November 15, 2012

Breaking Addictive Habits

Addictions are frequently mislabeled, misunderstood, and inaccurately counseled.  Although I agree that programs that equip people to abstain from destructive behaviors are valuable, I do not believe that they are the answer to freedom.

Addictions are usually rooted in deeper issues than the behaviors that people seek help for.  We cannot deny the fact that addictive behaviors are multi-layered and contain emotional, physical, spiritual and natural components.  However, we must also examine the reality that addictive behaviors set up habits that require intentionality to break.

Most addictive behaviors have compulsive thoughts attached to them.  Thoughts, emotions and behaviors cannot be separated.  Destructive actions are always rooted in dysfunctional thoughts.  I suggest that people who are trapped in addictive behaviors address the thoughts that ignite their behaviors.

Compulsive thoughts create anxiety.  The Bible tells us that if we will pray and release our anxiety to God he will replace it with peace (Philippians 4:6).  God's peace is so complete that the Bible says it is beyond our ability to understand.  Prayer begins the process of overcoming addictions and the Holy Spirit extends the process to guard our hearts and minds (v. 7) and enables us to sustain our freedom.

In order to break a negative habit, research says that it must be replaced with a positive habit.  People that stop smoking often start chewing gum.  This is an example of exchanging a negative habit with a positive behavior.  The Bible tells us to exchange our negative, compulsive thoughts with godly thoughts, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things---put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you" (Ephesians 4:6:7).   We have the power to control our thoughts.  We can choose to think about positive things when we are being triggered to think about the thoughts that lead to addictive habits.

Breaking the power of addiction requires a multi-dimensional approach and the pursuit must be done in the context of community because it is important to have safe people to talk to (James 5:16) who understand that the devil wants to sabotage your freedom.  We need friends who are willing to stand against demonic spirits in prayer on our behalf (Ephesians 6:11) and remind us that Jesus has empowered us to defeat demonic strategies (1 Peter 5:8).

If you have decided that you are ready to overcome an addiction, I encourage you to begin by giving Jesus permission to be in control of your steps to freedom, seek prayer ministry to resolve the lies that are fueling your behavior, contact your physician or health care provider if your addiction includes chemical dependency or a life-threatening eating disorder, ask a few close friends to pray for you and support you in the hard work required to overcome your addiction.  I also want to encourage you to pursue a multi-dimensional approach because narrow focused programs do not produce permanent fruit.  It is a good idea to give yourself grace if you 'mess-up', and understand that new habits must be established to satisfy the triggers attached to your initial addictive behavior.

God is faithful to help you complete the process once you give him permission to activate it.  I think we can agree that Philippians 1:6 extends beyond the salvation experience and includes God's willingness to resolve the things in our hearts that are connected to unhealthy behaviors and that he won't stop until they are healed if we allow him, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it..." (Philippians 1:6).

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