Search Results For "addiction"

Several years ago, I remember how I first reacted after learning the controversial news that there was a possible link between the overexposure to aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.

As it turns out, further studies have not been able to confirm this link.

At the time, however, the news grabbed my attention. My doc had told me that I was already at risk for this disease (because I suffered a severe concussion as a young child). So once I understood the potential risks, it was relatively easy to cut out aluminum.

I didn’t care how well it kept my body odor from stinking up the joint, there would be no more deodorant containing aluminum for me.

Oh, that it would be that easy when it comes to stopping an addiction! But anyone who has ever battled an addiction knows that it’s never that easy.

One of the maddening things I’ve noticed about addictions is that we can’t seem to resist them, even when we know that they threaten to ruin us (and others). And it’s one reason why we absolutely need Divine help.

Over the years, I’ve noticed something else. Most of us start seeking God’s help for an addiction by asking Him to take away the urges. But what if that’s not the best place to start?

When the urges come, what if it’s best to start with the simple, yet profound, recognition that we can’t resist them without Him (John 15:5)?

Humbly surrendering to God and admitting our own powerlessness as a starting point keeps us from going down the well-worn path of trying to resist our addictions in our own strength. Ironically, the more we struggle to break free on our own, the more entangled we become. But as we stop trying so hard and accept that, in and of ourselves, we lack the power to resist—well, that is when we start to tap into God’s power to resist.

Perhaps this is what Paul was getting at in his own life when he wrote: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19).

When we come to this point of appropriate helplessness, that’s when we see how much we really need Jesus’ help (Romans 7:25). Or, as Paul would put it in another place, it is when we acknowledge our weaknesses that Jesus is strongest in our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

There is much more involved in walking away from an addiction, but we won’t get very far until we first surrender.

Penance and Addiction

Jeff Olson —  July 5, 2011 — 5 Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the penance phase in the addictive cycle.

Penance is that tricky phase most cycle through after the high and relief of acting out wears off. Whether it’s getting wasted with alcohol or drugs, throwing a temper tantrum or binging on porn, it’s that place we go to when we feel dissatisfied, guilty and foolish for turning again to something that doesn’t last and often makes things worse.

Penance is tricky because we are not what we seem when we go there. We appear to be making amends for our out of control behavior. We start to act kinder and more thoughtful. We start to do things for others that we’ve been resisting to do for years. It can look so genuine, but it doesn’t last because we’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Making amends is not about a healthy desire to change. It’s about finding a quick behavioral fix and ending the dissatisfaction and shame our addiction has caused.

In the penance phase we also appear to be really sorry and contrite. We beat ourselves up. And we claim to really want to change. We promise to try harder. We make plans to never act out again. We say that we really mean it this time. All of our self-loathing seems to prove our sincerity, but we’re not as sincere as we think. We are not seriously open to a work of God in our lives because we are still trying to handle the brokenness of our life on our own. Rather than humbly accepting the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and admitting that we are is helpless to stop without God, we want to stay in charge. And penance, which is little more than self-effort, is our way to staying in control.

Penance is the opposite of repentance. What makes true repentance possible is humility—the realization and acknowledgment that we are helpless to break free from our addiction and go in a new direction without God. If we try to repent without humility, it will be in our own strength. And it will eventually lead to nothing more sin-management and eventually acting out again.

The New Testament book of James says that humbling ourselves before God is the central to standing against evil desires and even the devil himself (James 4:1-10). Humbling ourselves before God is about surrendering a control over life that we often wrestle away from Him. It’s letting Him call the shots. When it comes to our addictions, it involves receiving His forgiveness and accepting the truth about who He’s says we are in Jesus—a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Because the addictive cycle is partly sustained by keeping the addiction a secret from others, it’s best to stop hiding our struggles and humbly allow others access into what is going on. We must start to get our pain and brokenness out in the open with at least a few non-condemning friends who openly admit they don’t have it all together either. Together, friends can speak into each others lives and encourage each other to grow and stand in the grace and truth of all that they are in Christ.

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!

AA groups have been around for a long time and have helped many men and women break free from many kinds of addictions. One of the reasons they have been so successful is because they have created a community where everyone is accepted as a co-struggler and is given the opportunity to struggle well in a safe and encouraging environment.

Addictions flourish in the dark where there is not light. Exposure is the only antidote to breaking the bondage that an addict feels. Talking to others is a must. A trusted friend is a good place to start, but more is often needed.

While it might be hard to believe, just about anything around us can become an addiction. Not only are there addictions to things that we know from the start are destructive, but things that are good can be transformed into destructive addictions that become all-consuming.

Addictions always begin as a pursuit of pleasure to avoid pain. However, addictions also betray us with the shame that quickly follows on the heels for the addiction that increases our original pain that we sought to relieve with the addiction. And so the cycle deepens and becomes even more irresistible.

With the introduction of the internet, sexual addictions have increased dramatically for both men and women. When sexual pleasure is viewed as the ultimate goal in any relationship and eclipses the desire to love well, you are sexually addicted. This distortion of sexual desire has resulted in countless shattered relationships.

The number of women with sexual addictions has been increasing. How does a woman go about breaking free from sexual addiction? Join us as Dan Allender shares from his experiences and wisdom on how freedom is possible.

Join us as Gene Getz shares how pastors can help people in their congregations with addictions. Learn how to approach the subject with people in a loving and gracious way.