Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Breaking Out of Addictions

A couple of weeks ago I posted about "those habits that we can't break." Some of them are pretty serious and blatently sinful like pornography or drugs. Others of them are not as obviously hazardous to your spiritual health like food, caffeine, or video games. (If you want to brush up on this conversation, just scroll down a bit)

That post basically described the problem without proposing a solution. Here I want to give some direction on how you break these addictions. These are just basic principles that I found to be very effective in my own life.

First, it's important to note that addictions related to drugs are slightly different than most of the others. There are programs like NA and AA that have been proven very effective in helping people break drug addictions. Gambling, pornography, and even many other addictions have been such a problem that support groups, help lines, and resource materials have been made for them. Of course, there are also rehabilitation facilities for extreme cases. Most of these programs and resources are both good and effective and I would encourage you to take advantage of them if needed. You always want to look out as a Christian though, some programs are slightly anti-Christian.

Here is a check list of things you can do to help get out from underneath whatever addiction plagues you. Some of them are similar to parts of the 12-step program found in NA or AA.

1) Realize and profess that you cannot free yourself from the addiction. You need God's forgiveness, grace, and empowerment to ever be free. God has saved you and is working to make you holy, you can live free from sin as long as you live in His grace.

2) Evaluate your devotional practices. Have you been in God's Word and praying regularly? If not, you have not given the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in you. Sometimes memorizing relevant Scripture verses or passages is helpful too.

3) When and where are you tempted the most strongly? Try to avoid these times and places. If you always seem to give in when you're alone in the mornings, try to change your schedule around so you won't be "available" for temptation at this time.

4) Usually "the big challenge" isn't where the war is fought (and it's rarely ever won at this point). If you're addicted to pornography and you find yourself at a fence-riding website and you feel tempted to go all out, you're probably going to give in. The war is won in the little battles -- what TV shows are you watching? what music are you listening to? is there a particular place where you find yourself looking lustfully at women? is you sexual life pleasing to God? If you begin winning these smaller battles, you will find that you rarely ever get to the big battle. You can put this principle into practice with any addiction, just find out what the small battles are.

5) Remember that God wants you to be free of your addiction even more than you do. As long as you don't turn your back on His Presence in your life, He will provide you with everything you need to conquer temptation.

I hope these principles are helpful to you!

Do you have any other suggestions that you have found helpful in conquering addictions? Do you have any questions about addictions that you would like others to address?

5 comments:

  1. What do you do when going to church is the biggest stumbling block in your lust?

    We're still preaching that it's good to "dress up" for Jesus, which most women interpret in ways that are likely to make men lust. When are we going to get the picture and start dressing "frumpy" for Jesus?

    This has become a major stumbling block in my faith, and I am not alone.

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  2. I understand what you mean and have been faced with the situation at times as well. I'm sorry that the church is where you have the hardest times. I have 2 suggestions (and perhaps others have more).

    1) Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker in "Every Young Man's Battle" suggest the tactic of "bouncing the eyes." This is something you can train yourself to do. Basically, as soon as your eyes notice an inappropriately dressed woman you bounce them away. Now, the important thing to remember is that this doesn't mean train your eyes to find these things in order to bounce off. But basically, steer your eyes away from where the temptation comes. If you notice a woman leaning over with a loose shirt or tight pants, look away before you even have the option to look at her. Recognize the dangerous situations before they occur and steer your eyes away.

    2) It might be something you could talk to your pastor about. If it seriously is a problem that several women are dressing inappropriately at church, this is something that pastor should be aware of and address. There are obviously ways to "dress up" without revealing intimate parts. I think any pastor would be want to know if there is something that is causing his/her congregants to stumble, and the pastor would/should do something about it if possible.

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  3. What do you do if church leaders aren't acting as they should?
    For example, if a pastor judges a member of their church and preach more about money than faith.

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  4. Well, that seems to go a little outside the present conversation about addictions. And I would need a whole lot of specific information before I would ever give much advice. Here are 2 things I would do first.

    1) Re-evaluate what's going on and make sure that you're not just having a problem with preference. Is the pastor acting wrongly according to the Bible or just according to how you think he/she should act? For example, Scripture says that we are judge people's actions -- you will know a tree by its fruit. And the pastor is responsible for for the spiritual well-being of the people. Is the pastor judging in a biblical manner which just makes you feel uncomfortable or is he/she judging in ways that really aren't good? (no need to actually answer that question on the blog, just a question to ask yourself)

    2) You should talk to your pastor. Scripture is quite clear that if we have a problem with something someone is doing, we should talk to them about it. Don't send annonymous letters, don't go over the pastor's head to ecclesiastical leadership, don't gossip about it, just talk to the pastor.

    Okay...let's go back to the conversation at hand now...addictions.

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  5. As member of a 12 step program, I was encouraged to see you write about NA and AA. I have been clean for 3 years now through the grace of my Higher power and the 12 steps. Not many people who aren't a part of these programs, see their value or even know they are around.

    My problem lies in your statement that some of these programs are slightly anti-christian. They are in no way anti-christian. The program of Narcotics anonymous, encourages it's member to find a God of their own understanding. Be it a christian god, or from some other religion. NA does not endorse any religion. It is a spiritual not religious program.
    When I go to a meeting I sit in a room with Christians, atheists, pagans,Jews, Buddhist, etc.
    No one is judged or told what they believe God to be is wrong. So no 12 step programs are not anti-christian. Yes there are members who may have that view point, but they are not Na as a whole and we do not endorse what they believe.

    I personally don't see addiction as a sin. The first uses of drugs perhaps can be seen as a sin. But Addiction is a disease, calling it a sin is like saying Cancer is a sin. It is a disease that people fight on a daily basis and drugs are just a symptom. My addiction began long before I picked up the first drug.

    I went to a Nazarene church during the early stages of my drug addiction, and no one knew. The disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. Perhaps if more people truly understood the nature of addiction, they would understand that it is a disease. To call it a sin is to judge me. And if my understanding is correct, only God has that power.

    I encourage you to do more research and learn more about this disease, go to a meeting, talk to some Na or AA members, you will find that we are not anti-christian. We simply do not endorse a religion, we in fact do not endorse many things.

    With out a 12 step program I would still be in my active addiction probably dead or living close to dead. I would not have gotten clean, turned my life around or found God again.

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What do you think?