By Alesa Campbell
So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
Have you ever had a particular behavior in your life where you said, I can quit anytime I want to, but regardless of how many times you tried to suppress the behavior, it continued? Perhaps you may have even felt a little out of control as your cravings increased. If so, maybe you struggle with an addiction. This is a word that has a variety of meanings in our American culture but Webster defines addict as to devote or surrender to something habitually or obsessively. Addictions are the fourth spoke on our physical wheel* and are a complex problem because they involve all parts of our being: body (physical), soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit (the part that relates to God).
The human heart definitely has a reckless nature to it and some of those reckless tendencies can become harmful to you or others. Prototypic addictions such as alcohol or drug use come to our mind at first, but when we really start to think about it, many of us have struggles with things that are not harmful in moderation but become toxic in excess.
Consider the following list of addictions:
alcohol, exercise, sex, eating, anger, gambling, caffeine, pain killers, nose drops, shop lifting, weightlifting, cocaine, lying, sleep, work, chocolate, nicotine, sports, pornography, pain, sugar, success/winning,TV, risk, co-dependency, shopping, computer/technology (texting, emailing, surfing the web, video games, etc.)
Have you found yourself waking up in the morning and something listed above is one of the first things you desire? It may be a secret indulgence for you and you’d be horrified if anyone knew you struggled with it, yet you persist with the addiction even though you are fully aware of the negative consequences or harm it may bring you or those you love. Other red flags include behaviors we hide, lie about, or feel guilty for.
Why would we crave things which are wrong for us or unwise? Simple answer — because we are human and the thing that drives addictions can be found in every human heart — sin. We all have a sinful human nature. And let’s face it, there are some sins which are very difficult to rid ourselves from. As much as we try to shake free from them on our own, we fail. It’s a bondage. In other words, addictions enslave us. Just like all sin in our lives, we become deceived and truth is not clear to us (especially when a chemical or substance has clouded our mind). Additionally, chemicals and hormones our bodies produce, like serotonin and dopamine, make habits very difficult to break once begun. Satan wants us to stay deceived and wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and isn’t an addiction a perfect way to do just that?
Another understanding of the sin of addiction is recognizing it as rebellion (doing wrong when we know it’s wrong and against God’s will), idolatry (worshiping our selfish desires rather than God and doing whatever it takes to have what we’re addicted to), and lack of self-control (a core issue for all addicts). We are often blind to our sins, and when dealing with addictions there is much blindness — blindness to the point of total denial. Selfishness is supreme.
But here’s the good news — Christ indeed wants to set us free! He has a terrific plan for our lives and He will give us the strength to achieve it when we turn to Him and the truth of His Word. He is our Good Shepherd and He really doesn’t want His sheep led astray, falling off cliffs or being caught up in hurtful briar patches. He loves us and wants to guide our path. He wants us to admit we have a problem and desire a change. Even though this seems extremely simple, this is the first step (HUGE!!!) on the road to recovery. This is the choice we must make in our mind and our will that we want to be free.
I asked a substance abuse counselor to explain to me how a person can know when they are addicted to something. She said it’s when:
- a person feels they have no control of the unwanted behavior
- when something is abused or misused to the point where there’s a destruction of relationships and/or property
- when it interferes with being successful during everyday activities (job, household chores, driving, financial viability, etc.).
For instance, either a DUI or a car wreck would be a clear sign of misuse or abuse of alcohol. Another example would be poor health or a physical condition caused from smoking or overeating. Broken relationships or job losses can also be indicators of an addiction problem or substance abuse. Shopping or gambling outings which cause the family to be in a financial crisis may be examples of true addictions.
This counselor recommends intervention or treatment when there’s an addiction problem, stating that addictions should be taken very seriously because it’s very rare when a person can break an addiction on their own. She also states that one key to change is being accountable to someone whom they can trust and with whom they can be truthful. Someone who is wise and who will faithfully pray for the person who struggles. In our culture, it is difficult to admit when we are wrong, yet this is a very necessary part of finding freedom from addictions. Frequent contact is crucial, even if it’s just a daily phone call.
There are many types of programs or treatments for individuals struggling with addictions (Celebrate Recovery, AA, Teen Challenge, and various private treatment facilities). Many churches have begun to reach out to help those who need intervention and healing. One thing a program will do is help the individual identify triggers for their addiction (loneliness, frustration, disappointment, anger, boredom, guilt, happiness, a sight, a smell, a sound, etc.). Programs will often teach a person to replace when there’s an urge. This means rather than turning to an addictive behavior, chose instead to read the Bible, pray, go for a jog or do a productive activity. Replace the negative behavior with a positive one. There are several other tools taught during treatment intervention but many individuals will say their relationship with Jesus Christ was a vital part of their recovery. They take it a day at a time and implement spiritual truths learned through scripture, seeking help from their Good Shepherd for lasting and effective freedom.
He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases… Psalm 103:3
Alesa’s husband, Mark Campbell, is the executive director for Ministries of Jesus in Edmond, Oklahoma. Transformation Recovery is part of this ministry and hundreds of individuals with addictions have found help and freedom while participating in this biblically based program.
Alesa’s resource for writing this article was taken from the book Addictions by Edward T. Welch.
*I would like to thank and give credit to the Ministries of Jesus (MOJ) Clinic, a ministry of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, OK, for the Wheels of Health idea and illustration, which is based on the book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Person by Walt Larimore, M.D. (www.DrWalt.com ).
Additional verses helpful on this topic:
Prov. 5:21-23, 1 Cor. 6:12, 1 Cor. 10:13-14, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Gal. 6:7-8
To read other articles in this series look in the Health/Fitness category under “Everything Else”.
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