Date:  Thu, 20 Jul 2000 15:06:46 -0500
From: "The Liberty Alliance" <webmaster @>
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DATE: July 20, 2000

BIBLICAL KEYS TO OVERCOMING ADDICTIONS:  Addiction to sin is as old as the human race.  As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin, they plunged all of humanity into an addictive pattern.  Today, addiction is so widespread that over 30% of all Americans are being treated for some form of addiction - drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco dependence, gambling compulsions, pornography obsession, sexual addictions, etc. The list is almost endless.  Every level of society is affected -married and single, young and old alike.

USA Today recently noted that unless we can quickly stem the tide of increased cigarette use in adolescents, all the recent reductions in lung and heart disease will be reversed in this decade.  In a compulsive culture, these trends can only increase.  Now is the time to confront these issues and call America to repentance.

* Today, 15 million children now use the Internet regularly and many are being hooked by Internet pornography;

* This year, adult entertainment on the Internet is expected to generate revenues of $51.5 million, the third largest  sector of sales, surpassed only by computer products and travel;  There are computer bulletin boards set up specifically for the seduction of children.  They lure kids in with games and establish relationships with them on-line.  Then they arrange to meet face-to-face;

* Child molesters are using the electronic superhighway to look for victims.  They are going to the places where the kids of the '90s play;  ?Illegal, hard-core pornography includes bestiality (sex with animals), incest, rape, sado-masochism, torture, mutilation, necrophilia (sex with the dead!) and "eroticized" urination and defecation.  Most of the victims of such degrading themes are women and children and are depicted on the Internet;

* The Playboy Web site averages 4 million hits per day;

* One-in-three American girls and one-in-seven boys will be sexually molested by age 18.

* An amazing 87% of convicted molesters of girls and 77% of the convicted molesters of boys admit to use of pornography in the commission of their crimes;

* A primary "consumer group" of pornography is adolescent boys, aged 12-17;

* There are now many more hard-core pornography outlets in America than there are McDonald's restaurants;

* A staggering 86% of convicted rapists admit regular pornography use - 57% admit actually imitating pornography scenes in the commission of their crimes;

* It is estimated that hard-core pornography is available in 80% of the 26,000 neighborhood video stores in America;

* The pornography industry grosses $10-$12 billion per year and is primarily controlled by organized crime;

WHAT CAUSES ADDICTION? Addicts seek to avoid painful emotions through addictive substances and addictive behaviors.  They seek to create an artificial high, calm their stress, or create illusions that symbolize love and nurture.  Addicts want instant relief from their pain.  They want pleasure without responsibility and consequences. This is the problem of our sinful nature.  Ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, people have been dealing with the consequences of sin - sickness, pain and death.

1. Addictions are diseases of unhealthy survival.  Addicts think that they are in control and that their addictions help them survive painful experiences.  Whatever the substance or behavior, it seems to addicts like a friend that brings temporary relief from loneliness, anger, and fear.  Counselors and Ministers need to realize that giving up these survival strategies may seem life threatening to addicts.  Attempts to get them to change may be met with great anger. This is like trying to take food away from a hungry animal.

Family, friends and counselors will hear denial, lies, excuses, and see many short-lived attempts to give up the addiction.  They will be blamed, criticized, and even sued by angry addicts who feel threatened.  Be prepared not to take this personally.  This anger and denial is not about you.  It is about the addict's shame and desperation.  Focus on these feelings as a way of helping addicts give up control and reach out for help.

Addicts need to learn that they can exchange short-term unhealthy survival strategies - the high of their addictions - for long-term healing strategies.  They must replace short-term gratification with long-term peace.  They need the fellowship of others who struggle with similar addictions.  They will also need to learn healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual discipline.  This is a life-long process.

2. Addictions are choices of the will.  At some point in life, the addict makes a conscious choice to sin by taking a chance on addictive substances or behaviors.  Chances are that nobody made you start smoking, drinking, or taking drugs.  You made that choice and you must decide to do something about it.  You may need help and most addicts do - that is why we established Elim Home for Alcohol and Drug-Addicted Men 42 years ago here in Lynchburg, Virginia - to provide a spiritual environment in which to minister to addicts and help them find God's power to change.

My experience in working with addicts has taught me that we must help them find sobriety quickly.  They must be taught how to change behaviors that lead to addiction.  Support and accountability groups are essential.  Eventually, however, we must also search for and treat underlying causes.  Often addicts will be depressed, anxious, and obsessive-compulsive.  Actually "dry drunks" - alcoholics who have found sobriety but who still suffer from deep inner conflicts. Many addicts may even be suicidal.  Various forms of in-patient hospitalization may be necessary.  But ultimately, the addict has to want to quit.  He or she must decide:  "I've had enough!  I want out!"

3. Addictions are spiritual substitutes.  In their addiction, addicts are looking for love, nurture, and relationship (even if only with a bottle, pill, food, work or sex).  Some counselors see addicts as searching for a relationship with God.  Yet many Christian counselors will be frustrated talking to them about God.  Addicts have sought religious solutions for years.  Since addicts seek to control, their religious quest is usually in the form of searching for black-and-white answers that will manipulate God to forgive them and totally remove their unmanageable desires.  Even though they may be believers, many really haven't surrendered to God at all. They have merely replaced their addictions with an addictive form of a religion of good works and self-effort.

As Christians, we are in the business of helping people change by introducing them to the grace of God and the power of the gospel. Dr. Tim Clinton, adjunct professor at Liberty University and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, recently shared with me some of the barriers to change that may every addict faces:

Lack of motivation:  "I want to change, but I'm too busy to get help."

Resistance:  "I can't" usually means "I won't."

Learned Helplessness:  "That's just the way it is in our family."

Labels and Excuses:  "We're all, in some way, addicts."

Self-sufficiency:  "I have the power within me to beat this.  I don't need God."

It's all in my genes: "I have a genetic predisposition to alcohol ... homosexuality ... pornography, etc."

Addicts typically must work to deal in new ways with their fear, pain, guilt, and shame of resorting to addictions.  Common erroneous beliefs contribute to the difficulty addicted people experience with change.  They may tell themselves:

* I can't control this habit.  This is the false belief that circumstances are responsible for one's behavior, so people can't help what they do;

* Life without my habit is too terrifying. Few addicts really believe they can get through their days unaided by drugs, alcohol, or other self-gratifying behavior;

* I shouldn't have to do anything hard or experience anything unpleasant to give up my addiction.  This is the erroneous belief that self-control and habit-change are too hard, and that it really is easier to avoid responsibilities and hard work;

* I can't help my passion for my addiction.  This is a victim mentality - the misbelief - that bad habits are solely a result of past mistreatment;

* If I want something I should have it.  This is the belief that one has a God-given right to be happy all the time, that no strong wish should go unfulfilled, and that one should not have to suffer loss or deprivation.  It is the false assumption that all desires are psychological "needs" which must be fulfilled;

* I'm so worthless I really don't matter, so I might as well go ahead and indulge in my addiction.  This is the belief that one is so lost in their addiction that things can't get any worse.

* My habit enables me to tolerate myself.  Guilt over the addictive behavior is handled by performing the addictive habits - an awful cycle based on misbelief and leading to further addiction;

* Maybe I can cut down.  Then I won't have to quit.  This is an effort to do anything to hang on to the addiction!

Ground Rule #1  Never believe what an addict says.  All addicts are liars.  They lie the most to themselves and to those they love the best.  The lies are effective because both the addict and those closest to him or her want to believe the lies.

Ground Rule #2 Sobriety and Abstinence are the Primary Objectives. Addiction is a mood-altering experience.  Only when he or she is "clean" does an addict have the ability to think clearly, to make appropriate choices, and to follow through on decisions.

Ground Rule #3  Getting Sobriety Requires Help.  Getting help is mandatory.  Going sober solo generates new compulsions.  While they might be less deadly or more socially acceptable, they are compulsive behaviors, nonetheless.

Ground Rule #4 Addicts Manage Their Addictions.  Addicts always discount the severity of their addictions and hold back from doing everything necessary to develop and maintain sobriety.

Ground Rule #5 Addiction and Sobriety Are Processes.  Relapse is possible and the addict needs a safe place to be and safe people to be with (Elim Home).

Ground Rule #6 Sobriety Requires Leverage.  Addicts are better at maintaining their addiction than we are at solving them.  They will beat us every time.  Therefore, law and grace are both a part of recovery.  One individual cannot develop sobriety for another.

Ground Rule #7 Addictions Are Forms of Self-Medication.  Addictions sedate emotional pain, quiet anxiety, and provide a false sense of well being.  Abstinence allows the underlying issues, with all their pent-up emotions, to surface and be processed in counseling.

Ground Rule #8 The Addiction Affects All One's Contacts.  Spouses, families, and co-workers become tied into the maintenance of addictions and must be involved in the treatment process as well. Their lack of involvement places the sobriety process at risk of sabotage.

Ground Rule #9 Sobriety Is Not a "Fix."  Addicts can develop a history of treatment programs, counseling, or broken relationships. We cannot work harder at sobriety than the addict does.  They must come to grips with their own addiction and deny it.

Ground Rule #10 Only God Can Set You Free.  In Romans 7, Paul admitted that the power of sin is so great that sometimes we give into the very things we are determined to resist.

Speaking on behalf of all of us, in verse 24, he said:  "O, wretched man that I am!  Who should deliver me from the body of this death?" Then he added, in verse 25, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Christ alone is the answer to our addictions.  He took all our since upon Himself on the cross and died for each one of them. That is why Romans 8:1 says:  "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."  In Galatians 2:20, Paul said: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."        If you are suffering from addiction, stop denying your addiction.  Stop excusing.  Face it and deal with it.  Then confess it to God; repent of it.  I encourage you to turn away from it and turn your life over to Christ today.

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