In a nutshell an addiction is "anything that masters a person's life". A person that has a life-controlling problem lives in a state of preoccupation with his or her desires and is enslaved to a substance, behavior, or even another individual (often referred to as codependency).
The Apostle Paul writes (I Corinthians 6:12), "'Everything is permissible for me'-but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me'-but I will not be mastered by anything." It seems that "everything is permissible" was a common belief at Corinth and had even influenced the church. Paul stated his determination not be "mastered by anything." Some in the church at Corinth had abused their Christian liberty through tolerance and liberal views that were simply sin. Tolerance and liberal views of today (do your own thing) have brought about an addictive society.
When a nation moves from its Judeo-Christian roots, as America has done, the values and principles by which choices are made, destroy the boundaries. Without boundaries, we become people of excesses, "If it feels good, do it." In a recent publication from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Todd Gitlin, Ph.D. (Professor of Sociology and Director of the Mass Communications Program, University of California, Berkeley) in his work On Drugs and Mass Media America's-Consumer Society. page 34, states,
"Proceeding from the right of individual gratification, nourishing it and nourished by it, there has emerged a culture of comfort and convenience. Its central presumption is that cultural goods and activities exist to give people easy pleasure, not to make demands on them. Americans defer to the established political-economic order while channeling their desires into the acquisition of things."
Jude says, "Stay always within the boundaries where God's love can reach and bless you"(Jude 21 TLB)
There are not many families who have not been affected by a family member's life-controlling problem. Although much attention is given to drug dependencies (alcohol is a drug), addictions are not limited to substances. There are certain behavioral addictions such as sex, gambling, compulsive spending, and so forth. All addictions are very difficult to break; however, it can be done. There are five principles that are important in breaking addictions.
Recognize your Powerlessness - Ray walked into my office one day and said, "I am here for better or worse." For the first time in his life, he saw his powerlessness to overcome an addiction by himself. He turned his life over to Jesus Christ and entered a Teen Challenge residential center.
When a person recognizes that he or she has a "mastering problem" and is aware of his or her powerlessness to break the addiction, the battle is half over. Admitting the need for God's help is the first step to breaking any addiction. The Apostle Paul recognized his own powerlessness (Romans 7:18-20). He recognized a war in his inner being (Romans 7:21-24). Paul also knew that the only way to deal with his powerlessness was through Jesus Christ (Romans 7:25-8:2).
Realize the Vacuum - Teen Challenge was good for Ray because there he received intensive discipleship to fill the vacuum he had experienced in coming off drugs. It is common for a person to fill an inner vacuum (some have described it as an emptiness), when he or she is recovering from a dependency. This vacuum is a spiritual void. If this spiritual vacuum is not filled with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is very likely that the individual will fill this void with another addiction or even go back to his/her drug of choice.
Through intensive discipleship, Jesus Christ became Ray's stronghold. Instead of looking to a chemical for his strength, he focused on Christ. Psalm 52:7 describes David's enemy as "the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!" There is no question that the spiritual needs of a person must be addressed to fully recover from a "mastering problem". The local church is clearly the important institution on the road to recovery.
Refocus on Accountability - Living in a state of delusion, accountability in the confines of caring staff members at Teen Challenge was absolutely necessary for Ray's recovery. He needed the care-fronting (a word coined by David Augsburger describing confrontation in a caring way) of the staff to help him resist the lies which are common for a person in delusion. Ray, through the help of his loving friends at Teen Challenge learned that he was important, that there was hope for him, and that God had a plan for his life versus the hopelessness and despair of life he had accepted as part of his belief system.
Breaking out of an addiction and delusion requires accountability. The individual needs to be plugged into a Christ-centered small group of people who cares about him or her enough to speak the truth in love. A support group helps the person resist the lies and excuses, which only strengthen impaired thinking. God works through the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:23-24) and His Word (Hebrews 4:12-13) to shatter the delusion in a person's life. He also uses other believers. "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13).
Renew Wholesome Living Skills - Although Ray was 26 years old, he had the living skills of a 12-year-old. Being on chemicals for 14 years had severely retarded his emotional growth and living skills.
A person who has been mastered by a stronghold will need assistance in rebuilding relationships and accepting responsibilities. Through "work experience" and "living skills" programs in Teen Challenge, Ray learned valuable lessons such as being on time at his place of responsibility, communication with the opposite sex, balancing a checkbook, and so forth.
Reckon with Relapse - One of the most important factors in Ray's recovery was facing the possibility of relapse (returning to his former lifestyle). After he graduated from Teen Challenge, I continued to help him face the reality of relapse. We discussed the powerful negative influence the former crowd could have upon him. The Apostle Paul warns against this in I Corinthians 15: 33. "Do not be mislead: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'"
I also encouraged Ray not to cover up his urge to relapse but instead talk with me about it so I could pray with him and offer encouragement. Overconfidence, particularly for those who are prone to extreme emotional and spiritual highs and lows, can feed relapse. This sometimes develops into a "talk the talk" versus "walk the walk" lifestyle. Avoiding concerned friends and missing church services or support group meetings also indicate relapse symptoms. It is good for a person to take inventory of past triggering devices that influenced him or her, while in the former lifestyles, lest Satan get a foothold. "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).
In conclusion, addiction is death on the installment plan. It's not like Ray woke up one morning and had contracted a disease. It occurred step-by-step and day-by-day based on poor choices for fulfillment in his life. I remember Ray's telling me that he never planned to be trapped by a life-controlling problem, yet it still happened The best way to overcome an addiction is to live everyday for Jesus and take the Apostle Paul's advice, "I will not be mastered by anything" (I Corinthians 6:12). The old adage remains true: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Copyright © 2000 by Turning Point Ministries