What is ‘Addiction’?
Addiction is the condition of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that stopping it would cause severe trauma. It is a compulsion. It is an abnormally strong craving for something or activity. It refers to anything that controls us, especially things that are not constructive or helpful. The most reliable sign of addiction is continued involvement in the addictive activity despite negative, life-damaging consequences.
What are some Common Addictions?
Some well-known addictions include – illicit drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling and pornography. Other more ‘respectable’ addictions include: food addictions, television, computers (especially internet use), work, spending, and even exercise. We live in a society where there is an epidemic of addictions taking place. Our world is filled with all sorts of cravings, appetites for mood changers and a quick fix mentality that only feeds the likelihood of addictions. We are all vulnerable.
The Addictive Cycle
James describes the cycle of temptation – from desire to action to consequences (James.1:13-15). The problem with addictions is that they offer short term relief (pleasure) but they also create long term problems (pain).
Freedom from Addiction
We should seek to not be mastered or enslaved by anything (1 Cor.6:12; 10:23). Addictions and some habits are so firmly established in our lives that they seem insurmountable barriers. Finding freedom from addictions is not easy. However, it can be done. It requires a structured strategy, persistence and God’s help. There are no hopeless situations in Christ. Our habits and addictions are no exception (see 1 Cor.9:9-11).
How to BREAK Free from Addiction
- Be determined to change. To being with, you have to want to change. Admit that you have an issue – that you are addicted. Recognize that what you’re doing is wrong or destructive. Be honest with yourself and God. Break out of denial. The most common reason for failing to break an addiction is going about it half-heartedly. You must be certain that you want to change. To do this, focus on the disadvantages of the habit and the advantages of breaking it.
- Reflect on why you do what you do. Willpower is not enough. Think about why you do it. Observe your thinking patterns. What motivates you to do this? It may be an escape from other problems that need dealing with. Get beyond the symptoms and try to understand the ‘root cause’. Ask God to show you what ‘need’ you are trying to meet or what ‘painful emotion’ you are trying to cover. The source of addiction lies within us. It is our ‘dis-ease’. Often unmet emotional, social and spiritual needs cause negative moods and feelings that make us vulnerable to addiction.
- Expect God to help you. The very reason Jesus came, is to bring ‘freedom to the prisoners’ (Lk.4:18). We can come boldly to God knowing that he promises his help (Heb.4:16). Appropriate God’s power in your life. Draw upon Christ’s power and strength. Rely on His resources, not just your own. He will help you through the fear, guilt and shame.
- Adopt a strategy for stopping. Your decision has to be turned into action. You have to change how you are living your life.
- Abandon foolish thinking. Think past the ‘high’ to what you’ll get afterward if you give in and use. Focus on a negative memory or ugly reminder of your drug use, rather than dwelling on pleasant memories. Reject the lie and believe the truth (Rom.12:1-2). Meditate upon God’s Word in order to cleanse your ways and purify your habits. Remind yourself of the gains you are moving toward by breaking free from your addiction.
Recovery is about finding more real gratification and pleasure in life, not less. However, this is not found in things outside of us but through a relationship with God who longs to live inside of us. What is the source of your happiness? Who do you trust for ‘life’? Find inner contentment in Christ (Col.2:9-10).
- Distance yourself from the addictive activity. Decide to make a complete break and get out of the addictive loop. The road to recovery starts with total abstinence. Don’t keep flirting with an activity. It only keeps the cravings alive and makes relapse inevitable. Like an allergy, you need to avoid the irritant. The more distance you can put between you and your drug the more likely you will abstain (see 1 Cor.6:18. 2 Tim.2:22).
- Open up to helpful people. Open up to other people who can be of help to you – including family and friends. Most people benefit greatly from a strong healthy support network to help them break the power of addiction in their life. Don’t try to go it alone (Jas.5:16). Helpful people include mature Christian friends, prayer partners, and a qualified counsellor. Form healthy relationships and make yourself accountable.
- Protect yourself from possible ‘triggers’. Avoid high risk situations. Catch the addictive activity before it starts and be on guard for the times and situations when you are most likely to carry it out. Common triggers include places, people, things and moods that you associate with your addiction. Be alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and obey them.
- Turn your focus to alternative positive things. Replace the addiction with alternative behaviour. Find something else to do instead. Develop good habits of behaviour to replace the old patterns. “Put on” a new way of living to replace what you want to “put off” (Eph.4:22-32. Col.3:8-10). Structure your time, especially your free time. Get involved living your life for others. When you genuinely get involved in assisting others in any way, it helps you to not be obsessed with your own issues. Resurrect your dreams! Start making some long range plans. Establish some clear direction and goals for your life.
- Keep believing for complete victory. Never give up! Trying hard for one week will not bring about long lasting change. It is not easy and at times you will feel discouraged and want to give up. You will get tired of trying. There will be withdrawal symptoms. There may also be lapses. However we must rise up and continue to press on (Prov.24:16). Don’t allow failures to discourage, frustrate or disillusion you. Learn from them and move on.