Author Keith Miller has been on a cross-country tour to promote his new book, but he has traveled even further to reach spiritual health.
A widely respected lecturer and Episcopal layman, Miller's most recent cause has been the 12-step recovery method made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous.
His book "A Hunger for Healing" (Harper San Francisco, $15.95) explores how the 12 steps might be used as a classic model for Christian spiritual growth. The steps include accepting one's powerlessness over an addiction--including a compulsion to overdo religion or "good works"--and taking a personal moral inventory.
Today 12-step groups proliferate. In 1990, one national news magazine reported that 15 million Americans are involved in some sort of support group, often a 12-step program.
Now available in a 12-week video study course, "A Hunger for Healing" is being used by diverse Christian churches to enable believers to deal with painful personal issues. Like other books and programs based on the 12-step model, the book combines common sense, honesty and Miller's own insight in a workable model.
It may prove especially useful to well-meaning Christians overcommitted to doing good works in Jesus' name.
"It is when people can't get control of their lives and relationships" after much trying that they block out the pain with addictive substances or behaviors (e.g., work, food, alcohol, sex, religion, relationships), Miller writes.
Christians sometimes frantically "work for the Lord" at this stage, he said. Really being honest about their addictions can help them recover.
Miller takes a similar approach in his newest work, "Compelled to Control," (Harper San Francisco, $18.95).
Controlling types simply cannot handle not being in charge, he said. When they feel out of control, they react with an even stronger need to "get things under control" and usually end up alienating the people who matter the most.
Miller, a respected Christian leader, found himself looking beyond the traditional church for answers. His psychological and spiritual pain peaked in the 1980s with the failure of his marriage and unsatisfying professional success. His new book tells the story of his journey from despair to gladness.
He says the need to control life and relationships often springs from parental abuse when one is a child that is then acted out in addictions when the person becomes an adult.
Miller, who lives in Austin, Tex., includes the fast-paced American drive for success as an addiction. Achievers sometimes combine that drive with the urge to control friends, family and co-workers, Miller said. He uses his own life an an example.
As an inspirational lecturer whose first book, "The Taste of New Wine," sold 2 million copies, Miller was in demand. Then his life hit rock bottom.
He blended experience in the oil business with a direct approach to Christianity. He also was a skilled psychotherapist. Yet even his faith was not enough when everything went wrong.
"I'd sold an awful lot of books and I'd traveled all over the world as a Christian speaker," said Miller. "I was sort of the token layman on all these programs with a lot of theologians."
He began recognizing his problems when the people closest to him charged that he wanted to control them. He sought treatment and says it changed his life.
The author of 15 books, Miller, 64, has taught at the college level, addressed many national church meetings and worked with psychiatrist/philosopher Paul Tournier.
In his book, Miller offers the sort of "soulful alternatives" to compulsive, controlling behaviors that many seek, said John Bradshaw, author and therapist. Bradshaw wrote the foreword to "Compelled to Control."
Miller invites others to join him in seeking freedom, stressing that he doesn't speak from outside the church.
"I'm active in my church," he said. "I'm not trying to get the church to be a 12-step organization. I'm just trying to call attention to the fact that the biblical principles that have changed my life radically were being used by a group outside the church. I would be thrilled if the church would reclaim these and use them as a healing process."