Why Do Some Christians Continually Struggle with Alcohol, Drugs, Porn, Perfectionism or More?

Adult Christians who have chronic problems with addictions, anger, anxiety,* depression,** poor self-worth or perfectionism are what I have coined, “Broken Christians.” Their ongoing problems are a result of unresolved issues from their childhood.

The “issues” to which I am referring were traumatic events such as physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, harsh treatment, parent abandonment, neglect, or even divorce.

Many broken Christians were raised in a home where alcoholism or drug addiction was present.

Also, some adult broken Christians may not have thought they were abused at all. Yet, they may recall they were raised in a militaristic, over-bearing, or strict, harsh environment.

Broken Christians always have in their past at least one of the circumstances I have mentioned.

If you are a broken Christian you probably attend church, pray and sometimes read your Bible. Yet — something is wrong inside you— and you know it.

Were you sexually, verbally or physically abused as a child? 

Were you raised by an alcoholic or drug addict? 

Did your parents divorce? 

Were you abandoned or neglected? 

Can those issues still affect you as an adult—after you become a Christian?  YES.

And you may struggle with…

  • addictions

  • anger

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • low self-esteem

  • perfectionism

  • fear

  • impaired concentration

  • debilitating stress

  • sleeplessness

  • nocturnal tendencies

But you don’t know WHY.

You may be addicted to…

  • alcohol

  • caffeine

  • illegal or prescription drugs

  • exercise

  • food

  • gambling

  • pornography

  • shopping

  • sex

  • social media

  • sugar

  • television & movies

  • nicotine

  • work

  • hobbies

  • video games

But you don’t understand WHY.

You may have experienced…

  • broken marriage(s)

  • difficulty maintaining relationships

  • difficulty with authority figures

  • difficulty keeping jobs

  • troubled finances

  • failed health

But you don’t understand HOW.

You may have grown up with a…

  • drug addict

  • alcoholic

  • verbal abuser

  • physical abuser

  • sexual abuser

  • parent abandonment

  • parent divorce

  • parent neglect

But you don’t see how it affects you NOW.

If this seems like you, I want you to know…

You’re Not Alone and You’re Not the Only One

I’ve spent decades helping people just like you. From that experience, I can say, churches—your church—is full of people who continue to suffer the same as you.

This Sunday, many Christians will attend church. They’ll listen to a sermon, sing, smile and shake hands. Then they’ll go home, remove their ‘mask,’ and return to their familiar brokenness. Most have no idea why they struggle as they do or how they came to be this way. What’s guaranteed is next Sunday they’ll do it again.

Don Mondell, CCLC

Unfortunately, a common problem is many church leaders can spot the issues surrounding your life; however, they may not understand the source of those issues. They want to but often don’t know how to help.

Many well-meaning Christians will tell you things like…

  • you need to pray more

  • you don’t have enough faith

  • you need to be in church more

  • you need to study your bible

  • you need to memorize scripture

I agree; so do all of us.

But what happens when you try to do that shopping list and still you suffer from the problems I mentioned earlier?

Again, well-meaning Christians may say to you…

  • you don’t try hard enough

  • you’re not serious

  • you’re oppressed by a demon

  • you’re possessed by a demon

  • you’re not really a Christian

What if you do believe Jesus Christ is God and you really are a Christian?

What if you’re serious about getting rid of your issues and you have tried hard?

You’re running out of options.

Maybe you go to a “deliverance” service. Maybe one or more people pray “over” you. Maybe somebody tells you, “God told me…about you, and you’re to….”

And maybe you follow the “God told me” instructions. Maybe it all works—what if it doesn’t? This is the path many have walked.

Most Broken Christians Want to be Pleasing to God

It’s important to note that a broken Christian is somebody who wants to love God. They want to be a good Christian. They are somebody who wants to be entirely connected to what it means to be Christian.

Yet, broken Christians typically experience a diminished life, and a Christian experience less than what God can provide. This is the outcome of a deep issue that began in their childhood. That issue is something of which they may or may not be fully aware.

Don Mondell, CCLC

While there’s the chance they may be aware of their true childhood issue, they are almost always unaware of why and how that issue has affected their lives in so many ways.

In most cases, broken Christians suffered some form of abuse during childhood. Now as adults they struggle with addictions, anxiety, anger, depression, perfectionism and/or poor self-esteem.

Before I go further, please understand two facts:

  1. Just because a person exhibits one or more of the typical symptoms of a broken Christian, it does not automatically mean that a person is a broken Christian.

  2. Likewise, to be a broken Christian, a person does not have to experience many or all of the typical symptoms of a broken Christian.

I believe it takes a combination of spiritual maturity, Biblical knowledge, appropriate spiritual gifts (wisdom, discernment, etc.) and Biblical counseling experience to correctly ascertain whether an individual is a true broken Christian or an immature or even rebellious Christian. Experience in Healing Prayer is also beneficial.

Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many miscalls by Christian leadership in regard to the motives & causes of a faltering Christian.

One Pain Leads to Another

As broken Christians progress down the destructive path, they are certain to develop additional symptoms.

The additional symptoms are simply a logical progression of one thing leading to another. It’s akin to a sprained ankle; the sprain will cause difficulty walking, which in turn, can cause abnormal stress on a leg muscle, which can then lead to further pain, etc.

In regard to symptoms, I don’t just consider an isolated symptom. Instead, I look at the pattern of a person’s life. Upon close review I almost always see the actual cause & effect pattern emerge.

The symptoms I am talking about are usually consistent & ongoing, such as: difficulty keeping jobs, broken marriage(s), difficulty maintaining relationships, troubled finances, failed health, depression, anxiety, anger issues, fear, headaches, neck aches, low or no self-esteem, perfectionism, impaired concentration, debilitating stress, sleeplessness, nocturnal tendencies.


I want to emphasize that Christians who struggle with addictions, anxiety, anger, depression, perfectionism or low self-esteem are NOT bad Christians—they just need a certain type of help.


Before they find that help they will almost always continue with progressive symptoms.

The Brain Understands “Symptoms” as Pain

Every broken Christian will have some or many of the symptoms I’ve already outlined.

In a basic sense, the brain simply interprets those symptoms as pain. All people seek to end pain and find relief; what’s critical is: what form or practice that relief takes.

Don Mondell, CCLC

As adults, broken Christians have never recovered from the traumatic event(s) they experienced in earlier years. As time passes, they then learn a way to “do life” that temporarily suppresses their pain.

Understand that their “pain” is not usually at the forefront of their everyday thinking. In other words, they don’t rise in the morning with a full recognition that goes something like this….

“I was raped when I was nine years old. That event caused me to think and act in destructive ways. The whole thing “simmers under the surface,” but I don’t really think about it. Instead, I suppress uncomfortable thoughts, questions, and tears with whatever “device” I’ve learned can bring me temporary comfort.”

Their actions are more automatic and they usually don’t see how the past is connected to the present. Unfortunately, that “device” they have found to bring temporary relief from the pain can include damaging addictive behavior.

Ease the Pain

The effort or behavior to ease the pain can be anything, but often includes excessive use, abuse or addiction to one or more of the following: illegal street drugs, prescription medications (opioids, Adderall, etc.) alcohol, pornography, sex, work, food, nicotine, social media, shopping, television, movies, video games, gambling, exercise, sugar in various forms.

The reason these things reduce pain is that they all can and do create a dopamine burst in the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter within the brain that is responsible for how the brain understands pleasure.

In this case, the dopamine kick creates a sense of euphoria or well-being and that creates a temporary decrease of top-level emotional pain such as anxiety, anger, depression, low self-esteem or simply stress.

Keep in mind that whatever temporary relief the broken Christian finds, the key factor is: they habitually do it and don’t realize the sense of comfort they receive is masking the true pain that is begging for resolve.

Things Get Worse

This addictive behavior becomes a familiar escape that keeps them seemingly functioning…until the addiction grows and the lack of true soul “repair” causes other symptoms, such as these I previously stated:

  • loss of job

  • difficulty keeping jobs

  • broken marriage

  • difficulty maintaining relationships

  • troubled finances

  • failed health

Again, there are more issues that arise as a person continues down their destructive path. This behavior can continue for decades. Some “manage” the entire process better than others, and thus, longer delay the inevitable destruction.

What may be confounding to other Christians, even leaders, who are aware of the broken Christian’s poor choices, is that the broken Christian will continue to attend church, Bible study, and association with other Christians.

Don Mondell, CCLC

Broken Christians usually do not see the original issue within them or realize the depth of trouble they are creating for their loved ones.

The “Curse” Continues

Unfortunately, broken Christians are more likely to pass on to their children, the same soul trauma or “curse” they have lived under their entire lives. That is why so many children of alcoholics, drug addicts, physical, sexual or verbal abusers grow up and do the same to their children as their parents did to them.

As an example, pretend you’re the adult child of an alcoholic, and now an alcoholic yourself. You will, of course, demonstrate the typical characteristics of an alcoholic. That’s the visible symptoms or obvious consequences. What is not seen is the internal deep issue that has prompted you toward alcohol addiction.

The result is that we see you are an alcoholic; you may even agree that you’re an alcoholic, but WHY are you an alcoholic? 

Don Mondell, CCLC

Take a quick quiz to see if you relate to what I’m saying.

Why Are You an Alcoholic?

  • Do not say that you’re an alcoholic only because you like the high.

  • Do not answer by saying, “my parent was an alcoholic.” (I understand there is research that shows alcoholism can be passed on genetically.)

  • Do not answer by saying, “it’s a result of the environment.” (I understand there is research that shows children will learn what they live.)

Yes, that research is valid and those conclusions may be true.

Yes, those ideas can be and often are a contributing factor.

Yet, I have found that those ideas alone, are not the nucleus or core of what propels you toward alcohol addiction.

No, there is a deeper issue and the symptoms of which are not exclusive to alcoholics or the adult children of alcoholics. That deeper issue is what we must resolve, not just the chemical addiction.

It is possible and common that some people can get sober but still have the core issue? Yes. Once sober, they typically take on other “escape devices” that create a dopamine kick, and they continue their dysfunctional living.


In over 30 years of Christian counseling, every broken Christian I helped was originally affected by either an alcoholic, drug addict, verbal, physical or sexual abuser or parent abandonment, divorce or neglect.

Don Mondell, CCLC

Symptoms Continue

The symptoms a broken Christian exhibits continue decades after the abuse ended—even with early conversion to Christ.

It is to the resolve of that deeper issue that I focus the first part of my ministry called soulHOPE. The second & third part of my ministry, soulFOCUS & soulPURPOSE are dedicated to the transformation of a broken Christian to spiritual maturity and finding God’s purpose for their life.

That said, it is through Healing Prayer as part of my soulHOPE ministry that I have seen the greatest genuine deliverance* for broken Christians. This makes it possible for them to move on in spiritual maturity to become and do all God has intended for them.

* NOTE: By “deliverance” I do NOT mean the casting out of demons from in or on a person. I mean deliverance as in being freed from something that has held a person captive.

“Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me?”

As a final example in this introduction to broken Christians, let’s briefly discuss verbal abuse. Before we begin, please keep this in mind…

You can call it: mind, psyche, inner man or even soul. What you call the who you are is not as important as understanding that damage can occur from events we may not immediately judge as traumatic.

Don Mondell, CCLC

The damage can occur from just one event and certainly from repeated events.

Consider Verbal Abuse

First, Webster’s definition of the word, “abuse.”

  • a corrupt practice or custom

  • improper or excessive use or treatment

  • language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily

Second, the Bible has much to say about our speech, but for the sake of brevity & clarity, consider speech from this Biblical perspective:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29 NIV

“The tongue can bring death or life…”  

Proverbs 18:21 NLT

Considering that Scriptural text in regard to our speech, we must decide whether God is presenting this information in a poetic manner to express a possibility —or— God is speaking factually to express instruction—a command.

For me, God is not speaking with poetic “greeting card-like” language. I believe God is stating a command on how we are to speak. He makes clear that the outcome of our speech is to build up and benefit others, not tear down or belittle.

From both man’s definition and God’s instruction regarding our speech, I believe that verbal abuse can be any harsh word toward a person that does not build up or benefit them. Verbal abuse “tears down,” diminishes, mocks, burdens; it causes suffering to a person.

Don Mondell, CCLC

I have no faith in the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” In my opinion, if we choose to corrupt our speech toward a person, we choose to abuse them.

Also, harsh words spoken about or to another person is also most likely contrary to how God sees that person. Here are a few passages that give us an idea of God’s view of us: Isaiah 43:4, Luke 12:6-7, Psalm 139:13-16, Matthew 6:25, Jeremiah 29:11.


It is my belief that, when we say something that diminishes another person from God’s view of them, we abuse that person.


I have worked with many broken Christians who didn’t realize how they were spoken to was verbal abuse. They didn’t correlate how verbal abuse incorrectly informed them as to how God sees them. They did not comprehend how incorrect information caused them to think, speak & act in damaging ways.

For many people, the struggle with those damaging ways lasted throughout their life—even after conversion to Christ.

Don Mondell, CCLC

It’s Not a Doctrinal or Denominational Issue

Sometimes a few Christian leaders express resistance to my beliefs & practices regarding broken Christians. The tendency is to assume my findings are biased by my doctrinal beliefs or my association with various church denominations. Those assumptions are incorrect.

For the record, my doctrinal beliefs are the same mainstream Christian beliefs followed by the majority of the Christian church. Also, what I believe and practice in regard to broken Christians has not been influenced by any particular denomination.

By making that statement I am NOT offering critique or criticism of any Christian doctrine; I am only reporting on what I have witnessed for over 30 years in the privacy of one-on-one counseling with affected individuals.

Also, I have never influenced my findings with an individual by first suggesting symptoms, causes or beliefs; I listen. Once they have clearly stated their symptoms and background history, I note the all too familiar patterns.

Broken Christians Do All the Right Christian Things

In my ministry to broken Christians, I have found this to be true: they profess Christ and they want to be pleasing to God. They attend church, pray, and read their Bibles, and yet—they still suffer the effects of the original abuse that was traumatic upon their soul.

The abused may have been frightened or even horrified at the onset of the abuse, however for the majority of their life thereafter, they never correctly calculate or understand the correlation between the abuse and its long-term effects upon their life.

Don Mondell, CCLC

For most broken Christians, once they have moved away from the abuse, both by years and geography, they consciously or subconsciously attempt to block out the past.

Ignoring, suppressing or “smoothing over” the past is not Biblically resolving it. That tactic will always fail because it is not God’s tactic. Thus, they move on with the cares of life—and they suffer—without understanding why.


Broken Christians often think, as a result of becoming a Christian, they should automatically no longer suffer the negative results from childhood traumatic events.


I have heard of a few people being instantaneously healed of their emotional suffering and deliverance from their addictive behavior, but only a few. My experience has been that most need help.

Broken Christians Can Believe They Are Not A “Good Enough” Christian

After a broken Christian has tried and failed multiple times to overcome their issues, the “weight” becomes difficult.

They then may believe they are not released or delivered from their typical broken Christian symptoms due to a deficient faith.

In other words, they don’t pray enough or pray right; they don’t attend church enough or do or say the right “Christian” things. Notice the emphasis on “enough”

Don Mondell, CCLC

They may try harder and still fail. Eventually, the result is a lack of zest and vigor, a kind of depression. They then function on the “mechanics” of their salvation, but there is no joy.

Broken Christians Can Overcompensate for Their Inability to Overcome Their Issues

Some broken Christians will overcompensate for the shame or disgrace they feel. They feel shame because they are a Christian, yet they cannot cease their typical broken Christian symptoms, i.e. addictions, anger issues, etc.

The way they overcompensate is usually by “spotlighting” either their spiritual gifts or talents or accomplishments.

If they have the spiritual gift of teaching, and especially if they develop it well, they may find much or most of their worth in the use of that gift, rather than in Christ. The same is true of any talent they hold, achievement(s) they’ve made, people they know, organizations of which they belong, places they frequent, etc., etc.

In other words, they form pride over what they can do, to counter the pain of what they cannot do—cease their broken Christian symptoms.

Don Mondell, CCLC

Both Tendencies Lead to the Same Place

Whether they believe they’re just a bad Christian or overcompensate for their inability to overcome their issues, the result is the same.

They end more and more discouraged. The discouragement is painful to the intellect and emotions. The pain eventually “screams” for relief.

They then often return to where they have found temporary relief in the past—their addiction(s)—and the downward spiral continues.

This information is the subject of my upcoming book, soulHOPE; a blog post is not sufficient to cover all that must be discussed.

CONCLUSION

At the beginning of this article I asked:

Is it possible for a person, who has become a Christian, to still be harmed by sexual, verbal or physical abuse or parental abandonment, divorce or neglect that occurred during childhood?

The answer is yes. 

You can still suffer symptoms such as:

  • addictions

  • anxiety

  • anger

  • depression

  • perfectionism

  • low self-esteem

  • trouble with authority figures

For further clarification, you may find helpful my article on abuse.

You may also find useful my diagram, The Trauma Tree.

Please know that though you struggle with these symptoms you’re still a Christian and God still loves you. Unfortunately, you’re also what I call a broken Christian, and there are many people in your church just like you.

Fortunately, you can lose the pain of the past and find peace at last. Welcome.

* The type of anxiety I am referring to has at its source any combination of poor diet (that can include excessive use of sugar or intake of foods that metabolize as sugar, as well as indulgence in other stimulants) poor exercise, sleep or thought habits. Not included is anxiety associated with known medical conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
** The type of depression I am referring to is depression caused by any combination of poor diet (that can include excessive use of sugar or intake of foods that metabolize as sugar) poor exercise, sleep or thought habits. Not included is depression associated with known medical conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or people suffering grief due to a recent loss.
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