Monday, January 13, 2014

The addiction cycle, and some words of hope.

In the second chapter of the book Fortify by Fight the New Drug, it covers the addiction cycle. For the benefit of myself and my readers, I'm going to go over this cycle, and offer some encouragement as best as I can.

It starts like this:

1.) Discomfort of some sort arises. This is normal and experienced by everyone, regardless of whether or not they are addicted.

The choices are as follows:

A  → Choose a healthy response to the discomfort. This can be anything that genuinely brings joy and helps you bear with the discomfort instead of merely providing a quick distraction. In some instances however, like dealing with a stressful homework assignment, it's better to bear with the stress and work through it instead of trying to find an escape from that stress.
B  → Allow yourself to enter into the addiction cycle by letting the desire to escape the discomfort fester.

Okay, so say we've entered into the cycle. Where are we now?

At this point in the cycle, your body and mind seem to fall into an auto-pilot mode. The steps go as follows from here:

2.) You entertain the idea of using, rationalizing excuses to do so. This can seem subtle at first--you have flashes of thoughts that get your gears turning, and you become enticed by them.

3.) You begin the ritual. You close the blinds, lock the door, turn down the volume, and the gears start turning more and more as your focus narrows.

4.) You "use." Don't really need to describe what happens here. You feel some relief for a few short moments.

5.) You experience harmful effects after use. The discomfort of life grows, piling the resulting emptiness from chemical overload onto the fact that stuff still isn't going right for you.

The addiction cycle as illustrated by Fight the New Drug.

The cycle at this point, once the emptiness kicks in, can jump right back to step 2, without you even really having much time to recover from the first time around.

Or, you can choose to step out of the cycle. You can recognize these different steps of the addiction cycle that you go through, and at any time, choose to step away. It's not easy in the slightest, especially starting off... but there is a way out.

Regardless of where you are even right now in the addiction cycle, Whether you're contemplating using or just about to actually use, you can step out and turn away.

You are not your addiction, nor the thoughts and feelings that you pair with it.

But what about those thoughts and feelings? They can be really vivid and hard to cope with, especially since they're so easily paired with the emptiness and guilt that comes from using. Take heart--once you realize and accept that you're not what you think or feel, facing the thoughts and feelings can start to become a little easier.

I know that knowing what's going on in your head in and of itself doesn't suddenly make things easy, but it's a step. Watch your thoughts, especially the seeming subtle ones that poke at your desire to use. Remember, those thoughts and feelings aren't you.

Now, I'll say some things that Fight the New Drug might not. I wholeheartedly believe that in spite of what choices you've made, in spite of where you may be in your addiction cycle, there is a God who loves you fully and completely, and does not identify you by your addiction or the sins that go with it, and He can help you. Below are some verses that may help you understand how God helps us:

Romans 8:1-3:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

This tells us that if we believe that Jesus is who he claims, and have accepted his death on the cross for our sins in our place, and that he rose from the dead three days after, then in the eyes of God we are not condemned, but fully accepted and loved. Not only this, but that through the Holy Spirit we are given the power to do what we could not through simply knowing right and wrong.

Mark 11:23-25: For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I believe that this passage holds a very important truth: We must pray believing we have received our salvation through Jesus, and not only that, but the grace, forgiveness, and love that was/is shown through what Jesus did. However, it's important to note that if Christ died for us, he also died for those whom we may be angry or hateful with, and we must forgive them if we believe God has forgiven us. 

1 Corinthians 10:13: The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 

This passage is often misquoted to say that God won't give you more than you can handle. That isn't true--it's through the hard times that we turn to God so that He can show us his strength and our absence of it. However, it does say that God will provide a way out of our temptation--a way to obey his call to sexual purity in the midst of wanting to throw it away. I think this goes well with the previous verse. God says to pray believing we have received and it will be done--pray believing that God has a way out for you, and you are promised that he will show you a way to endure.

I'm in a place personally where I realize that I do indeed need God's grace every day, and that while God won't take my addiction away, He is working in me to help me stand on top of it instead of it standing on top of me. I should say to be honest that without Him, I couldn't stand at all.