Trying too hard to stop an addiction

Jeff Olson —  July 21, 2010 — 24 Comments

Ok…I’m posting without a photo. It will be clear why in a second.

Here it goes…An Old Testament proverb says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness” (Proverbs 26:11).  Rather than post a photo of that image, let me say, “Woof, woof.” More times than I wish, I feast on my own foolish puke—figuratively speaking. And it always leaves me (and sometimes others) with a bad case of heartburn.

So what gives? Why do we struggle with addictions? They always end up making life worse. You would think we would learn our lesson.

Sadly, the fallen tendency to sin is still alive and lurking in all of us (Romans 7:23). And simply trying really hard to manage an addiction of any kind with more promises to stop and sheer willpower is generally a recipe for more foolishness on our part.  All of us can keep our addictions in check for some period of time, but it rarely addresses the root issues in our hearts that draw us back again and again. In fact, only trying to manage our foolish tendencies only makes resisting urges more difficult than what it already is.

We need to change our approach.

Often the best way to beat an addiction is to get close to Jesus. Instead of working at corralling our addiction, we need to pursue Him daily and give Him regular access to the unsettling issues of our heart.

I know that can sound so simple, but it’s hardly easy. The easiest (and most unhelpful) thing to do is to bury (often with our addictions) those things that haunt us and just get on with life—whatever that means. The hardest thing (and most helpful) approach to take is to regularly face our issues (especially our deepest wounds, failures, and the lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves, others, and God)  and invite Jesus into it.

It’s painful and humbling work . But it’s so freeing!

Jeff Olson

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eff is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Michigan and has worked for Our Daily Bread Ministries as a counselor and a writer since 1992. He has authored a number of Discovery Series booklets ( on such topics as addictions, grief, depression and marital abuse. He also maintains a part-time private counseling practice in the West Michigan area. Jeff and his wife, Diane, have been married since 1986 and have raised two lovely daughters. He is an avid outdoors man who also enjoys sports, music, boardgames, books, and movies.

24 responses to Trying too hard to stop an addiction

  1. I agree but need some basics for my grandson who is not saved. I am trying to help but really don’t know where to begin. I can give plan of salvation but how to get him started on the road to recovery?

  2. Donald Haynes July 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Having every addiction offered by the devil
    and being sanctified, healed and walking
    upright, I find myself falling back into the
    overwhelming desire for sex and Jesus spoke
    these words as, I cried out to Him in despire; “LOVE ME MORE”.The only real peace
    I find in this life is through loving Jesus more.Praise His name!
    Donald Haynes

  3. Where can I find help in through internet to recover from addiction?

  4. a 12 step program of A.A. is the best. no matter the addiction or not an addiction just someone who loves a person with addiction can be helped. just get a copy of the 12 steps and start with number 1. it works. and pray and love God. God Bless

  5. Hi, the reason why I’m writing is because I am a Recovering Heroin Addict and I think I’m in an abusive relationship. We have been together for 13 years and I’m always trying to make things better! He is controlling, wanting to know my every move, where every penny was spent and so much more. He says I’m just overreacting when I tell him about his ways. He always puts me down. I never hear him say anything good about me. I am lost and confused! I am also homeless and scared! If anyone has any advice, could you please tell me? I would really appreciate it. Thank You, Jessica.
    Also….. Does anyone know of any websites where I can find help?

  6. Youare in a terrible situation!Please go to achristian place and ask for don’t say if you are born again,if not believe in Jesus,ask Him to come into you’r heart and life. Give yourself to Him, ask Him to help you ,show you where to go for help and safety.He died to give you an abundant life. Cry cry cry out to JESUS.

  7. Jessica, from the little you shared it sounds like you are in an abusive relationship…Because I don’t know the specifics of your life I can’t give you specific advice, except to reiterate what othes have said…that you need to seek help from others who are familiar with how abusive relationships work. Addressing the abuse is a long and difficult process that you simply can’t go through alone without the support and involvement of others. At the very least, I would encourage you to contact a local woman’s shelter…they are often experienced and equipped to provide the support that you need.

    You may also find it helpful to read the our recent blog posts on marital abuse.

  8. A wonderful book to read that can tell you why Jeff is correct and how to allow Jesus into your life is “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp.

    The book does a great job of explaining what the Christian walk is all about, and it isn’t about Bible knowledge, church attendence, etc. It’s Jesus is your life.

  9. Jessica, 1st, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this; you sound alot like me. Although our drug of choice is different, your story is very much like mine. I sincerely hope that I don’t offend, but the reality is that YOU MUST LEAVE! Any abuse, physical or emotional is not your behavior and you can only change you. If you contemplate leaving the situation, ask God to make the move easy. I’m certain without a doubt that you love this man. I did too. And, the truth be told, I still do. But, leaving changed my life. Do I still struggle with addition? Yes, of course, I do, but, no one hits me anymore and no one will ever hit me again. I thank God for giving me the strength to leave. At the time, I felt very weak, but it was God that carried me. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  10. Jessica, there are many organizations that will help women like you …. I don’t know what city you are in and I don’t need to know but I will say this..any city,any municipality, or village has people there that can help. Google womenssheltersinalberta or familyviolenceinalberta or whatever area you are in.
    I know one thing, you are precious in the sight of GOD and you were not made to be abused in anyway shape or form.
    In this time of trial and suffering, please don’t turn back to that, that does not help..addiction!
    JESUS , name above ALL names..will be your help & guide…. email if you would like


  11. I know this is so true, I had to change my whole entire lifestyle. I moved to another area, changed friends, and sought out God’s help on a daily basis, meetings, couseling, & therapy. I have so far been sucessful. But, God is the biggest change that I have made in my lifestyle. His love has given me hope & inspiration that I never had before. I have no doubt that my future is looking good for the rest of my life now, THANKS TO GOD IN MY LIFE THAT HELPED ME & MY FAMILY SURVIVE. I am truly blessed mother now! amen

  12. If anyone reads this please pray for a person who has put the safety and sanity of others in jeopardy. This person is mixing drugs with medication and has been asked to leave. The behaviors of this person are not rational and has everyone horrified and made a threat to someone. Sorry but ignoring the What Would Jesus Do? Horrified! Thank you.

  13. I recently received “Our Daily Bread” in my mailbox and it was such a blessing. I used methamphetimine almost everyday for 23 years of my life. I have been clean and struggling with my disease for over 4 months now and it is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. Without seeking God on a daily and even moment by moment basis, I would not have the spiritual strength to do this.
    My wreckage is so great that I have been completely abandoned by my family. They don’t care that I am finally trying to change my life. Its too late for me or them to forgive the past.
    So, now what? Now, I wake up everyday and trudge through…move forward and ask God everyday to guide me. I ask Him to show me patience, understanding, and His will for me everyday. The Holidays are especially lonely and have much despair for the ones forgotten through addiction. I know truly how desperate and lonely, yet powerless those people out there that are still suffering are. I know all too well how much worse it is for those still active in their addiction. If you don’t suffer from the disease of alcoholism or addiction, then it would be very difficult to understand the despair of those of us who do. I pray and beg God to relieve all of those who suffer and use His guidance and promises to keep me going. If you are suffering like so many others, just get on your knees and pray…ask God to help you. Don’t give up. Even if you’re not sure you believe in Him, do it anyway. He will hear you and embrace you in His love.

  14. Carol,I commend you for what you are doing with your life,and where you are at today.I too have struggled with addiction pretty much all my life,and I know how hard it is to stop the insanity.Ive only been clean for only a month,but for some reason I lost the desire to abuse any substance of any kind.I owe it all to God.Ive done alot of work within me,changed the way I look at life.Learned to love myself,and have a good attitude about my future.Ive tried many ways to recover from addiction and have learned from my mistakes.I look at each day as a gift,and try to keep my mind clear of any neggative thoughts.I hope and pray for your continued sucess,and may God be with you allways.

  15. I’m suffering from heroin addiction, and cannot begin to tell you how miserable my meaningless life has become, and just last night I nearly died while trying meth for the 3rd time, and OH……NOOOOOOO….. I am still feeling the aftershock and know that without a doubt, that I am very, very much so in need of Jesus, and that without Him nothing is ever forever, and usually never even possible….I had an awakeining, but need to find some fellowship with others that have been where i’ve been and have overcome….I once had 21 months clean from everything and that was a year ago in October of 2009….I need to surrender to Jesus Christ 100%, and i know that, but i need that spiritual sponsor, or friend, or whichever you may be…..I nearly died just a matter of hours ago and i can say that i never want to go through that EVER again, and hope to change my life before it’s over…..

  16. Shari, I’m sorry to hear about your recent relapse, although I was glad to read it has made you more acutely aware of your need for Jesus and others. You’re so right that you can’t walk through this alone. You need someone in your everyday life to help you get free from your addiction. Please know that I have prayed that you will find the kind of friend you need.


  18. Sue,

    Your in a tough place…I personally know of several folks who find it most difficult to break free from the physical attachment to nicotine.

    You may be tempted to believe that God is not working in your life or that you are doing something wrong because you continue to feel the urge to smoke. Don’t go there. As with any compulsive struggle, old urges often remain because God wants you to look at something deeper going on in your life that you may have used smoking to cover over.

  19. I have been married for almost five years. I and my husband were believers before we met each other. When we got married I was thinking of having the Christian family every believer dreams with. Now, I feel like I am stuck in a situation that I do not know how to deal with. My husband is addicted to pornography and besides that he likes me to feel like I have no value, constantly treating me that he is leaving me, and telling me how disappointed he is of me. His addiction is in a point where every time he can he will see it online or in TV, but I am afraid it might get worse or even end up in cheating. I feel so bad every time I catch him because of the websites history (he does not know how to erase the history), and when I confront him, he makes me feel like I am the guilty one because I should not be checking on him, or because he feels he does not have enough from me, sexually speaking. I don’t know what to do, if anyone finds out at church he makes me feel guilty for telling instead of seeking help and says I am guilty for people looking at him weird at church, (but I only told one of my friends about his addiction and the pastor’s wife) as if I have told everyone. He has no education so he has to work in construction and the environment does not help, I have tried to encourage him to study but he does not want to go through the sacrifice of being a student. He often leaves town to work outside the city or even in other states and that makes things worse because his co-workers are not only addicted to pornography but also to drugs, alcohol, and sex. I don’t want him to leave town anymore but, what can I do? I know he is abusive, verbally speaking and he has used force once a while to move me from the door so he can leave. Jesus speaks to him in church, he speaks in tongues but then we get home and he comes back to the same. I have two daughters, one is 9 and the other 1.5, I had my 9 as a single mom and my second from my husband, I am afraid for them too. He seems to love them a lot, but with that addiction and his attitudes that I have no value and he does not care about my feelings, they are hurt too. My house is at battle, but I do not know what Jesus is expecting from me? Most people tell me to pray and wait in the Lord but I have been waiting for years and instead of getting better, he is getting worse, I have also hear many massages about divorce, I don’t know how to help him if he does not want to be helped, but I can not stay with him and pretend nothing is happenning.
    HELP me please, and let the Lord give you words for me.
    Thank you

  20. Sallie, I was sorry to read about your situation. Looking at pornography is a serious problem that should not be minimized or tolerated. It’s wrong on so many levels and completely unacceptable. It considers women as objects and not as people, which is a blatant violation of love. It’s adultery of the heart that Jesus referred to in Matthew 5:27-28. It cheapens your marital vows. And it causes a wife like yourself to struggle with questioning her beauty and desirabiliy.

    From what you shared it sounds like your husband revels in looking at pornography and making you feel like you have no value as a woman or as his wife. He also seems like he has no intention of stopping. This is cruel beyond words.

    I agree that a wife in your situation can’t stay with her husband and pretend nothing is going on. This is a problem that is already out of control and it is only going to get worse. His addiction, selfishness and unrepentant heart has to be confronted. He needs to experience some serious enough consequences that will hopefully bring him to his senses. Confronting your husband on your own has made little difference. You may want to consider asking a couple of male elders in your church to intervene and have a very frank and direct conversation with your husband about his habit with porn. I don’t know if this will do any good, but he needs to know that his spiritual leaders do not find this acceptable.

    Whether you should stay or leave your husband is a question only you can answer. I will say that a husband who refuses to give up his affair with pornography is blatantly betraying his covenant with his wife and committing adultery. Generally speaking, it is only a matter of time before he seeks to act out on the lust he’s been cultivating in his heart and mind through pornography, if he hasn’t already. In such cases, a wife may have no other choice but to pursue a divorce.

    BTW…from what you shared, it sounds like your husband is flipping the script. He’s playing the victim and attacking you, trying to make you feel guilty and responsible for the very situation he’s created by looking at porn. That level of self-delusion and entitlement is just as serious of a problem as looking at porn.

    Please know that we have lifted you and your husband up in prayer. We pray for his repentance and healing, wisdom, and protection for you.

  21. Thank you. I have no words, yesterday I discovered more of that on the computer history and I sent him a text message about repentance which he answer me saying that I will never change and I am the guilty because he does not have what he wants from me. His last text message today, he told me he is leaving the house this afternoon. I am at work right now and it is hard to concentrate here with this in my head. I am trying so hard to remember how good God is and how he has good plans for me. He has treaten me so many times and actually leave once for a couple of days. This time I will not stand in the door asking him to stay, but I will let the Lord decide what is best for us as a family. My heart is broken but love can not be forced and you are right, he might have to suffer severe consequences before he can accept and repent for his sin.
    Thank you for your words and prayers.
    God bless you

  22. I have asked God for strength to change the bad behavior in my life. Drinking, partying, ect. This is my second week of no drinking and I am sick. I have pink eye, a cold sore on my lip, and my throat hurts very bad, even when I talk. Dispite it all I will still press on because I love Jesus!
    Jesus is my savior, and even though my situation will not be perfect in which in the past I always failed looking for the imediate change I am trying to learn to accept what God allows to grow stronger in the Lord. This works for me.

  23. my life partner has just been released from jail after 6 yrs. i told him ,while still in jail, that I would not put up with his drinking when he got home. after 1 month he had his 1st. beer,then 10 days later he came home drunk,but saying he wasn’t drunk he just had a sore foot causing him to stumble. now he needs to have a drink after work because he hates his job,but i found 6 beer cans in the trash. i’m giving him a choice when he gets home today ,beer or our life together. Please PRAY for him. the 1st instance of being drunk has been followed by 3 other instances.

  24. Gail,
    Our hearts and prayers are with you as you make the courageously loving choice to hold your partner accountable for his foolish and destructive choices. We pray that he will seek help before he does something incredibly foolish. And, we pray that you reach out and get help from others–family, friends, pastor and/or counselor–to assist and support you in this intervention to address your husband’s addictive patterns so that you relationship will have a chance at being restored. If not, then you will need to consider taking the more drastic but equally loving direction of separating from him until he’s willing to take responsibility and get help.

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