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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.

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

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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.

 

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.

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

 


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Originally posted in 2011.

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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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.

Addiction: COMING CLEAN

SOURCE:  Seth Haines/InTouch Ministries

Some burdens are too heavy to carry alone, but thankfully, God provides us with a way to lighten the spiritual load.

Six months after our son was born, my wife Amber and I found ourselves in an unfolding drama. Little Titus suffered under the ghost of a mysterious illness and began to shed weight as if he were on a fad diet. We watched helplessly as he retched up meal after meal and was transformed into a bag of bones. We prayed ceaselessly for his healing, and our family, friends, and church members joined in with pleas of their own. We visited doctor after doctor, until they finally admitted they were at an impasse and hospitalized our baby boy for specialized treatment.

My friend Greg was fond of saying, “At some point, life is going to do what life does.” And as I watched my son suffer, I knew Greg was right. Life upends, suspends, takes certainty and puts it in question. These are the moments to lean into the support of community, to rely on relationships with friends, family, and God. But with the specter of losing a child looming large, I chose another way.

I called my sister from the pediatric floor. “Could you smuggle in a bottle of Gordon’s?” I asked.

She obliged—sympathetic sibling that she was—and I drowned all fear, anxiety, and grief in gin from a Styrofoam cup filled with hospital ice.

This was the moment when a budding problem became a full-fledged addiction.

In the months following Titus’s discharge, he was barely on the mend. The doctors were still unsure whether he would stabilize and begin to gain weight, and to make matters worse, his immune system began to slip. They advised us to avoid germ-ridden places like the church nursery or the playground. Titus didn’t have the reserves to fight even the common cold, so we lived in a sort of self-imposed quarantine. Isolated further, I sank deeper and deeper into a boozy haze, and aside from Amber, not a soul in the world would have guessed.

No one sets out to become an alcoholic, much less a Christian alcoholic.

In fact, Paul exhorts Christians to live a sober, Spirit-filled life. He writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-19 NIV).

I’ve wondered why Paul contrasts individual drunkenness with the Spirit-filled Christian community, and this is what I’ve come to believe: The addictions of our life are often born from our own isolation, from our pain and anxiety. It is difficult to muster the faith needed to shoulder life’s burdens alone. But for the Christian, the confession of the community of saints—the worshipful, thankful, Spirit-filled confession—gives us hope. And when we share our sins and submit ourselves to fellow believers, we can be carried on their shoulders. It provides a sort of surrogate faith when ours is not enough and allows us to see past the pain and into hope. Perhaps this is the point of James’ great admonition, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

And this, perhaps, is one of the most important steps—maybe the very beginning—of coming clean from any sort of addiction. Alcoholism? Yes. Eating disorders? Yes. Pornography? Consumerism? Workaholism? To all of these and more, yes.

On a warm September evening, I stood on the porch with two members of my church family. “I think I have a drinking problem,” I said, the words spilling out of my mouth and across the whitewashed planks without warning.

John looked at me, nodded, and said, “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said. John asked whether I would admit it to Amber. “I don’t know,” I said again.

John reached for my phone. “We will walk with you, will prop you up till you’re able to walk again. We’ll hold you accountable and pray with you. But right now, you need to call your wife.” He pressed the green button and handed me the phone.  “You’re going to be just fine,” he said.

It’s been a year and a half since that fateful moment of coming clean. John and a few others have gathered around me. We’ve worshipped together, shared communion, given thanks. They listened to confession after confession about my unending thirst for liquor, about the darkness of my own heart. They’ve asked hard questions of me, have held my feet to the fire. And in the process, I see the working of the Spirit to draw me out of the shadows, through the pain, and into hope. Because of them, I understand Paul’s truth to the Ephesians and the wisdom of James.

Yes, life’s going to do what life’s going to do. But the corollary is true as well: A good Christian community is going to do what good Christian community is supposed to do. And if you press into it, that will make all the difference.

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“Your illness is not your identity,” Pastor Rick Warren shared this week. “Your chemistry is not your character. It’s not a sin to be sick.”

Returning to the pulpit for the first time since his son Matthew’s tragic suicide in April, Warren broke away from his notes to talk frankly about his grief and the challenge of living with his son’s mental illness.

According to USA Today, “Matthew Warren, after a lifetime of struggle with depression, shot and killed himself in what Warren at the time called ‘a momentary wave of despair.’ ”

“I was in shock for at least a month after Matthew took his life,” Warren said. In a world where many Christians often feel the pressure to “put on a happy face,” Pastor Warren’s honesty is refreshing.

“For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness,” Warren said. “It was the number one prayer of my life…And it didn’t make sense.”

As Christian counselors, we must remember the daily challenges facing family members of an individual who struggles with depression, addiction, an eating disorder, or other mental health concerns.

“How proud I was of Amy and Josh, who for 27 years loved their younger brother,” Warren said. “They talked him off the ledge time after time. They are really my heroes.”

As churches and communities we need to rally around and provide support, care and a listening ear to those who live with the daily reality of mental illness, reminding them, as Warren said, that their illness is not their identity.

“It’s not a sin to take meds. It’s not a sin to get help. You don’t need to be ashamed.” This message needs to reverberate through churches all across our nation, where misunderstandings about mental illness and false theology that “faith is enough” often results in unnecessary suffering.

In Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s MissionAmy Simpson points out, “Mental illness is the sort of thing we don’t like to talk about. Too often, we reduce people with mental illness to caricatures and ghosts, and simply pretend they don’t exist.”

“They do exist, however. Statistics suggest that one in every four people suffers from some kind of mental illness—from depression to schizophrenia and beyond.

Many of these people, and the family and friends who love them, are sitting in churches week after week, suffering in stigmatized silence.”

Simpson reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love them and care for them.

What can churches do to help advocate on behalf of mental illness? Simpson offers several starting points:

  • Get help if you’re struggling. Break the silence by telling your story.
  • Get educated about the issues—read, learn and seek to truly understand.
  • Talk about mental illness and address common stigmas—in the pulpit, small groups, etc.
  • Build genuine relationships—don’t just help as a “project.”
  • Ask families living with mental illness how you can help with practical needs.
  • Accept people unconditionally—look past their diagnosis and see the real person God created and loves.
  • Start support groups for families living with mental illness.
  • Collaborate with local mental health professionals.

“There are people with mental illnesses in every church, whether this is known or not,” one church leader writes. “Jesus came to love and serve everyone. He feared no one. All churches can learn to serve the Lord better in caring for His people.”

In the midst of unspeakable grief, Pastor Warren shared, “God wants to take your greatest sorrow and turn it into your life’s greatest message.”

How does God want to use you to help those struggling with mental illness and their families?

Christian counseling is far more than a career…it’s a calling to minister and offer hope to those who need it most.

Q&A: My Husband is Draining Our Finances With His Addiction. I Don’t Know What to Do.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question: I need help as to what to do with my marriage. We have been married 25 years and, in that time, I have dealt with my husband being an alcoholic with two DUI’S and then his arrest for prescription fraud.

He stopped drinking, but then put pills in its place. He takes hydrocodone and soma for back problems, but he doesn’t just take the 2 per day as prescribed. He takes a lot more. When he ran out, he started buying more from other people and now also buys Xanax. He tells me that he doesn’t buy anything from other people, but I know he is lying. He writes a check for gas everyday which I know he uses to get cash back to do who knows what with.

Because of all this mess, we filed bankruptcy but still can’t get ahead. We are 3 months behind on house payments and just about 2 months behind on regular utility bills. I’ve dealt with all this for a long time. I have told him what I don’t like about it, but he says that all I do is get on him about everything. I know I do, but after so long of just holding things inside, I let it out on him.

I know I shouldn’t constantly tell him what he is doing wrong, but he has put us in a financial mess, and now I’m not sure what to do about staying married. Please help! I’m lost as to what to do and how to handle things.

I love my husband and want my marriage to work, but he is making it very difficult for me to love as I once did. I have a lot of bitterness, anger and even hatred in my heart for all that has happened. I’m constantly repenting for my feelings and don’t want to feel that way. He says he will take pills for his pain till the day he dies, and that I need to just deal with it. And, after about 13 years of not drinking, he has started to drink again. It’s only a couple a day, but an alcoholic shouldn’t go back to drinking should they? I also recently found a joint in his truck. I flushed it, and he got furious at me. He said it helped relieve his pain and said no one understands the amount of pain he is in. I just don’t know what to do anymore. He keeps spending money like crazy and doesn’t leave enough for me to pay bills.

He spends more money than we have in our checkbook, so then we have to catch up and pay NSF fees. I don’t want to lose my marriage or house, etc., but I have also been doing a lot of praying and soul searching as to whether I want to live the rest of my life like this. Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me.

Answer: One of the most important things you must do if you want help is first distinguish the difference between your husband’s problem and your problem.

Your husband is an addict and is self-medicating to deal with his pain. That’s his problem, and he’s chosen to go outside the boundaries of his doctor or a pain management specialist to cope with this pain problem. You may have some influence in how he deals with his problem, but whether or not he changes or gets the help he needs will be up to him. You cannot fix or solve his problem as much as you want to or as much as you love him.

However your problem is that you don’t like living this way. You don’t like the financial havoc and chronic deceitfulness you live with every day. You don’t like the anger he displays when you try to express your concerns. You struggle with bitterness, hatred and resentment because of all this chaos. That is your problem.

When you can clarify the difference between his problem (which you apparently have zero influence over right now) and your problem, then you can work on your problem.

First, what do you need to do to get more financial stability? For example, do you work? Do you need to put your paycheck into a separate bank account that he does not have access to? Does he work? If not, where is he getting his access to money to buy drugs and write checks every day? If you are enabling that, you can choose to stop doing that by separating your money and not giving him access to it.

Will that make him angry? Yes, but it will help with your financial problems. However that doesn’t solve the marital problems. His sole focus is on himself right now which is true of anyone who is an addict. He’s not thinking of anything other than getting his drugs. Whether or not he’s in as much pain as he claims, we don’t know. Certainly pain is difficult to live with, and you can have compassion for his struggle with pain. But instead of trying to solve his problems in a healthy way, he is resorting to his own ways.

To let go of resentment and anger involves having compassion for a person who is so lost and desperate that he (or she) would do things that have such detrimental consequences, just to get a high–or get rid of pain–whether it is physical and/or emotional pain. However, being compassionate does not mean you have to cooperate or enable his dysfunction to continue to impact your life in detrimental ways. If you can cut off the funding for his drug use, perhaps that will motivate him to seek appropriate help for his pain as well as his addiction.

To get healthy, you will need to create some distance from him financially, emotionally as well as perhaps physically, so that the consequences of his foolishness don’t keep landing at your feet. He’s had two DUI’s and an arrest for prescription fraud. Now he’s buying drugs on the street. How does he drive with two DUI’S? Does he have a valid driver’s license or is he just driving without one? Why does he have access to a vehicle when he is taking drugs and now drinking alcohol much of the time? Who is paying for the upkeep of the car insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc.? Are you? If so, you must stop. If you can’t stop, you need to get help for yourself to be strong enough to set and keep good boundaries. Otherwise you are enabling him to continue to do what he does.

I’m asking you tough questions not to make you feel bad, but for you to recognize that you do not have to continue being a victim and enabler of your spouse’s foolishness. In the Bible, we learn about Abigail who was married to a surly and foolish man. When he made a bad decision, she overruled it and did the right thing (1 Samuel 25). I understand that for many women it’s hard to stand strong, create boundaries and still stay compassionate. If you’re having trouble doing that, get some help for yourself. Go to Celebrate Recovery, attend Al-Anon meetings or seek a counselor to give you the support you need.

A Prayer about the Entanglements of Pornography

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Although 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 me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? . . . Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Rom. 7:21-24, 8:1-2

Dear Lord Jesus, we come before you today on behalf of our friends—men and women under enslaving and destructive influence of pornography. The gospel is the only power which is mighty and merciful enough to bring freedom and healing. This is why we come boldly to your throne of grace today, with great concern, but also with a great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your kindness and strength to bear in clear and remarkable fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an overabundance of both. Sin has corrupted our godly desire for rich relationship and the beauty of intimacy, and we have become easy prey for destructive counterfeits.

Lord Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself as a pursuing and redeeming Lord. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “Who will rescue me…?” (Rom. 7:24)

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them by the life-giving and transforming power of your love. Your love humbles us without humiliating us; it delivers us without demonizing us; it gives us new life, and no mere second chance. How we praise you for your heart-compelling, fear-expelling, repentance-producing love.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger and disgust, the shame and the broken trust that does with their heartache. Help us love our friends well. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Grant them patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen we pray, in your great and glorious name.

Lord, Loosen My Addiction — Tightly Grip Me

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Untie from Your Addiction — Be Tied Together to God  

According to the latest statistics, compulsive addictions torment tens of millions of people in the USA. Taking into account caffeine addiction and overeating, 40-50% of the U.S. struggles with compulsive behaviors that are harmful.

An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself or any other person. That drug or behavior is the path to the supposed relief they deeply desire. To a large degree, our society denies the addiction problem. Many of you might even scoff at the numbers. The walking wounded are usually on their own to get help for themselves or their loved ones as treatment centers and state hospitals close, program funds diminish, and insurance reimbursements for treatment decrease.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Addictions are the number one killer in the U.S. High blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer, headaches, sleep problems, liver disease, impaired immunity, infections, irritability, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, poor frustration tolerance, loneliness, poor motivation, disconnected from God, lack of purpose, no passion, and no peace are all common consequences of various addictions (and this was just the start of the list!)

Regardless of the type of addiction, an addictive lifestyle causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

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

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word ”religion” receives? It’s no longer regarded as the original word suggests. The Latin root of the word is “ligio,” meaning to tie or bind together. An example is a woman having her tubes tied, or a tubal ligation. To “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. Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God. Then they disobeyed God, causing the original tie of 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 all the work. We just need to accept His payment for our debt.

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. We become untied from God because of our addiction. Where we invest our time, money, and energy becomes our god. Then, like the object we worship, we become a cheap imitation of what we were really meant to be. I am always amazed when I consider the things I used to pursue, and sometimes continue to pursue, to soothe my discomfort instead of going to God first. Sadly, I have endured dire spiritual consequences for the sake of momentary thrills or escapes.

Today, God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore those who have been carried away by addictions. If you have an overt addiction, let Him in and trust His ways, not yours.  Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, and be restored 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 before God. Don’t be embarrassed, just be honest. Your journey closer to God and the Mind of Christ is your decision, so choose well!

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 self-destructive effects of mood-altering chemicals and mind injuring behaviors. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful, comforting, and re-tying 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

When looking for porn…begin in the heart

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography?

In our culture?

Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?

Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner.

However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above Jesus tied the behavior (tongue speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lip.

Matters of the heart

A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).

If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.

And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.

Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.

Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.

He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.

Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.

At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.

The real issue

Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.

I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.

It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.

If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.

Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture

Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)

It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.

The theater of the mind

Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.

Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can beking for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.

He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.

He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.

In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.

  • He wins.
  • He’s good.

And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.

Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.

The controller is controlled

His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.

Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”

That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.

There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.

His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!

Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.

Porn negates the Gospel

Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.

Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.

The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.

Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.

Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.

  • Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
  • Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
  • Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.

The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.

It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.

While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.

The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.

While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.

The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.

When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

Don’t fight the fight alone

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2

As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.

I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.

With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.

God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.

Addiction – I Bet You Got One

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Newsflash:  Every one of us is an addict.

You see, God wouldn’t give us the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” if he didn’t know our number 1 weakness.

In fact, God tells us in the other 9 commandments what our idolatry (addictions) might lead to.

You might think, “Well, not me. I don’t have any addictions.”

Newsflash #2: Every one of us is addicted to comfort.

Think about it. We all struggle to deal with discomfort, especially emotional or psychological pain. Even though we say “no pain, no gain”, it’s amazing how quickly we run away from pain, or need to quickly soothe or anesthetize it. You see, we are all born separated from God … and that is the ultimate pain. Even contemplating a temporary separation from His Father on the cross prompted Jesus to ask God to have this “cup” pass from Him.

As kids, we developed strategies to deal with pain. Unfortunately, we weren’t mature and our “teachers” weren’t perfect. So developing coping mechanisms for physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual pain was random, faulty and very short-sighted … not very effective for the long haul.

Our solutions are usually flesh-driven options, knee-jerk reactions, or immediate relievers. These “solutions” are the Addiction Objects … things we go to and rely on in a repetitive way to fill our needs instead of looking to God for His answers. The Bible calls them idols, lusts, and fleshly desires. I call them addictions because the same process occurs regardless of the addiction object. God could directly soothe us or He might choose to provide appropriate objects to fill our needs. But each time we need to look to Him first, not to the object.

Addiction objects can be drugs, alcohol, food or pornography. But they can also be anger (or any emotion), work, productivity, security, our intellect, kids, money, spending, a “martyr complex,” exercise, our looks/physique, sports, TV, hobbies, fighting, control, a relationship, sex, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If it comforts you or relieves some negative feeling, Satan will use it as a tempting addiction object. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. How many times have you joked, “I am so addicted to…?”

One of the great lies that Satan perpetrates is that addiction objects offer self-protection. The truth is they are self-destructive. Just look at Solomon’s experiences in Ecclesiastes. He pursues everything under the sun for comfort, while leaving out God. He becomes overwhelmed, lost, and depressed. Then he finally declares all objects to be vanity (or meaningless) when God is not pursued first.

Today, let’s really do some honest reflection. When you are uneasy, lonely, stressed, etc., what do you go to first? Bingo! You found your addiction object.

Next time, try to look to God first and see what He prescribes for your pain. He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and is always available for drop-ins. The question isn’t, “Do I have an addiction?” The question is “Am I using God’s power to control my addiction, or is my addiction interfering with my life?” Denying or admitting your need is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, for many years I struggled with the pain of needing to be needed, accepted, valued. I turned to my addictions for comfort, but they only caused more pain. You have freed me from my bondage to all addictions. But I still struggle with a need for control. Help me to tolerate discomfort, because your grace is sufficient. Help me to grow the Mind of Christ and to look to You as my ultimate Lighthouse of refuge and sanctuary. I pray in Christ’s freeing name.  AMEN!

The Truth

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

Ephesians 2:1-3

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

(1) Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
(8) Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
(10) The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
(13) The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8,10,13

Addictions – the Stone Gods

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

As kids, none of us sets out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction. Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, enslavement is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors.

In certain key situations, addictions become our masters, the key authority in decision-making moments. So by definition, God is then subject to the addiction. A small percentage of people can feel the enslavement and lack of control. But most of us are fooled into thinking we aren’t enslaved, thinking we still have control, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a long period of time. The reality is that we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the pathway to enslavement.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, alcohol, caffeine or pain pills. Subtler and more frequent options include control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parenting tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless! Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble. Yet you still do them! That is enslavement. In the end, we exalt ourselves above God and we want to feel good … no matter what.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered our life as a useful coping skill, tool, friend, or savior, quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that we choose them because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, and we give them priority and ultimately, our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long-term relief that going to God will actually bring in full.

Today, readily admit you have an addiction. Be open with another person about what your top addiction objects are. Know as a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is in you to empower your pursuit of putting God on the throne of your heart, moment by moment.

Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ. therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us and in Him we are free. We slip daily. But don’t let Satan roll you over. Confess and understand why you turned to your idol instead of to God. With steady honesty and submission, and by applying God’s instruction and promises, you will be set free. When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. God or ??? It’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, my dreams, and my hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Galatians 2:20

When looking for porn…begin in the heart

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography? In our culture?

Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?

Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner. However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above, Jesus tied the behavior (tongue/speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lips.

Matters of the heart

A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).

If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.

And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.

Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.

Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture, then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.

He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.

Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.

At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.

The real issue

Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin, what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.

I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.

It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman, then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.

If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.

Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture.

Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)

It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.

The theater of the mind

Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.

Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can be king for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.

He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.

He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.

In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.

  • He wins.
  • He’s good.

And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.

Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.

The controller is controlled

His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.

Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”

That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.

There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.

His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!

Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.

Porn negates the Gospel

Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.

Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.

The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.

Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.

Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.

  • Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
  • Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
  • Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.

The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.

It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.

While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.

The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.

While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.

The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.

When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

Don’t fight the fight alone

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2

As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.

I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.

With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.

God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.

This Is Your Brain on Porn

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Michael Cusick

How this addiction damages your mind—and how to rewire it.

If some malevolent being held a competition to create the perfect delivery mechanism to enslave our human desire, Internet pornography would win the grand prize.

Online pornography is fundamentally different from the Playboy or Penthouse of past generations. If the magazines, videos and DVDs of the past were like the Wright Brothers’ plane at Kitty Hawk, then Internet porn would be a supersonic jet.

Although supersonic jets are impressive for military use or high-speed travel, you wouldn’t want one landing in your backyard. But this is the impact Internet porn makes on the brain. Its sheer power and intensity create a heightened level of stimulation that your brain was never intended to experience. Because of this, the brain of a person regularly using porn can change and shape itself to resemble neuropathways similar to those of an alcoholic or drug addict.

Without understanding porn’s impact on the brain, too many people either quit trying to change or carry unnecessary guilt and shame when their spiritual zeal and will power aren’t enough. Can you relate? Here’s what you need to do to combat porn’s powerful hold on your mind.

First, know the basics

If you remember anything about the brain as it relates to porn, remember the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine. Known as the “gotta have it” molecule, dopamine has been described by one brain expert as the gas that fuels our desire engine. This neurotransmitter involves anticipation and expectation.

When we imagine eating at a favorite restaurant, shopping for a new gadget or having sex, the brain releases dopamine and our senses call out, Gimme, gimme, gimme! The more intense the experience, the more dopamine is released in the brain. Without this neurotransmitter, we would stay in bed all day with no motivation to eat or pursue meaningful goals, relationships, or sexual pleasure. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter behind all motivation in life.

How porn rewires your brain

Every thought, feeling, habit, skill, or behavior in your life has a corresponding neuropathway that fires in your brain. These pathways are designed to function optimally. However, as the brain’s reward circuitry gets entangled in a tug of war, the brain rewires itself for addiction and new neuropathways are created.

Every time a person views porn, or eventually even thinks about porn, the burst of dopamine strengthens the connections between cells. The stronger the connection, the easier it becomes for cells to communicate on that path. This idea of the brain changing itself is called neuroplasticity. Whether learning to ski, learning to speak a foreign language, or looking at porn, the more we use a particular neuropathway, the more our brain changes, making the pathway stronger.

These neuropathways are like footpaths across a field of waist-high grass. Walking across the field when the grass is so high requires significant effort. But each time you walk along the path, it gets easier. The grass gets trampled, worn down, and eventually becomes a dirt path.

Someone who doesn’t watch porn, or is not yet addicted, has yet to develop sensitized “weed-whacked” pathways. But the porn neuropathways of someone whose brain is addicted are weed-whacked and trampled down so that they have become the path of least resistance. Porn becomes the path of least resistance in the brain. And the easier the path, the more likely we are to take it, even when we don’t want to. The creation of this path of least resistance is called sensitization.

You can reboot your brain

The good news is, your brain can be changed in a positive and healthy direction. Our brains can be rewired from their addictive patterns. Just as you can reboot your computer and reset the hard drive, you can reboot your brain and restore the sensitivity of your brain circuits. On a computer, it’s as simple as pressing the power button or clicking a pull-down menu to restart. However, rebooting your brain may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done.

How do you do it? Here are three ways to give your porn-saturated brain a reboot.

1. Practice intentional thinking. What you think about is ultimately what you become. What we once called “the power of positive thinking” is increasingly backed by scientific evidence. The more attention your brain pays to given input, the stronger and more elaborately it will be wired and retained in the brain. When we give our attention and focus to good things, like peace, joy, and self-control, our brains rewire themselves in a way that allows us to experience those good things. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to be intentional about what we give ourselves to?

2. Pursue alternate passions. The famous philosopher, novelist, and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was right when he said we are shaped and fashioned by what we love. Certainly this applies to our brains. The life focus of a person struggling with porn leads to tunnel vision. When people view porn on a regular basis, their passions are held captive, and they forfeit the ability to direct their life in the way they would otherwise choose. Pursuing alternative passions expands your horizons and rewires your brain at the same time.

3. Employ the power of repetition. Studies show that repeated behaviors, over time, cause structural changes in the brain. These changes can be negative, causing compulsion and addiction. Or they can be positive, rewiring the brain so the stimuli of porn and lust are no longer a reflexive reaction. Repetition helps lock behaviors in the brain in the same way an athlete develops muscle memory. Be encouraged. Your struggle with porn is a learned response, in many ways, just like the athlete. Your brain can unlearn, and it can change.

Excerpted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael Cusick. 

“ADDICTION” may seem too strong a term, BUT . . . ?!?

 SOURCE:  John Eldredge

Reenacting the Fall

The story of Eden is not over.

Every day we reenact the Fall as we turn in our desire to the very things that will destroy us.

As Gerald May reminds us, Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desires. To define it directly, addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness. (Addiction and Grace)

Addiction may seem too strong a term to some of you. The woman who is serving so faithfully at church-surely, there’s nothing wrong with that. And who can blame the man who stays long at the office to provide for his family? Sure, you may look forward to the next meal more than most people do, and your hobbies can be a nuisance sometimes, but to call any of this an addiction seems to stretch the word a bit too far.

I have one simple response: give it up.

Let go of the things that provide you with a sense of security, or comfort, or excitement, or relief.

You will soon discover the tentacles of attachment deep in your soul. There will be an anxiousness; you’ll begin to think about work or food or golf even more. Withdrawal will set in. If you can make it a week or two out of sheer willpower, you will find a sadness growing in your soul, a deep sense of loss. Lethargy and a lack of motivation follow.

Remember, we will make an idol of anything, especially a good thing.

So distant now from Eden, we are desperate for life, and we come to believe that we must arrange for it as best we can, or no one will.

God must thwart us to save us.

————————————————————
(Desire , 92-93)

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography. 

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage.  Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

——————————————————————————————–

Taken from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall.  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.  Used by permission.

Cindy Beall is a writer, speaker, and mentor to women. She and her husband, Chris, share openly about their journey of redemption through Chris’s infidelity and pornography addiction.

The Stages of Life-Controlling Problems (1)

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:  (1) experimentation, (2) social use or practice, (3) daily preoccupation, and (4) practicing just to feel normal.

Experimentation: We learn that the substance or behavior makes us feel good. We don’t notice serious negative consequences. Return to normal feelings soon follows isolated indulgences.

Social phase: We practice the behavior regularly but set limits for ourselves about when, where, or how we do it. The rules make us feel safe and appropriate, but we are trusting in the behavior or substance for our needs, not in God. Normal feelings are punctuated with more frequent uses, and we seek friends who also indulge.

Consider this … 
During the experimentation stage, we will usually rationalize our behavior. We might give excuses like peer pressure, thrill-seeking, curiosity, or a need to relax. As we enter the social phase, we may tell ourselves we want to be with new friends who don’t judge our actions. Or we need something to do on weekends or just want to have fun.

But all the time we are falling into “The Trap.” Today’s scripture refers to “strongholds of human reasoning” and “false arguments.” It also says to use God’s weapons, not our own, to overcome. When we feel ourselves being entrapped, we must make a choice. The only way we can be free is to recognize our need for God and to ask for his help.

Prayer

Lord, I’ve been making excuses for what I am doing, but deep down I know it’s wrong. Please forgive me. I need your help. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

These thoughts were drawn from …

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

The Stages of Life-Controlling Problems (2)

SOURCE:  Taken from Living Free Ministry

God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” 1 Corinthians 7:23 NLT

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages: (1) experimentation, (2) social use or practice, (3) daily preoccupation, and (4) practicing just to feel normal.

Daily preoccupation: Without warning, our behavior or substance abuse becomes a problem. We violate our value system and begin to feel the pain of addiction. Life deteriorates. We start to lose control and break our rules. The behavior or substance becomes the center of our lives. We begin to suffer negative consequences from our involvement, but instead of slowing down, we involve ourselves more deeply.

Using or practicing just to feel normal: In the fourth stage, the only times we feel normal are when we are using the substance or engaging in the behavior. We are out of control and the pain is constant.

Consider this … 
God paid a great price for your freedom from sin: Jesus shed his blood and died on the cross for you. Only by receiving him as your savior and making him Lord of your life can you experience that freedom.

You have a choice. You can continue being a slave to a pattern that is destroying your life—or you can choose to serve Jesus. He loves you unconditionally. When you come to him sincerely, he will forgive and he will help you find freedom from your life-controlling problem. He may help you through a loved one or friend. He may help you through your pastor or a counselor. He knows just what you need and is ready to provide.

Are you ready to receive?

Prayer

God, my life is out of control. I do believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me, and help me turn from my sin and trust in Jesus. I cannot do this alone. I need you. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

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

We Are All ADDICTS !

SOURCE: Taken from an article at Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

We are all addicts.

Every one of us is addicted to comfort.

We all struggle to deal with discomfort, especially emotional or psychological pain. Even though we say “no pain, no gain”, it’s amazing how quickly we run from discomfort and pain, or need to quickly soothe it. You see, we are all born separated from God … and that is the ultimate pain. A temporary separation on the cross is what prompted even Jesus to ask God to have this “cup” pass from Him.

As kids, we develop strategies to deal with pain. Unfortunately, we aren’t mature and our “teachers” aren’t perfect. So developing coping mechanisms for physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual pain is random, faulty, and very short-sighted … not very effective for the long haul.

Our solutions are usually flesh-driven options, knee-jerk reactions, or immediate relievers. These “solutions” are the Addiction Objects … things we go to and rely on in a repetitive way to fill needs instead of looking to God for His answers. Now God could directly soothe us or He might choose to provide appropriate objects to fill our needs. But each time we need to look to Him first, not the object.

Addiction objects can be drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. But they can also be anger (or any emotion), work, productivity, security, our intellect, kids, money, spending, “martyr complex”, exercise, our looks/physique, sports, TV, hobbies, fighting, control, a relationship, sex, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If it is something that comforts you or relieves some negative feeling, Satan will use it as an addiction object. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.

One of the great lies that Satan perpetrates on us is that addiction objects offer self-protection. The truth is they are really self-destructive. Just look at Solomon’s experiences in Ecclesiastes, as he pursues everything under the sun for comfort, while leaving out God. He becomes overwhelmed, lost, and depressed, hen finally declares all objects to be vanity or meaningless when God is not pursued first.

When you are uneasy, lonely, stressed, etc, what do you go to first? Bingo! You found your addiction object. Next time, try to look to God first and see what He prescribes for your pain. He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and is always available for drop-ins.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, for many years I struggled with the pain of needing to be needed, accepted, valued. I turned to my addictions for comfort, but they caused more pain. You have freed me from my bondage to all addictions, but I still struggle with a need for control. Help me tolerate discomfort, because your grace is sufficient. Help me to grow the Mind of Christ and to look to You as my ultimate Lighthouse of refuge and sanctuary. In Christ’s freeing name.    AMEN!

The Truth

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1-3

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

 1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8,10,13

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us

 SOURCE: Adapted from an article at:   Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Addictions – the Stone Gods

As kids, none of us set out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction.

Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, that is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors: enslavement.

Addictions make us slaves to that object. Some people can feel the enslavement very specifically. Others are fooled into thinking they aren’t enslaved, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a big chunk of time. The reality is, we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us. Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the enslavement pathway.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face.

For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parent tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless. Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble, yet you still do them. That is enslavement.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered life as an understanding resource, tool, friend, or savior quickly became a cruel master.

The problem with idols is that they are chosen because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, so we give them our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long term relief that going to God will actually bring in-full.

Today, know and spread the news that for believers there is great hope. We are not alone in our addictions. No matter where we are, the Holy Spirit is within us and intercedes for us before God.

When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ, therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.”

This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us, and in Him we are free. When we are focused on Him, we can find the strength we need for freedom and victory over all our addictions. Your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, dreams, and hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Galatians 2:20

Trapped by a Life-Controlling Problem?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”

James 1:14-15 CEV

When we choose to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for help only God can provide, we have chosen to follow an idol—and we find ourselves dealing with a life-controlling problem.  Life-controlling problems usually trap a person slowly and progress through a predictable pattern.

A person is often lured into experimenting with a dangerous substance, behavior, or relationship because it provides a feeling of exhilaration. We call this pattern “The Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is happening.

Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee, founder of Living Free, states, “Addiction is death on the installment plan. No one ever plans to be trapped by a life-controlling problem, yet it happens all the time.”

Consider this … 

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:

(1) experimentation,

(2) social use or practice,

(3) daily preoccupation, and

(4) practicing just to feel normal.

Not everyone progresses through all these stages; however, there is no way to predict which people who begin the pattern will continue to stage four. The best time to deal with a life-controlling problem is before it begins. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves.

Is there an issue in your life that is tempting you and dragging you into a trap?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Prayer
Father, search my heart. Help me see anything within me that is developing into a life-controlling problem. Forgive me, and help me turn from it. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

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

Leaving The Past — Stepping Into The Future

SOURCE:  Adapted from Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry

[Try] as I may, I find that my brokenness and past sin are sometimes like a huge stone hanging around my neck. Carrying that stone causes guilt, shame, weakness, and at times, causes me to avoid certain opportunities and experiences. I know and believe I have been forgiven, but I struggle with laying down that stone and walking away from it. Many people share this struggle, do you?

Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible experiences for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform those mistakes and sins, the destructive guilt and anxiety, into constructive thought and hope for a transformed and transforming future. We don’t have to hold onto distorted lenses from past wounds and mistakes. But we do have to look back and re-examine them through Godly lenses, letting God into and heal our past so we can have clear lenses to see Him, ourselves, and daily experiences that He brings into our life today.

Trusting God’s forgiveness is a big and difficult stretch … for most, myself included, really receiving God’s forgiveness takes time. For me, I had to work up to this huge step of trust by practicing, implementing, and applying trust in much smaller areas of life and in my relationship with God. Then I was able to absorb His forgiveness in the bigger areas of my life. You can, too.

Trusting Him when there is an illness … a flat tire … change of plans … someone else is in charge … a deadline is changed … a random bill comes into your life … protection for your children is needed … feeling unloved or valueless. Like any skill, starting small, practicing, and then stretching it can lead to powerful capabilities. Trust is the same way. Trusting in His power of forgiveness is one of the richest skills you can develop. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Jesus Christ.

Today, leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into your invincible future with Him. Start by trusting Him, His agenda, promises, character, and instruction in 3 small situations today. You probably already do, but acknowledge and identify it so you can apply it to bigger, tougher areas tomorrow. Your decision, choose well.

Prayer
Dear Mighty and Forgiving God, I can easily become paralyzed with shame, guilt, and fear over my past. I have hurt You … and I know I have hurt others. I am so thankful for Your promise of forgiveness – Thank You, Lord. I ask You, Father, to help me lay down the heavy stone of my past that I have been carrying. Let me remember and be accountable for my past brokenness and sin … but let it not keep me from moving toward You with freedom. I pray in the name of the one whom You sent to lift the burdens of my past, Jesus Christ –AMEN!

The Truth
But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Isaiah 52:12

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
Jeremiah 33:8

Four Things You Need To Know About Addiction

SOURCE:   Published September 13, 2011  | FoxNews.com

In 1971 President Richard Nixondeclared a war on drugs. The motivation? Not the ghettos with their drug dealers, nor the hippies invading Woodstock, the embrace of Rock ‘n Roll, free love and getting high. No, it was the rampant addiction among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam that had him concerned. He told Congress this addiction was “public enemy number one,” and so the war on drugs began. Years later, First Lady Nancy Reagan rebranded the campaign as “Just Say No.”

Forty years ago seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Back then the perception was that treatment was all about the strength to say “no,” and that those who could not shake their addiction simply did not have the willpower; they were weak.

Today we know that genetics, brain chemistry and upbringing all play a role in addiction, and it’s commonly accepted as a disease of the brain among professionals. So, does this mean that willpower no longer plays a role in the recovery from alcohol and drug abuse?

Here are four things you need to know about addiction:

1) Genetics Play a Role: This where it all begins. Researchers look for “addiction genes,” which means they’re looking for gene similarities between parent and offspring when addiction strikes. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics warn that children of addicted parents are the highest at-risk group to become an addict, themselves.

Children are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction if their parent is an addict. Interestingly, the chances for the son of an addict becoming an addict is four times greater than a daughter. Also, children of alcoholics are more likely to marry alcoholics than the general population thus leading to an even greater likelihood of alcoholic children — a vicious cycle indeed.

The Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center stated, “… our data suggests there may be a cognitive difference in people with addictions. Their brains may not fully process the long-term consequences of their choices. They may compute information less efficiently.” The study continues, “The genetic findings raise the hopeful possibility that treatments aimed at raising dopamine levels could be effective treatments for some individuals with addictive disorders.”

2) Biology Also Plays a Role: If genetics play a big role in addiction, it’s reasonable to assume that brain chemistry does, as well. The addict has a craving for alcohol or drugs that may trump the love of their children, spouse and work. It rules their world, and often the need is too intense to easily resist.

Dr. Peter Kalivas, a Charleston researcher, has actually pinpointed changes in the brains of cocaine-addicted rats. Cocaine increases dopamine (a pleasure/reward chemical in the brain) which causes changes in brain DNA. Thus doing cocaine actually changes brain function and this causes cravings.

Dr. Kalivas’ research is now testing how to reverse that change in order to make treatment more efficient and effective.

3) Motivation Is Key: Health Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal, will soon be publishing a study sponsored by the Society for the Study of Motivation, which reports brain scans can actually predict if a person has the propensity to be motivated to overcome their addiction.

There are two aspects of motivation: recognizing you have a problem and wanting to correct it.

Every journey begins with that first step. In every recovery program, the first step is always the same — admitting you have a problem. If you don’t think you problem, how can you possibly fix it?

Once you realize you have a problem then what? If you remain on the same path, you may lose your spouse, your family, job, friends, perhaps freedom itself — whatever it is you value most, is at risk. This is the motivation that many need to finally make the decision that it’s time to get sober. And if this study is as promising as it appears then we can be able to scientifically determine who has motivation and who doesn’t. The next step is to figure out why and then see what can be done to increase it.

4) Taking Personal Responsibility Is Still Very Important: Everyone should be responsible for their actions, and the addict is no different.

Take the diabetic, for example. This is a medical illness which may be treated with medication. The diabetics that manage their illness the best also take charge — they exercise, eat properly, test their blood sugar levels and get the proper amount of sleep. Those that are proactive with their health will have a longer, healthier life as opposed to those that say, “Poor me, I’m a diabetic and there’s nothing I can do except take my insulin.”

The same personal responsibility applies to the addict: Attending meetings, consulting with sponsors, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, attending 12 step programs and the desire to stay sober are all conscious decisions that must be made in order to remain clean. The addict must also choose friends wisely, and get rid of the enablers and the users. To get/stay sober is a 24/7 job and the addict must be responsible for his life and lifestyle.

We live in a world where many do not want to take responsibility for their life, health or happiness. It’s so much easier to say, “Woe is me, I’m an addict, it’s not my fault that I can’t stop. I have a disease!” However, instead of the victim saying, “poor little me,” the responsible person says, “Yes, I have a disease, but I’m in charge of me and will do my part to overcome it.”

So, in 2011, while we understand that addiction is genetic and biologic, yet we cannot fall prey completely to the, “There’s nothing I can do, it’s a disease,” way of thinking. As much as many would try to tell you otherwise , motivation and willpower are still important. Just ask anyone who has cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis or any other severe medical illness, the will to persevere and overcome is everything.

Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and Distinguished Fellow of The American Psychiatric Association. He  specializes in analyzing and understanding human behavior across a wide variety of fields and is a frequent guest on FoxNews.com’s “The Strategy Room.” For more, visit his website: Dr.DaleArcher.com.

How Do You Spell Relief?

Learning to let your pain lead you to God

SOURCE: Kevin Miller/Discipleship Journal

Have you noticed that life is difficult? It certainly starts with difficulty—for both the mother and the baby. And the end is often difficult. Recently I stood vigil with a friend at his dying father’s bedside. A plastic tube snaked from an oxygen outlet on the wall to a mask over the father’s nose and mouth. The stenciled black letters on his hospital gown rose and fell with every gasp.

Between that beginning and that ending, each of our lives brings some degree of difficulty, some level of pain. Early on we discover ways to soothe ourselves: get a good grade, make somebody laugh, dress up and receive compliments. Soon enough, however, we graduate to more adult methods of relieving our agonies.

R–E–L–I–E–F

We’re all familiar with socially unacceptable avenues for numbing our pain such as alcohol, drugs, or pornography. Yet we may fail to recognize the less obvious “medications” people use to handle life’s disappointments.

Applause.  A Christian musician told me, “On stage you can get the feeling of excitement, the feeling of being larger than life. The lights are on you and people are appreciating and admiring you. You really start to like that experience. It tells you, ‘I am somebody.’ And you can’t get enough.”

Adrenaline.  We can pump up our adrenaline to cover our pain by watching frightening movies, driving aggressively, or booking our lives full of activities. Anger also can bring a rush of adrenaline, making us feel stronger and more in control. Anger can become a defense, an energizer, and even a friend.

Food.  Ah, the pleasure of eating hot corn on the cob with butter melting into it. But food was not given to drown our sorrows. Jan Christiansen confessed in one article, “I’d been hungry for pizza for days. . . . Yesterday was a bad day for me. One thing after another hit me until I found myself in a ‘blue funk.’ . . . It was late. I was depressed, and I ordered pizza. . . . I turned to that food to ‘make it all better.'”

Shopping.  Acquiring more stuff is a useful anesthetic. We can get a surge of pleasure from searching for and then owning something new. I recently stood over a display case filled with PDAs, staring dreamily at the Palm Tungsten with its sleek anodized aluminum case. I nearly started drooling. Later I wondered, What was that about?

Achievement.  Several years ago, as part of a spiritual–life assessment tool, I asked three people who knew me well—my wife, my prayer partner, and my teenaged son—to fill out a feedback form. All three ranked me low on the same statement: “Shows an inner contentment even when things go wrong.” I was surprised, since I see myself as even–keeled. But all three told me, “When work is going well, you’re doing well. When work is not going well, you’re moody and upset.”

Guilty as charged, I realized. I’ve said my identity is based on God’s love for me, but much of it is really keyed to my performance.

My pattern looked like this: Driven to excel and be recognized, I would take on too much. Then when the work began to build, so would the stress. I’d start to think, It would feel so good to be completely caught up. The fantasy of completion (and perfection and accomplishment and reward) would build until I’d dive into my work and stay up till 2 or 3 a.m.—or even dawn. Instead of feeling tired, I’d be flying higher than a kite.

I told myself that I was just a high achiever, someone who pursued excellence and wanted to provide for his family. While there was some truth in that, something in me was taking a good thing such as work and twisting it with indulgence.

Whether it’s through shopping, eating, working, or something else entirely, we want to feel better. Yet the underlying pain remains, because life is difficult. We have no reason to expect otherwise. The Bible doesn’t portray people who were free of suffering, least of all Jesus. Even when He was a toddler, people tried to murder Him. He was abandoned, unfairly judged, and cruelly executed. We’re told Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Is. 53:3).

No, we can’t erase life’s pain. There’s no shortcut to avoid it and no end run around it, so we try to ease it.

God’s–Eye View

We may think it’s OK to medicate our pain as long as our “medicine” is socially acceptable. But God doesn’t look at it that way. God sees us turning to this thing when we’re down. God sees us looking forward to it. God sees our hearts going after it. God sees us asking this thing to tell us, “It’s OK, it will be all right, you matter,” though these are words only He can speak to us. God is not fooled; He sees that our “medication” has become an idol. Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, explains that “an idol is anything you turn to for help when God told you to turn to Him for help.”

In Jeremiah, God cries out:

My people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

—Jer. 2:13, NLT

To grow closer to God, we need to recognize when we have slipped across the line from enjoying something to using it as an idol. We need to stop soothing our pain through ways that were never meant for that purpose.

Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this process.

My wife, Karen, a counselor, once worked with a client who couldn’t control his anger. His outbursts were affecting his wife, his children, and his coworkers. Karen wanted to find out if he could even conceive of living differently, so she asked, “What would your life look like if you got rid of your anger?” He sat silent for a long time. Then he said, “If I get rid of my anger, what will I have left?”

You won’t want to give up your “helper.” But when you say no to the false help, you can say yes to something even better. Henri Nouwen said in an interview,

I cannot continuously say “No” to this or “No” to that, unless there is something 10 times more attractive to choose. Saying “No” to my lust, my greed, my needs, and the world’s powers takes an enormous amount of energy. The only hope is to find something so obviously real and attractive that I can devote all my energies to saying “Yes.” . . . One such thing I can say “Yes” to is when I come in touch with the fact that I am loved. Once I have found that in my total brokenness I am still loved, I become free from the compulsion of doing successful things.

We have to find something incredibly good to replace our chosen pain reliever. Obviously, “something 10 times more attractive” is God. But many Christians would say, “I’ve been having quiet times and doing all the right Christian things, yet I’m not finding my relationship with God powerful enough to deal with my pain. What do I do?”

Coming Clean

The decision to turn away from false help isn’t one of simply adding more “right things.” Rather, you must take the path that leads you into the pain.

Admit your pain.  Few people acknowledge the amount of pain they carry or how heavily they’re medicating it. I know people in their late 40s who still are unaware of (or unwilling to face) the scars they carry.

One friend says, “My family had this idea that we were the perfect family—and we were a good family. But the myth that we were perfect kept us from being honest. . . . It took me years before I could look around and say, ‘My sisters and I are all carrying pain.'”

Health begins with honesty. Are you willing to acknowledge your pain, listen to it, and let it lead you to God?

Confess how you’ve been medicating yourself.  Almost as difficult as acknowledging pain is admitting how you’ve been trying to manage it. Are you willing to confess the ways you have asked a created thing to tell you you’re OK? Harboring an idol is not just a lovable weakness, a little mistake, or a bad idea: It’s serious. Joshua urged the people of God:

Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped . . . and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

—Josh. 24:14–15

God is all that your idols can never be: your Creator who will rescue you.

Break the escape cycle.  Medicating pain usually follows a predictable cycle.

  • Stress.  Your day goes badly; your week goes sour; the argument gets out of hand. Pressure builds.
  • Fantasy.  You start thinking about this thing that makes you feel better. You imagine how good doing it or having it would feel. The fantasy grows.
  • Indulgence.  You give in: You eat too much, visit the porn site, rage at the kids, buy the PDA.
  • Release.  You feel better.
  • Guilt.  The relief doesn’t last. Almost immediately, you feel regret and guilt. You pledge to try harder, but then stress mounts, and you repeat the cycle.

You have to halt the cycle early to break the pattern. When you feel stress building, you must exercise your will to turn to God rather than continue toward the thing that brings relief. This will require some preparation. Ask yourself, “When am I most likely to feel stress? What would remind me to notice that stress rather than unthinkingly move into the fantasy stage? What would it look like to break the cycle by bringing that pain to God?”

Open your life to others.  Your idols have rewarded you (while damaging your soul). To continue turning from them will be difficult. You need relationships to help you see the hand of God at work in your life.

Meeting with a friend over a weekly sack lunch helped me greatly when I was trying to break the cycle of using work to feel good. As we talked about our lives and prayed for each other, I gradually realized, Tim cares about me even when I’m messed up. And then I began to understand, God must love me like that too. Just as Henri Nouwen predicted, tasting the sweetness of God’s love began to “free me from the compulsion of doing successful things.”

Listen to God.  Scripture is as essential to our spirits as food is to our bodies. We need to hear what God is saying as we read the Bible or worship. Sometimes God also speaks through a caring Christian friend.

Listening to God sounds simple, but we may resist opening our spirits to Him. Why? Once we’re quiet, we feel—sometimes for the first time—the extent of our pain. The rage, the sorrow, the loneliness flood our souls. One writer describes this as “bearing our pain in God’s presence.” It takes courage. Persevere, though, for the word God speaks is the only thing powerful enough to soothe our pain, give us hope, and free us from idols—as I found out several years ago.

The Other Side of Pain

I was jet–skiing on a lake in Wisconsin when I suddenly noticed I was about to hit a high wake from another boat. I felt a slam on the side of my head and seconds later realized I was underwater. When I came to the surface, I felt dazed and nauseated. Soon an intense, heavy headache began.

I went home and read from the Mayo Clinic Family Health book:

About a third of all persons with concussion have a combination of symptoms . . . for some time after a head injury. In addition to headache and dizziness, these symptoms may include insomnia, irritability, restlessness, inability to concentrate, depression, or personality changes such as moodiness.

This became a prophecy for my life.

For several nights I couldn’t sleep for fear of drowning, so I lay in a fetal position on the sofa, unable to control my thoughts: What if I have permanent damage from this accident? What if I can’t concentrate or handle my job? What will Karen do when I’m unemployed? Will she still love me?

I was like a caged animal, scared and wide–eyed.

On the fourth morning, I went to the emergency room, where I sat in a little stall under the fluorescent lights, feeling alone. And then I had a very clear sense that Jesus was standing next to me, His hand on my shoulder. I began to weep in relief and gratitude just to know He was with me.

The doctor put me on an anti-anxiety medication that made me calmer . . . for a little while. I’d be sitting in a meeting at work and suddenly feel as if three Dobermans were charging me. Breathing fast, I’d repeat to myself, Don’t run from the room. Don’t run from the room.

I went to a psychiatrist. In the waiting room I eyed the other unfortunates pretending to read magazines. “You may be here because you need a psychiatrist,” I wanted to yell, “but I don’t! I can pull my life together anytime I want. It’s just that I . . . uh . . . I . . . ”

The psychiatrist put me on a different medication that immediately calmed me. Yet the thought of each day’s work would still slay me. Before, work had energized me. Now the sight of a calendar clogged with appointments made me feel as if I had to empty Lake Michigan with a spoon.

I could see in people’s eyes that they were worried about me. One day a coworker asked how I was doing since the accident. I admitted, “Well, I’m having some problems with dizziness and anxiety attacks.” His lips tightened. Was it concern or disapproval?

Finally Karen said, “Look, you have sabbatical time built up. Why don’t you take two weeks off?”

I balked because I knew everyone would ask about it, and I couldn’t say something such as “I’m going on vacation,” or “I have some writing to do.” How could I say, “I need to get my head back on straight”?

I had always trusted my mind and my ability to work; now I was weak and unable to handle one day. I had always wanted to look good in front of my bosses; now I felt humiliated. My idols of excellence and recognition were being dismantled. All I could do was hope in God and cling to Him.

One day my then–11–year–old son, Andrew, handed me a piece of paper with a Bible reference on it. “Here, Dad. I was reading and thought this was for you.” I looked it up and read,

Therefore, thus says the Lord, “If you return, then I will restore you—Before Me you will stand. . . . For I am with you to save you and deliver you.”

—Jer. 15:19–20, NASB

Each night I read those verses, repeating the words, “I will restore you.” I hung on to that passage like a drowning man hanging on to a life preserver.

God kept His word. When no one could truly help me or understand what I was going through, God loved me and decided, for His purposes and His glory, to restore me. Over the next few months I gradually regained my strength, composure, hope, and balance.

How well I know that hearing from God is the soul’s only hope. With what difficulty I came to realize that my idol of achievement had to be crushed so I might worship God alone.

In life, you and I are going to feel deep, deep hurt. Our instinctive reaction will be to numb that pain. But life and wholeness come when we decide not to dull our senses, but to listen to our pain and let it lead us to God. In His presence, we can say yes to something 10 times greater: His love.

Why do I keep doing the same sin over & over again?

Editor’s Note:  As called out in the following article, Christ-centered and clinically sound support systems (such as offered by ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Living Free) are vitally needed to overcome any life-controlling problems.

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at The Counseling Solution/Rick Thomas

The alcoholic spends his entire paycheck at the bar, in one night.

The crack addict steals money from her daughter’s savings to get her fix on.

The fearful person is in a situation she can’t control. Now she’s afraid.

The porn addict is tired and exhausted, feeling defeated. He gets his fix by surfing the net…again.

The gossiper needs her “approval fix,” so she passes along some juicy info about a friend.

The mocker fulfills his desire to control others by making fun of people through put downs and sarcasm.

The insatiable shopper has two closets full of clothes. She softens the blows to her conscience by calling herself a “comfort shopper.”

And what do these people have in common?

They all are habituated in a sin habit that has been going on for many years and they believe it will never go away. In this sense, the gossiper, the fearful, the druggy, the alcoholic, the mocker, the shopper and the porn guy are all the same.

It is important to understand when you think about addictions that you also include the more refined addictive sins like frustration, fear, self-righteousness, criticalness, insecurity, or mocking.[1]

Addictive behavior is not just reserved to the more sensational or socially understood sins like alcohol, homosexuality, and drugs. We’re all addicts in our own way. I’m an addict; you’re an addict.

I’ve never met a person who was not an addict in some way. Sinful addictive behavior is a result of our fallenness. Therefore, the obvious questions are:

  • How did these people get this way?
  • How did you get this way?
  • How did I get this way?
  • Did we choose one day that we would yield our lives to the cruelty and slavery of sin?
  • Are we responsible for our condition? …our actions?
  • And the most important question of all, “Can I stop my addictive sinning?”

I’m in a trap. I can’t get out.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

To begin unpacking these questions we must begin where Paul began. As a son or daughter of Adam, our default heart condition is an unquenchable and undeniable loyalty to ourselves. At our core we are self-centered.

With a pre-conditioned heart that is motivated toward self-centeredness it is not hard to understand how and why we have been caught in various sin patterns.

When I say “we have been caught” I’m not saying we have been caught as though we were busted like a policeman pulling someone over for speeding. Though that can be called “getting caught,” that is not what Paul means by the word “caught.” Paul is saying we get caught as though we are in a bear trap and we cannot get out of it.

I do not control it. It controls me.

For example, there was a day when each of us made a choice to sin, whatever that sin may have been. Inthat day, we were in control of our sinful choice. We had power over our sin and could pick and choose when, where, and how we wanted to participate in sinful thoughts, desires, cravings, behaviors, or activities.

However, in process of time, we began to lose the control we once exercised over our sinful choices. We began to develop habits. Habits are, in part, how God wired us. Habits were never meant to be evil.[2]

The bad news, post Genesis 3, is that we do not just develop good habits. Because of the invasive power of the doctrine of sin, we have the ability to create bad habits too. Habit is the word for repetitive behavior. The word habit does not distinguish between good or bad. The word is neutral. It is our heart motives, which eventually becomes specific behaviors that determine if the habit is good or evil.

When evil habits begin to exert its power over our hearts, then we’re not far from what our culture calls an addiction. Paul called it being caught, as in being caught in a trap.

My strength is weaker than my sin

Let’s pretend you are caught in a bear trap somewhere deep in the woods. Let’s further pretend that your strength is zapped and you have no ability to open the jaws of the trap to release your bleeding ankle.

Your hope is diminishing by the second.

It is the nature of the bear trap to exert a greater power over your ability to overcome it. No Bear Trap Maker would ever make a trap that was easy to escape from.

It is the nature of sin to exert a greater power over your ability to extricate yourself. If you could extricate yourself from your sin, then you would not need a Divine Rescuer. There would be no need for a Gospel. The only way you can get out of the traps you get yourself into is through God-ordained means.

Back to the woods

You decide to pray (yell) to God for help. How do you expect God to answer your prayer? Do you expect Jesus to show up and loosen the trap? Do you expect the jaws of the trap to miraculously pop open? It’s not likely that either one of those events will happen.

Does that mean God did not hear you and, therefore, is not going to help you?

The answer to that question really depends on your understanding of prayer as well as God’s ordained means of helping His children. What does Paul say?

…you who are spiritual should restore him… – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Rescue happens in community

Did you know that every time you prayed to God for help to get out of your habitual sinning that He heard you? Did you further know that He provided a solution to your problem?

One of the biggest reasons people get caught in sin and stay in sin is because they do not want anyone to know about the sinfulness of their lives. The man trapped in the woods needs the help of his friends. The man trapped in sin needs the help of other Christians.

That is the way it has to be.

A fool thinks he can habituate himself in sin all by himself and that he can get out of his sin all by himself. Not likely.

In Galatians 6 Paul is calling the body of Christ to attention. The “spiritual” in this verse simply means those who have the Spirit, the Christians. This is essential counseling my friends. You and I need the community of faith to help us out of our addictive behaviors.

And this is where the rub is. We don’t want to tell anyone about our messes.

Keys to breaking addictions

If you apply these simple biblical truths to your life, then you can get help for the repetitive sins in your life:

Humility – The road to change always begins with humility.

Transparency – You must intentionally and completely expose yourself.

Honesty – Only the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who you really are will help you.

Repentance – While all of the previous keys are part of repentance, I have created a ten-minute video that carefully unpacks a fuller understanding of the Doctrine of Repentance. Watch it now.

Contexts – Place yourself in the community of faith. A small group setting is ideal for habituated sinners like you and me.

Friends, do not over-think the situation. Do not look for the next best book for your problem. The church, historically, has never needed the “next best book.” If you carefully apply God’s Word to your life, while authentically living in the context of likeminded believers, then sin can be defeated, no matter how habituated you have been.

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