Conquering Substance Addiction
GIVING up an addiction is like moving from the house you were raised in. Even if the house is old and dilapidated, leaving it is difficult. It was your home.
If you are an addict, addiction has likely been your emotional home. Although it has undoubtedly been chaotic, it is familiar. “Intoxication is normal to me. Sobriety is abnormal,” says Charles, a recovering alcoholic. Moving away from addiction will be difficult, but it is worth the effort.
The first step is abstinence from addictive substances.* Do not delay or simply promise to taper off. Dispose of all supplies and related paraphernalia at once. A brief period of withdrawal will follow, which at times may best be accomplished under medical supervision. This is the beginning of lifelong abstinence. But do not think that it is impossible. Start by setting a goal that is within reach: abstinence for a month, a week, or even a day. At the end of each period, without returning to use, renew your resolve.
This is just the beginning in changing addictive behavior. The Bible exhorts us to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) Addiction is more than a defilement of the flesh. The spirit, or mental inclination, is also affected. What can help you to recover, both in flesh and in spirit?
Continued Effort Necessary
“Addiction is a disorder of the entire self,” says Dr. Robert L. DuPont. Hence, conquering addiction must address the whole person. It must change your entire value system. This takes time. There is no shortcut to recovery. Any promise of hasty recovery will only foster a hasty relapse.
The fight to do what is right is ongoing. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “I behold in my members another law warring against [“in continual conflict with,” Phillips] the law of my mind.” (Romans 7:23) He also wrote that Christians should be “perfecting holiness.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) The book Word Pictures in the New Testament notes that the word “perfecting” here denotes, “not a sudden attainment of complete holiness, but a continuous process.” The conquering of addiction is therefore gradual.
Seeking the Cause
For many, addiction is an attempt to bury painful events in the past. “Bulimia [an eating disorder] distracted me from the memories,” says Janis. “It became my survival technique.” For Janis, ignoring the past simply perpetuated her addiction. Understanding the reasons for her behavior helped Janis to change her addictive behavior.
Some change former habits and are able to cope successfully without examining the past. Others find that the feelings rooted in their previous environment continue to fuel addictive craving. They may feel similar to the psalmist David, who wrote: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way, and lead me in the way of time indefinite.”—Psalm 139:23, 24.
Dealing With Feelings
Have you ever stepped out of a dark building and into direct sunlight? You wince at the sudden assault of brightness. Similarly, when beginning to cope with addictions, you may find that you are suddenly and painfully bombarded with a full range of feelings. Love, anger, pride, jealousy, fear, resentment, and other emotions that have long been masked now blaze with full intensity.
Anxiety may tell you to retreat to the familiar darkness of substance abuse. But you need not run from your feelings. They can be a helpful source of information for you. Feelings are often merely a signal that something needs attention. So if necessary, think your feelings through. What are they telling you? If the message is unclear or if feelings seem overwhelming, confide in some mature friend. (Job 7:11) You do not have to face your feelings alone.—Compare Proverbs 12:25.
Remember that feelings are not necessarily your enemies. Jehovah God himself has intense feelings, and man—created in God’s image—experiences the same. (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 78:21, 40, 41; 1 John 4:8) Like the sudden glare of sunlight, feelings may at first be painful. But in time they will also become, like sunlight, a source of guidance and warmth.
Walking a tightrope is petrifying to a person who is afraid of heights. To the addict beginning recovery, life can seem like a terrifying tightrope walk. The elevated responsibilities of sobriety may bring on a fear of heights, as it were. Anticipation of failure may cause you to reason: ‘I’m going to fall anyway. Why not get it over with?’
But remember, problems are not personal assaults. They are merely situations that need to be dealt with. So do not panic. Confront your problems one at a time. This will help you to put them in perspective.—1 Corinthians 10:13.
Marion, a recovering alcoholic, had to address her feeling of low self-worth. “Underneath,” she says, “I always felt that if I really shared myself, [people] wouldn’t like me.”
Breaking the grip of addiction demands that you learn—perhaps for the first time—your worth as a person. This is difficult if your life has been torn apart by addiction. What can help?
The Bible is a book that provides consolation to the downhearted. It can help you to build healthy self-respect. (Psalm 94:19) For example, the psalmist David wrote that humans are crowned with “glory and splendor.” He also said: “In a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.” (Psalm 8:5; 139:14) What beautiful expressions of healthy self-value!
Treasure your body, and you will take care of it in the spirit of the scripture: “No man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Ephesians 5:29) Yes, you can face the challenge of recovery from addiction.*
However, addiction can include more. Activities can be pursued with the same devotion and for the same purpose that drugs, alcohol, and food are pursued. Some of these activities will now be considered.
Of course, those with eating disorders cannot abstain from food. However, they can stop using food as a mood changer. Patterns of overeating, starving, purging, and thinking obsessively about food can be replaced with a reasonable diet.
To maintain abstinence and progress in recovery, some have sought out a rehabilitation program. There are many treatment centers, hospitals, and other resources that offer such programs. Awake! does not endorse any particular treatment. Those desirous of living by Bible principles would want to be careful not to become involved in activities that compromise Scriptural principles.
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“Recovery is more a matter of changing [one’s] entire value system.”—Dr. Robert L. DuPont.
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The first step is abstinence from addictive substances
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When feelings overwhelm you, talk them out