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Posts tagged ‘life-controlling problems’

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.

Fear of Failure

SOURCE:  Shannon Kay Mccoy/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Maria describes her relationship with food as a love/hate affair.

Food is her BFF (Best Friend Forever), her secret pal, and her lover.

She loves to plan special times with her favorite foods—on her way to work, during every work break, at lunchtime, on the ride home, at dinnertime and during midnight cuddling. She loves every tasty morsel while she is eating it. However, with the food nestled in her stomach, she begins to hate it. She hates that her eating is out of control. She hates that she feels bloated and ten pounds heavier. She hates that she has failed another diet. She knows she has to change her disordered eating, but she fears failing again.

Fearing Failure

The fear of failure is being afraid of not accomplishing a desired goal. Fear of failure might cause people to sabotage their own efforts to avoid the possibility of a bigger failure or to avoid trying something new altogether.

Many people are afraid of failing at some point in their lives. But fear of failure crosses the line when it becomes debilitating. It can render them immobile—preventing them from ever moving forward. There are three characteristics that contribute to the fear of failure:

  • People-pleasing
  • Perfectionism
  • Pessimism

People-pleasing

People-pleasing is simply the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25a states, “The fear of man lays a snare.” The fear of appearing as a failure to others controls and confines a person’s thoughts and actions.

Maria desperately wants to please her relatives at the Christmas family reunion by showing them that she lost the extra weight gained since having two kids. She worries about what they will think or say so she decides to go on a crash diet. She fails to complete the diet, doesn’t lose weight, and decides not to go to the Christmas family reunion.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism at its core is pride. It refuses to accept any standard lower than perfection. People with this mentality set excessively high standards, strive for flawlessness, and are overly critical of themselves and others who fail to reach their standards. Fear of failing in perfectionism renders a person useless. This too is a snare, because God’s Word tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Maria makes an appointment with a nutritionist. At the first meeting, Maria sees that the nutritionist is a little pudgy around the waist. Immediately, Maria is turned off to whatever information is given and leaves the appointment determining never to return again. She fears failing to eat right, because the nutritionist did not live up to her expectations.

Pessimism

Pessimism is fearing that whatever is hoped for will not happen. There is no confidence in the future. Pessimists look at challenges with a “glass-half-empty” mentality. They refuse to believe the best and eliminate positive expectations. This is a serious problem that comes from within the heart. The Psalmist cries out to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42:5). His faith wrestles with his fear. There is a sense of despair for the future.

Maria is pessimistic about the weight loss program at work. She has no confidence that she will lose weight. She has tried so many different diet programs resulting in nothing but utter failure. She thinks to herself, “Why would this program be any different? I will fail at this too.”

Do you struggle with the fear of failure like Maria? Overcoming the fear of failure begins with acknowledgement. It takes courage to admit and face your fear of failure. Next, you must explore the causes of your fears. Are your fears rooted in people-pleasing, perfectionism, or pessimism? Finally, seek God’s solution to the problem of fearing failure by trusting in God, boasting in God, and hoping in God.

Trust in God

People-pleasing comes from a self-focused desire to be significant in the eyes of others. People-pleasers fear failing to please others, dealing with their disappointment, and losing their credibility. This is misplaced allegiance which in turn is sin. When people are controlled by pleasing people, they are not pleasing God. To overcome that snare, they must put their trust in God. Proverbs 29:25 proclaims, “… whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Trusting in God keeps people safe from the snare of people-pleasing. Trusting God—and following him—protects them from concerns over what others think or say about her.

Boast in God

Perfectionism is fear of showing weaknesses by failing to meet high standards of perfection. It is rooted in self-centeredness. It promotes self-praise and self-glorification, which is a sin. The Bible teaches, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… God’s power works best in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; 11:30). The power of Jesus Christ dwells in those who boast about their weaknesses instead of trying to cover them up.

Hope in God

Pessimism is a choice. The pessimist chooses to view life from a despairing perspective. But this denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God. The fear of failure implies that God doesn’t know what He is doing in your life or that He doesn’t have the power to fix it. Fearing failure demonstrates a lack of hope in God. Yet passages like Psalm 42:5 encourage us, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” The psalmist challenged his own pessimism and chose to put his hope in God.

Maria acknowledges that she is a people-pleaser, a perfectionist, and a pessimist. Through prayer and an earnest desire to seek the Lord instead of her own self-focused desires, her heart has begun to change. When the temptation arises to fear failure, she chooses to trust God instead of pleasing people; she chooses to boast in God instead of her own achievements, and she chooses to hope in God.

Our greatest hope is found in Jesus Christ. The gospel reminds us that our failures are not a surprise to God. He uses our failures to teach us flexibility, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, and persistence. Ultimately, our failures, when surrender to God, help to grow us into the image of Jesus Christ.

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.

Nothing Helps! Here I Am Again! What Now?

SOURCE:  Dan Strickland/Living Free

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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These thoughts were drawn from …


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

Sexual Addiction: The Way Out of the Web

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by June Hunt/AACC

The mind of every addict is programmed with faulty beliefs. (Our beliefs determine our thoughts, behaviors and our addictions, including what we think about our own value, our relationships and our sexuality.) If we have faulty thinking, we have faulty conclusions, which lead to faulty behavior. Thus, to win the battle over any addictive behavior, the mind must be trained to think strategically … accurately … victoriously. Jesus made this point succinctly by explaining, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

[One our resources includes] a section titled, “HOW TO TARGET A TRANSFORMED LIFE” and makes the following points:

– Don’t focus on the negative. Every time you focus on quitting an obsession, you want it all the more.

– If your target is what you shouldn’t do, you will be pulled more powerfully to do it. For example, “I need to quit thinking about sex … I won’t rent X-rated movies … I shouldn’t call the sex chat line.”1 Corinthians 15:56 says, “… the power of sin is the law.”

Instead of what strugglers shouldn’t do, I counsel them to focus on the positive. Just as the archer focuses on a target, strugglers should set their sights on:

1. A New Purpose – “I’ll do whatever it takes to be conformed to the character of Christ.” Repeat this six times. Romans 8:29 says, we are “… predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” So the next time temptation begins its seductive pull inside, let this be your focus: “I want to reflect the character of Christ through what I see and do.”

2. A New Priority – “I’ll do whatever it takes to line up my thinking with God’s thinking.” Realize the clarity of Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” To experience a transformed life, you must line up your thinking with God’s thinking. Ultimately, to have the blessing of God, do nothing that violates the Word of God.

3. A New Plan – “I’ll do whatever it takes to do the new plan in Christ’s strength, not my strength.”Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” God would never tell His children to stop lusting without giving them the power to stop.

From the beginning, God created the concept of sexual intimacy to be a blessing when expressed within the context of a committed covenant marriage. And because the Lord is all powerful, He can replace even the most harmful passions with new healthy ones. That’s His specialty.

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Adapted from: Sexual Addiction: The Way Out of the Web, by June Hunt. © HOPE FOR THE HEART.

The Choice: Denial, Delusion, or Truth

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland/Jimmy Ray Lee

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 NIV

When a life-controlling problem has trapped people, they become deluded by the lies they tell to cover up their problem.

Denial is the refusal to believe the truth about one’s own actions. People in denial know what they are doing is wrong, but they refuse to admit the truth. Instead, they choose to rationalize their behavior. Continued denial leads to delusion, a condition where people no longer recognize the truth about their actions. They believe their own excuses and become blind to the truth. They cannot see the destruction they are causing to themselves and those around them.

After a stronghold has developed, the delusion that blinds the person becomes difficult to penetrate. Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee puts it this way: “Delusion is not seeing, recognizing, or acting in truth.”

Is someone you care about living in delusion? It is important to lovingly and patiently continue to confront the person’s delusion and never give up—even when it seems the effort is not producing results.

Keep on loving him or her. Give them honest feedback about how their choices are hurting themselves and people who care about them. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth and give them grace to face the truth about themselves and recognize their need for change.

Father, I pray that my loved one will see himself as he really is. Help him recognize his need for change. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will also reveal the truth to me about anything I am denying in my life. Give me the grace to face the truth about myself. 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.

We All Need Help

SOURCE:  Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”

Romans 3:23-24 MSG

In dealing with life-controlling problems—actually in dealing with life itself—we all need help from a power greater than ourselves. People look in many places for that help: wealth, fame, success, New Age philosophies, and even their own willpower. But ultimately there is only one answer: Jesus Christ, Son of God.

Some people see God as a crutch for the weak or sick. Others may be dealing with anger toward God. Still others may have had unpleasant experiences with Christians and developed a distorted concept of God. The most important thing to remember is that there is hope for all in Christ.

If you have been trying to deal with a life-controlling problem in your own strength, you are probably experiencing frustration, anger, fear, shame and rejection. It is important that you recognize that you can’t do it on your own and turn to the only one who can truly help you: Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He paid the price for your failures by dying on the cross. He wants you to reach out to him and receive his forgiveness and his strength. He has a special purpose for your life and wants to help you achieve it. But first you must acknowledge your need for him and ask him to take charge of every area of your life.

Father, I’ve been trying to handle things on my own too long. Forgive me for all the wrong and help me get back on track. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program
by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

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