Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Archive for the ‘Addiction/Life-Controlling Problems’ Category

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Children and Spouses of Troubled Families

SOURCE: Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

*The Children — Many children of dysfunctional families (termed CODF’s) have to cope with baffling and painful situations.  Children who are subjected to abuse of different kinds may receive little or no help from others, mainly because their teachers, neighbors, and church leaders may not realize their plight.  Without assistance from others, children try to fix themselves.  Clumsily, with childish hands, they suture the wounds, often leaving ugly scars or unhealed lesions that split open in later life.  All of this is an attempt to protect themselves from the abuse.  The home has the power to produce angry, rebellious, or disheartened children.  Families can aggravate serious psychological disorders.  Kids under stress can develop an abundance of physical and emotional problems even while in the womb.  Many scientists how believe that stress can program a fetus to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and other disorders in adulthood.  So sensitive is the brain to its environment that absence of emotional warmth can kill brain cells.  The loss of these cells is devastating during a child’s early years, when brain connections require learning skills for language, math, and getting along with others. As infants, if anything interferes with bonding with their mothers, they may have permanent emotional scars that will influence the outcome of the remainder of their development.  The extent of the damage done to CODF’s depends on lots of factors, for example, when in the life of the child the parent became addicted, how the family reacted to it, how long the addiction continued, and the severity of the abuse and neglect.

Thankfully, despite the severity of the situation, not all of these children will be severely wounded.  Psychologists call them resilient or stress-resistant children. Some CODF’s may have a strong orientation toward personal growth.  They are able to initiate and intentionally engage in the process of self-change.  Second, they may possess a trait termed hardiness.  Hardy people are actively involved in living, believing they can control their circumstances.  Some kids are less affected by their stressful family life because of the presence of another adult in their lives.

The children of troubled families may sometimes feel frustrated and unable to control their own lives. Their helplessness may be compounded by a feeling of failure.  This is due to their trying to solve the problem in their family.  Kids feel responsible for their parents’ problems partly because they are so egocentric, believing they are the cause of most everything that happens around them.  But they also may think they are to blame for the problem because the troubled parent tells them they are.  Taking such responsibility on themselves is usually destructive to children because they are doomed to failure.  Without someone explaining to them that they shouldn’t take the weight of the family on their shoulders, they may continue to do this into adulthood and even have trouble stopping then.  Their failure to solve the family’s problems may make them angry.  Thinking their good behavior will make their parents break free from their dependency or compulsion, they may be upset when they don’t get the hoped for results.  Their anger may take the form of resentment.

Expressing anger is complicated by the attachment the child has for the parents.  Besides needing the parents’ care, children are taught to love and respect them, making it very hard to accept the anger and hatred they feel.  Feelings are mixed – love and hate, pity and disgust, anger and sympathy.  The child plays the same Jeckyll-Hyde role the troubled parent is playing. Fear may also keep children from directing anger toward the parent.  And the “don’t feel, don’t talk” rules will make them keep their anger bottled up inside of them.  This may cause them to resort to sarcasm, forgetfulness, hostile jokes, and other passive-aggressive behaviors.  They may also overreact to normal events and become extremely angry with people who haven’t done anything to deserve such a reaction.

One way CODF’s express anger is by reverting back to an earlier stage of development.  Also, a child may make light of the stressful situation at home or resort to humor to handle it. Additionally, children may be deeply hurt by a parent’s abusive ranting and raving and lack what are known as “self-soothing” abilities.  They lack inner resources to calm themselves in the face of severe stress and intense emotions.  Finally, children in stressful situations may develop a false self.  Instead of the addicted parent’s encouraging the children to express themselves and commending them for it, the parent’s behavior demands that they become something else.  If the parent is also physically or sexually abusive, the squelching of the child’s personality can be extremely severe.

Shame is another emotion that inhibits children’s development of their true self.  Theirs is not a shame for what they have done, but for who they are—an absence of self-respect.  The time between eighteen months to three years is a time when a child gains a sense of autonomy.  Restricting the child, as dysfunctional families are prone to do, may make them doubt and dislike themselves.  Guilt feelings may also develop very early from ages three to six.  In an addictive family, the children may receive little affirmation for their ventures and be blamed for innocent mistakes, causing them to feel guilty for attempts to exert themselves.

They will also be shamed by the embarrassing activities of their parents.  Their shame may also be due to the fact that all children tend to identify with their parents.  Of course, constant parental criticism may result in children’s having little self-respect.  When little children are verbally harangued by their parents, told they are worthless or bad, they will believe these things.  They lack the maturity to realize these messages are lies of an evil, addicted, compulsive person.

Trust will almost always be a problem for the dysfunctional family’s children, too.  Consistent care teaches them that they can rely on others.  If their care is sporadic, harsh, or unkind, they learn to mistrust, making it difficult for them later to form close relationships.  Distracted and disturbed, a dysfunctional family may early breed mistrust in children.  The inconsistency of the wet-dry cycle probably is enough to instill distrust in a child.  Children in dysfunctional families are often compulsive and have a tendency to become addicted to something.  Or they may turn to an addiction as an escape from pain.  The enmeshed family system has taught them to depend on things outside themselves for happiness and satisfaction.  Additionally, children of dysfunctional families are often obsessed with pleasing others.

CODF’s cast themselves in various roles.  The child may choose the role as a survival tactic, or, because each role performs a function in the family system, the system itself will force the child into the part.  Sometimes a specific child will play more than one role or through time switch from one to another.  These roles help the family maintain its dysfunctional homeostasis and can eventually be harmful to the children.  The following are various roles:

Chief Enabler – shelters the addict from consequences of his or her behavior; cost to them is martyrdom;

Family Hero – keeps family’s self-worth, acts as family counselor; cost is a compulsive drive;

Family Scapegoat – diverts attention from the addict; cost is possible self-destructive behavior and often addiction;

Lost child – escapes family stress by emotional and physical separation; cost is social isolation;

Family Mascot – diverts attention from the addict by humor; cost is immaturity and/or emotional illness.

Family members learn “addictive logic” to deny the chaos.  They learn to lie and say the problem doesn’t exist so as not to betray the family.  To survive in an addictive system, children learn to deny healthy responses that tell them they are in danger; they have to keep increasing these dishonest coping skills as their situation worsens.  Also, a torrent of negative thoughts may be coursing through children’s innocent minds:  “I can’t do anything right; I am a failure; I’m not loved; I will be abandoned; I am ugly and bad…etc.”  They desperately need someone to tell them these are lies and help them see the truth about themselves and their families.

*The Spouses — Being married to an addict can be like a ride on a roller coaster – terrifying.  Life is chaotic and unpredictable, up one day, down the next, depending on how the spouse is behaving.  Emotions fluctuate and are mixed.  The dry period, when life is on the upside, inspires hope that it will last, along with nagging fear that it won’t.  In cases of spousal abuse, the cycle is well documented:  abuse followed by remorse followed by forgiveness followed by abuse followed by remorse, and so on.  The same happens in addictive marriages:  The husband manifests an addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober and pleads for forgiveness.  The wife forgives, and the two are reconciled.  The husband manifests the addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober, and on and on.  The spouse will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as the children – fear, anger, helplessness, loneliness, and the like.  Some will hate their husband or wife, their bitterness created out of years of broken promises and neglect.  Spouses will also blame themselves for their partner’s problem.  Shame too can be intense.  And to cover his or her embarrassment, the husband or wife of the troubled person will strive hard to make a contribution outside the home.  He or she may be driven to succeed in the workplace.  Some will devote themselves to social work or church ministry.  The marriage relationship will deteriorate.  Feelings of love that were likely present in the beginning of the marriage will slowly die as the partner’s addiction progresses.

Three of the most important marital resources – respect, reciprocity, and reliability – will be challenged.  Respect involves conveying to another person (through words, deeds, or simply being present) that the other is of value.  By their irresponsible behavior and neglect of family duties, addicts and the like will not be likely to keep this resource in their relationship.  Reciprocity in relationships refers to the balance of giving and receiving care and consideration.  Not much fairness will be felt in a dysfunctional family where the weight of maintaining the family falls on the addict’s spouse and/or children.  Reliability refers to the expectation that the person will be there for us on an ongoing, fairly consistent basis.  Broken promises and no-shows will destroy this resource.  An addiction, like any other violation of the relationship bond, will chip away at trust.  People married to the addiction/compulsive behavior often convey to their partners that they are not important.  This deterioration of the marriage and emotional struggles of the spouse will sometimes diminish his or her capacity to parent.  Sometimes the spouse, wrestling with the partner’s addiction/behavior, will dump his or her responsibilities on the children.  Because of this neglect, some adult children are angry at the spouse of their addictive/compulsive parent more than they are the one with the addiction/compulsion.

*The Role of Codependency — Codependency is another form of enmeshment.  The spouse of the troubled individual is referred to as the “co-addict.”  This can be described as one person’s addictive patterns aligning themselves with another’s so that there is some degree of systemic collusion or addictive pattern.  Essentially, a codependent is related to another in an unhealthy way.  One person cares so completely for the other that he or she neglects himself or herself, living almost entirely for the other person.  Being an enabler is sometimes part of such a relationship.  Enablers don’t usually consciously do things to help their partner continue his or her destructive behavior.  In fact they will probably attack their partner’s problem with a vengeance, doing everything possible to get him or her to straighten out. Yet, at the same time, they will do things that facilitate their spouse’s behavior.  For example, they will protect their spouse from the consequences of his or her actions:  phoning his boss to report him sick when he can’t go to work because of the addictive behavior; giving money to a wife who has a money related addictive problem; making excuses to the kids for a parent’s absence, and so on.  Then, too, the partners contribute to the addicts’ problem by facilitating the reorganization of the family around them.  Children, too, can play the role of codependent.

Codependents sacrifice unnecessarily and to the detriment of others as well as themselves.  Following Jesus’ example, Christians are encouraged to make sacrifices, but they are not to make senseless ones.  Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself benefited others.  But the codependent’s sacrifices are harmful to the one for whom they are made.  It is not really loving.  Love, as conceived in the New Testament, is concern and care for a person’s highest good.  Preventing an addicted/compulsive spouse from suffering their own consequences is not showing this type of concern and care.  This troubled spouse needs to see the results of his/her lifestyle and choices.  As Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”  Love is sometimes expressed by not doing something for someone.  Also, codependents need to understand that it is not wrong to care for themselves.  As indicated in Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 19:19, we are commanded to respect others as we respect ourselves.

Some write that codependency is defined as “a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity.”  By this, they mean that people who live in enmeshed families develop a tendency to live this way in general, even with people outside the family.  Symptoms include the following:

* Thoughts and attitudes dominated by the other person: “I think more about your life than mine.”

* Self-esteem related to the other person: “I value your opinion more than my own; I need to help you in order to feel good about myself; I need to be needed.”

* Emotions are tied to the other person: “When you are hurting, I often react more deeply than you do.”

* Interests geared to the other person: “I know more clearly what you want than what I want.”

* Relationship to others is affected by the other person: “I neglect my friends to get overly involved in fixing you; I am compulsive about pleasing others, yet I get upset by their demands on me.”

In selecting a mate, some men and women seem to be attracted to a person who needs their care.  Besides the obvious shortcomings, one major problem of this type of relationship is the powerful dependence these partners have on each other.  They become so enmeshed that they seem unable to function as individuals.  They become so intertwined that it becomes difficult for the other to leave the relationship regardless of how dysfunctional it is.  Codependents will have considerable psychological distress.  They will suffer from poor self-esteem, since they may feel little worth apart from what is derived from rescuing others.  They will also suffer from an extreme need to be needed, making them depressed when they feel they are not.  Also they may have an unhealthy willingness to suffer, somehow believing that suffering for someone will make that person love them; being a martyr will make them feel rewarded.

Despite codependents’ sorry state of affairs, they will have a strong resistance to change.  Leaving the troubled spouse, even as a step toward healing, accountability, and re-creation of the marriage,  is not an option, because they fear feeling guilty, living alone, or not being able to make it financially.

In conclusion, when we or our families experience trouble, we must call upon the Divine weapons and resources that God has provided us.  We must remember that we cannot face the vast array of past and present problems on our own. Therefore, we must keep our focus on the Lord since we don’t know how to deal with these things (2 Chron 20:12b).  He has the willingness and power to do the impossible, demolish the past and present strongholds that have enslaved us, and make us to be who He created us to be (Phil 2:12; Luke 1:37; 2 Cor 10:3-5).

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Addictive/Compulsive Families

SOURCE:  Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

An addictive or compulsive family member troubles the whole family, just as an injured part of the body affects the whole person.  So too family members will compensate for an addicted/compulsive’s erratic and unreliable conduct by behaving in ways that might worsen the situation.  This may shock spouses and children who thought all their problems would go away once the alcoholic stopped drinking or the workaholic took more time off.  They were not aware that the whole family, not just the addict, would need to be fixed.

Dysfunctional Family Organization

Typically a troubled family organizes itself around the troubled person with the person becoming the center around which family members orbit.  Families need leadership, the kind that empowers its members to express themselves and mature.  The kind of control discussed here results in demoralizing family members and stifling their growth.  When family life is regulated by such persons, their chaotic, unpredictable, unmanaged life creates a chaotic, unpredictable, unmanaged household.  Individual family members’ behavior becomes tied to the troubled person.  The tension family members feel makes them describe living at home like “walking on eggshells.”  The family’s adjustment to the addiction or compulsive behavior of one of their members is similar to their accommodating themselves to a parent’s working schedule.  The effort to make these adjustments is what family systems experts call a process of homeostasis.  The family adjusts itself to keep things stable when circumstances disrupt family life.  When one person’s behavior changes drastically, the family will adjust to that.  They’ll do this for addicts because they care about them and because his or her welfare is tied to their own.

Because the family members are bound together with the abuser, they cannot simply ignore him or her.  The troubled person’s erratic, irresponsible behavior becomes unsettling, serious, even traumatic, and family members feel they must do something to get the person to gain control of himself or herself.  They will try any commonsense thing to get the person to stop – plead with or threaten him or her, cry, and tell the person how badly they feel.  And if those tactics don’t work, they pour the person’s liquor down the drain or send someone to the bar to tell the drinker to come home.  Some of these strategies may work, especially in the case of someone whose addiction problems are not terribly out of control.  But if these efforts don’t work and the problem persists, the family will make subtle, slow adjustments to accommodate the addict’s behavior, even though they don’t approve of it.

These families will alter their life in a number of areas including:

*Routines – through routines families maintain some stability and order.  A strong family is one where these routines are consistently carried out.  When families allow their routines to be determined by someone who is out of control, like an addict, the family behavior will become as inconsistent and chaotic as the addict’s life.

*Rituals — Rituals are routines with an added ingredient – significance.  Rituals govern the way the family carries out important activities, like praying together, celebrating special occasions, etc.  For an example, a mother with an anger problem, under stress of preparing a Thanksgiving Dinner, might lose control of her temper, dampening the family’s holiday mood.  If these become regular holiday occurrences, families will begin to expect them and do what they can to lessen the impact.  When rituals are modified, their significance may be greatly diminished.  Rituals are ruined when the emotions and meanings associated with them are supplanted by the anger and disappointment of having to deal with the problem behavior.  It should be noted that all of these alterations in the family are designed to deal with the troubled parent’s behavior not by ignoring it or continuing in spite of it but changing to accommodate it.  Families least likely to reproduce addicts were those who did not permit the troubled person’s presence to disrupt the family’s routines and rituals.  They distanced themselves instead of accommodated themselves.

*Problem-Solving Procedures – Besides routines and rituals, the family also tries to regulate itself by modifying its problem-solving procedures.  These modifications involve doing things to bring a member back into line if that person threatens the family’s stability.  Troubled families may use two distinct problem-solving methods.  First, they vigilantly guard the status quo, because they tend to be unusually sensitive to any destabilization of the family.  Once the family has stabilized around the out-of-control person, they appear to be uncommonly threatened by any other change.  Dysfunctional families are generally rigid.  Strong families are flexible.  As children get older and conditions change in the family, the family needs to adjust.  Many of these changes are related to the family’s life phases.  All change (good and bad) is stressful, and it can be both good and bad at the same time – like the birth of a child, for example.  Arriving at a life stage may trigger a crisis in the family if it is too rigid to handle it properly.  The second distinct feature of the troubled family’s problem-solving procedure is using the problem person’s behavior to assist the family in dealing with problems.  If this happens, the addictive problem becomes a part of the family’s normal functioning.  This has major implications when, for example, an addict stops drinking.  The alcohol that has become necessary for the family to function is now gone.  Learning how to operate without it may become very difficult for all of them.

*Family Devastation – These changes are especially devastating because the family’s stability now depends on the continued behavior by the addict.  This insight helps us understand why it is crucial that the family system change when treating an addictive/compulsive behavior.  Otherwise, the system will continue to pressure the troubled persons to stay as they are.  Despite the conscious wish to see the troubled person change, family members may have an unconscious desire to have the person continue as he or she is.

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Characteristics of Dysfunctional Families

SOURCE:  Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

*Enmeshment – This means family members become too closely bonded with each other.  Strong families connect in a balanced way.  They have a strong sense of togetherness, but it’s tempered by allowing members to be independent.  They feel close and committed to each other, but their closeness empowers them as separate persons.  Enmeshed families, in contrast, allow their connectedness to stifle individuality.  They may also swing to the opposite extreme and be so independent that the members are disengaged.

Under the control of a parent, cohesiveness is often forced on the members.  In an effort to overcome family shame, efforts are made to keep the family together.  Members are expected to be loyal – being together is not necessarily desired; it is required.  Members of strong families may get together for Christmas because they want to, but dysfunctional family members do so because they have to.  Members of strong families enjoy each other; those of troubled families tend to endure each other.  Enmeshment is often referred to as co-dependence, and it manifests itself in number of harmful ways.  Family members sometimes feel too much, depend too much on, or do too much for each other.  While some sacrifice is o.k., sacrifice can be harmful, not just to the one who is sacrificing but also to the one for whom the sacrifice is made.  Jesus, by His crucifixion, is the greatest example of sacrifice, but His sacrifice was with purpose.

*Inadequate Communication – Dysfunctional families are notorious for their poor communication.  They have the now-famous rules:  “Don’t trust; don’t feel, and don’t talk.”  A functional family has no such rules.  The rules that keep dysfunctional families from talking come from the “elephant in the living room” phenomenon. The large beast represents the family’s problem.  Fear and shame keep family members from discussing it. Initially their feelings may be so overwhelming that they deal with them by trying not to feel.  Ignoring the most important family matter causes them to ignore other feelings and thoughts as well.  Communication is superficial because of the threat of talking about their shame, fear, and depression.  The family avoids healthy conflict and urges members not to rock the boat.  Their desire for peace at all costs inhibits any authenticity, vulnerability, or transparency.  Since they are unable to talk, family members struggle to adapt and survive, employing numerous defenses to ward off the pain.  One of those defenses is denial.

*Denial and Reality Shifting – People in dysfunctional families usually have a distorted view of reality.  They see the terrible things happening in their homes, yet they don’t recognize them for what they are.  This denial takes any number of forms.  They may minimize the problem.  They may consider themselves normal.  They may delay doing anything about it, thinking the problem will eventually solve itself.  Being in denial causes people to experience what is called “reality shifting.”  This is when there is a major discrepancy between what is said and what a child experiences.  Forcing children to disregard what they experience distorts their sense of what is true and normal, causing them to live in doubt and confusion.

*Wet – Dry Cycle – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde often come to mind when referring to addicts.  They have a sober personality and an addicted one – and their families do too.  This sobriety-intoxication cycle deprives them of one of the major traits of strong families – consistency.  What is so amazing about these cycles is that the family members tend to behave like the addict.  Families are not all alike when one of the members is an addict.  While some families may feel close to each other, others may feel isolated from one another. Some may be tranquil, others combative.  Yet they definitely exhibit two states.  During the sober period, the home atmosphere may be very tense with children fearing the addict may move to his/her addiction.  The contrast between the two states can be extreme:

Dry                                                     Wet_________________

Promises Made                              Promises Broken

Overpunitive                                  Overcaring

Rigid                                                  Adaptive

This unpredictability and inconsistency can exact a toll on family members.

*Role Reversals — When one family member becomes increasingly disabled, other family members will begin to carry an extra load to keep the family going. Unlike the teamwork that exists in a healthy family, these responsibilities are unfairly distributed.  As a result, the family members bearing the burden begin to feel resentful, angry, and frustrated.  But the “don’t talk rule” keeps them from confronting the troubled member about his or her irresponsibility.  They may also suffer their hard feelings to avoid arguments and uncomfortable scenes.

*Isolation – Troubled families often lack a key factor of healthy family life – contact with those outside the house.  They are cut off from the many benefits people receive by being linked to the wider community and their contact with growth-producing relationships is limited.  Because the family members are so enmeshed with one another, outsiders threaten the precarious “balance” of co-dependency.  Also, because of their rigidity, they reject others whose ideas and practices may challenge theirs. Keeping the family secret of addiction or abuse makes them shun outsiders.  Shame about that secret inhibits their getting close to others.  In some cases, this isolation is a contributing cause of the family’s problems as well as a result.  Physical and sexual abuse can more easily happen where it is unlikely to be detected by members of the community.

Addictions: A Multifaceted Christian Approach

SOURCE:  Mark R. Laaser & George Ohlschlager  [originally posted 2011 by www.aacc.net]

addicts can’t change their behaviors without help from God and wise counsel. None of us can find sufficient relief from pain without help. To expect something different from the… addict is to heap more shame on [them] and encourage Christians to respond to tough issues with simplistic solutions… We learn that we can make it if we just try harder and believe that those who haven’t made it didn’t try hard enough. But believing in ourselves and the fruit of our efforts works against the fact that we are sinful and can escape sinful behaviors only with God’s help.

Harry Schaumburg

Howard Hillman was a well-off executive consultant living with his second wife and her children in a tony suburb on the North Chicago shore. He was also an alcoholic who lived in denial of it due to his fairly competent functioning (which he grossly exaggerated).

His wholesome and successful veneer started to crack, however, after his second DUI in which he lost his license and had to hire his stepson to chauffeur him around. He also had to engage in counseling in order to clear his record and get his license back and was required to take a routine drug screen following his counseling intake. It was then that Howard’s even more secret addictions to oxycontin—which he had taken two years previous due to a severe back sprain—and to internet sexual pornography was discovered.

Now it all made sense to his wife. Howard had been cutting back on his drinking—she knew that as they had been fighting about it—but she didn’t understand why he slept in a stuporous state so much, had so many ‘minor’ accidents around the house, and no longer seemed to be interested in having sex with her. He was mixing alcohol with narcotics and internet sex! Worst of all, he had become a very accomplished liar.

It was then that it came out that Howard had been in a drunken car accident six months earlier, and had just paid cash to ‘persuade’ the other party to get their car fixed and keep quiet. His finances weren’t in good shape either, as he was buying his oxycontin on the black market, paying huge credit card bills for internet sex, and his consulting business was starting to slip.

For weeks Howard vacillated between anger at being found out, fear of losing his marriage, depression at facing reality, and shedding both real and crocodile tears as he promised over and over to “get sober” and turn his life around. The addictions group he was part of would hear none of it, as they confronted his lies, denial, and avoidance of the truth for weeks.
His counselor knew he was finally ready to get serious about change when he came to group one night and admitted to everyone there that he couldn’t change, that he really didn’t want to, but that he knew he had to if he was going to live.

Addictions are a very common scourge, the desperate expression of life in a sin-sick world. When addictions are piled on top of one another or are mixed with mental illness, the suffering is multiplied and the cure is complex, difficult to accurately assess and easily achieve. Medicating the pain and symptoms of psychopathology—whether done under a doctor’s treatment or illicitly—is a primary pathway to addiction for many dual-disordered patients.

Dual disorders refer to someone who suffers both an addiction and a mental/emotional disorder of some kind. The prototypic sufferer is someone with depression or an anxiety disorder—some kind of felt dysphoria—who is also addicted to alcohol or other drugs that are usually used to medicate the pain of that dysphoric unpleasantness. And it is not unusual to encounter persons who live the process in reverse, as addictions will induce mental and physical suffering of various kinds if carried on long and deep enough.

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, formerly called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is a project of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This survey interviews approximately 67,500 persons each year and is the primary source of information on the use and abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs by people in the United States, aged 12 years and older.

Alcohol Use
An estimated 119 million Americans aged 12 or older were current drinkers of alcohol in 2003 (50.1 percent). About 54 million (22.6 percent) participated in binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 16.1 million (6.8 percent) were heavy drinkers. These 2003 numbers are all similar to the corresponding estimates for 2002. The highest prevalence of binge and heavy drinking in 2003 was for young adults aged 18 to 25, with the peak rate of both measures occurring at age 21. The rate of binge drinking was 41.6 percent for young adults aged 18 to 25 and 47.8 percent at age 21. Heavy alcohol use was reported by 15.1 percent of persons aged 18 to 25 and by 18.7 percent of persons aged 21.

About 10.9 million persons aged 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to the survey interview in 2003 (29.0 percent of this age group). Nearly 7.2 million (19.2 percent) were binge drinkers and 2.3 million (6.1 percent) were heavy drinkers. These 2003 rates were essentially the same as those obtained from the 2002 survey. An estimated 13.6 percent of persons aged 12 or older (32.3 million) drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the 12 months prior to the interview in 2003 (a decrease from 14.2 percent in 2002).

Illicit Drug Use

In 2003, an estimated 19.5 million Americans, or 8.2 percent of the population aged 12 or older, were current illicit drug users, meaning use of an illicit drug during the month prior to the interview. There was no change in the overall rate of illicit drug use between 2002 and 2003. The rate of current illicit drug use among youths aged 12 to 17 did not change significantly between 2002 (11.6 percent) and 2003 (11.2 percent), and there were no changes for any specific drug. The rate of current marijuana use among youths was 8.2 percent in 2002 and 7.9 percent in 2003. There was a significant decline in lifetime marijuana use among youths, from 20.6 percent in 2002 to 19.6 percent in 2003. There also were decreases in rates of past year use of LSD (1.3 to 0.6 percent), Ecstasy (2.2 to 1.3 percent), and methamphetamine (0.9 to 0.7 percent).

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.2 percent (14.6 million) in 2003. An estimated 2.3 million persons (1.0 percent) were current cocaine users, 604,000 of whom used crack. Hallucinogens were used by 1.0 million persons, and there were an estimated 119,000 current heroin users. All of these 2003 estimates are similar to the estimates for 2002. The number of current users of Ecstasy (i.e., MDMA) decreased between 2002 and 2003, from 676,000 (0.3 percent) to 470,000 (0.2 percent). Although there were no significant changes in the past month use of other hallucinogens, there were significant declines in past year use of LSD (from 1 million to 558,000) and in past year overall hallucinogen use (from 4.7 million to 3.9 million) between 2002 and 2003, as well as in past year use of Ecstasy (from 3.2 million to 2.1 million).

An estimated 6.3 million persons were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken nonmedically. This represents 2.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older. An estimated 4.7 million used pain relievers, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, 1.2 million used stimulants, and 0.3 million used sedatives. The 2003 estimates are all similar to the corresponding estimates for 2002. There was a significant increase in lifetime nonmedical use of pain relievers between 2002 and 2003 among persons aged 12 or older, from 29.6 million to 31.2 million. Specific pain relievers with statistically significant increases in lifetime use were Vicodin®, Lortab®, or Lorcet® (from 13.1 million to 15.7 million); Percocet®, Percodan®, or Tylox® (from 9.7 million to 10.8 million); Hydrocodone (from 4.5 million to 5.7 million); OxyContin® (from 1.9 million to 2.8 million); methadone (from 0.9 million to 1.2 million); and Tramadol (from 52,000 to 186,000).

There were an estimated 2.6 million new marijuana users in 2003, or an average of 7,000 new users each day. About two thirds (69 percent) of these new marijuana users were under age 18, and about half (53 percent) were female. Decreases in initiation of both LSD (from 631,000 to 272,000) and Ecstasy (from 1.8 million to 1.1 million) were evident between 2001 and 2002, coinciding with an overall drop in hallucinogen incidence from 1.6 million to 1.1 million. Pain reliever incidence increased from 1990 (573,000 initiates) to 2000 (2.5 million). In 2001 and 2002, the number also was 2.5 million.

Rates of current illicit drug use varied significantly among the major racial/ethnic groups in 2003. Rates were highest among American Indians or Alaska Natives (12.1 percent), persons reporting two or more races (12.0 percent), and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (11.1 percent). Rates were 8.7 percent for blacks, 8.3 percent for whites, and 8.0 percent for Hispanics. Asians had the lowest rate at 3.8 percent. An estimated 18.2 percent of unemployed adults aged 18 or older were current illicit drug users in 2003 compared with 7.9 percent of those employed full time and 10.7 percent of those employed part-time. However, most drug users were employed. Of the 16.7 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2003, 12.4 million (74.3 percent) were employed either full or part-time.

Substance Dependence or Abuse

An estimated 21.6 million Americans in 2003 were classified with substance dependence or abuse (9.1 percent of the total population aged 12 or older). Of these, 3.1 million were classified with dependence on or abuse of both alcohol and illicit drugs, 3.8 million were dependent on or abused illicit drugs but not alcohol, and 14.8 million were dependent on or abused alcohol but not illicit drugs. Between 2002 and 2003, a slight drop was noted in the number of persons with substance dependence or abuse (22.0 million in 2002 and 21.6 million in 2003).

In 2003, an estimated 17.0 percent of unemployed adults aged 18 or older were classified with dependence or abuse, while 10.2 percent of full-time employed adults and 10.3 percent of part-time employed adults were classified as such. However, most adults with substance dependence or abuse were employed either full or part-time. Of the 19.4 million adults classified with dependence or abuse, 14.9 million (76.8 percent) were employed.


Substance Abuse Treatment

An estimated 3.3 million people aged 12 or older (1.4 percent of the population) received some kind of treatment for a problem related to the use of alcohol or illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to being interviewed in 2003. Of these, 1.2 million persons received treatment at a rehabilitation facility as an outpatient, 752,000 at a rehabilitation facility as an inpatient, 729,000 at a mental health center as an outpatient, 587,000 at a hospital as an inpatient, 377,000 at a private doctor’s office, 251,000 at an emergency room, and 206,000 at a prison or jail. Between 2002 and 2003, there were decreases in the number of persons treated for a substance use problem at a hospital as an inpatient, at a rehabilitation facility as an inpatient, at a mental health center as an outpatient, and in an emergency room.

In 2003, the estimated number of persons aged 12 or older needing treatment for an alcohol or illicit drug problem was 22.2 million (9.3 percent of the total population), about the same as in 2002 (22.8 million). The number needing but not receiving treatment also did not change between 2002 (20.5 million) and 2003 (20.3 million). However, a decline in the number receiving specialty treatment, from 2.3 million to 1.9 million, was statistically significant. This decline was driven by a decrease in treatment among adults aged 26 or older, from 1.7 million in 2002 to 1.2 million in 2003.

Of the 20.3 million people who needed but did not receive treatment in 2003, an estimated 1.0 million (5.1 percent) reported that they felt they needed treatment for their alcohol or drug problem. Of the 1.0 million persons who felt they needed treatment, 273,000 (26.3 percent) reported that they made an effort but were unable to get treatment and 764,000 (73.7 percent) reported making no effort to get treatment. Among the 1.0 million people who needed but did not receive treatment and felt they needed treatment, the most often reported reasons for not receiving treatment were not ready to stop using (41.2 percent), cost or insurance barriers (33.2 percent), reasons related to stigma (19.6 percent), and did not feel the need for treatment (at the time) or could handle the problem without treatment (17.2 percent).

Symptoms and Etiology of the Addict

The following list of 17 criteria is, in our opinion, a good set of common symptomatic behaviors and characteristics—a universal diagnostic set—that could be generalized to all substance or behavioral addictions and compulsions.

  • A pattern of out of control substance usage or behavior for a year or more.
  • Mood swings associated with usage or behavior.
  • An increasing pattern of usage or behavior over time. This increase may be a constant elevation or marked by periods of abstinence alternating with elevation.
  • The presence of major or milder forms of depression.
  • The feeling of shame or self-worthlessness.
  • The consistent need to be liked and find approval from others.
  • Impulse control problems, especially with food, sex, drugs, or money/spending/gambling.
  • Use of the substance or behavior to reward oneself or to reduce anxiety.
  • Obsessing about the substance or behavior, and spending great amounts of time around it.
  • Obtaining or doing the behavior becomes the central organizing principle of life.
  • Failed efforts to control the behavior.
  • Negative consequences due to substance or behavior.
  • Alternating pattern of out-of-control behavior with over-controlling behavior.
  • A history of emotional, physical, sexual abuse, or spiritual abuse.
  • A family history of addiction, rigidity, divorce, or disengagement.
  • Marked feelings of loneliness or abandonment.
  • Arrested developmental issues.

The addict represents someone who has become trapped in a web of deceit and dark forces too powerful to overcome without significant help from God and others. Romans 7:21-25 reveals the truth about it:

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (NIV)

These words of the apostle Paul embody the spiritual journey of those struggling with addiction. The mind of an addict knows that he or she needs to stop using certain substances or doing certain behaviors, but seemingly can’t. They know that they must start doing positive behaviors, but won’t. It is the great conflict that Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, captured in step one: “I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable.”

Paul’s self-description also reflects the shameful nature of an addict’s self-perception when he says, “What a wretched man I am!” The feeling of being a bad and worthless person is common to all addicts. It is not only that addictive behavior produces shame; shame is a basic feeling that addicts have felt most of their lives. It is that addictive behavior perpetuates and inflames shame.

Addictive behaviors are problems per se, and they are also symptoms of deeper physical, emotional, and spiritual issues. Maintaining this dual awareness—as well as tolerating and appreciating the inherent tensions between these sometimes competing ideas—is important when working with dual-disordered addicts. Depending on the issues of therapeutic focus, the course of treatment, and the progress (or lack thereof) toward goal attainment, the addiction is best viewed as either symptomatic of the underlying mental disorder or as the primary problem itself.

Addicts by their very nature feel helpless and unworthy. They are desperately asking as Paul did, “Who will rescue me?” Addicts cycle through feelings of the high of addiction and the despair of worthlessness. They may be stubbornly resisting giving up the high because they feel it is the only solution to the despair.

Counseling addicts is often frustrating as they frequently sabotage the most basic answers, tear down the most fragile progress. Competent Christian counseling must point them to the only lasting answer, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Treating persons with addiction and dual disorders assume that competent Christian counselors will assess and understand the nature of what they are actually dealing with.

The following are the classic factors that define addiction.

Mood Alteration

Understanding addiction must begin with what scientists are only beginning to understand the human brain. Altering brain chemistry is at the heart of what creates and sustains addiction (see Amen, 1998; Milkman & Sunderwirth, 1987). Addicts seek to either raise or lower their mood using complex (and sometimes criminal) rituals of self-medicating behavior. If they are depressed, sad, or lonely they seek to raise their mood. If they are anxious, frightened, or stressed they seek to lower their mood. In doing so, addicts will eventually cause their brain to neuro-chemically “depend” on the substance or behavior.

We have long accepted that alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain. We can easily understand that other drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine (to name a few) change brain chemistry. Some scientists believe that nicotine might be the most addictive of all substances. Even caffeine can be considered as an addictive substance in its ability to raise mood as a facilitator or certain powerful brain chemicals, most notably dopamine, that elevate mood.

Addictive behavior and the brain. What has long been debated is whether or not certain behaviors can affect the chemistry of the brain. As scientists have increased their ability to scan and produce images of the brain (through MRI and PET studies, for example), research projects have begun to demonstrate that behaviors can also do this.

When a person looks at another person who he or she loves or has feelings of sexual attraction for, certain opiates (catecholamines) are produced more rapidly in the brain. These neuro-chemicals have a heroin-like quality in the pleasure centers of the brain. That is why some have suggested that we can become Addicted to Love (Arterburn, 19–). At Vanderbilt University, researchers are showing the dramatic effects on the brain of looking at pornography (Carnes, 1991). Little doubt remains that all sexual thought and activity produce these same neurochemical effects.

Any behavior that causes a sense of fear or excitement can raise levels of norepinephrine, more commonly referred to as adrenalin, in the brain. Norepinephrine can elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin and, as such, has a mood-elevating quality. Gambling, working hard to meet deadlines, shopping, sports, even mountain climbing can become addictive for some.

The need for constant stimulation that some addicts experience means that their brains need ‘rapid-firing’ to function properly. These persons are easily bored and distracted. They have problems thinking about the future and planning. As such, they may seem at times to be lazy or lacking discipline. In their academic careers, they may have been labeled underachievers. Some addicts, then, may have neurological symptoms that reflect a level of attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder. Christian counselors will be careful to refer to competent psychiatric evaluation to evaluate these symptoms. Medications may be needed to balance an addict’s brain, at least for a time.

Multiple addictions. As our case example noted, many addicts suffer from more than one addiction. It is not uncommon for them to use a variety of substances and behaviors to alter their mood. Carnes (1991), in a research project with sex addicts, found, for example, that half of all sex addicts suffer from chemical dependency. Carnes also found that the more serious the wounds of childhood, the more likely there would be multiple addictions.

This dynamic has led to many speculating about “cross addictions,” or the “co-morbidity” of addictions. Carnes is currently proposing a new and broad diagnosis, “Multiple Addiction Disorder” (MAD—an appropriate acronym). Christian counselors need to evaluate a broad pattern of addiction and triage which of the addictions is the most immediately destructive.

The Tolerance Effect

God has made us “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139: 14). One of the amazing qualities of the body is its ability to adapt. Whatever happens to the body it will always seek to return to the state of normal. Scientists and systems therapists call this homeostasis. A virus enters our body and the body works to expel it. If a person gets frightened and his heart rate increases, the body works to return it to the normal rate. What the body interprets as normal, however, can change if there is repeated challenge to the normal state of affairs. This is a powerful ability that God has created in all people, the power to adapt.

The first time an alcoholic drinks a beer, for example, he or she experiences the effects of that in the brain. Brain chemistry changes and feelings of intoxication begin. Eventually, the brain returns to normal and the person “sobers up.” If the pattern is repeated over and over again, however, the state of what normal is can change. More and more alcohol will be needed to have the same effect. This is what scientists refer to as “tolerance.”

The ‘tolerance effect’ can be experienced with any neuro-chemical change. Whether it is a substance that is ingested or a behavior that produces the change, the brain will eventually adapt. More and more of the substance or of the behavior will be needed. Over time a pattern develops and the activity increases. Addiction specialists usually describe this as “escalation” or as “deterioration” because the pattern gets worse.

Counselors must evaluate this pattern over time. Some addicts can quit the substance for a time but will eventually come back to it. They may alternate between periods of usage and periods of abstinence. This can even occur over a weekly cycle. Some alcoholics, for example, don’t drink during the week, but binge drink over the weekend. They may convince themselves that they have control because they can occasionally or regularly stop. The pattern over time, however, will always present with an increase in activity.

An 86-year-old minister’s wife presented with chemical dependency. She was addicted to alcohol and to prescription anxiety medicine. In her 20s she started having a glass of wine every few months. In her denomination, this was a major problem, so she kept doing it in secret. Over the next 60 years, her pattern increased. She drank once a month, then once a week, then once a day. When I met her she was consuming a bottle of alcohol a day. Her drinking pattern was causing substance-induced anxiety and her doctor was medicating that. The pattern became a vicious cycle.

Unmanageability

Neuro-chemical tolerance is the reason addicts crave a substance or some repetitive behavior. These cravings are what can seem to the addict to be out of control. They intend to stop but find themselves “drawn” back in. Smokers quit smoking many times but feel the urge to start again, and dieters start their dieting over many times, for example. Cycles like these fuel the feelings of being out of control.

Addicts often believe that sobriety is merely an act of the will, and therefore often come to feel they have no will power. As Christians, they assume that they should be able to stay ‘sober’ without much effort, or if they were just a little bit stronger spiritually they could stick with a decision to quit. Sometimes these attempts at self-control are extreme. In my first book about sexual addiction (Laaser, 1996), I described a case in which a man plucked out both of his eyes because Jesus said that “If your eye offends you, pluck it out,” and he was addicted to pornography.

Addicts pray fervently for help, even “deliverance” from their problems. They may try a variety of spiritual disciplines to stop. They pray, memorize scripture, meditate, join new churches, and attend Christian 12-step groups galore. Eventually, they become discouraged. They have a critical choice to make. Either there is something wrong with them or with God. Anger at self produces shame. Anger at God produces periods of despair and spiritual alienation. It is a terrible dilemma but can also be the beginning of wisdom, for self-effort in all its myriad disguises must die.
Pride, fear, the need to be in control, and the unwillingness to completely surrender to God are also features of addiction and easily become inflamed at this stage (Kurtz, 1979). Some addicts are afraid of giving something up that they think has been helping them cope with life for years. Some believe that they can quit when they really want to. Others are afraid that if they confess their problems they will be judged and condemned. Fear of their feelings and fear of rejection lead addicts to deny their problems and hold on to them. In the midst of this chaos, some just give up trying. It is important for Christian counselors to assess their willingness to get well.

Need for Nurture

Many addicts have feelings of loneliness and abandonment. They long for love, affirmation, nurture, and touch. In many cases, substance or behavior is a substitute for true love and fellowship. This may take many forms. Alcoholics may find a friend in the bottle or in the community of other drinkers. Alcohol allows many to be less inhibited and be friendlier and more outgoing. Food addicts may have certain comfort foods that they binge on. They remember that the act of eating may have been the only time they were being held as infants or gathered as a family. Sex addicts equate sex with love and assume that those who would be willing to be sexual with them, even prostitutes, offer them the only love, attention, and touch that they receive. Some who have been diagnosed as sex addicts may even be more in need of the romance and love experienced in their fantasies or in their affairs (Schaeffer, 2000).

Feelings of loneliness and abandonment lead to feelings of anger and resentment. Addicts wonder why their needs haven’t or aren’t being met. These feelings may be very old going back into childhood. They can be mad at their spouses or others for not meeting their needs. The sense of anger produces a sense of entitlement not unlike an angry child. Addicts think that they deserve to get their needs met and they deserve a reward. Loneliness drives anger and anger drives addicts past their own discipline and morals. This is a form of rebellion, as they really don’t care that they are acting out.

Assessment and Diagnosis

Most chemical addictions including alcoholism are defined by standard diagnostic codes (DSM) as being Addiction or a lesser form of addiction, such as Substance Abuse. Some behavioral addictions such as a gambling addiction, and sex addiction are being debated in the medical and psychological communities on how to accurately define and include these disorders in the diagnostic system.

The ICD model—the International Classification of Diseases—defines six clear criteria for diagnosing a Substance Abuse disorder, whereby three or more of the following must have been experienced or exhibited at some time during the previous year:

Control problems: Difficulties in controlling substance-taking behavior in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use

Compulsive use: A strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance.

Increasing/exclusive focus: Progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of psychoactive substance use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the substance or to recover from its effects.

Continuing harm with denial: Persisting with substance use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, depressive mood states consequent to heavy use, or drug related impairment of reasoning, judgment, and cognitive functioning.

Tolerance effect: Evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the psychoactive substance are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses

Withdrawal symptoms: A physiological withdrawal state when substance use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms

Intuition and discernment

My experience would also suggest that the spiritual intuition of the counselor is also important in diagnosis, as the self-perception of the addict are often notoriously inaccurate. Addicts who have come to a point of helplessness and perceived unmanageability are on the verge of owning their addiction, yet may also fight and deny that reality. The competent Christian counselor will be able to discern this struggle and will also know when the addicted person has not come to this point, even when they claim they have. Some addicts will still be in some state of denial and delusion about their problems, and will often lie about their readiness for change.

Accurate self-reporting may not be possible. The report of others, such as the spouse, or other family members will be important. An interesting form of assessment is to ask a potential addict how he or she theologically justifies acting out behavior. For example, how does an alcohol drinker justify drunken behavior, or how does a food addict justify the poor stewardship of being overweight, or how does a sex addict justify adultery, or how does a gambler justify chronic debt?

Multifaceted Addiction Treatment

The reasons for addiction are multi-faceted. The treatment of addiction, therefore, will also require a variety of approaches. Treatment must maintain a careful balance between confronting the addict’s denial and minimization and supporting them when they do the painful and difficult work of honest disclosure. At times, direct and intense confrontation is necessary because of the tendency for denial and minimization, but also remember that it is quite a threatening and shame-filled experience for a person to openly discuss the secrets and sins and despairs of their addictions. Following are the five classic areas that must be addressed:

Physical Stabilization and Self-care

Addicts may have caused physical damage to their bodies. Alcoholics will have possible neurological, gastro-intestinal, or liver complications. Food addicts may starve themselves to death or suffer the effects of chronic obesity. Sex addicts run the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or a variety of sexual dysfunctions. Any addict also runs the risk of stress resulting from chronic fear and anxiety, often due to the consequences of the addiction.

It is always wise for addicts to undergo a complete medical evaluation. Alcoholics may need to even be hospitalized in order to stabilize the detoxification effect of stopping usage. Anorexics may also need to be stabilized in the hospital to prevent the effects of chronic malnutrition.

When stabilization has been achieved, it is always also wise for an addict to undergo a thorough neuro-psychiatric evaluation. Levels of depression must be determined. Assessment for the presence of a variety of forms of attention deficit disorder is also important. Some addicts will need pharmacological help for depression. Others will need different drugs that help manage the brain’s needs for constant stimulation. It is always wise to develop a relationship with a competent psychiatrist who can perform these kinds of evaluations.

Abstinence from the ‘drug’ of choice will, over time, deal with the level of neuro-chemical tolerance the addict has developed over the years. With help and sure accountability, alcoholics and drug users are able to achieve total abstinence from a substance. Food addicts may be able to abstain from certain kinds of food.

Those addicts who use a behavior or simply their thought life to achieve a neuro-chemical effect will have a harder time at abstaining, as secrecy is easier to maintain and accountability is so much more difficult. Some, like gamblers, can stop certain behaviors altogether. Sex addicts, however, can arouse themselves by fantasizing about sexual behavior can achieve the effect. Sex is perhaps the most notable example of this. The protocol with sex addicts is to have them abstain from all forms of sexual activity for a period of time, even if married, in order to achieve a detoxification effect from sinful sexual activity.

Finally, addicts will need to learn adequate self-care. As opposed to Paul’s teaching, they have been treating their body more like the city dump than the temple. Being tired or physically depleted makes any addict more vulnerable to acting out behavior.

Behavioral Change

Addicts have developed strong, highly programmed, even automatic behavior patterns in order to maintain their addiction. They will go to extraordinary lengths to deny, minimize, or rationalize this addictive behavior.

Focus on honesty and behavior change. This requires the therapist to maintain a strong initial focus on honesty and behavior change. When the addict seeks to divert the discussion to family, emotional, or relationship concerns prematurely, the therapist must redirect attention to behavior. While effective treatment may address these issues, the clinician must help the addict stop using them to escape dealing with his or her addictive behavior.

One way of doing this is to link the tangential topics the client raises with the central issue of their addiction. For example, a counselor might refocus a client’s response toward the behavior in this way: “So how is the way you approach your anger toward your wife similar to the way you acted out your anger in your sex addiction?” “How is your tendency to denigrate yourself reflected in your addiction ritual?” The assumption here is that addiction has a life of its own and operates apart from other concerns. Unlike many other clinical issues, addiction is both symptom and disease.

Changing ritual behavior patterns. All addicts will need to change certain behavior patterns. Even those who engage in substance addictions need to evaluate behaviors that lead them into their use. These behaviors are usually referred to in the addiction community as “rituals.” The competent Christian counselor will help an addict assess the cycle of how he or she acts out. What behaviors always seem to lead to addictive behaviors? Taking detailed histories of usage and behavioral patterns will be helpful.

When this information has been sorted out, addicts must establish boundaries against those behaviors. Alcoholics will need to avoid certain friends, areas of towns, or stressful situations that lead them to drink. Food addicts may even need to avoid going to the grocery store in the early days of recovery, or they may need to schedule meals at regular times and find help to eat at those times religiously. Sex addicts will need to avoid people and places that trigger them into their fantasies or “connecting” rituals. For example, those sex addicts who use the computer to connect will need to become accountable for every minute of access to it.

Can’t do it alone. I have never known an addict who can recover in isolation. Yet, the average Christian feels that he or she should be strong enough to overcome this alone. Shame increases at the number of attempts to do so increases. The bible teaches that we should never undertake a long journey or complicated project alone. In Nehemiah 2, for example, the king allows Nehemiah to go home to rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem, but he also sends the army officers and cavalry. Later in chapter 4 of Nehemiah, the strategy is that half the men build and half the men stand guard.

Accountability in recovery. The key to recovering from any addiction is the need for accountability. All addicts need a number of people around them who help monitor behavior. These people will also provide support, encouragement, and affirmation. In the 12-step tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, this is the power of the meeting and the people in it. Alcoholics have also learned they need a sponsor to help guide the process of accountability.

Addicts should not make the mistake of thinking that only one person could hold them accountable. They begin recovery believing that they are alone and abandoned. If they only have one person to be in accountability with, they may get triggered into their abandonment if that one person for whatever reason is not available. Addicts will need an accountability group, at least four or five people who really know them and whom they can call any time, day or night. Remembering that loneliness is a major factor in addiction, finding the fellowship of a group will be extremely important (The Twelve Steps, 1988).

There are innumerable 12 step types of groups today for many different addictions. These phone numbers can usually be found in the local yellow pages. More and more, Christians are trying to set up Christ-centered support groups in local churches.

The Nehemiah principle. Nehemiah, again in chapter 4, knew that the attack of the enemy could come at any time and at the weakest place. He prepared for this. Addicts will need to prepare in their times of strength and resolve to change for these times of weakness and attack. It is not enough to wait until the attack comes. Automatic and daily preparations should happen. For example, any addict should have daily phone calls from the accountability group and regular attendance at support groups even on those days or during those weeks when they don’t feel like they need to.

Following is a shortlist of accountability principles that should be followed by all addicts.

  • Never try to recover alone.
  • Fellowship is equal to freedom from addiction
  • Prepare in times of strength and resolve for times of attack and weakness.
  • Be in intimate accountability with at least four to five people.

Emotional and Cognitive Restructuring

Addicts come from families that might have wounded them emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or spiritually (Carnes, 1997). They have deep sadness, feelings of shame, and loneliness.

Protect against emotional triggers. It is vitally important for these emotional issues to be addressed. Any stimulus that potentially triggers an addict into these feelings can provoke the old answers, addictive activities that were used to medicate and change these feelings. These rationalizations and lies are referred to as “stinkin’ thinkin’” in the AA vernacular. Cognitive restructuring involves identification, confrontation, and correction of this erroneous thinking and this requires a psycho-educational approach. One principle to remember is that unhealed wounds often yield a relapse.

The competent Christian counselor will either be skilled in this kind of work or will know whom to refer to.

The process of healing requires several factors:

  • Understanding the nature of the harm that caused the woundedness.
  • Providing support for the importance of dealing with it.
  • Accepting any anger that will be a part of the experience.
  • Allowing the person to grieve the losses associated with the woundedness.
  • Helping the person find meaning in the suffering of the experience.
  • Guiding the person in the process of forgiveness of those who caused the harm.
  • This is a process and should not be avoided. It is irresponsible to suggest that a person should just “forgive and forget.” It is also irresponsible to suggest that a person never let go of their anger so as not to get hurt again. Healing of life’s hurt can be a lifetime journey, but there are ways not to get stuck in sadness and anger.

Thought-stopping interventions. Every addict starts his or her acting out behavior by obsessing or fantasizing about the substance or behavior. This very thought life is an attempt to alter mood, to relieve pain. Christian counselors will hear the fantasies of addicts and know that they are windows into the mind and heart of the addicted person. Substances and behaviors are often ways that addicts seek to heal wounds from the past. It is mostly useless to tell an addict to stop thinking about a substance or behavior. Seek understanding for what the thought life, the fantasies, mean. If healing can be achieved for the wound that the fantasy seeks to correct, the fantasy will eventually disappear.

Covert sensitization. Another approach is to directly intervene in an addict’s fantasies. These fantasies are self-reinforcing because they are typically followed, in the case of a sex addict for example, by sexual arousal. In covert sensitization, the addict is instructed to articulate his or her preferred fantasy, and then to add to that fantasy an imagined aversive scene (such as the embarrassment of being caught and punished). Both exposing the secret fantasy and associating an aversive outcome reduces its attracting power. The goal is to reduce the reinforcement value of the fantasy by pairing it with an aversive consequence. Finally, the offender also adds a reward scene to the failed fantasy, emphasizing a positive outcome associated with successful control.

Relationship Repair

People who live with addicts know how painfully difficult it can be. Sometimes the spouses of addicts are referred to as “co-addicts” or “co-dependents” (Beattie, 1987). The assumption of terms like these is that they somehow ignore, tolerate and even enable addiction. Competent counseling will need to assess the emotional and spiritual health of people living with addicts. It is safe to continue to live with them if they don’t get help? Do co-addicts also suffer from their own wounds or addictions? It would not be uncommon for a spouse who lives with an alcoholic to also have drinking problems. My research has shown that about one-third of spouses who live with sex addicts are also sex addicts.

Counselors should assess factors that brought spouses together. New theories are being developed which suggest that people find each other and seek to play out patterns of family of origin trauma with each other. Sex abuse survivors may, even unconsciously, find another sex abuse survivor to be in relationship with. The theory is that addicts may be trying to replay old patterns, going back into their families, in order to find a different result. Another form of this is that addicts will replay old family patterns, trying to be the one who controls the situation rather than the one who is victimized. The attempt to find healing from a relationship to a spouse for early life wounds is generally referred to as “trauma bonding.” (Carnes, 1997).

Counselors who deal with addicts and their spouses know that sometimes even the slightest of triggers can provoke rage, anxiety, or sadness. Deep healing work with both addict and spouse, together or individually, is vital to the restoration of marriage. Simple communication strategies or intimacy building exercises will not work in these situations. Work on the deep wounds with both partners is essential to helping these partners relate on the most basic of levels.

Suffer the little children. The children of addicts will inherently be wounded by addiction. Counselors will be progressive if they are able to address these issues and be of support for the entire family. It is not easy to engage family members, even spouses, if there is the addict to blame for all problems. Gentle forms of education and support can be helpful. Helping family members to be in support groups for others with similar problems can help them see their own responsibilities for the dysfunctions of entire family systems. Support groups of many kinds exist for those who live in relationship with addicts.

The healing of relationships is an essential part of treatment for addicts. Couples’ and family counseling is important. Addicts and those around them should be encouraged to be in networks of support. One of the best antidotes for addiction and co-addiction is fellowship with others. Addicts have a profound longing for nurture. Christian counselors must be able to help them find it in true and lasting relationships (see Carnes, Laaser, & Laaser, 2000).

The potential for developing intimacy and total self-honesty is crucial to addiction recovery. Addicts, in their shame, may feel that no one loves them and that if they talk about their most intimate feelings or reveal their worst acting out experiences, others will run from them. They will need to “practice” telling the truth to those, such as in a support group, who are less emotionally threatening than lifetime loved ones (e.g. spouses). They will then be able to take greater risks by being honest with loved ones.

Victim empathy. One useful strategy in treating addicts is to encourage them to develop empathy for loved ones hurt by their addiction. The addict is asked to try to understand, and even experience the pain they cause their victims. By maximizing empathy for others, it becomes more likely that the addict will treat others as persons, rather than as objects to be used for their own gratification. As addicts develop victim empathy and consider the consequences of their actions, they may present with suicidal ideation, shame, and guilt. Jesus incarnated victim empathy, and a counselors’ Christian background can aid in connecting the incongruence between client behavior and their spiritual worldview.

The road to recovery in a relationship is long and labor-intensive, but the possibility of profound intimacy with others is well worth the task.

Spiritual Renewal

Addicts are spiritually immature by nature. They often search for black-and-white answers to their problems. If addicts have developmental issues it is easy to see that they will also have childish and adolescent beliefs about God (see May, 1988; Miller, 1987). They may have become angry with God for not “delivering” them of their cravings, longings, and lust. There are several spiritual challenges for addicts when working with Christian counselors, pastors, and lay helpers:

Addicts must address their own need to control. Many of them may have committed to Christ intellectually, but not emotionally. They may be angry with God for not healing or delivering them. They have a hard time letting go of the high and the mood alteration of their addictive activities. Addicts have become accustomed to their ways. Being enslaved to addiction is what they know.

In the 13th and 14th chapters of the book of Numbers we find the story of how God is trying to prepare the people of Israel to go to the Promised Land. God has already done a mighty work in delivering them out of the land of Egypt. They are being led by one of the greatest religious leaders of all time, Moses. Ten of twelve spies who have been sent to survey the new land give a negative report of how difficult it will be to go there because of “giants” in the land. In the opening of the 14th chapter, the people cry out for a new leader and declare that it would be better to go back to Egypt and die as slaves than to go to a place they don’t know.

This is how addicts often react. They don’t know a new place or a better way. They will want to hang on to the familiar. They are unable to trust God to see them through unknown and frightening future events. It is an issue of trust and total surrender. They will need to be guided to totally turn their lives over to God and face their own fears and need to control. In John 5, Jesus (our master psychologist) asks the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?” It seems like a silly question for a man who has been lying by this healing water for 38 years. The man, however, doesn’t answer affirmatively but instead gives excuses for why he hasn’t been able to get into the pool.

Christian counselors will also have to ask this hard question, “Do you want to get well and are you willing to take the risks, make the surrender, and do the hard work that will be necessary.” In Numbers 14, it is Joshua who says to the stubborn people, “We can do this with God’s help.”

Much of what has motivated addicts historically is fear and anxiety. They have sought to avoid consequences and trouble. They have been selfish in their pursuits. In recovery, they will need to learn to be motivated for others. In Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah offers a great battle cry to the people. He tells them to fight for the brothers, sons and daughters, wives and their homes. This is better motivation for addicts. I have never known an addict who has recovered and found sobriety just for him or herself. The 12th step of Alcoholics Anonymous says that having had a spiritual awakening; addicts should carry the message to others. A motivation of service to others is an important part of maturing spiritually that is vital to getting well.

In Ephesians 5:1-3, Paul tells us that we should be “imitators of God, just as dearly loved children,” and that we should “lead a life of sacrifice, just as Christ loved the Church.” Addicts must learn to lead a life of sacrifice, giving over their lusts and cravings. Addiction is selfish; recovery is self-less.

Addicts don’t know a better life. In most cases addicts don’t know true love and intimacy—they don’t know a true relationship with God. Addictions are embraced as the perverse substitutes—false love and false intimacy (Schaumburg, 1992). Christian counselors must be able to model to them what these things are like. An addict needs a true spiritual vision. One of the great challenges in working with addicts is in helping them exchange the short-term highs for long term truth. Intimacy with God and others is so much more satisfying than the high of any addiction.

When the Jewish people wanted to return to Egypt and live as slaves rather than go to the Promised Land, it was Joshua who reminded them to depend on God. Christian counselors will need to be like Joshua. Leaders like Joshua can also be found in those recovering people who have achieved a number of years of sobriety. These recovering people have assembled a more serene life and testimony of God’s ongoing work in their lives. Networking newly assessed and willing to recover addicts with these “old timers” is often one of the joys of Christian counseling.

Christian counselors are able to place more emphasis on spirituality in an appropriate clinical manner as the cornerstone of treatment. It is likely that addicts seeking Christian counselors have done so on purpose, and this can be a powerful beginning to recovery, as well as prognosis for continued alliance, rapport, and investment in treatment. Attitudes toward religion can also provide diagnostic clues. “By examining the patient’s religious views in the context of his or her personality dysfunctions, the clinician can differentiate between valid expression of spirituality and defensive religiosity” (Earle, Earle, & Osborn, 1995, p.12).

Putting It All Together

Nearly three decades of scientific research has yielded 13 fundamental principles that characterize effective drug abuse treatment. These principles are detailed in NIDA’s Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

No single treatment is appropriate for all individuals. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to each patient’s problems and needs is critical.

Treatment needs to be readily available. Treatment applicants can be lost if treatment is not immediately available or readily accessible.

Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug use. Treatment must address the individual’s drug use and associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems.

At different times during treatment, a patient may develop a need for medical services, family therapy, vocational rehabilitation, and social and legal services.

Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical for treatment effectiveness. The time depends on an individual’s needs. For most patients, the threshold of significant improvement is reached at about 3 months in treatment. Additional treatment can produce further progress. Programs should include strategies to prevent patients from leaving treatment prematurely.

Individual and/or group counseling and other behavioral therapies are critical components of effective treatment for addiction. In therapy, patients address motivation, build skills to resist drug use, replace drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding nondrug-using activities, and improve problem-solving abilities. Behavioral therapy also facilitates interpersonal relationships.

Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies. Methadone and levo-alpha-acetylmethodol (LAAM) help persons addicted to opiates stabilize their lives and reduce their drug use. Naltrexone is effective for some opiate addicts and some patients with co-occurring alcohol dependence. Nicotine patches or gum, or oral medication, such as buproprion, can help persons addicted to nicotine.

Addicted or drug-abusing individuals with coexisting mental disorders should have both disorders treated in an integrated way.

Medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use. Medical detoxification manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal. For some individuals, it is a precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.

Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. Sanctions or enticements in the family, employment setting, or criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention, and success.

Possible drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously. Monitoring a patient’s drug and alcohol use during treatment, such as through urinalysis, can help the patient withstand urges to use drugs. Such monitoring also can provide early evidence of drug use so that treatment can be adjusted.

Treatment programs should provide assessment for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, and counseling to help patients modify or change behaviors that place them or others at risk of infection. Counseling can help patients avoid high-risk behavior and help people who are already infected manage their illness.

Recovery from drug addiction can be a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment. As with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug use can occur during or after successful treatment episodes. Participation in self-help support programs during and following treatment often helps maintain abstinence.


Restoration and Relapse

In aftercare treatment planning, one must include a clear plan of restoration. This plan must include a great deal of accountability and ongoing oversight. Relapse and recidivism rates for addicts still remain relatively high after completion of treatment. One must be on guard to discern the role of spiritual transformation in the life of the addict. Addicts will say—and genuinely believe, along with many others supporting the addict—that they have committed or recommitted their lives to Christ, that God has forgiven their sin, and they have been healed from their addictive desires.

The implication is that if the therapist continues to insist on strong accountability or a need for continued treatment, they are doubting the power of God to change lives. This is a very difficult bind for Christian counselors. On one hand, we must seriously believe in the power of God to heal and change lives, while also being aware that healing is almost always a gradual process. Furthermore, the Christian counselor knows as well as anyone the subtle power of sin and the ways of the world to tempt the addict to use again. Even in the midst of the healing process, offenders can and do experience relapse—some relapse numerous times—but eventually establish control over the problem.

We must balance the need to affirm healing in the offender with appropriate concern for the reality of relapse and renewed addiction. The church, as a community of grace and healing, looks to the hope of the gospel for the power to change the behavior of addicted persons, to heal the wounds of the their victims, and to provide reconciliation with the body of Christ.

Conclusion

Working with addicts is usually both challenging and frustrating. A competent Christian counselor will often direct and guide an addict through a variety of resources and networks of people. Sometimes the counselor will be like a team leader, shepherding counselors and others who are working with the addict, his or her spouse and children, and addressing other aspects of the problem.

Beware of those who don’t have the willingness. One sign of an addict willing to recover is a felt sense of brokenness and humility. If you continue to run into denial, selfishness, or stubbornness, don’t think that you have to be the one to make the final breakthrough. Establish your own boundaries of whom you are willing to work with. Even Jesus let some walk away. I often wonder how successful He must have felt as he hung on the cross and look at the lack of faith in those around him.

When you are thanked by those who have been broken, felt powerless, and who are working hard, you will see a growing life of peace and serenity, major life changes, and restored relationships. The personal, familial, and intergenerational cycle of addiction can be broken. This is what makes what we do so worthwhile.

References

Abel, G., Blanchard, E., Becker, J., & Djenderedjian, A. (1978). Differentiating sexual aggressives with penile measures. Criminal Justice & Behavior, 5, 315-332.

Amen, D. (1998). Change Your Brain Change Your Life. New York: Random House.

Arterburn, S. (199-). Addicted to Love.

Bays, L., & Freeman-Longo (1989). Why did I do it again? Understanding my cycle of problem behavior. Orwell, VT: Safer Society Press.

Bays, L., Freeman-Longo, R., & Hildebran (1990). How can I stop? Breaking my deviant cycle. Orwell, VT: Safer Society Press.

Beattie, M., (1987). Codependent No More New York: Harper/Hazelden.

Carnes, P., (1997). The Betrayal Bond. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

Carnes, P., (1991). Don’t Call It Love New York: Bantam Books.

Carnes, P., Laaser, D., & Laaser, M., (2000). Open Hearts Wickensburg, AZ: Gentle Path Press.

Earle, R. H., Earle, M. R., & Osborn, K. (1995). Sex addiction: Case studies and management. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel, Inc.

Freeman-Longo, R., & Bays, L. (1988). Who am I and why am I in treatment? A guided workbook for clients in evaluation and beginning treatment. Orwell, VT: Safer Society Press.

Hathaway, S. R., &. McKinley, J. C. (1989) Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2. University of Minnesota, MN.

Kurtz, E. (1979). Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Laaser, M. (1996). Faithful and True. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May, G., (1988). Addiction and Grace. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Milkman H., & Sunderwirth, S. (1987). Craving for Ecstasy: The Consciousness and Chemistry of Escape. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Miller, J., (1987). Sin: Overcoming the Ultimate Deadly Addiction San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Nichols, H. R., & Molinder, (2000). Multiphasic Sexual Inventory-2. Oregon.

Overcomers Outreach, (1994). A Bridge To Recovery. LaHabra, CA: Overcomers Outreach.

Schaeffer, B. (2000). Is it Love Or Is It Addiction. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Schaumburg, H., (1992) False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Tays, T. M., Earle, R. H., Wells, K., Murray, M., & Garrett, B. (1999). Treating sex offenders using the sex addiction model.

Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 6, 281-288.

The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Journey (1988). San Diego: Recovery Publications.

 

You Affect me AND I Affect You

SOURCE:  Living Free

“I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.

Exodus 20:5 NLT

When we are struggling with life-controlling problems, one of the most damaging delusions we entertain is that our problems are not hurting anyone other than ourselves. On the contrary, one person’s problems affect a network of personal relationships. The closer the relationship, the greater the impact. For example, our misbehavior may only slightly affect our job performance, but it may devastate our immediate family. This is known as the domino effect.

If a husband is too involved at work, this may trigger conflict with his wife. The parents’ preoccupation with their own issues, in turn, may cause one child to misbehave at school and another to turn to an eating disorder. As this happens, again and again, relationships are destroyed.

We use the term family system to describe the attitudes and patterns by which families operate. When one member of the family system has a problem, the others will deal with the problem according to the pattern they have learned. Each family member is an element in the whole, affecting and being affected by the system.

We can become more effective in helping ourselves and others when we understand that all of us are affected by a system of relationships that extends into past generations and that our actions will also impact future generations.

Father, help me to better understand this bigger picture of how my behavior can have long-lasting ripple effects on those around me. Help me make the changes that will turn my influence from negative to positive. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div. 

Why I Do What I Do

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” 

1 Peter 1:17 NIV. Suggested reading 1 Peter 1:17-23

When a family is struggling with the life-controlling issues of one or more members, it usually becomes dysfunctional. In other words, there are relationship problems in the family that keep it from being an emotionally healthy environment.

When we grow up in a dysfunctional family environment, we live with pain and chaos. We see destructive behaviors modeled before us, and we often carry these learned behaviors into our adult lives, recreating the type of environment we grew up in by repeating the mistakes of our elders. These behaviors handed down from generation to generation are what we call hand-me-downs.

Hand-me-downs are behavior patterns that have their roots in the family system and can help us understand why we behave as we do. A child growing up accepts the behaviors they observe every day at home as normal because they have no other reference. And then as adults, they tend to create the same type of family relationships they knew as children.

Consider This . . .

Are you weighed down with hand-me-downs that are having a negative effect on your life? Today’s scripture reading offers you hope.

First, God is fair (v. 17). Children raised by an abusive or neglectful father often have an incorrect view of God, picturing him as their earthly father. The good news is that our Heavenly Father is perfect and fair. No matter what your background, he loves you and wants you to be his child.

It is also important to recognize that God’s impartiality does not take away our personal responsibility. Although we are influenced by genetic inheritance and social surroundings, we still have a personal responsibility to God. To choose him. To make him Lord of our life.

Prayer

Father, I thank you that I can count on you to be a loving and fair father. Help me not to use my past as an excuse for my behavior. I want to turn my life—and all the hand-me-downs—over to you. To receive your healing. And to serve you.
In Jesus’ name …

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

BLEW IT AGAIN?

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

Day has begun and I’m already sinning
Help me to change this heart that I have
Lord, help me taste of the grace that You’re giving.
I want to be a spiritual man.
“Let the Old Man Die” lyrics by Chuck Butler

 

Every one of us struggles with something. Some of us relapse into that “something.” Afterward, how we handle the relapse will have a lot to do with our future successes or failures.

To struggle is to have temptations, sometimes towards one particular life-dominating sin. You knew the type. It’s usually some bodily pleasure that we’ve discovered, then returned to, and then, after years of repetition, we’ve established as a pattern.

Overeating, porn, smoking, gambling, and drug abuse are all pretty good examples. What we discover we incorporate, and what we incorporate becomes predictable – a regular, often destructive part of our routine.

Predictable, that is until God puts His finger on that part of your life. That’s when He calls you to repentance, and when that happens, a new standard gets birthed.

Suddenly, what you used to allow is unacceptable, and abstaining from that “something” is a new mandate. New standards of what we do or don’t allow are sure to follow anytime we say “yes” when God says “this has to go.” That’s part of discipleship living.

But to say “God has called me to stop doing this” is also a way of saying “I’m committed to resisting the desire to keep on doing it.” Sometimes the desire is resisted successfully; sometimes not. And that opens up the possibility of relapse.

Relapse happens when you return to behavior you renounced. It’s often called “breaking sobriety” because it means you broke a commitment to abstain from something addictive; some would also call it a backslide. But whatever name the relapse rose goes by it smells just as bad, and is a thing to be avoided, guarded against, but also prepared for. It’s somewhat like John’s interesting statement about sin:

These things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. I John 2:1

Clearly John wasn’t saying it’s OK to sin. But he was saying that if you do, you have an advocate. Likewise, when you commit to abstaining from porn, fornication, drunkenness or gluttony, you don’t by any means have to relapse. You can stay clean; there’s no reason to return to those behaviors.

But if you do, you have an advocate with the Father who will cleanse and restore you. In that vein, let me offer a few immediate steps to take if, God forbid, you should relapse.

1. Notify

Decide now who’d you’d call if you relapsed. In most cases, an accountability partner is your best bet (and if you’re committed to abstaining from addictive behavior, then an accountability partner really is a must!) since he works with you weekly and you’re probably in regular contact with him.

But a trusted friend or member of your church will also be a good choice, or perhaps a pastor or counselor. What matters is that you know who to call and what number to use, and that you call him immediately. Tell him you relapsed, and that you’ll need his prayers and support. If you have a severe crisis situation, meet with him ASAP.

2. Identify

With the help of whoever you notify, figure out what went wrong. Usually, people relapse because they slacked off on their prayer life, scripture reading, fellowship or accountability.

But there may be other reasons, so spend time exploring what you were doing before the relapse, what you could have done differently, and what you’ll do differently in the future to prevent this from happening again. Human error is a terrific textbook, so you may as well use it.

3. Move It!

Get back on the saddle immediately, because you’ll accomplish nothing by wallowing in grief over your relapse, and there’s no reason to delay beginning again. If you refuse to start over, you’re yielding to a more severe, deadlier sin than relapse: despair. Sin is something you can repent of, but despair? Yield to that, and you’re really finished.

Don’t be. Relapse is a temporary set-back; despair is the end.

You’re protecting a treasure when you guard your purity, so apply yourself to its longevity the way you’d protect a valuable antique or piece of jewelry. Recognizing its worth, you work both to keep it, and keep it in its best possible shape.

The freedom of godliness, likewise, is a purposeful, challenging, exciting way to live, and keeping the ball in play is worth all the blood, sweat and tears a committed athlete has to shed.

So move ahead today in the power of gratitude for God’s grace, and let it manifest in the smallest and largest areas of your life.

ADDICTED? “RE-TIE” TO GOD

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones

Transformational Thought

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are tormented by compulsive addictions according to the latest statistics regarding substance abuse and compulsive-addictive behaviors. An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself. Our society, in large part, denies the addiction problem. Treatment centers and state hospitals are closing, program funding is being cut, and insurance reimbursement for treatment is decreasing. The walking wounded are, therefore, on their own to get help for themselves and their families.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Major damage caused by drugs also includes the drug environment and the impurities associated with it, namely, secondary infections, especially with illegal drugs. This lifestyle, regardless of the type of addiction, causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word “religion” has gotten? It doesn’t seem to be regarded today as the original word suggests. The root word is “ligio” (Latin) meaning to tie or bind together. For example, in a tubal ligation a woman has her tubes tied. “Re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God, causing perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does the work.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. People have become unbound with God through their addictions. What we give our time, money, and energy to becomes our god. We become like our object of worship. It’s amazing to consider what we pursue to soothe our discomfort, and the dire spiritual consequences we choose to endure for a momentary thrill.

Today, if you have an overt addiction, know that God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore everyone who has been carried away by addictions.

Let Him in. Trust His ways, and not yours.

Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, restoring us to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items first.

Prayer

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the effects of mood-altering chemicals and behaviors that are self-destructive. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful and comforting name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

 

THE TRUTH —–

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

 


_______________________________________________________________________

Originally posted in 2011.

Nothing Helps! Here I Am Again! What Now?

SOURCE:  Dan Strickland/Living Free

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” Romans 7:17-25 MSG


Perhaps you have an attitude problem: pride, jealousy, impatience. Or maybe you are struggling with a behavior that you know is wrong: gossip, anger, broken promises. Or perhaps an addiction has taken control: drinking, drugs, pornography.

Habits like these have several things in common: They hurt you. They hurt others. And you cannot overcome them by yourself.

Perhaps you have determined to change. For a while things were better and then you found yourself right back where you started. The above Scripture describes the struggle so well—even the apostle Paul fought the battle. But he also learned the answer: Jesus. Only through Jesus can we find complete freedom from life-destructive habits.

You might wonder why Jesus would be willing to help you after you’ve messed up again and again. The answer is that he loves you. Unconditionally.

Recovery is a process. Developing the habit took time, and overcoming it will too. But with Jesus’ help, you can do it.

Father, I was so determined not to fall into this sin again. But here I am. I know I can’t do this alone and thank you for being here. Help me to remember that recovery is a process and to keep my eyes on Jesus. In His name …

————————————————————————————————————————-


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

SOURCE:  Alex Berenson/Imprimis

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 15, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.

Until recently, my wife Jackie­—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal. Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or strangers.

A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course, he’d been smoking pot his whole life.

Of course? I said.

Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?

I was surprised, to say the least. I tended to be a libertarian on drugs. Years before, I’d covered the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times. I was aware of the claims about marijuana as medicine, and I’d watched the slow spread of legalized cannabis without much interest.

Jackie would have been within her rights to say, I know what I’m talking about, unlike you. Instead, she offered something neutral like, I think that’s what the big studies say. You should read them.

So I did. The big studies, the little ones, and all the rest. I read everything I could find. I talked to every psychiatrist and brain scientist who would talk to me. And I soon realized that in all my years as a journalist I had never seen a story where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great, or the stakes so high.

I began to wonder why—with the stocks of cannabis companies soaring and politicians promoting legalization as a low-risk way to raise tax revenue and reduce crime—I had never heard the truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence.

***

Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science. Yet over the same period, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has pushed public attitudes about marijuana the other way. And the effects are now becoming apparent.

Almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.

They’ve told you marijuana has many different medical uses. In reality marijuana and THC, its active ingredient, have been shown to work only in a few narrow conditions. They are most commonly prescribed for pain relief. But they are rarely tested against other pain relief drugs like ibuprofen—and in July, a large four-year study of patients with chronic pain in Australia showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.

They’ve told you cannabis can stem opioid use—“Two new studies show how marijuana can help fight the opioid epidemic,” according to Wonkblog, a Washington Post website, in April 2018— and that marijuana’s effects as a painkiller make it a potential substitute for opiates. In reality, like alcohol, marijuana is too weak as a painkiller to work for most people who truly need opiates, such as terminal cancer patients. Even cannabis advocates, like Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledge that they have always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users.

As for the marijuana-reduces-opiate-use theory, it is based largely on a single paper comparing overdose deaths by state before 2010 to the spread of medical marijuana laws— and the paper’s finding is probably a result of simple geographic coincidence. The opiate epidemic began in Appalachia, while the first states to legalize medical marijuana were in the West. Since 2010, as both the epidemic and medical marijuana laws have spread nationally, the finding has vanished. And the United States, the Western country with the most cannabis use, also has by far the worst problem with opioids.

Research on individual users—a better way to trace cause and effect than looking at aggregate state-level data—consistently shows that marijuana use leads to other drug use. For example, a January 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later, even after adjusting for other potential risks.

Most of all, advocates have told you that marijuana is not just safe for people with psychiatric problems like depression, but that it is a potential treatment for those patients. On its website, the cannabis delivery service Eaze offers the “Best Marijuana Strains and Products for Treating Anxiety.” “How Does Cannabis Help Depression?” is the topic of an article on Leafly, the largest cannabis website. But a mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals shows that marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, the most devastating psychotic disorder.

After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”

***

Over the past decade, as legalization has spread, patterns of marijuana use—and the drug itself—have changed in dangerous ways.

Legalization has not led to a huge increase in people using the drug casually. About 15 percent of Americans used cannabis at least once in 2017, up from ten percent in 2006, according to a large federal study called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (By contrast, about 65 percent of Americans had a drink in the last year.) But the number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about three million Americans reported using cannabis at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had nearly tripled, to eight million, approaching the twelve million Americans who drank alcohol every day. Put another way, one in 15 drinkers consumed alcohol daily; about one in five marijuana users used cannabis that often.

Cannabis users today are also consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—it contains. In the 1970s, the last time this many Americans used cannabis, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques—as well as to a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC. Think of the difference between near-beer and a martini, or even grain alcohol, to understand the difference.

These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.

Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.

On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.

According to this latter study, 7.5 percent of adults age 18-25 met the criteria for serious mental illness in 2017, double the rate in 2008. What’s especially striking is that adolescents age 12-17 don’t show these increases in cannabis use and severe mental illness.

A caveat: this federal survey doesn’t count individual cases, and it lumps psychosis with other severe mental illness. So it isn’t as accurate as the Finnish or Danish studies. Nor do any of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness. The most that can be said is that they offer intriguing evidence of a link.

Advocates for people with mental illness do not like discussing the link between schizophrenia and crime. They fear it will stigmatize people with the disease. “Most people with mental illness are not violent,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains on its website. But wishing away the link can’t make it disappear. In truth, psychosis is a shockingly high-risk factor for violence. The best analysis came in a 2009 paper in PLOS Medicine by Dr. Seena Fazel, an Oxford University psychiatrist and epidemiologist. Drawing on earlier studies, the paper found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.

NAMI’s statement that most people with mental illness are not violent is, of course, accurate, given that “most” simply means “more than half”; but it is deeply misleading. Schizophrenia is rare. But people with the disorder commit an appreciable fraction of all murders, in the range of six to nine percent.

“The best way to deal with the stigma is to reduce the violence,” says Dr. Sheilagh Hodgins, a professor at the University of Montreal who has studied mental illness and violence for more than 30 years.

The marijuana-psychosis-violence connection is even stronger than those figures suggest. People with schizophrenia are only moderately more likely to become violent than healthy people when they are taking antipsychotic medicine and avoiding recreational drugs. But when they use drugs, their risk of violence skyrockets. “You don’t just have an increased risk of one thing—these things occur in clusters,” Dr. Fazel told me.

Along with alcohol, the drug that psychotic patients use more than any other is cannabis: a 2010 review of earlier studies in Schizophrenia Bulletin found that 27 percent of people with schizophrenia had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in their lives. And unfortunately—despite its reputation for making users relaxed and calm—cannabis appears to provoke many of them to violence.

A Swiss study of 265 psychotic patients published in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry last June found that over a three-year period, young men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50 percent chance of becoming violent. That risk was four times higher than for those with psychosis who didn’t use, even after adjusting for factors such as alcohol use. Other researchers have produced similar findings. A 2013 paper in an Italian psychiatric journal examined almost 1,600 psychiatric patients in southern Italy and found that cannabis use was associated with a ten-fold increase in violence.

The most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia—something even cannabis advocates acknowledge the drug can cause. The risk is so obvious that users joke about it and dispensaries advertise certain strains as less likely to induce paranoia. And for people with psychotic disorders, paranoia can fuel extreme violence. A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found that most believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis—more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

Yet the link between marijuana and violence doesn’t appear limited to people with preexisting psychosis. Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse, assault, and even murder. Far less work has been done on marijuana, in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue. But studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence have quietly piled up. Many of them weren’t even designed to catch the link, but they did. Dozens of such studies exist, covering everything from bullying by high school students to fighting among vacationers in Spain.

In most cases, studies find that the risk is at least as significant as with alcohol. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents and found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence; a 2017 paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology examined drivers of violence among 6,000 British and Chinese men and found that drug use—the drug nearly always being cannabis—translated into a five-fold increase in violence.

Today that risk is translating into real-world impacts. Before states legalized recreational cannabis, advocates said that legalization would let police focus on hardened criminals rather than marijuana smokers and thus reduce violent crime. Some advocates go so far as to claim that legalization has reduced violent crime. In a 2017 speech calling for federal legalization, U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that “states [that have legalized marijuana] are seeing decreases in violent crime.” He was wrong.

The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use were Colorado and Washington in 2014 and Alaska and Oregon in 2015. Combined, those four states had about 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults in 2013. Last year, they had almost 620 murders and 38,000 aggravated assaults—an increase of 37 percent for murders and 25 percent for aggravated assaults, far greater than the national increase, even after accounting for differences in population growth.

Knowing exactly how much of the increase is related to cannabis is impossible without researching every crime. But police reports, news stories, and arrest warrants suggest a close link in many cases. For example, last September, police in Longmont, Colorado, arrested Daniel Lopez for stabbing his brother Thomas to death as a neighbor watched. Daniel Lopez had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating” with marijuana, according to an arrest affidavit.

In every state, not just those where marijuana is legal, cases like Lopez’s are far more common than either cannabis or mental illness advocates acknowledge. Cannabis is also associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect—many more than alcohol, and more than cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids combined—according to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators.

These crimes rarely receive more than local attention. Psychosis-induced violence takes particularly ugly forms and is frequently directed at helpless family members. The elite national media prefers to ignore the crimes as tabloid fodder. Even police departments, which see this violence up close, have been slow to recognize the trend, in part because the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths has overwhelmed them.

So the black tide of psychosis and the red tide of violence are rising steadily, almost unnoticed, on a slow green wave.

***

For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India. Yet 20 years ago, the United States moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates.

In both cases, we decided we could outsmart these drugs—that we could have their benefits without their costs. And in both cases we were wrong. Opiates are riskier, and the overdose deaths they cause a more imminent crisis, so we have focused on those. But soon enough the mental illness and violence that follow cannabis use will also be too widespread to ignore.

Whether to use cannabis, or any drug, is a personal decision. Whether cannabis should be legal is a political issue. But its precise legal status is far less important than making sure that anyone who uses it is aware of its risks. Most cigarette smokers don’t die of lung cancer. But we have made it widely known that cigarettes cause cancer, full stop. Most people who drink and drive don’t have fatal accidents. But we have highlighted the cases of those who do.

We need equally unambiguous and well-funded advertising campaigns on the risks of cannabis. Instead, we are now in the worst of all worlds. Marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others, dangerously potent, and sold without warnings everywhere.

But before we can do anything, we—especially cannabis advocates and those in the elite media who have for too long credulously accepted their claims—need to come to terms with the truth about the science on marijuana. That adjustment may be painful. But the alternative is far worse, as the patients at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute—and their victims—know.

======================================

Alex Berenson
Author, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

Clinging to Truth: A Battle to Fight

SOURCE:  John Eldredge, from Wild at Heart 

Hanging on to the Truth

In any hand-to-hand combat, there’s a constant back-and-forth of blows, dodges, blocks, counterattacks, and so forth. That’s exactly what is going on in the unseen around us. Only it takes place, initially, at the level of our thoughts. When we are under attack, we’ve got to hang on to the truth. Dodge the blow, block it with a stubborn refusal, slash back with what is true. This is how Christ answered Satan — He didn’t get into an argument with him, try to reason his way out. He simply stood on the truth. He answered with Scripture and we’ve got to do the same. This will not be easy, especially when all hell is breaking loose around you. It will feel like holding on to a rope while you’re being dragged behind a truck, like keeping your balance in a hurricane. Satan doesn’t just throw a thought at us; he throws feelings too. Walk into a dark house late at night and suddenly fear sweeps over you; or just stand in a grocery line with all those tabloids shouting sex at you and suddenly a sense of corruption is yours.

But this is where your strength is revealed and even increased — through exercise.

Stand on what is true and do not let go. Period.

The traitor within the castle will try to lower the drawbridge, but don’t let him. When Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, it’s not saying, “Lock them up because they’re really criminal to the core”; it’s saying, “Defend them like a castle, the seat of your strength you do not want to give away.” As Thomas à Kempis says, “Yet we must be watchful, especially in the beginning of the temptation; for the enemy is then more easily overcome, if he is not suffered to enter the door of our hearts, but is resisted without the gate at his first knock.”

Remember the scene in Braveheart where Robert the Bruce’s evil father is whispering lies to him about treason and compromise? He says to Robert what the Enemy says to us in a thousand ways: “All men betray; all men lose heart.” How does Robert answer? He yells back, I don’t want to lose heart! I want to believe, like [Wallace] does. I will never be on the wrong side again.

That is the turning point in his life . . . and in ours. The battle shifts to a new level.

God Is With Us

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:6-7, Joshua 1:9

Joshua knew what it was to be afraid. For years he had been second in command, Moses’ right-hand man. But now it was his turn to lead. The children of Israel weren’t just going to waltz in and pick up the promised land like a quart of milk; they were going to have to fight for it. And Moses was not going with them. If Joshua was completely confident about the situation, why would God have to tell him over and over and over again not to be afraid? In fact, God gives him a special word of encouragement:

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. — Joshua 1:5

How was God “with Moses”? As a mighty warrior. Remember the plagues? Remember all those Egyptian soldiers drowned with their horses and chariots out there in the Red Sea? It was after that display of God’s strength that the people of Israel sang,

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His Name. — Exodus 15:3

God fought for Moses and for Israel; then He covenanted to Joshua to do the same and they took down Jericho and every other enemy.

Jeremiah knew what it meant to have God “with him” as well. “But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior,” he sang.  “so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jer. 20:11). Even Jesus walked in this promise when He battled for us here on earth:

You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached — how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. — Acts 10:37-38, emphasis added

How did Jesus win the battle against Satan? God was with him. This really opens up the riches of the promise Christ gives us when he pledges, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5 NKJV). That doesn’t simply mean that He’ll be around, or even that He’ll comfort us in our afflictions. It means He will fight for us, with us, just as He has fought for His people all through the ages.

So long as we walk with Christ, stay in Him, we haven’t a thing to fear.

Satan is trying to appeal to the traitor’s commitment to self-preservation when he uses fear and intimidation. So long as we are back in the old story of saving our skin, looking out for Number One, those tactics will work. We’ll shrink back. But the opposite is also true. When a man resolves to become a warrior, when his life is given over to a transcendent cause, then he can’t be cowed by the Big Bad Wolf threatening to blow his house down. After Revelation describes that war in Heaven between the angels and Satan’s downfall to the earth, it tells how the saints overcame him:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. — Revelation 12:11

The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death.

All men die; few men ever really live.

Sure, you can create a safe life for yourself… and end your days in a rest home babbling on about some forgotten misfortune. I’d rather go down swinging. Besides, the less we are trying to “save ourselves,” the more effective as warriors we will be.

Listen to G. K. Chesterton on courage:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.

 

Do You Have a Life-Controlling Problem?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT)

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters our life and blocks our spiritual growth. It may also be described as a life-controlling struggle, addiction, dependency, stronghold, besetting sin, slavery, or compulsive behavior.

When we hear life-controlling problem, we usually think of an addiction like drugs, alcohol, or gambling. However, anything that stands in the way of our spiritual growth and relationship with God or brings us under its power is a life-controlling problem. It may even be something positive–like work, sports, or ministry–that is controlling our life. Or we may become consumed with another person’s problem and try to fix it, allowing their problem to enslave us as well. We may be trapped by emotions that overwhelm us, emotions like grief, depression, and anger. Or our life-controlling problem may be a sinful attitude like bitterness, envy, or lust.

What about you? Is there anything in your life that is mastering you and blocking your spiritual growth?

Father, I really want to put you first in my life. Help me take an honest look at my life and discover anything that has become my master. In Jesus’ name . . .

———————————————————————————————————————————————————


These thoughts were drawn from …

 Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning, an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Phases of Life-Controlling Problems

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Living Free Ministry

Phase One: Experimentation

  • I learn that experimenting with the substance/behavior makes me feel good.
  • I don ‘t really see any serious negative consequences.
  • I learn to trust the substance/behavior to make me feel good or help me escape every time I use it or do it.
  • I learn how to use the substance/behavior to make myself feel great.

Phase Two: Social Use

  • I begin to use or practice more regularly.
  • This behavior or substance becomes a part of my social life.
  • I use or practice in times and places that are socially acceptable.
  • Daily lifestyle choices begin to be affected by my focus on this substance/behavior.
  • I make rules for myself about my use/practice to make me feel safe.
  • My use/behavior becomes a problem without warning.

Phase Three: Daily Preoccupation

  • My use/practice becomes a harmful dependency.
  • I begin to lose control over my use/practice.
  • I violate my value system.
  • I cannot block out the emotional pain.
  • My lifestyle is centered on this compulsive behavior.
  • Unresolved problems produce more stress and pain.
  • I break my self-imposed safe use/practice rules.
  • My life deteriorates in all areas, including health, spirituality, and relationships.

Phase Four: Using/Practicing Just to Feel Normal

  • I lose touch with reality and experience delusions and paranoia.
  • I may try to escape my problems by running away.
  • I lose my desire to live.
  • I have no desire for God I am spiritually bankrupt.
  • I lose control and dignity.
  • My problems grow in a snowball effect.
  • My family relationships are destroyed (Lee, 22-23).

Biblical Examples
Genesis 4 records the account of Cain and a problem that mastered his life. He and his brother, Abel, brought their offerings to the lord. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s fruits of the ground were not received by the lord. Cain became very angry, and his face displayed his feelings. The Lord saw his anger and facial expressions and encouraged him to do what was right so that his offering and he would be accepted.

The Lord followed with a statement which illustrates how problems can become our master. But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7). The Lord recognized a potential life-controlling problem crouching and ready to pounce on Cain if he opened the door. Cain opened the door, and anger became his master. He invited Abel to the field and killed him. When the Lord asked where Abel was, Cain responded by trying to cover his evil actions by denying any knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts.

Allowing anger to rule his life, Cain committed murder, became a restless wanderer, and went from the presence of the Lord, thus alienating himself from God. Fed by jealousy, rebellion, and unbelief, anger became a stronghold in his life. This is an example of a life-controlling problem that is permitted to continue without intervention.

The concept of life-controlling stages is addressed in James 1:14-15: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The downward spiral starts with temptation (an attraction to). The second stage is desire (to long for). Desire conceives and gives birth to the third stage, sin. The final stage is death.

James’ concept of life-controlling problems can be compared with a marriage to an addiction. The marriage begins with courtship. Although initially, the victim may not recognize the courtship as such because it is appealing, the victim is tempted and drawn to an addiction. The victim is enticed and allured into a relationship and gives consent. An addiction takes hold with a conception of a problem that now starts to master a person’s life.

Months or even years later, there is the birth of a child (trouble). The fruit of the life-controlling problem causes all kinds of problems in the home, church, school, and workplace. The relationship arrives at a place of completion. In this stage, the marriage has become fatalistic (destructive relationship) to the victim and has hurt those who are close. The end result is corruption. If the relationship is not broken by the addiction, death always follows: spiritual, emotional and physical.

There are certain stages involved in David’s sin with Bathsheba as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. In stage one, From the roof, he saw a woman bathing (v2). David entered stage two when he sent someone to find out about her (v3). In the third stage, David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her (v4). To further complicate matters, David tried to cover up his sin which led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.

Joshua 7 discusses Achan’s sin of disobedience which led to his death. After the Lord delivered Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelites, they were commanded to stay away from the sacred things which included all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron (6:19). Achan’s sin was a violation of this command and was committed in stages. In the first stage, he saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels (7:21). Achan followed his temptation by coveting the riches (stage two). Then, he took the riches (stage three) and hid them. In addition to his own death, his sin adversely affected the entire nation of Israel just as life-controlling problems often go beyond the victim’s hurting only himself.

As a rule with few exceptions, life-controlling problems do not occur overnight. I have met with parents who have tragically lost a child to chemical dependency. Many times they wanted to think the child had just started using drugs. There was the wife who caught her husband entertaining a prostitute, and she believed his insistence that this was the first time. Actually, for those who have reached the ultimate end of their addiction, whether physical death or emotional and spiritual death, their death occurred on the installment plan. They died one phase at a time. Paul writes: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

On the way from my motel to the airport in Oklahoma City, the taxi driver explained how his life had been totally destroyed by gambling. Not knowing that his passenger had just taught the phases of life-controlling problems at a seminar, he proceeded to tell me how phase by phase he became controlled by gambling. At one time the head of a corporation with a salary of six figures, he started experimenting by playing the state lottery. Gambling became a social part of his life in which he bet on various sporting events. The infrequent big wins kept him coming back for a larger win. Gambling became the center of his life and progressed to become his one and only master. He not only lost his position and dignity but his family as well. In the ten minute ride to the airport, he explained in detail the process I had just taught.

———————————————————————————–

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries

Porn: A FEW QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU CLICK

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

This is a familiar scene to you: you’ve got some spare time, you know watching porn will deliver high impact and release, nobody will know, you’ll be forgiven by God as soon as you ask, then you can move on.

No big deal.

Which is, of course, the problem. Because it’s gotten to be a much bigger deal than you realize.

When something’s wrong but no longer shocking, it’s a lot easier to give into it. And since porn use it so common today, not to mention so convenient and easy to use, it’s lost a lot of its shock value. We have an epidemic which we’re not alarmed about. That’s alarming.

So today, if you’re one of the millions of believers who feel the enticement to use the stuff, you’ll be making a simple decision to either resist or indulge. Those of us in the Body of Christ who love you and are joined to you (much less your wife and family who need you in ways that can’t be measured) are counting on you to make the right decision when the urge hits, because believe me, the entire Body is weakened when you don’t. So to help yourself make the right one, would you please consider a few simple questions?

  1. Would you view this material, and stimulate yourself while viewing it, while sitting on the altar of your local church? Because if you wouldn’t think of doing such a thing inside an earthly building, why would you do it with your own body which is the literal temple of God?

  2. Do you think the woman in the video has feelings, dreams, loved ones, and parents? Because if she’s someone’s child, mother or even wife (and she is!) and if she has a heart, which she does, what do you think this film did to her and them, and why would you support that?

  3. How long will you enjoy this time of viewing the porn, in contrast to how long you’ll feel badly about it? Because if the length of time you enjoy is significantly less than the length of time you’ll regret it, isn’t that a rather stupid investment you’re about to make?

  4. God will surely forgive you if you view this, but does it matter to you whether or not you grieve Him and hurt His heart? Because if it does, is His grace something you really want to exploit, or something you want to appreciate by responding in obedience?

  5. Are you trying to give yourself something – comfort, relief, distraction – by viewing this porn? Because if you are, is it really so hard finding more legitimate ways to get what you’re looking for?

Know what you’re doing, and know you have a choice.

Then please – from all of us who need you – make the right one.

20 Lies Addicts Say to Justify their Addiction

SOURCE:  

Angel came into counseling knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what it was. After being married for seven years, he noticed his wife became more secretive and distant. Money from their savings account was missing and unaccounted for, his wife would disappear frustrated and return weirdly happy, and she seemed to get angry very easily over insignificant matters.

At first, he thought she was having an affair. But after looking at her phone and locations, he ruled that out. So he sought the advice of a therapist. Oftentimes when a spouse is hiding the severity of an addiction, the only evidence of it is the way they talk about it. An addict lies to themselves and others in order to justify continuing in their addiction. Here are some examples of addict speak.

  1. “It’s not that bad.” At the first sign of confrontation, an addict will minimize their addiction by claiming it isn’t that bad. They might even say they were far worse in the past.
  2. “I only use it occasionally.” Instead of flatly denying the abuse of a substance, an addict will admit to far less than what they are doing. The rule of thumb is that an addict admits to less than half of their actual usage.
  3. “I can’t deal with my problems without it.” The irony of this statement is that the addict begins to look for reasons to use their drug of choice. They might even create unnecessary problems to support it.
  4. “I can stop whenever I want to.” To keep from thinking they are addicted, an addict will deceive themselves into believing that they can stop at any time. They might even go for a short period of time to prove it but it is only temporary.
  5. “I’m not like … he/she is worse.” By comparing themselves to others, the addict can minimize the effects of the addiction while highlighting the severity of another person.
  6. “I’m different than …” Again, the addict picks another addict that is strongly disliked and says they are not like them. This comparison might even be accurate but it doesn’t diminish the reality of the addiction.
  7. “Everyone else does it.” This is a larger comparison where the addict claims that everyone they know does the exact same thing and therefore, they can’t have an addiction. It is a type of group think.
  8. “This is my thing, not yours.” Addicts tend to become weirdly possessive of their drug of choice. It is an affair of sorts where they are uniquely connected to the substance.
  9. “Life without it is boring.” This statement is further evidence of a substance affair. The addict sees life a dull and meaningless without the use of the substance.
  10. “I just like how it feels.” True addicts develop a personal relationship with their substance and assign properties to it as if it was a human. The substance can generate feelings within the addict.
  11. “I can’t be social without it.”A common belief is that the addict is unable to engage in society or with family and friends without the use of the substance. The more they use, the worse this becomes.
  12. “If everyone is, I have to too.”The addict will claim that everyone else does it and therefore they have to too as if there were no other options. This is especially true in work environments where substance usage is encouraged.
  13. “I need it to be creative.”This lie actually gives the substance credit for the addict’s creativity instead of the person doing the task.
  14. “I need it to relax.” Instead of dealing with stress and anxiety, the addict covers it up with their substance usage. But the problem that brought on the stress still remains after the substance wears off.
  15. “You are trying to take away my fun.” As soon as the addict receives some resistant from others for using, they resort to believing that everyone is trying to keep them from enjoying life.
  16. “It makes me a better person.” To justify their usage, addicts will say that without the substance they are more angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and/or bitter.
  17. “It hasn’t changed me.” The contrast to the previous statement is that the substance doesn’t have any effect on the abuser. In reality, the worse the addiction, the more dramatic the personality changes.
  18. “I’m not hurting you.” After being confronted, an addict will minimize the effects of their addiction by claiming that they are not doing any harm to others.
  19. “I’m still working, so it’s not that  To prove they are not addicted, an addict will use their ability to continue with work as justification. Many addicts are functioning addicts meaning that they are able to function during the day.
  20. “The kids don’t know, so it’s okay.” Another common lie is the belief that kids won’t notice the addiction. Unfortunately, many kids are sneaks and very observant.

After reviewing this list, Angel realized that his wife frequently said all of these statements. So he staged an intervention to confront his wife and get her the help she needed for recovery.

Adultery: Husband, Lift Up Your Eyes

SOURCE:  John Piper

LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

Dear Husband,

You may think I am ill-suited to counsel a young man on how to be faithful to his wife, because, in almost fifty years with my wife, I have never felt enticed to be romantic or to have sex with another woman. However, it might be worth probing whether this (perhaps unusual) fact has causes which are transferable to you.

Let me clarify. It’s not as good as it sounds. My eyes are as magnetized toward excessive female skin as most men’s. I am not designed for beach evangelism. I find airports to be problematic enough. I have zero tolerance for nudity in films — or even suggestiveness (which rules out almost all of them). One reason (among many) is that any sexually charged image lodges itself in my mind, with regrettable effects.

One more clarification: I have enjoyed a life of sexual intimacy with my wife, that is, I think, as intense as any can reasonably hope for. In other words, I don’t think my disinterest in sex with other women is owing to deficient hormones.

So, back to the point that needs some explanation: I am 71 years old and have been sexually attracted to Noël for 51 years. For 48 of those years (since we married), that attraction has been gratified with joy. During those 51 years, I have never been attracted to another woman romantically. I have never desired sexual relations with another woman. When I fell in love with Noël in the summer of 1966, a focused sexual longing exploded into being. That peculiar desire to be intimate with Noël has never shifted onto another woman.

Are there any discernible causes for this that might be shareable?

1. Plead with God to take away illicit desires.

“God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting.”

The first thing to say is that I consider this disinterest in sex with other women a pure gift of God’s sovereign grace. It does not feel like a reward for some virtuous discipline. It’s as if God said, “I have other sorrows you will have to deal with in your family. But I will spare you this one.” I have not felt like a valiant sailor lashed to the mast while the Siren voice of alien sex sang her seductive song. I didn’t need to be lashed, because the song was not attractive.

So, the first transferrable thing I would say is this: “Ask God for it.” Don’t just ask him to keep you from giving into temptation. Ask him to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.

2. Feel how revolting and disgusting adultery truly is.

The second thing I would say is probably going to sound strange, maybe even questionable. One way God protected me from adultery is by making it feel revolting to me. Ever since I fell in love with Noël and I knew we would spend a lifetime being intimate, the very thought of touching another woman sexually became disgusting, sickening. This may sound weird. I have not talked about it with many people. But I have said to myself often, with amazement, “The thought of having sex with any other woman besides Noël feels as nauseating to me as the prospect of having sex with a man.”

I mean this quite literally. I am not merely raising the moral stakes by using physically strong language. I mean God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting. That is one of the greatest works of divine grace I have ever experienced.

Now let me speculate about the origin of this gift. When Jesus wanted to help us deal with adultery and lust, he said,

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

He might have said, innocuously, “If your eye causes you to sin, turn the other way, because giving in to temptation can only be harmful.”

Why did he gross us out with the revolting image of digging our eyeball out of our head and throwing it like a slimy egg yolk into the garbage? Maybe it was to awaken in us something more than mere moral disapproval — something visceral, something like a gag reflex in our throat.

“Ask God to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.”

I have been reading and believing my Bible since I was a child. The realities of God, Christ, heaven, hell, faith, and holiness have been ever-present realities to me — sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible. They are not add-ons to who I am. They are baked in. They’re part of me, shaping what I love and what makes me want to throw up.

So, my speculation is that somewhere along the way in my life, God took the reality of his massive disapproval of lust and adultery, and the threat of indescribable suffering in hell (Matthew 5:29), and created a connection between the physical terror of eternal burning and the moral outrage of cheating on my wife. The form that this connection took was physical revulsion at marital unfaithfulness. It may be way more complicated than that. But that’s the best I can do for now.

However this happened, it seems biblically fitting to me, and I thank God for it. It has freed me wonderfully to focus on other things. Whether it is transferrable to you depends on God’s free grace. But my suggestion is that you saturate your life thoroughly with the realities of Scripture, and pray for their profoundest effects in transforming what you find desirable and what you find disgusting.

3. Don’t trade permanent pleasures for temporary trysts.

I’ll mention one other thing that seems to me to be part of the explanation for why adultery has felt not just wrong to me, but also nauseating. When I was a junior in high school, something awakened in me that I could call poetic, or spiritual, or aesthetic, or otherworldly. It was a sense that there is something stupendously wonderful and joyful to be experienced beyond the sensuous pleasures of the body.

If I weren’t a Christian, I would call it the “numinous” or the “Other” or “Beauty.” In other words, many people have this sort of awakening, not just Christians. But for me, it was distinctively Christian. The wonder and beauty and greatness were in God, through Jesus. Since those days, I have experienced a kind of ache for a Pleasure beyond the pleasures of the body.

But here’s the link with nauseous adultery. At the same time as this longing for the ultimate heavenly Pleasure was awakened, I discovered that sexual sin (like lust and its mistress, masturbation) caused my soul to plummet from any heights of joy they attained. It seemed to me that I was faced with the choice of wallowing in the mire of brief physical sensations (called pleasures) or soaring in my heart where something much more substantial and lasting and satisfying was offered.

“Sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.”

This built into me the visceral conviction: Sexual sin and spectacular satisfaction are utterly at odds. As Jesus put it, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

I now see this as God’s existential gift of Colossians 3:1–5:

Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above. . . . Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality . . .

In other words, sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.

But I wanted this Joy with a vengeance. And as this desire grew, so did my opposition to anything in me that stood in the way. And Colossians 3:5 put sexual sin at the head of the list. I believe God turned this opposition into physical revulsion in proportion as the desire for real Pleasure in God grew stronger.

Keep Asking God for Help

Well, that’s my effort to interpret my experience in the light of Scripture. I hope there are lessons to be learned here that are transferrable to you:

  • Ask God that he would make sin sickening to you, not just morally wrong.
  • Ask him to make biblical realities, like hell and heaven, terribly and wonderfully real to you — real enough to taste and feel.
  • Ask him to open your eyes to the glory of the spiritual world “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
  • Ask him to give you a massive desire for ultimate Pleasure in God that is so strong that it makes sinful pleasures nauseous.
  • Ask him to transpose the pleasures of intimacy with your wife into foretastes of the unending ecstasies of heaven.

When you have prayed, lift up your eyes. Lift them up to the deep, blue sky. Lift them up to the brilliant whiteness of the billowing clouds. Lift them up to the unfathomable star-filled darkness of the night. Lift them up to misty mountain ranges, and to the rivers that have run for a thousand years, and to the mighty trees that took their time to become strong imperceptibly, and to the orange day-lilies and purple vines and the yellow-souled daisies, and to the ripple-free lakes at dusk, and the great bow of the ocean horizon.

Take your eyes off your computer, off your mirror, off your pain, off your dead dream, off your self-pitying lust. God is speaking to you. He is waving a thousand flags to get your attention. He has more to give you than you have ever tasted or felt or dreamed. The price he paid to satisfy his people, with never-dying joy and ever-new beauties, was great. Don’t push him away.

Why I Never Drink Alcohol

SOURCE: MICHAEL BROWN/charismamag.com

I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

Forty-six years ago, in 1971, the Lord graciously saved me from a life from sinful destruction, which included very serious drug abuse and some heavy drinking as well. From that day until today, I have never abused drugs again or had a sip of alcohol, other than taking Communion with a taste of wine when that was the only option.

Do I believe that the Scriptures require total abstinence for all believers? No, I do not.

Do I believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine in John 2, even if the wine was not as fermented as today? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that some Christians can drink some alcoholic beverages in moderation without sinning before God? I certainly do.

So, I am not here as anyone’s judge or jury, nor am I trying to force my convictions on anyone else. I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

First, although I loved getting high on drugs and getting drunk before I was saved, I did not enjoy the taste of alcohol. Once I gave up getting drunk, I had no interest in drinking at all. There was no temptation or desire.

Things were very different for my wife Nancy, who was born again in 1974. She really enjoyed the taste of alcohol and also got drunk before she was saved. So, for her, there was no question at all that she should avoid even the taste of alcohol once she was in the Lord. Why play with fire? Drinking only had sinful connections in her life.

Second, the church in which Nancy and I came to faith practiced total abstinence, so this became our practice as well.

I honestly don’t remember the pastor teaching on it in those early, formative years. Instead, we learned it from the other believers, some of whom used to be heavy drinkers before they were saved as well. For them, too, it was quite natural to cut that cord of attachment with the world.

Third, I began preaching in 1973 at the age of 18, so I was quickly looked to as a leader on some level. What kind of example was I setting? If others followed my lead, would they be helped or hurt?

For me, this was another good reason not to drink socially, since so many believers struggled with drinking before they saved, and some continued to struggle after they were saved. Why put another stumbling block before them?

Fourth, I have heard the same sad story many times over the decades, and it gives me real pause.

A former alcoholic sees another brother or sister have a glass of wine with their meal, or they visit your house and see that you have beer in your refrigerator. They then think to themselves, “Well, if it’s OK for them, I guess it’s OK for me,” and they have one drink—just one—and quickly find themselves enslaved again, sometimes for years.

So, your liberty, which might be totally fine between you and the Lord, ends up destroying a precious brother or sister.

Paul addressed this in the context of food sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same: “and by your knowledge [meaning, the knowledge that food itself doesn’t defile us] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? When you thus sin against the brothers, wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, least I cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:11-13).

The lesson here is that we should put greater emphasis on helping weaker brothers and sisters than on enjoying our liberty.

Fifth, I minister in many different church cultures, some of which also practice total abstaining, therefore I take the more stringent road as a way of life.

For example, I’ve ministered in Italy and England on 40 different trips, and on my occasions, I’ve had meals with other Christian leaders who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.

I’ve never seen them drunk, nor have I felt they were doing something wrong. It’s their culture, and this is between them and God. (If this seems to be in violation of my last point, it’s not. I’m sharing my own counsel and convictions, not imposing them on others.)

I’ve also ministered in Asia on more than 40 different trips, most commonly in India, and I’ve never once seen a believer drink alcohol there, nor have I seen it on my few trips to Africa.

Again, for my own life, I’d rather live the same way in both cultures. In that way, if I’m ever asked about my personal practices in the stricter environment, I can say that I never drink at all.

Sixth, we are commanded in Scripture to be sober and vigilant (for example, 1 Pet. 5:8), whereas alcohol can easily lead to sluggishness, impaired judgment, sloppy thinking and acting, and outright drunkenness.

Since I believe in fleeing from that which destroys (see, for example, 2 Tim. 2:22), I run towards sobriety and away from anything that leads to drunkenness.

Seventh, I do not want to be enslaved by any earthly habit. (For decades, I was a chocoholic. By God’s grace, I’ve been totally free that from enslavement, along with other food addictions, for more than three years now—and I emphasize the words “by God’s grace.”)

It’s so easy to become dependent on that one drink just to calm your nerves, that one drink just to take the edge off, that one drink to quiet your fears, that one drink.

Perhaps you’re leaning on that one drink rather than on the Lord? Perhaps you’re becoming dependent on it? Perhaps one drink will lead to two or three or more?

Despite the lies of the flesh and the world, sin never satisfies. Instead, it leads to more sin, then to worse sin, and then it enslaves.

Which direction is your drinking taking you? Are you now getting into alcohol in general? Are you now trying out harder and harder liquor and encouraging your friends to do the same? Are you even having some drinking parties where you glory in your “liberty”? Have you had more to drink than you planned, even getting mildly drunk?

Again, I’m not playing God here, and I’m not sitting as your judge. But if you said yes to any of these last four questions, I can almost guarantee you that you’re on a slippery slope in the wrong direction and that, soon enough, your “liberty” will turn to bondage.

That’s also why I have a personal problem with the whole “beer and Bible” approach to ministry.

On the one hand, I understand that churches want to meet sinners where they are and invite them to study the Word in a comfortable environment. But at what point do these sinners hear the message of repentance, which includes repenting of drunkenness? And how many former alcoholics in the church now stumble and fall because of this environment?

To say it again, I’m only sharing my personal convictions here, and I’m quite familiar with the argument that those who have learned to drink in moderation all their lives will not struggle with getting drunk.

For many, that is true, just like in traditional Jewish culture, where small amounts of wine are incorporated into various meals and rites.

But in a country like America, where there is so much drunkenness and decadence, I’d rather err in the opposite direction and simply have nothing to do with alcohol in this world. And yes, once more, these are simply my own views, which I share because I’m often asked about drinking.

And even in biblical days, where alcoholic beverages may not have been as fermented as today and where most believers certainly did not practice total abstaining, we still have this warning: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

The bottom line is that there are far more important things than food and drink, which is why Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

May we all pursue that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” in a manner fitting as a kingdom of priests before our God.

6 Myths You May Believe About Drinking — Busted

SOURCE:  Joseph Janesz, PhD/ Cleveland Clinic

Get the sober facts from our expert

When it comes to alcohol, the line between myth and fact can be blurry. Chemical dependency specialist Joseph Janesz, PhD, helps clear up the confusion below.

Myth 1: Drinking perks you up at parties

“Throughout the holiday season, many of us struggle with fatigue and excess stress,” he says. “We may look to alcohol at a holiday party to dissipate that fatigue, enhance our energy level and relieve stress.”

But alcohol is a brain depressant. It first acts by shutting off executive functions like judgment, mood control and natural inhibitions. Some people experience this as elation and excitement. But others experience the opposite: sleepiness, lethargy and even a depressed feeling.

The bottom line: Alcohol interferes with normal brain activity, no matter how you feel when you drink.

Myth 2: A beer before bed helps you sleep

Drinking a beer before bed may promote your getting to sleep more quickly,” says Dr. Janesz. “However, it interrupts your deep sleep, and you’ll wake later on feeling not rested and ‘hung over.’”

Normally, your body cycles through light and deep phases of sleep. Alcohol inhibits refreshing REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and later on causes “REM rebound,” with nightmares and trouble sleeping.

Repeated alcohol use seriously disturbs sleep and makes it difficult to re-establish a normal sleep pattern. Often, this leads to more drinking or to sedative abuse in the quest for sleep.

Myth 3: An Irish coffee will keep you warm on the slopes

Your body normally stores warm blood in its core to preserve important organ functions. Alcohol artificially dilates blood vessels in your extremities, allowing warm blood to escape from your core into your peripheral circulation, where it cools.

Alcohol intake may make your skin feel warm. Yet it deceptively lowers the core temperature of your body,” says Dr. Janesz.

The result: your body can no longer keep vital organs warm as your overall temperature drops.

Myth 4: A beer is less potent than a cocktail

Whether you’re drinking an ale or a Moscow Mule, you’re typically consuming the same amount of alcohol.

“Any alcohol beverage you consume will have a similar effect on your body and on your ability to function,” says Dr. Janesz.

Myth 5: Coffee can sober you up when you’ve had a few too many

Coffee has no real effect on your blood alcohol level, which is the major factor in determining your level of intoxication.

“Drinking coffee or other caffeine products after having one too many drinks can trick your brain into making you feel energized and more awake or alert,” says Dr. Janesz.

“The alertness can create the perception that you aren’t as drunk or intoxicated as you actually are, and you may decide to have another drink or to drive home.”

Myth 6: Men and women react to alcohol in the same way

Drinking tends to produce higher blood alcohol concentrations in women because they are generally smaller than men. This leads to a greater degree of intoxication.

“Alcohol disperses in water, and women have less water in their bodies than men,” explains Dr. Janesz. “So if a woman and man of the same weight consume the same amount of alcohol, her blood alcohol concentration will usually rise more rapidly than his.”

But while women may reach the “drunk driving” limit — 0.08 percent blood alcohol — sooner, alcohol can impair driving at much lower blood alcohol levels. So “don’t drink and drive” remains sound advice for everyone.

8 Steps to Break a Cycle of Family Dysfunction

SOURCE:  TIM SANFORD/Boundless

Destructive relationship patterns can get passed down from one generation to the next.

Here’s how you can set a new precedent for your future family.

Boys who witness domestic violence in their own home are three times more likely to become batterers.[1]

Children of alcoholics … are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of alcoholism in their own lives … they have a four-fold increased risk of becoming alcoholics as adults compared with the general population.[2]

One’s dysfunctional personal behavior becomes a model or example to the next generation, and the cycle can be repeated over and over again.[3]

Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.[4]

Yeah, that’s what you read on Google. But do destructive, hurtful and dysfunctional relationship patterns really get passed down from one generation to the next?

The answer is simple — YES.

Why?

That answer is simple, too.

In elementary school you learned one plus one equals two. What would you teach a first-grade class if you were the substitute teacher for arithmetic?

One plus one equals two.

That’s what I taught my daughters. But there was no way I was going to teach them anything about microbiology. I don’t know anything about microbiology. Besides, knowing nothing about the subject means I don’t know what I don’t know. A huge part of what keeps destructive behaviors going is individuals who don’t know they’re dysfunctional and don’t know they don’t know. We pass on through words, actions and attitudes — consciously or not — what we know. We can’t pass on what we don’t know.

“(I) …the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of whose who hate me …” (Exodus 20:5, emphasis added). Dysfunction does beget dysfunction.

But that’s not fair.

Right, it’s not fair. Ever since sin invaded the world of humanity, few things in life have been fair. People get hurt when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. People who intentionally hurt others seem to get away with it. The most unfair circumstances occur when helpless children get injured by parents who are supposed to be their protectors.

So yelling at my girlfriend isn’t my fault because that’s what my dad did to me.

Slow down, and be extremely careful. If you blame your father, he could blame his father who could blame his father. We could go all the way back to Noah and blame him. After all, he’s the one who built the ark and saved the human race. If he hadn’t, your father’s father’s father’s father wouldn’t have been born. Nobody would have yelled at anybody. So it’s all Noah’s fault.

Lousy logic and faulty theology, because it’s not an either/or situation. It’s a both/and.

Follow me on this. When your father yelled at you, who did the yelling (the dysfunctional action)?

My father.

That yelling is your father’s fault. He’s the one guilty of yelling at you.

When you yell at your girlfriend, who’s doing the yelling this time?

I guess I am.

This yelling episode is your fault. Your father “dealt you a bad hand” (not fair, true). Still, it’s up to you how you play those cards. The actions that follow are yours. You had no control over your father’s actions toward you. You do have control over whether you repeat the cycle — or not.

Can this cycle truly be broken?

This answer is simple, too: Yes, it can.

Keep reading the Exodus passage quoted above. God follows up the punishment declaration with verse six, “…but (God) showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (emphasis added). Dysfunction begets dysfunction. So, too, function begets function, health begets health, and truth begets truth.

So how do I change?

1. Become aware of your family’s destructive relationship patterns. This is the first step in moving toward healthy functioning. You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t change what you’re not aware of. Awareness is a big first step.

And it’s highly likely you’re not aware. You truly don’t know, so ask around. Seek out individuals who you think are healthy and stable, and ask them what questions are the good questions to ask. You may decide to seek professional therapy to help you see what you aren’t able to see on your own.

2. Take ownership of your own actions, attitudes, beliefs and emotions. Admit, “It’s my problem. I need help. I’m the one needing an attitude adjustment. I may be the one who’s wrong in this situation.” Whether you know all your dysfunctional ways or not, take responsibility for the ones you know.

3. Purposely observe, compare and contrast other families’ interactions with how your family handles similar situations. Have you noticed other family groups who — in your way of thinking — are just plain weird? They don’t overreact to anything it seems. They speak their minds. They listen and actually hear each other. None of this is how your family interacted. That’s what makes it seem so weird to you. What do they do? How do they interact? What do they believe that makes them different and more stable or healthy?

4. Do Google searches on:

  • The rules of dysfunctional family systems
  • Family roles or scripts
  • Read up on what it means to be the: Addict, Enabler, Hero, Scapegoat, Clown or the Lost Child. Which one sounds like you?
  • Codependency/enabling
  • Adult attachment pain
  • Adult children of alcoholics — even if there was no alcohol in your house
  • Boundaries in relationships
  • Signs somebody may be manipulating in a relationship

As you read, identify the things that fit your life story. Take notes on ways to change the unhealthy things you learned as a child. Ask yourself:

  • What is healthy in a friendship?
  • What is an accurate way for me to see me?
  • How am I supposed to treat a person of the opposite sex?
  • What is my belief system? How do I think? What do I think?
  • What assumptions do I have, and what perceptions do I cling to so tightly?

5. Evaluate your present relationships. Are they going smoothly and benefiting both parties? Do you know what healthy boundaries are, and do you keep them? How would the other party answer these same questions?

6. Read Proverbs. It identifies many healthy — and unhealthy — ways of living and relating. Ask God to open your eyes and mind to what true and healthy living looks like and what changes you need to make.

Do all these things with the goal of becoming aware of and changing the dysfunctional ways you learned as a child.

7. Practice. Healthy living is learned experientially. Awareness and understanding is your starting place. Now it’s practice, practice, practice. It’s not natural, yet it will be.

With practice comes “trial and error” which means there will be some “errors” in your practicing. That’s normal; it’s OK. This brings us to the last point.

8. Be patient with yourself and others. Patience is one of the functional ways of dealing with the world.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (Psalm 103:17, emphasis added).

You’re not condemned to repeat how your parents parented. You don’t have to be a 25-year veteran of healthy living before you pass functional relationship patterns on to the next generation. All you need to be is one step ahead of where they are.

It takes one generation to turn the tide from God’s punishment to one of God’s love being passed down. That’s all — just one. Start here. Start now.

It’s never too late to move from dysfunction to function.

Never.


REFERENCES

Is Pornography Considered Adultery?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sadly, many men struggle with pornography and sexual addiction these days. Satan has a foothold into men’s hearts and homes, and the church hasn’t done a very good job at validating the devastating effects this habit has on one’s mind, body, spirit and marriage.

Perhaps some church leaders are reluctant to come down hard on this problem because they fear what might happen. According to surveys conducted by Barna Research, a sizable percentage of pastors also struggle with pornography problems.

Secular research and brain science are starting to speak about the damaging effects of watching pornography. Here is a link to an article and TED talk that is sobering to watch. Every adult and ministry leader should watch this.

Jesus takes this issue of pornography very seriously. He says, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye – even your good eye – causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand – even your stronger hand – causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus says don’t mess around with this. He tells people to take decisive action if they have this problem. Gouging out your eye or cutting off your hand will not keep you from lusting, but what Jesus meant was, DO what it takes to deal with this problem NOW. Sadly, many men don’t listen.

Instead, they play with fire thinking they won’t get burned. But they’re wrong. The Bible is full of warnings about sexual immorality and the consequences of unbridled lust.

For example, Paul writes, “there should be no sexual immorality among us and that such sins have no place among God’s people.” He goes on to say, “we should not be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.” And later he tells us to “expose the worthless deeds of evil and darkness.” (See Ephesians 5).

Does this mean porn is the same as adultery? Jesus says it is, as does Peter (2 Peter 2:14). And if it’s repeated and unrepentant, it may be Biblical grounds for divorce. The question that determines what happens next is what is a man’s response to his problem with pornography and lust?

Does he hate it? Is he repentant? Is he doing everything within his power to stop and eliminate this habit, even when it costs him? For example, is he willing to be without the Internet? Is he willing to put controls on his computer? Is he going for help with his thought life? Is he honest and open with others about his struggle and is he willing to be held accountable? And, is he grateful for a wife who holds him accountable for his behaviors so that he doesn’t burn himself and his entire family down to the ground with his own foolish fantasies?

If so, then a Christian wife’s response would be to be gracious and forgiving, coupled with an uncompromising stance against allowing such evil in her home and marriage. No woman in her right mind, Christian or otherwise, would allow her husband to bring another woman into their home to have sex.

In the same way, if he is not repentant or desiring to change, no woman should turn the other way or close her eyes to knowing her husband is ogling another woman or watching pornography. It degrades her, demeans him, and demeans the women he ogles.

It’s time women draw a line in the sand for the wellbeing of their marriage, family, and their spouse and say, “No more. If that’s what you want I can’t stop you, but I won’t live like this.”

This is a tough stance but Jesus and Scripture call for tough stances. If your husband won’t, you must. If you don’t your husband will continue to behave as if he can have his cake and eat it too. He can enjoy all the perks of home, marriage, and even family but still live treacherously and lustfully. Don’t let him.

Remember, this is not just his life it’s yours too. Your strong stand may be the one thing that will get his attention and hopefully motivate him to face his issue. If he refuses, then it’s time you quit enabling his habit to destroy you and your children.

Why do people cut themselves? And how to help them stop

[The Counseling Moment editor’s note:  Although this article is written to those who minister to others with this issue, the article contains insights useful to all.]

SOURCE:  

Self-harm behaviors can be a foreign concept to many of us adults, but they are on the rise among adolescents and young adults. The National Institutes of Health indicate rates anywhere from 7 to 24 percent in teenagers, but as high as 38 percent in college-age women.1 However, these self-harm behaviors are oftentimes misunderstood by those who seek to minister to them. Given such high incidence rates, though, pastors and ministers must not only understand the motivations behind self-harm but also know how to minister to those engaging in such activities.2

Understanding self-harm

Self-injurious behaviors most frequently present themselves in the form of cutting various parts of the body, like one’s arms or legs, but may also be seen in burning oneself, picking at scabs, punching or hitting oneself, pulling one’s hair, or a host of other behaviors that cause wounds or bruises. Most often, the effects of the self-harm are well concealed behind long-sleeved shirts or long pants, but other times the wounds cannot be covered and are visible to others.

Self-harm behaviors are almost always done to cope with difficult emotions such as sadness, worry, or fear.

But engaging in self-harm does not equal suicidal. One of the most common misconceptions about self-harm is that it is always linked to suicidal thoughts or intentions. However, this simply isn’t the case. While suicidal thoughts do often accompany self-injurious behaviors, the injury to oneself is not always intended to lead to suicide. In fact, some teenagers report engaging in self-harm to avoid getting to the point where they feel suicidal.

A word of warning here, though: sometimes self-harm behaviors either intentionally or unintentionally do become suicide attempts. While we cannot assume that self-harm is always connected with or intended to bring about one’s own death, we should understand the reality that either intentions change quickly or what is meant to bring only injury accidentally leads to even greater, perhaps unintended, harm or even death.

If you suspect that someone is suicidal, or that the person has means and has stated intent, take immediate action. That may mean calling law enforcement, engaging an experienced counselor, or taking the young person to the hospital.

So what are the motivations? Most often, self-harm behaviors are engaged in to cope with difficult, and many times overwhelming, emotional struggles. For instance, a teenager may be experiencing deep sadness, and for the first time in her life, this emotion seems overwhelming. Given her lack of life experience with such strong emotions, she engages in causing physical pain to cope with the emotional pain.

Alternatively, some young people express that they feel a lack of any emotion at all, so they engage in self-harm to be able to feel something, even if what they feel is negative. Paired with this, some report feelings of emptiness, guilt, or tension, and self-harm behaviors provide an outlet for those feelings.

Dealing with emotional struggles isn’t the only motivation for self-harm, though, so we cannot assume such. I have personally heard of teenagers being “bored” and having nothing else to do, who then engage in cutting themselves. I’ve also seen a trend of self-harm leading to attention from one’s peers, both positive and negative, but attention nonetheless. While we certainly cannot assume that self-harm is merely for attention, the social and cultural reality of young people also cannot be overlooked.

Ministering to those who engage in self-harm

So how can we best minister to those who engage in these behaviors? In particular, how can we love and care for these young people well when their struggle is one we have difficulty understanding?

Seek to understand. First and foremost, try to understand. The first time I sat with a counselee who engaged in cutting, I simply asked her to help me understand where she was coming from, as I had no personal frame of reference for her actions. I genuinely wanted to understand the emotions and thoughts driving her behaviors, and she was willing to share.

As ministers, we first must listen well to understand. Oftentimes, those who are struggling in this area are dealing with strong emotions that they have difficulty understanding, or they have experienced difficulties in life that we cannot imagine. We must be willing to enter their world and hear their struggles before we can speak truth into their lives.

Look for the root of the problem. Self-harm behaviors almost always point to something deeper. Most often, it is an emotional struggle. Ask questions, and ask good questions: What is the self-harm in response to, or what is it satisfying? Self-injury is a way of dealing with life problems, so we cannot simply try to change that behavior without dealing with the underlying issue. To do so would be like trying to scoop trash out of a stream when it is continually being dumped in upstream. The trash will just keep coming until we deal with the source of the problem.

What does this look like, though? Perhaps in listening to a young person sharing his story, you realize that his self-harm is in response to a world that he feels is in chaos, and hitting himself is the only way he has of controlling his own life. But without listening, you’d only be trying to get him to stop hurting himself rather than realizing that he is in harm’s way on a daily basis and that hurting himself gives him some sense of consistency and control.

Consider good questions versus better questions. So how do we know what to ask? I mentioned above that we need to get to what the source of the issue is, rather than simply the issue itself. While good questions may elicit facts like what their behaviors are or how frequently they engage in them, better questions get at motivations and desires. Here are some examples:

Good questions: Better questions:
Why are you hurting yourself? What situations do you find yourself in just prior to hurting yourself?
What’s going on in your life? What are you most struggling with? What are you most afraid of or anxious about?
How do you feel when you cut yourself? Does your cutting satisfy a need? What is that need?
Do you want to stop? What obstacles are present that make this difficult to stop?

Provide practical safeguards. Even though we should be listening well for the root of the problem, an immediate strategy we can take is to implement practical safeguards, for instance, removing razor blades or knives from the home or ensuring there is always someone else nearby. While we can’t feasibly remove every means of self-injury, we can remove many.

We can also instruct those around the self-injurious person to be aware of times when temptations may be at their highest. While parents can’t keep a constant eye on their teenagers, they can ensure that the teenagers are actively engaged, and they can be watching for changes in the teens’ emotions. Parents can find time as well to intentionally listen to their teenagers, asking good questions and providing encouragement for daily difficulties.

Share biblically based hope and promises. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a great high priest who can sympathize in our every weakness, and that includes the temptation to self-harm. People struggling in this area have a Savior who has walked where they walk, who has been tempted as they are, and who was without sin. And as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, they can confidently approach God to receive grace and mercy. Help those who self-harm grasp that Christ understands their struggle and that He is approachable in their moments of weakness, ready to dispense grace and mercy. This truth can be used to encourage them to pray when they’re tempted to cut themselves and to help them understand that Christ accepts them when they sin.

We are told as well in Scripture that we will never be forsaken by God, and because of that truth, we do not have to be afraid. While this promise shows up over and over in the Bible, in particular we are reminded in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (ESV). Those fears that lead people to self-harm are not unknown to our God who goes before them, and He is constantly walking with them now.

Finally, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are also no longer enslaved to our sinful flesh, but are slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18). That means that followers of Christ can overcome the temptation to self-harm, by the power of God’s Spirit, who lives and works in them. That brings great hope to those who find themselves in the cycle of these behaviors.

The gospel message, then, has much to say to those who are struggling with difficult emotions, overwhelming guilt, or feelings of emptiness and to those who deal with those struggles through self-injury.

Pastors and ministers, we cannot forget the hope of the gospel when ministering to these young people. Like all of us, they need it desperately. They need people to listen to them well, get at the heart of the issue, help establish safeguards, and give hope through Christ. In doing so, we are able to walk with them, bear their burdens with them, and watch the Lord bring them out of these cycles of self-harm.

3 Common Mistakes of Addicts’ Families

SOURCE: Taken from an article by 

Families of addicts feel desperate to help their loved ones stop abusing drugs or alcohol. However, if their desperate, though understandable, responses to their loved one’s behavior are not informed by biblical principles, they will unwittingly and sometimes tragically do more harm than good. Here are some of the common mistakes families of addicts make, followed by tips on how to help families become aware of what they need to change.

Mistake #1: Trying to control the addict

Sometimes families try to control the behavior of an addicted member by limiting that person’s access to funds, monitoring his or her time, or keeping constant tabs on the addict’s whereabouts.

Unfortunately, this approach frustrates the addict and becomes an excuse for him or her to entrench deeper into drug or alcohol abuse. Though trying to control a loved one’s addiction is counterproductive, it is understandable. Families are desperate to keep their loved one from taking illegal drugs or drinking alcohol. And they may experience a small measure of peace when they know their loved one isn’t getting into trouble. But such a high level of control is impossible to maintain in the long term. Plus, exerting so much control stresses out family members who end up becoming more aware of all the many things they can’t control while trying to police their loved one. Dr. Joseph Troncale, medical director at Retreat Premiere Addiction Treatment Centers in Lancaster County, PA, says, “Family members with addicted loved ones would do well to consider becoming familiar with Al-Anon1 principles: (1) you didn’t CAUSE the addiction; (2) you can’t CONTROL the addiction; and (3) you can’t CURE the addiction.”

Mistake #2: Enabling the addict

Trying to love the addict, some family members enable that person to continue his or her destructive behavior. “They’re trying to please this family member and make him or her happy, and they do so in ways that are just encouraging sin. Rather than taking a stand and reproving, they’re encouraging the sin to take place,” said Dr. Mark Shaw, executive director of Vision of Hope in Lafayette, IN, and an ordained minister, biblical counselor, and certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor.2

The family may also enable out of fear of losing the relationship (e.g., a child has threatened never to speak to his parents again if they don’t pay his rent) or of violent retaliation (an addict may lash out violently if kept from her drug of choice). If fear for one’s safety motivates an enabling situation, you should address this first.

Mistake #3: Ignoring the needs of other family members

Often, families ignore the needs of other family members by focusing all their attention on caring for the addict. When this happens, those who are ignored can become bitter toward their parents or their addicted family member because the addict receives all of the attention, time, and resources. Siblings become bitter because their college funds are used to fund rehab. Spouses give up on marriages because their partners are consumed with their child’s addiction. Children who would excel in school don’t because a parent’s addiction robs them of the support and encouragement they’d typically receive. Neglected family members are often tempted to turn to unhelpful ways of coping with the pain and instability caused by living with an addict.

How to help the families of addicts recognize the effects of their actions

While it may be clear to you that the family is hurting their loved one or that they are not acting in his or her best interest, the family members may not be aware of this. In fact, they may believe that their approach is wise, is in the best interest of the family, and keeps the loved one from living on the street. So how do you get them to see what they’re doing wrong?

One of the best ways to do this is to ask them questions that help them see the effect their behavior is having upon their loved one. Author, counselor, and CareLeader.org’s own Dr. Jeff Forrey says that questions should elicit facts that help loved ones see the consequences of their actions.

He also points out that while it is important to help people understand the impact of their choices, it’s also important for family members to realize what’s not happening as a result of their choices. For example, ignoring the actions of an addicted family member may keep the peace, but the addict does not learn how his or her behavior is affecting others, and family members do not learn how to deal with conflict. Devoting hours to controlling behavior may not seem detrimental to the mother of an addict until she is led to realize how other family members are being neglected.

Guiding families to wiser responses

Once family members become aware of the immediate consequences of their behavior, you can also help them think through the long-term implications of their behavior. Once they realize the futility of their actions, here are a few truths that you may want to guide families of addicts to realize.

Truths for those who tend to control
Help family members realize there is so much that they can’t control. Consider reminding the family that God is the one who is ultimately in control of the situation and that He is able to rescue and work all things for good. Philippians 3:21 reminds us that His power “enables him to bring everything under his control.”

Families attempting to control an addict often fear the consequences of addiction. Remind them that God has a history of using bad things—even the consequences of sin—for good and, ultimately, His glory. This is a difficult truth for family members to accept, especially because ultimately it means wrestling with the idea that God could use even the death of their loved one for His purposes. Even the most mature believers may struggle to be at peace with the simultaneously heartbreaking and comforting realities of God’s sovereignty. So be patient with families struggling to embrace the idea that God is in control.

You can also explore other possible motives family members may have for trying to control the addict. A desire to keep others from finding out about the situation can be problematic, for example, when it is rooted in the family’s desire to protect its own reputation.

You can explain to families that the addict is worshipping the substance: the alcohol or drug has become his or her god, and no amount of human control can break the bonds of spiritual slavery at play.

As you suggest new ways family members can interact with the addict, a simple verse like Proverbs 3:5 can help family members: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Encourage family members to pray and trust that the Holy Spirit will help them learn to embrace God’s ways of responding to sin and not trust their instincts.

Truths for those who enable
Remind families with tendencies to enable that protecting the addict from experiencing the consequences of the behavior shows a wrong understanding of how God loves His children. The family members may think they are showing God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy, but forget that God still allows His children to reap what they’ve sown. When dealing with an addict, Christians can and should allow people to experience the consequences of their behavior.

Proverbs 3:12 reminds us of another side of God’s love: “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” And Ephesians 5:11 states that Christians are not called to hide but to bring to light the sins of others: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

When counseling an addict’s family, help them consider whether their response is somehow facilitating addictive behavior. Disciplining an adult child, spouse, or other adult family member may not be possible or appropriate. But you can help them see that taking steps to stop destructive behavior (not enabling, but allowing people to experience the consequences of their behavior) is consistent with God’s character.

The Teen Brain: Why Addiction is So Much Worse

SOURCE:  Linda Mintle

It’s the end of the school day. Your teen is moody and complains about having a bad day. You later learn he has made poor decisions and acted impulsively. He tells you he smoked pot, missed class, but it is no big deal because other students do it and pass. You are tempted to lecture him, but resist. You know that his brain is not fully developed, and in part, explains his moodiness and impulsivity. Your concern, however, is for his exposure to possible addiction during his teen years.

The teen brain is not the same as an adult brain.

The teen brain is built, but as author of the book, The Teenage Brain says, it’s not fully insulated. Dr. Amy Jensen explains the neuroscience behind the still forming teenage brain. In short, the front of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex and frontal cortex, is the last to be developed. And these parts of the brain impact insight, empathy, impulse control, and risk-taking behavior.

Therefore, if your impulse control and risk-taking features are not fully operational, the teenage brain is far more susceptible to moodiness and addictions. Dr. Jensen goes on to explain that teen risk behaviors do more damage to the teen brain.

Thus, the adage that teens are resilient and will bounce back from risk taking behaviors may not be true. Concerns over teen use of drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices are not over hyped. The teen brain is a brain without full access to the frontal lobe. And when exposed to addiction, the teen brain builds stronger and longer reward circuits around those addictions, more so than in adults. Teens can get addicted faster because their brains are more efficient towards addiction.

Moody or not, a conversation with a teen about his/her risk towards addiction is worthwhile. Teaching them that their brains can’t handle addiction like an adult is a needed message in our culture today. Age and development matter, especially when we are talking about addiction and the brain.

Not all brains are alike!

19 Possible Motives Triggering Your Porn Consumption

SOURCE:  Brad Hambrick

Often triggers and motive are treated as two distinct things, and there are differences. But those differences are more akin to two sides of the same coin than apples and oranges. In this post we’ll examine the things that trigger your sexual sin and the motives attached to those triggers.

As you identify the trigger-motive for your sexual sin, we also want you to begin to see how you are treating your sin like a friend, ally, refuge, etc. These insights are essential for repentance to make sense as a central part of change. Unless we see how our sin seeks to replace God in our life, then our need to be made right with God comes across as if God is unduly hung up about our sexuality.

Your struggle with sexual addiction doesn’t start with your behavior. It begins with what you want, what you live for. – David Powlison in Sexual Addiction (p. 6)

1. Boredom (Sin as My Joy)

When boredom is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin has become our joy. When there is a moment to be filled with something of our choosing, we pursue sin to fill the void rather than God or any of His legitimate pleasures. We begin to lose our appetite for godly pleasure like the child who eats sweets stops wanting healthy food. Even as they feel sluggish from the ups and downs of sugary “treats” they fail to connect this to their diet but go instead for another sugar high as the “obvious” solution.

Sex is not ultimate… Idols begin as good things to which we give too much importance, and few things slide over into idolatry with greater frequency or greater power than sex. We allow a good gift of God to supersede the God who gave it. Sex is good, even great, but it’s not ultimate. –Tim Challies in Sexual Detox (p. 61)

Read Nehemiah 8:9-12. God is a God of great joys and pleasure. Too often we view God as so serious that we believe “fun” must be in His opposite direction. When God called Israel to repentance through Nehemiah and Ezra, He asked them to express their repentance in celebration. If the motive of boredom leads you to sin, then allow this passage to challenge your view of God.

2. Loneliness (Sin as My Friend)

When loneliness is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our “friend.” Sexual sin is always relational whether the relationship is fictional or physical, so it fits loneliness well. It’s as if our sin (a person, a chat room, or a video) calls to us, “Tell me your troubles.” We gladly pull up a chair and unload. As we do, talking to a real person or one who is not part of our sin becomes too risky. We now fear being judged or known by anyone but our “friend.”

It’s a perfect world that I can create. Things always go exactly my way. People do exactly what I want. I’m always on top. Fantasy is a great ego-feeder. –Anonymous testimony in David Powlison’s Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (p. 19)

Read Proverbs 27:6. During sexual sin we write this proverb backwards. We believe, “Faithful are the kisses of any enemy; profuse are the wounds of a friend.” When sin reverses the roles of friend and enemy, it traps us until we return the right labels to the people in our lives. If the motive of loneliness leads you to sexual sin, then prayerfully examine who or what you call “friend.”

3. Stress (Sin as My Comforter)

When stress is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our comforter. We run to it, her, or him. Sin or our adultery partner makes things better (at least as long as it, she, or he remains hidden and keeps us to themselves). Yet the comfort takes on an addictive quality. The stress from which we are relieved is multiplied by the stress it, she, or he creates. This keeps us in a cycle of stress and returning to a primary source of stress for relief.

We crave intimacy at a relational level. We feel lonely. But we also fear intimacy. We’re not sure we can attain it or be vulnerable enough to handle it. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 47)

Read John 14:25-31. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “the Helper” or “the Comforter” (v. 26) and as the source of peace–distinct from the world’s peace which always returns us to fear (v. 27). If a source of comfort doesn’t allow you to be more real with more people, then it isn’t true comfort. It’s a drug that numbs you before it makes you sick. If the motive of stress leads you to sexual sin, then examine whether your “comfort” is real or a form of relational self-medication.

4. Frustration (Sin as My Peace)

When frustration is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our source of peace. Sin is treated as an “oasis.” When this happens we label sin as our “safe place” as compared to the parts of life that are upsetting. This makes sin our friend and anyone or anything that opposes or interferes with our sin our enemy.

Read Romans 16:17-20 and I Thessalonians 5:22-24: Notice each of the passages refer to knowing the God of peace as the alternative to falling into temptations based upon deceitful desires. Where you turn for peace when you are frustrated is the determining variable of your character. Once you declare something or someone as the source of your peace, you will be loyal to and obey it.

5. Fatigue (Sin as My Source of Life)

When fatigue is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our source of life. We turn to sin as our boost to get through the day. The thought of our sin keeps us going when we feel like giving up. The adrenaline of sexual satisfaction (physical or romantic) becomes a drug we use to artificially stimulate ourselves–one we begin to wonder whether we could live without.

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18: This passage uses many words that can be synonyms for or create fatigue: afflicted (v. 8), perplexed (v. 8), persecuted (v. 9), struck down (v. 9), and wasting away (v. 16). Fatigue can make you feel alone, and sexual sin becomes your life giving companion. Paul says that it’s only Christ who can be the life in us that counters the fatiguing death around us (v. 10-12). To doubt this truth reveals that we are believing (or at least listening attentively to) lies.

6. Hurt (Sin as My Refuge)

When hurt is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our refuge. In our moments of sinful escape we feel protected from life and a growing allegiance develops towards our sin. In actuality, our sexual sin provides as much protection as a child pulling the covers over his/her head. But in our moment of hurt, we appreciate even the pseudo-refuge of sin compared to the perceived absence of any other refuge.

Read Psalm 31: This Psalm alternates between a cry for help and a song of confidence. In this, the Psalm reveals the realness with which Scripture speaks to life. Sexual sin is a pseudo-refuge on demand. Even when we can’t have the sin, we can fantasize about his/her presence. However, the real refuge of God is available through the same type of prayerful-meditative exercise as our fantasy, but it’s actually able to deliver us through the guidance of Scripture, the presence of His Spirit, and the involvement of His people.

7. Betrayal (Sin as My Revenge)

When betrayal is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our revenge. We know how powerful betrayal is (especially sexual betrayal), so we decide to use its power for our purposes to avenge those who have hurt us. Blinded by pain we try to use pain to conquer pain but only multiply pain. We continue this potentially infinite domino train that pummels us with alternating experiences of betrayal’s pain and betraying’s shame in spite of knowing how it perpetuates pain.

Read Romans 12:17-21: It’s so tempting to read this passage as God “holding you back” from sweet relief and satisfaction. But, in reality, it is God “holding you back” from turning another’s betrayal into self-destruction. God is not removing vengeance. God is simply saying He is the only one who can handle its power without being overcome by it. Sin can never conquer sin; any more than oil can remove a stain from your clothes. It is foolish to believe your sexual sin could do what only Christ’s death on the cross could do–bring justice to injustice.

8. Bitterness (Sin as My Justice)

When bitterness is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our justice. If sin as revenge is fast and hot, then sin as justice is slow and cold. No longer are we seeking to hurt another by our actions; now we are merely nursing our wound. If we tried to explain our sin in words, we would have to say we believed our sin had some healing power. But because that seems foolish, we are more prone to just excuse our sin by the sin done to us.

Read Hebrews 12:15-17: In this passage a “root of bitterness” is directly linked to sexual sin (v. 16). When bitterness distorts our perspective we will trade things of great value (our integrity and/or family unity) for things of little value (a sexual release or fantasy briefly brought to life) like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.

9. Opportunity (Sin as My Pleasure)

When opportunity is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our pleasure. Often sexual sin requires no more trigger than time alone with a computer, a free moment to text, or an available member of the opposite sex to “talk” (i.e., flirt or allow to carry my burdens). When this is the case, sexual sin has become our default recreation–our preferred hobby. The more our sexual sin seeps into the common parts of life the more pervasive the lifestyle and heart changes necessary to root it out.

The reality is that often we dislike the shame and consequences of sin, but we still like the sin itself… That’s because porn is pleasurable. Let’s be honest about that. If we pretend otherwise, we’ll never fight it successfully. People like watching porn—otherwise they wouldn’t watch. The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin. They’re temporary. They’re dangerous. They’re empty pleasures, compared with the glory of God. But they are pleasures, nonetheless. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 15)

Read Philippians 3:17-21: Paul is addressing those whose “god is their belly” (v. 19). These are people whose basic appetites, the mundane parts of their life, were at odds with God. Paul wept at the thought of people in this condition (v. 18). Chances are they had become so comfortable serving their appetites that it would seem odd that Paul was crying for them and “radical” to change. If mere opportunity has become a primary trigger for you sin, let this passage shock you awake!

10. Rejection (Sin as My Comfort) 

When rejection is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our comfort. Our culture has made things done from a “fear of rejection” seem neutral–as if the defensive motive negated the badness of sin, or as if we become the victim of our own sin when we fear rejection. The problem with a fear of rejection is it makes us foolish. Only the fear of the Lord can make us wise (Prov. 1:7). When we react from a fear of rejection, we naturally seek the comfort of people rather than the comfort of God.

Once we understand that the primary goal of sexually addictive behavior is to avoid relational pain—essentially, to control life—we can begin to uncover the core problem (20)… Several tiers below the surface is a pervasive, integral force that demands the right to avoid pain and experience self-fulfillment. This self-centered energy is the very essence of what the Bible calls ‘sin.’ –Harry Schaumburg in False Intimacy (p. 24)

Read Proverbs 29:25: Scripture calls the “fear of rejection” the “fear of man.” It’s not innocent because it replaces God as the One for whose approval we live. It is the values, character, and preferences of the one we fear that influence our decisions, emotions, morality, and instinctive responses. If rejection is your primary motive for sexual sin, allow this passage to challenge the orientation of your life.

11. Failure (Sin as My Success)

When failure is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our success. In the fantasy world of sexual sin (porn, romance media, or adultery), you always win. You get the girl. You are the beauty who is rescued. No part of real life can compete with the early success rate of sin. Sin pays up front and costs in the back. Real success costs up front and pays in the back. In healthy marriages, sacrifice is a primary part of the joy. As you give into sexual sin as a form of success, it will drive you to desire the kinds of successes that destroy a family. Even if the adultery relationship is made permanent, it will then become “real” enough that it will no longer play by your preferred rules of success.

Read Matthew 21:28-32: Why would the second son say, “I go, sir” and not do the assigned task (v. 30)? One potential reason is the fear of failure. Doubtless he would then view his father as upset with him and feel closer to someone who only asked of him what he wanted to do (i.e., porn, romantic media, or adultery partner). Using sexual sin as cheap success results in harming real relationships, lying, defensiveness towards being “judged,” and retreating to unhealthy or fictitious relationships. Rather than grading others by how they make you feel, repent of your fear of failure.

12. Success (Sin as My Reward)

When success is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our reward. Has your sexual sin become what you do when you need a break or what you have “earned” after completing something difficult? Has your sexual sin become the carrot you dangle in front of yourself in order to maintain motivation? When sin becomes our reward we feel cheated by repentance. God and anyone who speaks on His behalf becomes a kill-joy.

Read Hebrews 11:23-28: Moses faced a choice between which reward he believed would be most satisfying: the treasure of Egypt or the privilege of being God’s servant (v. 26). Sexual sin gives us a similar reward choice: easy treasure or humble servant. Unless Christ is our hero and God our admired Father, then the choice seems like a no-brainer in the direction of destruction.

13. Entitlement (Sin as My Deserved)

When entitlement is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes what we deserve. When you are confronted with your sexual sin, do you think or say, “How else am I going to get what I need… deserve… earned?” Can you see how sexual sin has become your measure for a “good day” and whether someone is “for” or “against” you? Are you willing to allow anyone other than Christ who died for the sin you are trying to squeeze life out of to be the measure of “good” in your life?

Read Jeremiah 6:15 and 8:12: The people of God had lost their ability to blush at sin. Why? One possible explanation (that can explain our inability to blush even if it doesn’t apply to them), is they believed they deserved their sin. When this happens, we believe we know better than God. We believe the unique features of our life trump the timeless truths of God’s created order. Our confidence to debate robs us of the humility necessary to blush.

14. Desire to Please (Sin as My Affirmation)

When the desire to please is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our affirmation. It’s easy to please a porn star or an adultery partner. They have a vested interest in being pleased. The entire relationship is based upon commerce (“the customer is always right”) or convenience (“if I am not pleasing to you, you have somewhere else to return”) rather than commitment (“I choose you unconditionally and faithfully in good times and in bad”). Too often sexual sin becomes a place of escape when we don’t feel like we can make everyone/anyone happy.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32: Notice the type of relational interaction described in these verses is incompatible with an overly strong desire to please others. We cannot live the life God called us to (regardless of whether we are sinning sexually or not) if our driving desire is the affirmation of others. Our conversation must be gracious and good for building up (v. 29), but that assumes we are willing to speak into areas of weakness with those we love.

15. Time of Day (Sin as Pacifier)

When time of day is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our pacifier. Do you use your sexual sin to help you sleep, get the day started, serve as a pick-me-up, fight boredom, or kill dead time? What are the common times of day or week when you struggle with sexual sin? When has your sexual sin become routine?

Read I Timothy 4:7-10: When you use sin as a pacifier you are training yourself for ungodliness (contra. v. 7). Often, because these occurrences happen during down times or transitions of our day, we view these occurrences of sin as less bad. We view them more like a child who is still sucking his/her fingers rather than a child who is defying a parent’s direct instruction. If disciplining ourselves for godliness means anything, it must be relevant when we feel undisciplined.

16. Location (Sin as My Escape)

When location is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our escape. The fantasy nature of all sexual sin makes it a perfect escape from an unpleasant location. We can “be there” and “not be there” at the same time. We get credit for attendance (or at least avoid the discredit of absence) without having to attend. We can mentally be with our lover while enduring the boring meeting, stressful kids, uninteresting spouse, lonely apartment, or other unpleasant setting.

Read Psalm 32: Notice the Psalm begins talking about an unpleasant place or time (v. 1-5). But rather than escaping, David ran to God (v. 7) and found the joy you are seeking through escape into sexual sin (v. 10-11). When we escape through sexual fantasy, we use our fantasy as a substitute God. We are, in effect, praying to and meditating on our sin during a time of hardship seeking deliverance.

17. Negative Self-Thoughts (Sin as My Silencer)

When negative self-thoughts are our trigger for sin, then sin becomes our silencer. In sexual fantasy (porn, romance media, or adultery partner), we are always desired and see ourselves through the eyes of the one desiring us. We give ourselves to them not just physically but also imaginatively. Because we know the relationship is short-lived we are willing to do this. If the relationship were permanent the power of silencing-effect would be diluted over the expanse of time and contradicted by our growing number of failures in his/her presence.

Read Psalm 103: Sin (or even a healthy human relationship) will never do  what only God can do. The ultimate “Peace, be still” to our negative self-thoughts is Christ’s death on the cross–affirming we were as bad as we thought, but replacing our deficiency with His righteousness. Sexual sin provides fantasy righteousness. It provides the kind of covering mocked in the classic children’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes.

18. Public (Sin as My Carnival)

When public is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our carnival. We walk through life like a kid at an amusement park; gawking at every person we see like a new ride or romantic adventure, making a clownish sexual innuendo out of every comment, or treating everything present as if it existed to entertain us and stimulate us sexually. Our private thoughts of fantasy become fueled by a hyper-sexualized interpretation of our surroundings.

The act of looking at porn is itself part of the succor it purports to offer. I can search for women who are available to me. I can choose between them like some sovereign being. It offers a sense of control. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 50)

Read Romans 1:24-25: Can you hear in the description of sex as my carnival what it means to have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (v. 25)”? God will give us over to this kind of lustful heart (v. 24). This is why a radical amputation of sin is a necessary and wise response to prevent sexual sin from becoming our carnival (Matt 5:27-30).

19. Weakness (Sin as My Power)

When weakness is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our power. The stimulation (both the physical and chemical changes associated with arousal) of sexual sin gives a façade of strength. Having another person delight in you also provides a veneer of significance. As with most of these motives/triggers, sex becomes a means to an end. Sex is no longer an expression of love but an attempt to gain something. That is always a recipe for dysfunctional, unsatisfying sex.

My pastor has preached that the primary issue in adultery is that you want someone else to worship you and serve you, to be at your beck and call. That resonated with me. I could see that theme in my fantasies. –Anonymous testimony in David Powlison’s Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (p. 15)

Read 2 Corinthians 11:30: Are you willing to boast (verbally put on public display) your weakness as a way to make Christ more known and live in more authentic relationships? That is the only freedom that will allow you to enduringly enjoy what you are seeking in sexual sin. If that sounds backwards to you, read what Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:20-25) and ask yourself if your “wisdom” is getting you closer or farther from where you want to be.

Identifying Your Triggers

List and rank the top five motives/triggers for your sexual sin.

  1. __________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________

Porn is always about a symptom of deeper issues. It’s about lust, but it’s also about anger, intimacy, control, fear, escape, and so on. Many of these problems will show up in other areas of a person’s life. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 109)

For some people the motive for their sexual sin will be very self-evident. Maybe you could quickly pick out the motive-triggers that deceive you into believing sin is “worth it” or will “work out” this time. For others, it requires reflection in the moment of temptation to discern what is luring them. If this is you, here’s a journaling tool from the False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery seminar that is designed to help you understand your motives.

When we understand the motive for our sin, it allows us to hear the empty promises sin makes so we can turn to our loving Heavenly Father who is willing and able to fulfill those promises. I hope this post has helped you see the emptiness of sin so that you are prepared to embrace the fullness of God in the gospel.

How Worry Affects You (and others)

SOURCE:  Tim Lane/CareLeader

Surprising ways worry affects your people

Any quick search on Google or Amazon will confirm what we all already know: worry is harmful to our bodies. Here are a few physical symptoms associated with worry:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and twitching

You can almost get exhausted and anxious reading that list. All of these can be experienced to varying degrees depending on how severe a person’s worrying is. Most of the people in your church can probably identify many of these anxiety-producing experiences.

Unfortunately, this is not the only way people in your congregation are impacted by worry. If not addressed, it can have a bigger impact on one’s overall health. People who worry consistently are more prone to the following physical consequences:

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Digestive disorders
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Premature coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack

In light of this, it is not surprising when we discover the original meanings of the words we use today to talk about worry and anxiety. The English word worry comes from the Old English word meaning “strangle.” The word anxiety is of Indo-Germanic origin, referring to suffering from narrowing, tightening feelings in the chest or throat.

Statistics reveal that nearly 20 percent of people living in the United States will experience life-debilitating anxiety annually. That is nearly 65 million people! In 2008, American physicians wrote more than 50 million prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications and more than 150 million prescriptions for antidepressants, many of which were used for anxiety-related conditions.

What would the doctor say?

Physicians and counselors will tell you that diet, exercise, rest, and some kind of meditation is a proven help to the person  struggling with anxiety. Sometimes medication, when taken wisely, can be helpful. You can use your body to fight what is actually trying to undermine it. No one can deny that. But is there another part of dealing with worry that you could share with those imprisoned by worry?

While these things are important, the people in your church also need to know how to connect to God when worries come. We all need God’s grace even if we are going to pursue exercise and diet in a way that is most helpful. Let’s consider the most fundamental aspect that must undergird everything else we do when taking care of our bodies.

What would Jesus say?

Jesus lived at a time in human history that was very unpredictable and less safe than ours. It was a world in which worry was epidemic, too. In every instance where He encouraged people not to worry, He did so with compassion because He knew firsthand what it felt like to be a human being. In Luke 12:32, He spoke these encouraging words to anxious people: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Those simple words sum up all that Jesus said over and over again. He commands them not to worry, but His command is one of encouragement, not shame.

Here are a few simple but profound phrases and truths based upon that passage that you can share with those in your congregation.

Do not be afraid …

Jesus knows that worry is a serious problem. He knows it is bad for you physically, as well as spiritually, and He gets right to the point because He loves you. His commands are always for your good. Whenever you are struggling with worry, it is connected to your relationship with God. The word worry that Jesus uses means “a divided mind.” Within the broader context of His teaching, Jesus says that worry happens when you try to love God and something in creation at the same time. As soon as you do this, you have begun to put your hope and security in something other than God. Anything else besides God is unstable (money, a relationship, a job, education, your own moral record, obedient children, your health). Do you see why Jesus is so straightforward? He cares for you. He knows that you can’t serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).

Little flock …

Don’t let this little phrase that Jesus utters evade you. Don’t miss those two powerful words:little flock. While Jesus challenges you to not worry or fear, He speaks to you as one who belongs to Him, whom He is shepherding and for whom He laid down His life. You are unimaginably dear to Him and loved by Him. You are one of His sheep. Be reassured—He cares for you and loves you even as you struggle with worry, even as you forget Him and His care and give in to your tendency to worry. You may be prone to wander, but you will always be part of His flock.

For your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom …

Your Father is not only going to care for you now, He is in the process and will ultimately give you His kingdom. Your future is certain and you can begin to experience it even now, because His kingdom has broken into your life by the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is a deposit guaranteeing that you will get it all one day. So, right now, in the ups and downs of life, the stresses and strains of the uncertain future, let the certainty of your eternal future be what you cling to.

With all of this in mind, encourage those in your congregation to allow the truth of God’s care for them to work its way into their daily life. We are to prioritize the kingdom by viewing everything through the lens of our faith. When we begin to live for God instead of the things of the world, we may find that our tendency to worry will lessen and our response to God and to the world, spiritually and physically, will change dramatically.

The Emotional & Relational Cost of Addiction

SOURCE:  Chip Dodd

According to recent statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million Americans over the age of 12 cast about in daily life addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

That number does not include the millions of other Americans who are addicted to prescribed medications. Most people began taking prescribed drugs to mediate a physical or mental-emotional problem; then, the drugs became the primary problem, most notably narcotics and anti-anxiety medications. Even more, that 23.5 million people addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs does not include the millions of people involved in process-behavioral addictions to sex/pornography, gambling, food, and work. Many other subtler addictions that exact a cost upon society are denied or simply not recognized. They also add significantly to the millions not counted.

Speaking only about the 23.5 million addicts (saying “only” about 23.5 million anything seems absurd to me, but I want to remain specific) impact upon themselves and others, statistics indicate that for every one person addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, 3 to 4 other people in relationship with the addict experience life damaging effects. Any person who is relationally connected with an addict for an extended period of time will suffer some of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Predominantly family members directly suffer the emotional and relational, if not the physical and financial, impact of addiction. The impact of addiction upon this group centers on trauma, which, at core, suppresses the capacity for emotional and relational development. Think of the impact on children alone.

“Addiction temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment.”

Trauma basically means that a person will suffer some form of reaction that requires they hide their vulnerability to emotional expression and relational capacity for intimacy. They develop a distortion, distress, and distrust with their own sense of worth and acceptance of belonging and mattering. More simply put, they believe they have to perform to have worth or acceptance. They have to earn love, and rarely allow themselves truly to trust love when it is given. These characteristics, likewise, reside inside every addict at the core of their own emotional and relational makeup.

These people suffer the compulsion of trying to find a full life without knowing how to risk feeling all that is required to live a vibrant relational life. Symptoms of this core “need” for control can extend into myriad complicating results, such as stress illnesses, anxiety disorders, and depression. Addiction predicts the continuation of the next addiction and/or many other life-stifling consequences. Addiction is, tragically, a form of relationship, a self-cure for pain. It temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment. These counterfeit cures and fulfillments take control over the emotional vulnerability and insecurity required to live ably and fully in true relationship with others and God.

By multiplying the minimal number of 3 people impacted by addiction times the number of addicts estimated by SAMHSA, that number is 70.5 million people harmed emotionally and relationally by people trapped in their own emotional and relational maelstrom of addiction. By adding the 23.5 million to the 70.5 million, one can see the power of addiction and its devastating consequences. That number is 94 million people suffering emotional and relational distortions, distress, and distrust, all connected to one common denominator of addiction to alcohol and/or drug addiction alone. That number is greatly expanded by all the other addictions and their impact.

“Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem.”

No matter how much we attempt to address our personal, family, community, and national problems without addressing addiction and its impact, we will fail. Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem. Actually, it may be America’s epidemic. Ironically, one of the main characteristics of addiction is denial—will-bound blindness to what is literally, objectively occurring within the addict, and within the people associated with addiction.

We are a nation of people addicted, and a nation of people in denial. It becomes an ongoing repetition of retracing a circle. We cannot see the damage of addiction because of denial, which protects us from the emotional vulnerability of trauma, which exacerbates the “need” for relief from stress, which influences addiction, about which we are in denial. And on it goes.

We must see and feel beyond denial. We must see and feel our way into living with the capacity for full relationship, which requires the vulnerability of receiving and offering love, even the love that does not tolerate the denial of addiction and its impact. Unless we do, we perpetuate the problem.

Our society has four pillars of character and relational development: family, vocation, community, and faith. The four pillars today rest upon the sand foundation of addiction. No matter what we do to shore up the leaning pillars with a thousand different programs, we will crash unless we see and feel our way to a great national awakening of individuals addressing our foundational devastation.

40 REASONS YOU SHOULD QUIT WATCHING PORN TODAY

SOURCE:  Fight The New Drug

With the shockingly quick and easy access to an unlimited, ever-increasing supply of porn these days, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both science and personal accounts are coming out by the day, exposing the negative impact porn has on peoples’ lives. If you’ve come across these types of articles here and there but still haven’t found the motivation you need to kick your porn habit, we’ve got 40 good reasons for you.

1. Have Better Sex

Perhaps the biggest lie porn sells is that its fantasy world is filled with sex positivity: sexual education, more sex, better sex, etc. What it doesn’t mention, however, is that the deeper a user dives into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Porn is complicated, the science is simple: the more pornography a person views, the harder it becomes for them to be aroused by a real person or a real relationship. Ditch the shallow counterfeits and put the “sex” back in sexy!

2. It’s like a drug!

On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but more and more studies are coming out showing that viewing pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals as drugs. Much like a drug, when these pleasure chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin pulse through the brain, they help to create new brain pathways that essentially lead the user back to the behavior that triggered the chemical release in the first place, mimicking a drug addiction. Porn is a drug injected through the eyes, and although quitting can feel just as daunting and impossible as quitting a substance, the support out there is making it more possible than ever and the reward will feel just as liberating!

3.  Habits and Addiction Can Escalate

Because of its addictive nature, in order to retain the same level of interest and excitement, an individual usually needs an ever increasing dosage of porn and constantly evolving material. Over time, their appetite pushes them to more hardcore versions just to achieve the same level of arousal. The unshackling feeling that comes from breaking free from addiction before it escalates will empower you to live your life to it’s fullest potential!

4. Improve Behavior 

Sooner or later, users start to find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or that go against what they think deep down is right. Once they start regularly watching extreme and dangerous sex acts, these porn users are being taught that those behaviors are more normal and common than they actually are. There’s an obvious destructive behavior pattern caused by porn that compromises beliefs, changes ideas and turns relationships sour when pressure is placed on a partner to perform or live up to the standards set by porn. Reversing destructive behavior will happen soon after deciding to cut this hazardous influence from your life.

5. Form Deeper Connections 

The porn industry objectifies people and commoditizes the act of sex. There’s nothing romantic or realistic about porn sex, and it seriously puts a disconnect between the viewer and reality. This makes it hard for them to have an intimate connection with a real person. You’ll only feel complete when you disconnect with porn and connect with real person!

6. Appreciate Your Body

The makeup, surgery, Photoshop and acting that goes into porn gives us an unrealistic view of the human body and sexuality. We start to subconsciously compare ourselves to what we’re seeing, causing overthinking and low self-esteem when it comes time to being intimate. Kicking your porn habit will restore a healthy body image and reinstate the sense confidence that you deserve.

7. Appreciate Those You’re Attracted To

In addition to affecting the way we see ourselves, porn causes us to under-appreciate the opposite sex by training us to see them as sexual objects and not as humans with beautiful and unique features. It’s likely due to the fact that porn promotes a completely fictional version of how people look and behave, and creates a false exciting reality that their partners can never live up to. One of the first positive effects that people report soon after quitting porn is the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of the opposite sex without constantly undressing them in their mind.

8. Prevent Sexual Dysfunction (ED)

This one is for the guys out there. The fact is porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex. For a surprising amount of viewers, porn eventually means no sex at all. Regular viewing of porn has been found to affect the brain in such a way that it hinders sexual performance when they get with an actual human being. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a real thing in men, a side effect of watching porn that they probably never see coming until it’s too late. The only cure is to quit porn and let their brain “rewire” and return to normal.

9. Stop Supporting Sex Trafficking 

The facts are there: clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex trafficking. There are a countless victims of human sex trafficking that are forced to have sex on camera. Even in the “legitimate” adult industry, porn stars are frequently victims of violence and drug abuse. There’s no just no way to know the dark origins behind what we’re watching. By refusing to click, you’re refusing to contribute to the demand for sexual exploitation.

10. Porn Promotes Violence Against Women

From making actors participate in unsafe sex to the countless real stories of actresses speaking out about the rape, violence and drugs behind the camera, there is certainly a dark reality to this industry. Porn tries to normalize this exploitation but we’re not buying it. To watch porn is to support a questionable industry that abuses it’s actors in addition to harming those who watch it. Not cool.

11. Porn Can Lead To Violent Behavior

It’s true that not all porn is the same, but the reality is that the majority of even the most mainstream porn is packed full of women being physically and verbally abused—and watching it takes a serious toll on the viewer. Even the non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive sex objects. But unlike violence in movies where someone gets mad and fights back, research has shown that 95% of the victims of aggression in porn scenes reacted neutral or responded with pleasure. This confuses frequent viewers to believe violence is sexy, and can lead them to hurting women in real life during sex. Unlearning this violent behavior will undoubtedly benefit you, your partner and your sex life.

12. Increase Your Creativity

We believe that in order to be truly creative, you have to connect with deepest most honest parts of yourself. Porn clogs up your imagination with cheap content that disconnects you from feeling real passion and motivation. Once you let explicit images stop distracting you from inspiration, you’ll feel more imaginative than ever! (Read: Why Your Porn Habit Might Be Killing Your Creativity.)

13. Live A More Honest Life

Not every porn viewer lies about their addiction, but most feel ashamed and obligated to hide it. Whether they admit it or not, they know that their partner wouldn’t like the idea of them sexually bonding to a computer screen. When you live a lie for long enough, you start to convince yourself of it as well and the more lies you tell, the harder it becomes to tell the truth about anything. Bring your dirty little secret out into the light and we guarantee you’ll feel more free than ever before.

14. Free Up Some Time

You’ve probably realized by now that porn takes up a lot of your time! Porn viewers spend anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours daily consuming these harmful images. Anyone who frequently watches porn knows that as the years have gone on, they watch harder material for longer periods of time. Think of it this way: if you spent just 10 minutes a day watching porn, that’s over 60 hours at the end of the year you could have spent doing something beneficial to your life! Time is precious; spend it on making memories that last, not on images that disappear with a click.

15. Find Someone Special

In porn, everything from the way people look to how and why they have sex is a lie. Porn viewers often get so obsessed with chasing something that isn’t real that they miss out on actual relationships. Research has even shown that less men are getting married because they feel porn takes care of all their sexual needs. Ditch the lies and go find the the love of your life! They’re waiting for you!

16. Be A Better Partner

Porn doesn’t just affect you, it affects your partner as well. While a great deal of information exists for those suffering from addiction, partners are often left feeling alone with equally real wounds of their own. Partners of porn viewers commonly feel betrayed and neglected when their significant other chooses to share their sexuality with a screen instead of them. When you cut porn from being the third party, you’ll find it easier to build a healthier relationship emotionally and sexually.

17. Become A Better Parent 

The harmful effects of porn don’t always revolve around romantic partners like boyfriends/girlfriends or husbands/wives. There are countless stories, like this one, that show how porn can isolate, consume, and eventually even destroy families. Additionally, children and teens these days  are exposed to hardcore porn at a young age, and many receive their sex-ed from porn which depicts unrealistic portrayals of human sexuality, leading to lifelong issues in the bedroom. Promote healthy displays of affection in your home and promote a porn-free life for your future family.

18. Become A Better Friend

Your porn habit can isolate you from valuable social time with friends and the shame that comes with watching porn can cause you to be distant at social gatherings. When you no longer allow yourself to be a prisoner to this habit, you no longer have to worry about the chains that come with it.

19. Maintain Mental/Emotional Health

Being tied to a consistent porn habit requires you to spend a lot of time alone and can quickly make you uninterested in the every day pleasures of life such as having conversations with real people and being active. Research has shown that frequent porn viewing is connected to mental/emotional health issues such as anxiety and depression. There is a strong victory over these challenges that comes with quitting porn that can be truly liberating.

20. Take Back Control

One in five people who regularly watch porn admit to feeling controlled by their own sexual desires. As a result, many viewers start feeling like something’s wrong with them because they don’t know how to be turned on by a real person. This only leads to watching more porn because it’s the only escape that works. Quitting porn allows you to take back control of your sexual desires and connect with a real person.

21. Don’t Believe the Fantasy

With the exaggerated bodies and rehearsed scenes in porn, viewers can quickly lose perspective on their own natural desires, as well as their partner’s. Unplugging from porn will help you become more in tune with what you and your partner want instead of influencing you to reenact what you’ve seen in porn. Be the author of your own sexuality, not an imitation of something that isn’t even real.

22. Increase Sexual Energy

If you’re watching porn, you’re probably also doing something else that’s giving you a sexual release. Many people deep in their porn habit do this multiple times a day. If you’re too busy venting your sex drive this way, you’re not going to have much interest in real sexual intimacy with a partner. You may have already experienced a lack of drive or the inability to perform with your partner. By quitting porn, you’ll reclaim that natural energy.

23. Increase Overall Energy 

It’s obvious that porn consumes your time and your sexual attention, but do you think about how that doesn’t leave you with energy for much else? A demanding porn habit will definitely drain your body of the mental and physical energy it needs to keep up with the daily hustle of life. By turning off the monitor, you can focus on being productive and making a difference in your life and others.

24. Regain Focus 

People often watch porn as an escape when they become overwhelmed by the daily decisions of life. Quitting porn allows you to assume responsibility and become accountable for your own goals. By getting this distraction out of your life, you can start to focus on the things that really matter to you.

25. Reclaim Self-Confidence

A belief in yourself is a huge casualty of consistent porn viewing. People who feel they are addicted who porn believe they are broken human beings with a damaged capacity to love and feel joy. These negative feelings come from your own negative feelings about porn mixed with your inability to quit, or from any of the negative side effects that go with repeatedly watching porn. By kicking the habit, you begin to be happy, which will fuel your confidence in all aspects of your life.

26. Protect Your Marriage

Addiction to pornography is cited as a major reason couples divorce annually around the world. Whether you are currently married or one day hope to be, it’s a sure bet that porn is a poisonous ingredient in a marriage. When porn is preferred to a healthy sexual relationship with a spouse, the outcome is often a broken home. With a risk as serious as this, it makes sense to remove porn from your life all together and avoid a bunch of issues in marriage.

27. Save Your Money

Porn is a global, $97 billion industry, with $12 billion of that coming from the United States. How much have you spent on it? Even if the answer is nothing, think about it this way: your time spent watching porn could have been spent on either A) making money or B) performing better at work where you could now be making more money. Time is money after all, and by focusing your time on porn you’re being very unproductive to say the least.

28. Maintain Your Natural Sexuality

Porn removes the concept of intimacy from sex. It teaches that sex is about taking selfish pleasure rather than giving love. When you fill your mind with the explicit material porn offers, it takes away the excitement of intimacy and even distorts your sexuality. By kicking the habit, your brain can return to normal and reset your arousal patterns to normal.

29. Protect Your Passions

The more you watch porn, the less you desire the things that previously got you excited. Hanging out with friends, playing sports, making music, etc., all these things lack the “shock factor” that porn gives the brain. Soon, you start to lose interest in anything that doesn’t bring the ultra-arousal of pornography. But not to worry, the sooner you cut out porn, the sooner you can restore a healthy and fulfilling approach to the things you care about most.

30. Prevent Sexual Compulsion/Addiction

Addiction is never a good thing, regardless of what it is. Porn can create a constant need for sex/sexual material that needs to be fueled, but is never truly satisfied. This cycle can quickly grow into an obsession for the viewer, which inhibits their ability to function like a normal person in the company of people, especially the opposite sex, and can also lead to serious harmful behaviors like soliciting prostitutes to act out what they’ve seen in porn. Not making porn a part of your life is a sure way to not step foot down a potentially life changing road.

31. Don’t Bond To A Screen

Oxytocin is commonly called the love hormone or the “bonding chemical” because it plays an important part in intimacy by connecting two people. Because the chemical is naturally released during sex, watching porn triggers the release of oxytocin as well, tricking your brain and essentially bonding you to the computer screen. Keep love real, and don’t take fake.

32. Prevent Anxiety

As talked about earlier, porn can be the onset of a number of different anxiety problems. When viewers feel like they have to be watching porn or can’t stop thinking about it, it creates serious anxiety. Not to mention, this anxiety can transfer over to the bedroom and contribute to porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Anxiety can be extremely crippling and most people experience it to on some level from the daily stresses of life as it is. Why add to it?

33. Prevent Depression

We know that pornography and other addictions are used as self-medicating tools which only lead to feeling worse than before. The momentary escape only leads to feeling lower than before. Porn is a negative influence in your life, and an easy way to start feeling happier and more free is giving it the boot.

34. Live Without Shame

It’s pretty simple: no porn equals no shame. The secrecy surrounding your habit can have huge negative effects on your life and shame can quickly settle in. You may find yourself watching things you find disgusting, but can’t seem to stop. When this feeling starts to take its toll, it usually leads to medicating with more porn. You’re guaranteed to feel relief when you break the chains of this vicious cycle.

35. Increase Productivity

Think about what more motivation could mean for you. Do you want to be more ambitious and driven? Are you wanting to achieve your goals? A survey of a Reddit community called NoFap, which is committed to breaking free from porn, found that 67% of those who quit had an increase in energy levels as well as productivity. Put it to the test for yourself. What are you waiting for?!

36. Be Better At Your Job

Besides the obvious fact that porn is a waste of time, viewing it can also make the viewer depressed and anxious, and make them perform worse at their job. In fact, real stories of people being caught watching porn at work prove that more and more people are putting their jobs at risk by looking at porn during work hours. Don’t let this destructive material ruin the things that matter most for your daily life.

37. Prevent STD’s

Researchers have repeatedly found that people who have seen a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, and to engage in riskier kinds of sex, putting them at greater risk of getting sexually transmitted infections.

38. Be Proud of Yourself

By quitting porn, you’re taking a stand against a dangerous, exploitive industry and becoming an advocate for positive personal and social change. This is definitely something you can feel proud of. Change yourself, and change the world.

39. Better the World

Every single click made on a porn site is counted by the greedy companies that make that content. Clicking fuels the demand for more, feeding and growing a dark industry that harms society as a whole. For all of the harmful reasons mentioned above, stop contributing to something that ruins people’s lives and supports sexual exploitation. This negative influence doesn’t have to affect you, your peers or the countless people in the industry who are forced, coerced, and abused behind the camera. Take a stand and be the change you want to see in the world.

40. Love 

This is by far the most important reason to quit porn. Above all, porn can seriously come between you and your partner. It distorts the meaning of love and intimacy. The most common true stories we receive are from partners who lost the love of their life due to a struggle with porn that tore their relationship apart slowly but surely. We all want and need love. It’s the most important thing we can experience in life. If fighting for love isn’t the best reason to stay away from porn, we don’t know what is.

Porn kills love, but it doesn’t have to.

Choose love, not porn.

Prescription Drug Abuse Among Older Adults May Be Difficult To Detect

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Joy Mali/Lifehack

Prescription drug abuse may not be as noticeable as other forms of substance abuse, but it still has very dangerous consequences. Even though a doctor may have prescribed a drug, it is still a chemical substance that can cause mental, physical, and emotional issues if incorrect or more frequent doses are taken.

Addiction does happen among seniors, and it is often undetected because caregivers and loved ones do not know the signs of prescription drug abuse among this age group.

What are the most commonly abused drugs?

Senior drug abuse typically falls into a few categories of medication that are frequently prescribed to seniors for various health conditions. Opioids are the most commonly abused type of prescription drug, and oxycodone, Vicodin, morphine, Percocet, and fentanyl are all addictive. Opioids are prescribed for seniors who are dealing with pain from surgery, arthritis, or other conditions.

Another common type of abused drug are stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Older adults are prescribed stimulants for narcolepsy and other disorders. Other frequently abused prescription drugs are benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are regularly prescribed for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia, yet they can be extremely habit forming.

What are the dangers of prescription drug abuse?

Drug abuse is particularly harmful to seniors because of their fragile health. Often, a medicine that is supposed to cure a minor health issue can eventually be abused, causing a potentially fatal health problem. The number of opioid-related deaths among seniors has increased sharply in the last ten years because it is easy to accidentally overdose on this type of medication. If a senior becomes dependent on benzodiazepines, they may have seizures once they stop taking the medication. Other forms of drug abuse can cause heart problems, organ failure and strokes.

How is senior drug dependency detected?

One of the main issues with the prescription drug abuse epidemic among seniors is that older adults do not show typical signs of drug dependency. If any behavior changes are observed, do not assume that they are merely caused by older age. It is important to seek medical help if an elderly loved one exhibits the following signs:

  • Trouble walking or poor balance
  • Repeatedly losing or misplacing medication
  • Demanding narcotic prescriptions for minor health problems
  • Sudden lack of hygiene and poor personal appearance
  • Seeming sleepy and disoriented
  • Poor vision with inability to read prescription instructions
  • Sudden weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Drastic personality alterations or extreme mood swings
  • No longer interested in socialization

Should seniors attend a treatment center?

Older people can become addicted to prescription medication just like anyone else and should receive treatment just like anyone else. Modern medical care makes it possible for seniors to live happy and healthy lives. It is therefore imperative for an older person to get the help they need to recover. At a prescription drug treatment center, they can receive assistance detoxing from the drug and learn how to cope with addiction. If medication is still required for a medical condition, a person can talk to their doctor about other, less addictive options.

Wrapping Up:

With more research illustrating the prevalence of substance abuse among senior citizens and the effectiveness of targeted treatment options, there is hope for families of aging loved ones concerned for their elderly loved one’s health and safety. Caregivers should be aware of the risk factors and potential warning signs to address suspected substance abuse as soon as it’s recognized so that treatment interventions can be discussed with clinicians as soon as possible.

Profile of a workaholic

SOURCE:  Ray Pritchard/CareLeader

Workaholics.

You’ve got them in your church, and at times, you can relate to them yourself.

A workaholic is a compulsive worker: he chooses to work a lot, think about work, and then work even more.

What does the Bible say to workaholics?

Ecclesiastes 6:7–8 says, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?” (NASB). His “appetite is not satisfied.” The Hebrew word translated “appetite” may also be translated as “soul.” This is yet another reminder by Solomon that we were made for more than food. A man may get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and then do the same thing for the next fifty years. After that he retires to Arizona, plays golf, and then he dies. So what? His soul has not been satisfied by anything he has done. He dies unfulfilled even though his friends said nice things about him at his funeral.

What are the signs of workaholism?

The modern term workaholic refers to those people who are addicted to their work. For them, work is life, and the more they work, the better they feel. Here are three telltale signs of workaholism:

  1. Their total energy is given to their work so that they have nothing left to give at home.
  2. They constantly think about their work even when they are not at work.
  3. They find it difficult to relax when they are away from their work.

What are common characteristics of a workaholic?

Workaholics generally are Type A personalities: committed, aggressive, demanding, perfectionistic, goal-oriented, high achievers, impatient with weakness, easily frustrated, having enough stamina to work twelve hours a day six (or seven) days a week. They love the long hours and the high pressure job. One man said, “I don’t know how I got rich. I only worked half-days: the first half or the second half.”

What wrong beliefs do workaholics hold?

From God’s point of view workaholics make three fundamental mistakes. To be more specific, they believe three heretical ideas:

  1. “It all depends upon me.”
  2. “If I don’t do it, nobody else will.”
  3. “My worth depends upon my work.”

Like all heresies, there is a grain of truth in each statement. Work is good. It was created by God for the benefit of the human race (Gen. 2:15). But for a person to believe his worth depends upon his work is to deny the truth of the grace of God. Workaholics are simply repeating the Galatian heresy—that we are saved by grace but kept by works (Eph. 2:8–9; Gal. 3:3).

The truth is, it all depends upon God. Everyone comes to that conclusion sooner or later. Unfortunately, some people have to die to find it out. Happy are those who understand the difference between living to work and working to live.

Seven Things to Do After You Look at Pornography

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

A lot of Christian advice about porn addicts is unhelpful — meaning, it doesn’t contribute to real progress in repentance, healing, restoration, and recovery. Most of all, it fails to address the issues that underlie porn use. Often, Christian advice either has its head in the clouds of theology and biblical references, or is a list of superficial how-tos, and gets knocked beneath the sand of real life — of failure, and the struggle to hope.

How is the gospel relevant to failing and trying again? And failing and trying again? And failing and trying again?

We too often allow unattainable ideals to dictate what we allow ourselves to say — the issues we allow ourselves to address with the congregation, with the struggler, with the mirror. Are we allowed to talk about what Christ can do (and what we can do) right after pornographic indulgence? Or do we look to the clouds and hope for the best? “Why think about how God meets you in the midst of failure? You shouldn’t even be in an ‘after pornography’ situation.” But often many are and because God can and does act in the moment of regret.

It is often in the moment after the closed door, the darkness, the screen-light, the hidden act — after pornography indulgence — that Satan spins his most eloquent web: menacing patterns of thinking; bargaining with a disapproving and distant God; twisting us in on ourselves in self-hatred. It is in the moment after pornography indulgence that Satan does his finest work. It is in this moment that we need God to do his finest saving.

Here are some specific ways to search for grace the moment after the dark act of pornography indulgence:

1. Know your Enemy.

As soon as you indulge, you either plunge into self-hatred, or into self-avoidance.

Satan is satisfied either way.  Both paths believe his accusations (Matthew 16:23;2 Corinthians 7:10).

Recognize that you have a powerful personal agent who is singularly focused on your destruction (Job 1:7; Ephesians 2:2; Jude 1:19). Every experience you have — your thoughts, your hatreds, your impulses, your emotions, your plans, your ideas — must take into account that Satan is at work. The sooner you forget that, the easier it is to believe hidden, subversive, subtle, destructive lies. When Jesus tells the Pharisees that their father is the devil — the great liar — it is of course no surprise that they don’t know that. Satan wants them to forget that he is their father, because evil gains power when it is forgotten (John 8:44).

Don’t forget: After you indulge, you are still mid-battle with a tenacious, evil person bent on stealing your life, and he has not yet gotten it.

2. Fight self-hatred.

There is no question: Pornography is the twisted manipulation of innocence for the raw crave of erotic appetite. To have a grieved conscience is a good thing. But when Judas realized “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” it is not surprising that “he departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:4–5).

It’s a common feeling: to want to punish ourselves for betraying the innocent. In twisting innocence, we twist ourselves. It is not a surprise that suicide rates are high among pornography users. “I’m not as good as Christian preachers and bloggers want me to be.” To warp human dignity, in the end, only warps the user more — psychologically deforming to self-hating; contorting into self-disgust. We abhor, criticize, despise, and detest ourselves. Wallowing in self-deprecation and feeling like paying penance to God for sin is a sad and ironclad torture. It is false, and it is a wicked oppression. But grace does have a word on this.

It is no wonder David uses such deeply physical metaphors when he pleads with God for grace over sexual sin: “blot out my transgressions,” “wash me,” “cleanse me,” “in sin did my mother conceive me,” “purge me,” “wash me” (again), “blot out my iniquities,” “create in me a clean heart.” (Psalm 51:1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10). It’s a simple, roaring plea: “It’s in me. Get it OUT!” “Stop me.” “I hate it.” “I hate me.” “Bleach me.” God gives us a liturgy of sorrow and hope stretched out in the same howl. Fight, with David. Scream that, with David. Replace the groan of human self-hatred with an unbroken war cry of divine love.

If you are tempted to wallow, don’t let your (good) intuitive hatred of sin lead you to hate yourself. Be patient with yourself, because God is patient. He is fighting for your life (Genesis 32:24; John 10:10). He has not forgotten you. He has not left you. Keep fighting with him. Keep gasping for the air of divine life — the Life-Giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

3. Fight the haze.

Right after indulgence, a haze kicks in.  Jesus knows.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is a feast on luminescent virtue. What is impurity? It is feasting that becomes self-isolated, avoiding of God and man and self, numbed, dazed, deadened, desensitized. Sexual impurity induces a spiritual cataract. Again, the feeling is common — browser history cleared, slogging through the rest of the day, lumbering from task to task, from person to person — meaningless, personless, passionless. This experience is integrated into the fabric of pornography indulgence.

There’s usually nothing to be done, if we’re honest, except ride the wave — the muddle, the daze. Keep praying (Ephesians 6:18). Keep gasping for air. Stay awake. Keep breathing. Morning mercies can be the emotional reset button we need when we spend our daily emotional cache on pornography (Lamentations 3:22–24). The lamenter is gasping. He prays what he cannot do. “The Lord is my portion . . . therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24). Really? Will you hope in him? Prayer is an act of hope. The prayer is the lamenter’s portion of the Lord’s work. Keep taking a step forward. Keep taking a breath. Without repeated indulgence, the haze will eventually wear off.

4. Guard others.

Pornography is a training session in the skill of using others for personal pleasure. Just be aware that you are now inclined to use people in close relationship the same way you use those in pornography — with selfish motive, with neglectful attitude, unrepentantly.

Pornography puts relational blinders on us — it deeply impedes our ability to love others well. So, the best course of action is to walk as if we have physical blinders on: Tread slowly, and assume that we are currently very vulnerable and prone to treat those around us as subhuman. After indulgence, it is vital to keep in mind that those not on the screen deserve the respect and dignity that we just failed to show those on the screen.

Pornography soothes its users into a drama, a character, a story with a script and lines and actions: one person for pleasing, one person for being pleased; one person making sacrifices, another receiving sacrifices; one subhuman, one god. It takes self-control to remember that pornography is a false story — to fight the false drama which pornography gives to us, we must actively think less of ourselves and more of others: to remember human dignity, the love of Christ for those around us, our not-God-ness. The Spirit works in us to keep the flesh from ruling us (Galatians 5:17) — the Keeper protects others from the consequences of our thinking that we are God.

5. Confess to a friend.

Confess sin to a friend who will not excuse you, but equally as important, who will not crush you. Sometimes, when looking for help to get up after pornography indulgence (Proverbs 24:16), others only push back down. Find the friend that gives hope that heals when they hear confession. The purpose of confession is “that you may be healed” and “pray for one another” (James 5:16). Of course, the value of “the prayer of a righteous person” is that it “has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Power to do what? To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession to a friend (most appropriately, a same-gender friend) is not a barrier between the sinner and Christ, but a means of fixing brokenness. The wise sinner confesses to those who will not “crush the afflicted at the gate” (Proverbs 22:22) nor “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Consider attending a regular Samson Society meeting in your area.

6. Use your clarity for good.

Yes, there might be a haze after indulgence. But there can also be a flood of clarity — the hindsight of regret.

“When Judas . . . saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind” (Matthew 27:3). Judas’s clarity took him down a wrong path. But you can use your clarity to get back on the right one. Likewise, Paul writes about Israel’s rebellion, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6). Sometimes, we desire evil anyway. And in that case, we serve as an example to ourselves.

As Piper might say, “Don’t waste your regret.” Use it for God’s glory and your joy. Set up boundaries. Use the clarity that will surely fade before the next moment of temptation to build structures that will prevent this again. Go back and forth all you’d like on what structures are dumb and ineffective, and which are sustainable preventative measures — the basic truth is this: If you don’t have any formal structures set up to prevent you from looking at pornography in the future, it will absolutely, with 100% certainty, happen again. If you have no structures, you have no place to be picky — choose something.

Here are some actions to choose from:

  • Get Covenant Eyes or X3Watch for all your devices.
  • Don’t let a single unaccountable browser app remain on your iPhone.
  • Delete in-browser apps that allow backdoor access to unaccountable internet use.
  • Get a friend to lock the app download function on your phone so that your native browser is not an option, and you can’t download Google Chrome (the Covenant Eyes/X3 app will function as the browser).
  • Delete pictures you have saved.
  • Tell a friend about the backdoors and cheat-codes you have in your back pocket. If you don’t plan at all, you’re planning to fail. Nowhere is this truer than in the practical fight against pornography indulgence.

7. Know your God.

Remember this: God loves you so, so much. He is unsettled by us (Genesis 6:6), and brokenhearted with us, and powerfully for you (Psalm 34:17–19).

The haze can block us from God: “The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand” (Psalm 92:6). But even when we cannot see him, even when we fail to obey him, let us pray: God, frustrate our plans to disobey (Nehemiah 4:15), and “no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). More than anything: “God, help us to cast all our anxieties on you, because you care for us” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

He does not abandon the sinner. He does not depart from the indulger. Wait in his love. “Build yourselves up . . . in the Holy Spirit”: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20–21). Know the difference between the God-mask Satan would wear to deceive you: disgusted, distant, unavailable, disinterested, and remember the face of your real God: loving, patient, working, unsurprised, unrelenting, unwavering in his grasp on you.

He won’t let you go.

Are You “Legally Addicted”?

SOURCE:  Andrea Atkins/Grandparents.com

Opioids and the Rising Death Rate of Middle-Aged Women

If you think drug overdoses are the scourge of inner city “junkies,” think again.

Americans all over the country are becoming addicted to opioids, a class of drug that is killing them in record numbers. In fact, there has been a 450 percent increase in the number of deaths among women since 1999, a statistic attributed to opioid use.

How did this happen? Read on.

What Are Opiates?

If you take Oxycodone, Percoset, or Fentanyl—drugs all classified as opioid pain killers—the experience is “identical to taking heroin,” according to Andrew Kolodny, M.D., founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, and a senior scientist at the Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management. And that’s just what hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing every day—legally. They are taking a pain-killer that is addictive and that can potentially harm them if they find they can’t live without it.

“The U.S. is in the midst of a severe epidemic of opioid addiction,” Dr. Kolodny says. “Use of these drugs has increased very rapidly over the past 20 years—in fact, there’s been a 900 percent increase since 1997; that’s referring to both prescription opioids and heroin.”

There are 2.1 million people suffering substance use disorders related to opioid pain relievers, according to a report to Congress by Nora Volkow, M.D., director the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “There is an ongoing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in this country,” she says.

Reasons for the Rise in Addiction

There are two prongs to this problem, Dr. Kolodny says: Younger Americans in their teens to early 30s encounter the drug when they have a sports injury or have their wisdom teeth removed. They wind up liking the effects of the pills, but can’t get more of them. Soon, they switch to heroin, which is much more available in places where it previously didn’t exist. They become addicted, and soon entire communities are mourning their death from drug overdoses.

But the other population suffering from addiction to these drugs is older Americans. “That group is almost entirely developing addiction through medical use,” Dr. Kolodny says. “When they get addicted, they don’t need to switch to heroin or look for drugs on the black market. They don’t have difficulty finding people who will keep them on a primary supply because they are complaining of pain and their doctors refer them to pain specialists, who keep on increasing the dose. The death rate is much higher in the older group than it is in the younger group.”

And the group that has seen the highest rise in death rates is middle aged women. “That is the group that is more likely to visit doctors and more likely to complain about a chronic pain problem,” Dr. Kolodny adds.

Middle-Age Women Are Most at Risk

According to Dr. Volkow, “Women are more likely to have chronic pain and be prescribed prescription pain relievers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.” Evidence suggests, she adds, that for some reason, women may be more likely than men to take these drugs without a prescription to combat pain but also to treat other problems like anxiety or tension. “But there may be other factors (that make women more vulnerable to the pernicious effects of the drugs) having to do with [biological] differences between men and women. We know, for example, that women, in general, have a higher percent body fat and lower percent of body water. Body fat and water content can affect the volume distribution of certain drugs, such as opioids, and with chronic use, can lead to an increased load of drug in the fatty tissues, and potentially have a toxic effect.”

How Did This Happen?

Opioids can be an important and effective drug if used correctly, Dr. Volkow says. So how did we get to a place where doctors are the starting point for the worst addiction crisis in American history? Dr. Kolodny lays blame at the feet of a “multi-faceted campaign by pharmaceutical companies that caused (doctors) to prescribe these drugs.”

In the 1990s, he explains, a powerful marketing campaign got under way to urge doctors to prescribe opioids for pain relief. “The messaging was very compelling.”

The messaging said that people needn’t suffer pain, and that opioids did not cause addiction, except in very rare cases. The marketing material acknowledged that opioids would make patients feel sick if they suddenly stopped using the drug, calling it a “benign state” that shouldn’t be confused with addiction. “They told us that opioids are a way to improve patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Kolodny says.

“But it’s not true that patients can be easily tapered off these drugs,” he adds. “It’s not true that it’s a benign state. It’s not true that addiction is rare. One of the reasons these drugs are so addictive is because of the physiological dependence. Patients feel real panic when they stop taking the drugs…it all led to the crisis that we’re dealing with today. It’s so severe that it’s having an impact on life expectancy in the United States, especially among women.”

Dr. Volkow also faults education among physicians who have been poorly trained in pain management. Some physicians, she says, “may find prescribing opioids to be the easiest and least expensive course for addressing pain.”

The Addiction Born of Pain and Societal Problems

Heather Healey, LCSW-C, Director of the Employee Assistance Program Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, says that aside from doctors pushing opioids, our society conspires to lead people—especially women—to addictive behavior by failing to provide the support they need. Employers expect them to get back to work quickly after an injury. Insurance companies pay for medications, but not for alternative treatments like yoga, meditation, or physical therapy. And we have come to believe in our doctors as infallible.

“Everyone is put on narcotics,” says Healey, an addiction expert. “There is a time and a place for narcotics…but we don’t challenge our doctors, we just follow orders,” she says. “We’ve gotten so desensitized to taking medication. We think it’s an easy solution. But we’ve become numb to the risks associated with it.”

How Opioids Can Hurt You

Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, GI tract and other organs and reduce the perception of pain in the body, Dr. Volkow says. One of the main dangers of opioids is the user’s quick progression to “tolerance” of the medication.

“With time, your body gets acclimated to the effects of the drugs. You override acclimation by taking more,” explains Healey. “That’s the vicious cycle, and depending on how long you use it, it is the exact same drug effect that’s used with anesthesia. It’s how you cannot feel pain from a knife slicing you open during surgery, but you keep breathing while the operation goes on. Opioids cause respiratory depression. We don’t think about breathing on a day-to-day basis, but the number one cause of death in opioid use is respiratory depression. It causes your breathing to stop. It puts the back of your brain to sleep and literally puts your breathing to sleep.”

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

The first step to reducing this problem across the country is to reduce the availability of opioids and limit their use. But Dr. Volkow points out while efforts have begun to make that happen, the availability of heroin has been increasing, but experts are not sure whether increased supply or increased demand is to blame. Either way, people have reported choosing heroin because it is cheaper, more available, and provides an even better high, she adds. “In a recent survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction, almost all—94 percent—said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were ‘far more expensive and harder to obtain.’”

Still, if you or someone you know is battling these drugs, you can get help.

  • Recognize when you are addicted: “If you are in the cycle of taking medication and finding yourself needing to increase the dose because you’re managing chronic pain, that is a signal that you need to talk to someone who is an addiction expert to help you find ways to manage pain other than a pill,” Healey says. If you have been on your pills for more than two months, you’re moving into a dangerous situation, and should seek help from someone other than the doctor who prescribed them to you, she added.
  • Seek help through your workplace: If you’re employed, check out your Employee Assistance Program to get an evaluation and understand the options that are available to you. Or, you can contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration to get started or call 1-800-622-HELP 24 hours a day.
  • Seek alternative treatments: Such drugs as Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone can be effective ways to wean heroin or opioid users away from the drug (when part of an addiction treatment program), according to Dr. Volkow.
  • Understand that addiction is a chronic disease: You don’t go for treatment once, but rather you must commit for a long haul and be ready to face a long road to recovery.

Avoid the Opioid Trap to Begin With

If you have chronic pain and your doctor prescribes opioids, ask about other options. “Many people don’t think of medication as a drug of abuse,” Healey says. “They think of it as a drug of use when they are following doctor’s orders.” But the Centers for Disease Control have recently issued new guidelines for treating pain, recommending that doctors start with the lowest pain relief possible.

Natural Recovery: Recovery From Addiction Without Treatment

SOURCE:  A. TOM HORVATH, PH.D., ABPP, KAUSHIK MISRA, PH.D., AMY K. EPNER, PH.D., AND GALEN MORGAN COOPER, PH.D.

The most common approach to recovery is natural recovery. Natural recovery is recovery that occurs without treatment or support groups (NIAAA, 2012). When people recognize the cost of their addiction exceeds the benefits, and correct this, they become the “heroes” of addiction recovery. We don’t hear about these folks too often. However, we can learn a great deal from them. Specifically, there four key ingredients in any successful recovery process. These are 1) humility, 2) motivation, 3) sustained effort and 4) the restoration of meaning and purpose. We will discuss each in more detail.

Four key ingredients to recovery from addiction

1. Humility

At the most basic level, recovery is about humility. Some people independently solve their addiction problem (natural recovery). Others ask for help. In both cases, it is a humbling experience to face the reality of addiction. This humility extends to treatment professionals as well. To quote the famous French surgeon, Ambroise Pare (c. 1510-1590), “I bandaged him and God healed him.” Treatment professionals can point the way. However, each person’s recovery is ultimately a personal triumph and victory.

Professional treatment for addiction is really the path of last resort. Think about it for a moment. At its most basic level, treatment involves asking for help. Ordinarily, we don’t ask for help until faced with the realization we need some! An analogy might make this more sensible. Suppose you want to drive your car to an unfamiliar location. Perhaps you never visited this destination before. Do you immediately drive to a gas station and ask for directions? Or, do you first attempt to navigate there on your own?

Until we realize we are lost, we do not consider pulling over and asking for directions. Of course, different people will arrive at this conclusion more quickly than others. Some people are fiercely independent. The notion of asking for help is akin to admitting defeat. Other people are more prone to pull over and ask for directions at the first hint of trouble. The same is true with recovery from addiction. By the time people come in for treatment, they have usually attempted to recover on their own. They’ve reached their own individual tolerance level for “being lost” and decided they could use some “navigational” help.

Treatment is a type of navigational help. Let’s continue with our previous example. When we pull over and ask for directions, we don’t expect someone to jump into our car and drive us to our destination! Sure, we’ve asked for help. Hopefully, we received some helpful directions. Nonetheless, we still have to drive ourselves to the desired location. This is true of addictions recovery. Ultimately, everyone must drive themselves down the road to recovery. Therefore, even with “navigational help,” recovery still involves natural recovery.

But wait, you say. Does natural recovery mean that people addicted to heroin or alcohol stopped on their own? Are there are more of these “natural recovery” folks than people who successfully complete addictions treatment? Yes and Yes. Heroin use is a classic example. Many Vietnam veterans were addicted to heroin when they returned home. Public health officials were quite concerned about this. What would happen to the government’s financial resources if all these heroin-using veterans sought treatment? What if they didn’t seek treatment? Would there be a devastating surge in heroin use? None of these outcomes occurred. Most heroin-using veterans simply quit on their own (Robins, 1973). How did they do it? The short answer is natural recovery. Of course, not all veterans fully recovered. Some developed other addictions when they gave up heroin. Others only partially gave up heroin. However, in general, natural recovery occurred for most.

Smoking is a more familiar example. If you have been around since the 1960s or 1970s, you own experience will confirm the following facts. Tens of millions of Americans have quit smoking. Very few of them sought treatment or attended a support group. How many rehabs are you aware of for quitting smoking? If quitting smoking were easy, these results would not surprise us. Most people recognize that quitting smoking is quite difficult. Yet almost everyone who quits smoking does this without specialized help or treatment. It may take a handful of serious attempts in order to finally succeed.

A similar result has been found for alcohol (NIAAA, 2012). Most individuals who stopped or reduced their alcohol use have done so on their own. Unless you are a student of addictions research, you might not know there are so many of these successful quitters and moderators. Indeed, it would be quite unusual to hear someone say, “I used to have a really bad drinking problem. You might have even called me an alcoholic. But you know, I just cleaned up my act on my own.  Now I don’t think about it much anymore.” It’s quite sensible that someone wouldn’t advertise these facts about themselves. Unfortunately, this silence means most people are unaware of the ways people recover from addiction without help. Researchers became aware of this because of large-scale, federally-funded surveys.

2. Motivation

A second crucial ingredient is motivation. During interviews with naturally recovering people, a common theme was found. The need to change finally became important enough. In other words, the benefits of change outweighed the costs of remaining addicted. This realization provided sufficient motivation to make needed changes. People who succeeded in natural recovery were able to accurately evaluate the costs and benefits of their addiction. Not all individuals appear to be able to do so. This is where treatment can be very helpful. Treatment can help people take an honest, hard look at their situation. This helps them to evaluate the costs and benefits more accurately. This will then provide the motivation to make needed changes. Motivation is so important that we’ve devoted an entire section to discuss it.

3. Sustained effort

The third key ingredient to successful recovery is sustained effort. Whether you recover on your own or with treatment, recovery requires a sustained effort. Sustained effort is needed to persevere through the initial periods of discomfort. This lesson is clear from smokers who quit. People who successfully quit smoking spend a substantial amount of time preparing to change. They experience varying degrees of discomfort getting through the transitional period from smoker to smoke-free. Many people who do not succeed in their first recovery effort under-estimated how much effort it would involve.

4. Restore meaning and purpose to life

Finally, it is necessary to restore meaning and purpose to your life. At some point, it will become evident that your world revolved around your addiction. To succeed in recovery, something else must fill that void. At the onset, build your recovery around things that give your life meaning and purpose. This might mean spending more time with your kids. It might mean enjoying the benefits of healthy recreation such as hiking or going to the gym. Perhaps you’d like to revive your social life. Maybe you would enjoy some meaningful volunteer work. You might like becoming more active in your church or to work for political cause. Maybe it just means feeling more rested and refreshed by getting to bed earlier every night. Whatever it is, begin to recognize and enjoy the benefits of your freedom from addiction.

We know these four ingredients are common ingredients of successful recovery. However, we also know there is no single, correct path to recovery. Expect to find your own road to recovery. Seek information and input. Then consider carefully what makes the most sense for you. Go ahead, try it. If it doesn’t work, try something different. A common expression is very fitting. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Realize that very few people are successful with just one attempt. Assume that there are many different roads to recovery just as there are many different people.

Tag Cloud