I have lunch with my brother Robert, it is about friendship and relationship.

WE WANT TO STOP THE RACISM IN AMERICA … It is time for the church to focus not on the differences it has but about the similarities that we have “I.e … A NEED FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST” remember in John 5, the Samaritan women went back into town and got her ex-husbands and all her friends and Christ said the “Fields are white unto harvest”  … Christ never saw a Samaritan women, or a group of Samaritan men coming out of the village, he only saw individuals that needed a personal relationship with him!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Opiates killing the pain or hurting me:

          Just over a year ago I had both my knees replaced within three months: (the first one in August and the second one in November: (AND NO I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND HAVING THEM REPLACED SO CLOSE TOGETHER).  However, following the surgeries I was given Opiates (including Morphine, Oxy-condone, and Vicodin) for the pain. Now please understand this is not the first Pain medication I have ever taken. Since I was 13 years old I have had no less than 12 knee related injuries, in addition I had Achilles tendon repair, kidney stones, and some other pain related issues.  So I know what pain medication is and what it can do.

          First, let’s define an Opiate: Merriam – Webster defines it as a “Narcotic: a drug (as morphine or codeine) containing or derived from opium and tending to induce sleep and alleviate pain”   This can include pain medication of various strengths, like Tramadol, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, and street drugs like Heroin.

          Individuals that take Opiates are at a very high risk of building up a tolerance to the drug, therefore requiring higher doses to get the same relief or feeling. As addictions counselors we also look at the individual’s family history, and social interaction.  In my case there is a history of alcoholism within the family, and this has given me cause to be more cautions than some folks that have no prior family history.  The key is to know your limits and be very careful to keep help handy.

          I share my story hopefully to help folks understand that despite the pain and the use of medication there is hope for not becoming addicted.  For the past 25 years I have worked as an Alcohol and Drug counselor, and have worked with individuals that abuse and even become dependent on Opiates to help them function in their daily lives.  I’m fortunate that I have not become one of them.  However, I realize it is by the Grace of God, and the encouragement and support of family and friends. It is also very important to have honest and caring doctors. 

          What has kept me from abusing or becoming dependent on the Opiates, I believe there are three factors that play into this.  Please believe me I’m NOT attempting to over simplify sobriety or addiction.

1)    My personal relationship with God:

·        I believe that God is able to help with the pain. However, believe me when I was waking up every hour or two prayers was not cutting it. However, through that time of pain and prayer I was able to cut back each day to the point of not using on regular bases.  And today I very rarely have to take a pain pill, and that is generally only when I do something stupid like over extend the knees.

2)    My personal relationship with family/friends:

·        I learned a long time ago I have to give individuals permission to ask the Question.  “How much are you using and why?” for those of us that use Opiates for pain this may seem like a stupid question, they should already know it because of the pain.  However, when you think about it, maybe it is not a stupid question after all; there is a recommend dose for pain medication and a time frame in which you should use them.  If you continue to use beyond the recommend dose and time frame you are on the virtue of a serious problem.  Let them ask the question, and be accountable to them for what you’re doing, it is time to be honest not only with them, but with yourself.  When you start lying about the amount or reason your using, it is time to seek addiction treatment.

3)    My personal desire to not abuse them (for me and my family):

·        I share with my clients that there has to be a reason to get up in the morning, something that gives you a since of purpose in life.  I can’t accomplish that Purpose if I am HIGH on pain pills or running into the dope house shooting up Heroin.

When will I know it is a problem? The simple way is if you give a yes response to anyone of these following four questions’:  (1) Has it caused me problems with my family and friends? (2) Has it caused me legal problems? (3) Has it caused me problems with finances? (4) Has it caused me problems with either my mental health or physical health?

I recently read several articles where it becoming easier to buy Opiates (Pain Killers) over the internet from countries like China, India, and other third world countries that don’t have regulations over what is in their drugs like we do here in America.  As a result we see a number of people dying from the use of these mail order drugs.

Opiate addiction is a very serious issue, and one that has to be monitored not only by the individual that is taking the drugs, but by your doctor, family, friends, and anyone else that is important in your life that can and will hold you accountable.

Honestly the thought of becoming dependent on Opiates scares me, so for me accountability is the only clear choice.

Reflecting on scripture!

            As I read this morning from Mark 2: 1 – 12; I felt a special sense of urgency.   I was reflecting on the types of people we en...