Losing Hope Through Addiction
Hope and Full Recovery From Addiction
I was asked the other day “is full recovery from addiction possible?” and that is the question that consistently is asked, and needs to be consistently addressed, because those who struggle with addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.
truly need to hear an answer from those whom are in recovery from addiction or recovered. Anyone who follows me on , or reads my blogs, knows that I believe in full addiction recovery.
I know it is possible not only because I am living proof, but because I see people daily who are also living proof.
Addiction Recovery Means Facing Our Fears
I believe the question is asked because people are scared, struggling, and feel lost and dismayed that their fighting is getting them nowhere.
Perhaps a person is struggling more, facing a relapse, or deep within their tenth full relapse.
I cannot repeat enough, nor loud enough, that I absolutely believe addictionrecovery is possible, and believe that hope in that is a key cornerstone to those fighting for recovery.«Strong hope is a much greater stimulant of life than any single realized joy could be.» – Friedrich Nietzsche
Life in general can be hard, we face struggles, and the point isn’t to avoid them, it is to find a way to help cope with them in a healthy way, in both mind and spirit. When in recovery from addiction, hope is a key perspective to embrace.
Recovery From Addiction Means Embracing a New Perspective
When I was in early recovery I struggled, tripped, fell over and over and thought recovery just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t willing to give up my old behaviors and was able to rationalize that they weren’t that bad, anything to avoid the fight for recovery.
It took a long time to see that the perspective I was choosing wasn’t one of hope.
Once I started to look around me with clearer (and sober) eyes, I started to see people surrounding me at all different levels of recovery, and saw myself piece by piece within their stories, their feelings, and hope built more and more.
I realized that having strong hope in recovery from addiction, was just as important as embracing a “one day at a time” perspective, seeking therapy, seeking a support system, having courage to change, and determination to never give up no matter how many times I fell. There are many ways to help you embrace an attitude of hope:
Take time to write down all that you have done in your day!
I think acknowledging the progress we are making is so important. Often we get stuck thinking we are making no progress in the recovery journey. If you keep a list, and look back over a few months you will see progress happens, just one day at a time and builds over time.
Relapse does not mean you are a failure, or aren’t still moving forward in your recovery
I think a lot of people get tripped up over relapse, they lose hope, and worry they are back at square one, but this is not the case.
You are constantly learning in recovery, and with each relapse you learn new triggers, and can apply new tools to help you stand back up and fight for recovery. We never start in square one; we just may have stopped moving forward.
Keep pushing forward knowing that you have learned from the past, will continue to learn, and there is hope that with each new day you are moving farther in your recovery.
Hope isn’t static – it will grow over time
Every day, you may learn to embrace a little more hope. Do not be so hard on yourself for not feeling you have “enough” hope.
Your recovery path is different from others, and the hope we are building will take time. After years of addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.
you may have lost any hope you ever had, and it will take time to build a reservoir of hope you can tap into on the hard days.
Manage your expectations in recovery
I know that many people may be overachievers, perfectionists, and want to be recovered fast, and with little effort. You may feel frustrated when you see others doing so well, and you feel you are fighting harder and harder and not getting anywhere.
It is important to stop comparing to others, and lower your expectations in recovery. You will be progressing at your own speed, and having hope and accepting a mindset of being present in the moment will help you take one step at a time.
This isn’t a race, and finding a support system to help you along the way, can help slowly build hope in the recovery process.I believe embracing a mindset of hope is returning more and more to our authentic selves, working with and embracing who we really are.
Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.
Rachel Naomi Remen
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Sebelius, K. (2012, January 5). Hope and Full Recovery From Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2012/01/hope-and-full-recovery
- You've watched your son's or daughter's substance use go from «typical» to «troublesome» to «scary.»
- You've tried every parenting strategy in your toolbox, but frankly, nothing has worked.
- You've explored programs or treatment options, but you're overwhelmed and confused.
- You don't want to think it's that bad, but every time you think things are improving, there's another crisis.
If any of that sounds familiar, then you already know how hard it is for a family to get quality advice and support. That is precisely why we created Parenting Through Addiction ~ The Other PTA.
Parenting Through Addiction provides an affordable, accessible, convenient online way for parents to learn about substance use and how to address it at all stages on the journey.
Members engage with other parents who understand the full range of emotions; access resources to help know when, how and where to go for treatment; learn through online courses; and get daily inspiration and hopeful engagement.
With the opportunity to learn, connect and identify resources, parents feel more equipped, less alone and better prepared to parent through addiction towards recovery.
PTA is staffed by addiction specialists with 40+ years of experience helping both those who have developed addiction and the families who love them. Ginny and her husband are also proud parents of a daughter in recovery.
Having professional knowledge didn't prevent her addiction, but it sure helped them know how to parent on her journey and how to take care of themselves.
Ginny and the PTA consulting team work together with parents to help them do the same thing.
If you're most parents we've worked with, it's ly that you are:
- Looking for answers and wanting to know more about what you can do to help (and what not to do that might hurt).
- Feeling more and more isolated as you pull away from old friends and family, rarely going out on weekends or taking vacations, and increasingly reluctant to share what's going on in your family.
- Getting more and more afraid as you watch and wait for the «rock bottom» you hope will finally get your child's attention.
I'm kind of confused. So, is this counseling, or what?! Exactly what is this?
No, The Other PTA is an education and consultation membership site, not counseling. While our consultants are also professional counselors, our role here is different. The Other PTA provides an affordable, accessible, convenient way online for parents to learn about substance use and how to address it at all stages on the journey.
There are online courses with video lessons and other resources by topic; inspirational and hopeful engagement; resources to help with treatment selection; and an opportunity to engage with other parents on the journey. Even the private consultations offered are not therapy.
Consultants collect information about each family situation and offer solutions and resources to match identified needs.
I know my son is using, and there have been SOME problems, but how can I know if this is really addiction? If it's not, is this site really for me?
We know that not all substance use results in addiction, but when it does, we advocate for early treatment (rather than waiting for the proverbial «rock bottom»).
The FREE mini-course will help you draw some conclusions about whether use has ly progressed to addiction — or at least if it has progressed enough to warrant engaging the services of a professional to offer further assessment.
Even if use is not yet addictive, you may find that having more information and support from other parents helps until it's clear one way or another. You will find other parents in similar situations in the Monday night Discovery Group just for parents who do not believe there is an addiction but who are worried nonetheless.
I must admit that I'm pretty anxious about privacy and confidentiality. How can I know that people won't «air our dirty laundry» or otherwise break my confidentiality? What if someone knows me in the private group or tells someone else I'm on here?
So we ask parents to «make a pledge» to honor the privacy and confidentiality of all parent members, demonstrate mutual respect for all, and honor the boundaries defined by all parents.This is laid out in a document all parents receive and respond to prior to approval of their membership request. We know that this provision is adequate protection for many, but not all.
For those who feel great angst about privacy we recommend only engaging on the private forum (not the group) and participate in forum-discussions using a pseudonym.
Treatment centers are colleges, churches and Rotary Clubs. They may all study some of the same things, but they can vary a LOT depending on the culture, the values of the leadership, where they are located, and what kinds of facilities and services they offer. Sometimes treatment doesn't work because it's a bad fit for the patient, and sometimes it doesn't work because the patient is not yet willing enough to learn about addiction and to do the very hard work of recovery. If your son (or you) balked at aftercare recommendations, then that could explain why treatment didn't work. Our Parent Guide to Understand Rehab, Parent Guide to Choosing Treatment, and our ebook explaining the importance of aftercare could be very helpful. Other parents in the private forum discussion could be very helpful as well
Click here to view additional FAQ's
“Ginny brings warmth, strength, and hope to the most difficult circumstances. She doesn't give false hope or sugar coat a situation, instead, using her profound knowledge and ability to communicate clearly with love, she lays out a plan and walks with you toward better days.
The advice she gives is not always easy to hear. Her directions are not always easy to take, however, she patiently encourages until progress is consistent. Most amazingly, Ginny has a unique ability to give hope to the hopeless and bring them to a place where they can once again love themselves.
I can recommend Ginny without reservation.»
Ginny Mills and her staff provided our family with an incredible amount of compassion, support and professionalism. She provided us with clear guidance her extensive knowledge and experience.
Ginny was recommended to our family and it turned out to be one of the best calls that we have ever made. It is a journey, but with Ginny's guidance, we now have hope.
Access for the whole family
- Daily inspirational devotional delivered by email or podcast
- Weekly online Endurance meetings for parents. It's a great place to connect with other parents who «get it.»
- Access to our private group where you can connect with other parents.
- Video Courses that will help you Parent Through Addiction. Over 120 hours of content!
- Short video parent guides on specific topics requested by our members.
- Understanding Addiction Treatment and Aftercare Ebook.
- Want More Support! PTA offers a Consultation Level Memberships to support your family. This membership includes two private consultations with one of our licensed addiction professionals each month and more . Click Here to learn more!
$49 / month
If you are not completely satisfied with your experience at Parenting Through Addiction, just let us know and we will gladly refund your investment for the last 30 day period of your membership.
Not quite ready to join?
As our free gift for checking out Parenting Through Addiction, we'd to offer you a copy of Ginny's ebook Why Rehab is a Crash Course in Recovery. Just click on the book cover to access the book.
Relationship Addiction: 40 Signs + Steps to Healing
Relationship addiction – does it really exist? If you believe in the concept of process addictions, the answer is yes. And while it is true that the components of an addiction to substances vs. a process (behavioral) are vastly different, the primary characteristics of compulsive behaviors remain the same.
While the exact causes of relationship addiction are unknown, my own personal research suggests that the root causes are multi-factorial in nature, commonly including:
1) Feelings of low self-esteem;
2) Inconsistent nurturing during childhood;
3) Unhealthy emotional role models;
4) Misguided beliefs on what relationships should look , largely influenced by the popular media and;
5) Growing up in an alcoholic family.
This article will explore everything you ever wanted to know about relationship addiction. We will examine its key signs, characteristics and traits as part of our exploration. Along the way, we will also look at several relationship addict myths.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
One of the most popular questions I get from people who seek out my services for counseling, therapy and coaching in Chicago is: What is relationship addiction?
First, it is important to recognize that “relationship addiction” per se’ is not a listed form of addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This point however, does not mean an addiction to relationships does not exist. It simply means a scientific consensus has yet to be collaboratively reached for inclusion.
What’s interesting to note is that in DSM-5, Gambling Disorder was included as an official, diagnosable condition. Does this mean “Relationship Addiction” will someday be included? Time will tell.
Relationship Addiction Defined
Relationship addiction can be defined a chronic, compulsive, unhealthy pattern of attachment to another person in pursuit of romantic love in order to validate feelings of self-worth and medicate insecurity. It is gender neutral, meaning it impacts men and woman equally – straight, gay or bi.
Relationship addiction almost always follows a cyclical pattern as illustrated in the Obsessive Love Wheel below.
Some refer to “Relationship Addiction” as a form of “Love Addiction”. If you want to use these terms interchangeably, that is OK.
What’s important to remember is the cyclical, distinct behavioral pattern mentioned earlier. What follows is the Obsessive Love Wheel that I designed as part of love addiction to represent relational dependency in my book, Confusing Love with Obsession.
1. Attraction Phase
- Instantly becoming “hooked” on a person’s looks
- Often drawn to emotionally unavailable people
- Magically assigning traits to the person they do not possess
- Mistaking sex for intimacy and romantic love
2. Anxious Phase
- Overwhelming fear of abandonment
- Need to constantly be “in touch” with the other person
- Constant worry over “losing” the relationship
- Strong feelings of mistrust start to emerge; often including unfounded thoughts of infidelity and cheating
3. Obsessive Phase
- Can’t stop thinking about the love interest; thoughts occupy most of the day.
- Neurotic, compulsive behaviors, including rapid phone calls to the love interest’s home or work, “drive-bys” to see if person’s car is parked at a given location and cyber-monitoring.
- Control tactics that are used to “guilt” the other person into spending more time together.
- Withdrawal from social activities and relationships (friends, family, circle of support).
4. Destructive Phase
- Controlling behaviors begin to drive the love interest away.
- Onset of depression, anxiety and loneliness.
- Feelings of guilt and shame over toxic behaviors
- Promises to change behavior in order to “win” the person back.
- Potential abuse of alcohol and/or drugs to medicate emotional pain.
What follows are 40 key signs and traits of individuals who may live with some form of relationship addiction.
Before going much further, I want to state here that behaviors can be caused by a number of other factors, including psychiatric issues, medical problems and even medications.
That’s why it is always important to be examined by a physician to rule out medical causes for anything unusual.With that shared, I encourage you to read these signs for the purposes of self-reflection and not to “diagnose”. The traits listed do not appear in any particular order.
In any event, read them all so that you are better able to comprehend their collective message. If you are noticing a 10 or more of these behaviors in the context of your relationships, it may suggest a problem.
1. Attraction to emotionally distant people
2. Constantly feeling rejected by the world
3. Strong, ongoing feelings of insecurity
4. Childhood history of emotional neglect and/or abuse
5. Parents or caretakers who were alcoholics
6. Constant need to “fix” other people and their problems
7. Drawn to people who are in emotional chaos
8. Attracted to people are extremely needy
9. Rapid movement from attraction to attachment
10. Willing to keep relationship going at any cost
11. Massive gap in substantive, fulfilling personal relationships
12. Constantly self-policing behaviors; fearful of upsetting love interest.
13. Forgo personal needs/self-care in favor of love interest
14. Unable to recognize personal their own needs
15. Bottled up rage with frequent, angry outbursts
16. Refusal to ask for help due to overwhelming guilt and shame
17. Uncomfortable letting others do things for them
18. Extreme euphoria at the start of a new relationship
19. Constant need for affirmation from love interest
20. Sex is about pleasing other person – not being pleased
21. Need to constantly control dynamics in relationship
22. Frequent bouts of depression and anxiety
23. Other compulsive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, sex or all three)
24. Strong people pleasing personality
25. Engagement in learning helplessness; (“I can’t change”).
26. Master manipulators who must always be in control
27. Often play the “Victim Card”
28. Constant quest for happiness – which remains elusive
29. Feels “unlovable” and “unworthy”
30. May use sex as a tool of control
31. Hides self-perceived imperfections from the world
32. Becomes quickly jealous of love interest
33. Jeopardizes important relationships in pursuit of love interest (work, family friends)
34. Continues to engage in obsessive behaviors in spite of increasingly harmful consequences
35. Operates from a place of insecurity instead of equality in relationships
36 Holds unrealistic fantasies about love interest; assignment of traits they do not possess
37. May hold extreme feelings of self-hatred, particularly after relationship collapses
38. May attempt to medicate pain by jumping into a new relationship
39. Addicted to the “newness” of a relationship and cuts it off when things begin to turn “stale”.
40. Holds distortions about personal appearance – often describing themselves as “ugly”, “fat” or “unattractive”.Given interest in the topic, I thought I would make available a poll that allows you to select how many of the 40 relationship addiction traits apply to you or perhaps someone you know. The poll is not scientific and is not intended to diagnose a condition.
If any of the information appearing above seems familiar, you are not alone. One of the primary reasons people seek out counseling and therapy is directly related to issues involving romantic love.
What I encourage folks to remember is fairly straight forward – the way we love is learned. There’s real hope in that statement because it implies that we can relearn how to love, which must begin with ourselves (that means you).
What follows are five concrete steps for breaking free from relationship addiction. While these steps may seem simple that does not mean they are easy. If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize nothing is life is easy.
1. Observe your behaviors through the lens of self-honesty
2. Identify themes that regularly pop up (see 40 traits above)
3. Look for historical themes that span the course of your life
4. Educate yourself about relationship addiction and obsessive love. I’ve included my book, Confusing Love with Obsession below as a starting point.
5. Find a therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy and ideally includes aspects of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Psychology Today is a great place to start.
Because I believe humor can play an important role in any approach to wellness, I decided to list a few “myths” that I have run across over the years related to relationship addiction.
- All relationship addicts are “borderlines”
- Relationship addiction can be cured through hypnosis
- Relationship addicts always are alcoholics
- Relationship addicts are always drug addicts
- Relationship addicts are “bipolar”
- Relationship addicts can’t change
- Most relationship addicts are Scorpios
- Relationship addicts usually have green eyes
One of the most important things you can do right now is to have compassion for yourself. We are all products of our past, synthesized into this very moment in time.
But if we believe that life, which is a form of energy, is always changing … then we give ourselves permission to change as well.
You are a beautiful person – even the parts of yourself that you may not . Remember the past is the past – there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We only have this moment.Real healing from addiction, regardless of type, happens when we spiritually connect with ourselves and whatever we identity as our higher power – including humanity.
Dr. John D. Moore is author of Confusing Love with Obsession. The information shared in this article is not indented to act as medical or psychiatric advice and has been shared for informational purposes only.
Addiction Guilt and Hope
March 23, 2015 By Pat Hartman
A new paper, Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model: A Smartphone App Pilot Study, will appear in the next print edition of the journal Childhood Obesity.
This publication signals another advance in spreading the idea of using the addiction approach as a treatment for child/adolescent obesity.
It’s mostly about the W8Loss2Go program, whose basic points Childhood Obesity News has covered in the past.
The paper’s authors were Robert A. Pretlow, MD, MSEE, FAAP; Carol M. Stock, JD, MSN; Stephen Allison, MBBS, FRANZCP; and Leigh Roeger, PhD.
Dr. Pretlow says his team hoped…
…through a process evaluation, to identify potential moderators of treatment effect as well as to better understand the most appealing and useful elements to children and adolescents of an addiction-based obesity intervention delivered through youth-popular smart phone technology.
Such a device can help very much with things figuring out the necessary math. The excessive food amounts withdrawal stage, which takes three months, requires lessening the amounts eaten at mealtime by small increments.
Obesity and Self-Blame
Pilot studies of the smartphone app begin and end with a self-reporting questionnaire, which includes the question, “Does calling overweight/obesity an addiction affect your guilt or self-blame about your weight?” Participants answer that the A-word makes the guilt worse, better, or makes no difference. About half of the participants said “worse.” In a similar vein, participants also rated whether the addiction model approach used in the program had caused their guilt about being overweight to increase.
The subject of addition guilt is very germane to the program’s goal, and may even be an area it is dangerous to leave underexplored.
Many years ago, Doreen Virtue suggested in her book Constant Craving that guilt about eating is the mind admitting to itself that the hunger is purely emotional, and not physiologically real. In the W8Loss2Go pilot studies, Dr.
Pretlow has learned that participants who felt addiction guilt had poorer results in attempting to lose weight. Conversely, those who were not made to feel guiltier by the addiction model did better.
Gender Differences in Weight Loss
Dr. Pretlow’s team also learned that girls are more ly than boys to report that they experience addiction guilt. 66.7 percent of the girls admitted to it, against only 11.1 percent of the boys. The third pilot study turned up “the same findings on this question but not as dramatic…,” with 43 percent of females and 25 percent of males.
A vital thing to remember about addiction guilt is that it’s far more ly to be a problem that comes up during recovery, rather than during active addiction. The reason is not far to seek—any bad feeling can be smothered with the substance of abuse. New Life Recovery Program has this to say:
You may wonder why there is guilt and shame after overcoming your addiction..Seek professional help to deal with the guilt and shame…Make right your wrongs by seeking forgiveness of those closest to you. Remaining clean and sober is the greatest tool you have to repair the damage caused in active addiction.
Once you can truly forgive you, succeeding in recovery is so much easier.
Rev. Al Rosenblum adds:When we lose control of our will to an outside force, it exposes our inner weakness causing guilt and shame.
The guilt and shame from our addiction causes an increased need for comfort driving us back to the addiction. When we enter into an addiction, we create a self-perpetuating cycle… that feeds itself.
We hate what we are doing but believe we need it to comfort us from the overwhelming pain of hopelessness.
A friend of the W8Loss2Go project makes this suggestion:
If there is a way to make females see “addiction” as a reduction of guilt, then resistance to addiction-based therapeutic techniques might decrease. Is there some education around the term “addiction” that would help females in particular understand that1) their overweight is not their fault and,
2) since it’s a addiction, it can be beaten — there is hope.
To which Dr. Pretlow replies,
“Hope” is a good idea, as many obese young people feel hopeless to do something about their overeating/obesity.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model: A Smartphone App Pilot Study”, Liegertpub.comSource: “How To Deal With Post Addiction Guilt And Shame,” newliferecoveryprogram.com, 10/13/11Source: “Addictions, The Guilt & Shame Cycle,” go2grow.org, 2009
Image by Kevin McShane
It’s routine, comfortable, pleasing to the senses, and something we look forward to perhaps on a daily basis. It is also, however, something we hate and desperately want to remove from our lives.
It’s addiction, and it’s been winning for far too long.
The word has different meanings and connotations our experiences. The more tame and playful thought is of a person who simply “can’t live” without peanut butter, coffee or a favorite TV show every day. This tame version of the word, however, can obscure the wretched and miserable nature of true addiction and how it completely changes the lives of those who’ve been snared by it.
Yes, snared. Those who have taken the first step to recovery—admitting they have a problem—often view themselves as in bondage to a cruel overlord. They want to stop. They want a normal life back, not one that’s dependent on a substance for happiness. They just … can’t … stop.
The most obvious examples are addictions to narcotics, opioids and painkillers. These often result in trips to rehab centers and intense, medically supervised detox to get some sense of control back. However, what we should “just say no” to has expanded tenfold in recent years. Drugs are not the only things that mess with our minds.
Addiction can be seen in all of the following actions:
- Treating mind-altering drugs as more important than other people.
- Erasing an Internet history that includes evidence of hours of pornography and sex chat rooms.
- Sneaking outside to smoke and then using air fresheners and mouthwash to cover it up.
- Sheepishly trying to explain to a loved one why several thousand dollars has been gambled away.
- Clumsily getting ready for work in the morning after staying up all night playing video games.
- One drink leading to 10, with each new resulting situation being thought of as “rock bottom.”
Addiction generally eases its victim into ultimately destructive behavior by starting off slowly and promising that it is optional—until it becomes so powerful that it takes charge. It literally uses our brain against us, and we let it.
Remembering shortcuts to pleasure: addiction’s chemical warfare
The scientific background of addiction is widely covered in books and websites. Here’s a brief layman’s summary:
Addiction tricks our brains into thinking we are naturally happy and then enslaves us to that illusion. We use something ( pornography or drugs or high-risk public behaviors) to overflow our brains with pleasure neurotransmitters dopamine.
Gaining pleasure this way works so fast and so well that our brain dutifully remembers how well it worked and the conditions. Therefore, when the same conditions pop up again, our brain quickly reminds us of this quick path to pleasure.
It definitely wants that again.
Everything can seem pretty great so far, except that the rush of dopamine and the manipulation of the neurotransmitter receptors actually force the brain to change in order to adapt. It either reduces the dopamine or the dopamine receptors.
So, once or twice a month watching porn isn’t enough now; neither is a slight buzz off two drinks or betting just $100 online.
It used to be enough, but after our brain adapts to such an unnatural rush of pleasure neurotransmitters, it starts to ask for more and more.
This process can go on to such an extreme that natural pleasure (sexual intercourse with a spouse, and even eating chocolate cake) can barely be felt at all. The only thing our bodies will want is the fake stuff given to us by the addictive habit.After the brain keeps readjusting and adapting, it gets to the point that just the thought of the substance creates an overpowering compulsion (often referred to by addicts as “the wave”). It makes us so excited, and it entices us to do whatever it takes to achieve the high that we remember so well.
Porn addicts look to the more hardcore and bizarre, their natural sexual preferences shifting. Gambling addicts bet their life savings, unable to get pleasure from betting small amounts. Smokers go through several packs a day. Drug addicts overdose. Video game addicts completely drive away their loved ones.
But it all started so small.
Barriers to confronting addiction
With all this information readily available, why are so many receiving counseling for addiction? Why are rehab centers packed? Why is the number of addicted individuals, and the number of substances we can become addicted to, growing?
Many societal, cultural and technological reasons contribute to this, of course, but the personal barriers to actually confronting addiction are so powerful that people often don’t seek or get the help they need.
- Denial: “It’s a bad habit, but I’m not addicted. I’ll quit someday.”
- Shame: “I’m a Christian. How am I addicted to this? I must not be godly.”
- Embarrassment: “I can’t tell my wife about this; it’s I have no self-control!”
- Fear: “People are so judgmental. Everything I have will go up in smoke if this comes out.”
- Depression: “I’m just not strong enough. There’s no hope to beating this.”
- Reinforcement: “It feels too good to stop.”
Even with the insidious nature of addiction and the many barriers to confronting it, many have said, “Enough is enough!” Coming to this point—accepting that we have a problem and wanting to change—is an enormous step in the right direction.
The next step should be to the Creator of the human brain.
Start with the spiritual
Addiction treatment centers and programs often focus on the need to involve a higher power. There is something so empowering and helpful in realizing that we need not be alone in the fight against something as strong as addiction.
Christ became the perfect example to all those tempted, since He suffered through temptation and came through it without sin.We can go to the God for whom nothing is too hard (Jeremiah 32:27; Luke 1:37). He is eager to help us when we turn to Him.
So, we start off with the spiritual. We repent of our offense against God. We have put a harmful substance or sinful behavior before Him and before the well-being of someone He loves (us).
We repent of our addiction’s offense against our loved ones: the broken trust, the deception, the infidelity, etc.
We pray for the God who created the brain to help heal what we’ve allowed our brain to become.
We ask for and learn about receiving the power of God, the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), for the strength to combat “the waves” of compulsion.We study the powerful, living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) to understand why God hates things addictions, which ruin people’s lives, and how to use His power to overcome them.
This is only the beginning. If we let Him, God will lead us further on the road to recovery.
Find a loving accountability partner
Too often people leave the battle against addiction up to just “me and God.” God, however, does not force us to do things. He allows us to mess up, backslide, relapse and make poor decisions. One of those poor decisions would be to not involve other human beings in our struggles.
Christians are to be so loving and helpful to one another that they can openly confess to each other their shortcomings and pray for one another (James 5:16). Due to the inherent risk of stigma in letting another human being know the thing we ourselves are most ashamed of, limiting the number of others who know of our addictions is natural.
But when we’re battling powerful, destructive addictions, we need someone who knows and is on our side. God often works with us through interactions with other human beings.
These people are often called accountability partners, or sponsors. This person is someone who is loving, compassionate, merciful and humble enough to be trusted with such a heavy secret. Choose someone who will not add to the problem.
An accountability partner can be a spouse, minister, very close friend, family member or professional counselor. (Note that some addictions are medically dangerous and require professional intervention. In such cases, it is important to seek professional help in addition to having an accountability partner.)
Before asking someone to help us in this very personal and private capacity, it is important to know their “fruits” (Matthew 7:16). No one is perfect, including Christians.
But people who are unable to keep a confidence, very critical of others, unable to empathize with others’ situations, and who never seem to bring up any of their own faults are definitely not suited to be accountability partners.People who listen more than they talk, attempt to understand and empathize with others’ experiences, and are not shy in talking about their faults are rare but do exist. They are the accountability partners who will actually help rather than hurt the situation, especially when discussing a relapse.
They provide a second conscience to encourage us to do the right thing, and they can be our help when we are too weak. They destroy the secrecy and isolation of addiction and help us get through failure. They are human beings God is working through to get us through the storm.
Set up supports
With the help of your accountability partner, you can now set up supports to combat the deception and alluring aspects associated with addiction. Here are some general ideas:
- Mobilize familiar scriptures to repeat aloud when “the wave” nears.
- Talk aloud to addiction, personifying it as something we can literally hate.
- Write down successes and relapses, including trigger situations and strategies that worked.
- Discuss healthy habits that can replace the addiction.
For specific addictions, the accountability partner needs to be directly involved with supports, such as:
Pornography: Have your accountability partner set up the necessary online filters that are password-protected and monitored by him or her. Designate times when relapse is more ly as check-in times on the phone or by text. Have daily check-ins.
Smoking or drinking: Map out routes with your accountability partner that help you avoid familiar places that sell the substance. Share social calendars and favorite hiding spots with your partner.
Gambling and online games: Give your accountability partner access to monitor your online activity through software or check-ins with your accounts or browser history.
Dealing with relapse
Relapse, especially within the first few months of attempting to kick an addiction, is as inevitable as it is frustrating. An addiction 10 years in the making rarely goes quietly into the night.
It goes kicking and screaming, making life as miserable as possible.
Just imagine the brain itself thinking: “What? We are not doing that thing that gives me instant pleasure anymore? We’ll see about that!”
This is when loving accountability partners are really helpful. They can help us through the failures and keep us going in the right direction.It is our responsibility to repent of any relapses and to work with God and our partners to do better in the future.
God remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14), but He also knows that the righteous don’t stay down. They get back up, every time (Proverbs 24:16).
Replacing the physical with the spiritual
We are a habit-driven species. When we are trying to kick addiction, something has to fill the giant hole of fake pleasure that will now be missing in our lives.
We need to rebuild the natural pleasures, which include loving connections with others and a deep relationship with our Creator.
Most importantly, those recovering from addiction should develop a new habit of assisting others as they have been assisted. Giving back brings something good something awful; it allows our sufferings as addicts to not be in vain.
Christ became the perfect example to all those tempted, since He suffered through temptation and came through it without sin (Hebrews 2:18), fully able to sympathize with our temptations (Hebrews 4:15).
Though Christ is uniquely able to sympathize with every sin, we are in a much smaller way able to sympathize with others in the depths of addiction despair. We can exemplify to them: “It can get better.
It doesn’t have to always be this.”
This is how to deal with addiction
Break free: Admit that you have a problem, break through the barriers to getting help, go to God, enlist a human teammate, set up lasting supports and continually replace the physical with the spiritual.
It can be done, so put addiction on notice: It isn’t welcome anymore. Read more about overcoming specific addictions in our online series “Freedom From Addiction.”
Sidebar: Accountability Partners’ Responses to Relapse
For any of us humbled and blessed enough to have the honor of serving another human being in such a powerful way as being an accountability partner, our response to a relapse is critical. It is a delicate balance between coming on too strong and demonstrating condemnation, or seeming too tolerant of sin and keeping the status quo.
The following examples may help us when that very awkward conversation comes along.
Harmful: “Not again! I don’t understand how you let this keep happening!” (Sounds self-righteous.)
Helpful: “I’m sorry, my friend. I can’t imagine how frustrating that is for you.” (Expressing empathy.)
Harmful: “What happened this time?” (Impatience.)
Helpful: “Was it one of the familiar triggers we talked about, or was it something new that you haven’t experienced yet?” (Genuine concern.)Harmful: “You’ve gotta stop doing this!” (They know this, and they already hate that they do it.)
Helpful: “Try not to get down; God knows you’re trying.” (Encouragement.)
Harmful: “Here’s what you are going to do. …” (Dictatorship.)
Helpful: “Do you think we need to change or update any filters or supports we put in place? Why or why not?” (Partnership.)
Harmful: “Try harder! I don’t want to hear about you messing up again.” (Unforgiving and unrealistic.)
Helpful: “I’m here for you whenever you need me. Don’t quit!” (Moving toward perfection.)