Overcoming Addictions Part II
"You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."1
Yesterday we explained how addictive behavior patterns are the presenting problem—and are more often than not the fruit of a deeper root. We also noted that addictions are usually used to medicate the pain of an unresolved inner conflict. Today we ask the question, "How do we overcome addictive behaviors that are the fruit of a deeper root?"
First, face reality. Addicts are very adept at avoiding reality, are steeped in denial, and have all sorts of devious ways of denying their addiction. Like the man who says, "Sure I drink a lot but I'm not an alcoholic," even though he has a dozen or so beers a day and often comes home either drunk or half-drunk. Or like the wife who is a closet drinker. She will do everything in her sneaky-power to avoid being caught and is in deep denial about her addiction.
Thus, the first step in overcoming any addiction is to face reality and admit, "I have a problem. I need help." Even God limits Himself from helping us until we admit we have a problem, acknowledge that our life is out of control, and that we need help.
Second, accept responsibility. The addict needs to get into an effective recovery program—such as a Twelve-Step or similar program—that will help him to stop acting out through his addiction, and to confront his inner reality and pain head on. This can be extremely difficult and very painful because for much of his life he has avoided facing his reality and feeling his pain. However until he stops medicating his pain and feels and faces it, chances are that he will never do anything about overcoming his problem.
Some time ago a friend who had tried without success for twenty years to stop smoking asked me for help. He admitted he had a problem but didn't really want to confront the cause behind it. I asked him a simple question: "Why do you need to smoke?" He mumbled a few incoherent sentences and walked away. Sadly, he died a few years later from cancer. The reality is that if we don't get the cause behind our symptoms, the symptoms will get us.
If you have an addiction, ask yourself, "Why do I need this ________ (name it) addiction?" We will fight tenaciously against even asking this question claiming vehemently that we don't need it. But we do in that we need it to keep us from facing reality.
Also, if you happen to be living with an addict, it is tremendously important that you stop rescuing him (or her) from the natural consequences of his/her self-destructive behavior. If you continue to rescue him/her, you become a part of the sickness and may need to get into a recovery/support program for yourself. Tough love with consequences is an absolute must dealing with an addict.
Third, and most important of all, is to pray the right prayer. As James points out in today's Scripture, many of our prayers aren't answered because we pray amiss; that is, we pray the wrong prayer with wrong motives.
We pray, we plead, we beg, we cry: "Oh God, deliver me from my addiction!" And never get delivered. Why? Because we're praying the wrong prayer. We're addressing the symptom rather than the cause. God isn't going to deliver me from my addictive behavior if I am unwilling to face the cause or causes behind it.
Furthermore, our mind can play tricks on us deceiving us into believing we have been cured when all we've done is exchange one symptom for another. I recall hearing one speaker claim that when he accepted Jesus as his Savior, he was immediately delivered from alcoholism. Trouble is, he hadn't confronted and resolved the root cause of his alcoholism and was now a rage-aholic! Denial is deadly. If we don't admit, confront, and deal with our unresolved issues in a creative and healthy way, they will come out in some destructive, unhealthy way.
So how do we pray the right prayer? We will answer this question in tomorrow's Daily Encounter.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me always to pray the right prayer focusing not so much on my symptoms but on the causes behind them so that I can receive Your help, and any other help that I need, to overcome my addiction/s and live victoriously. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. James 4:2-3 (NKJV).