As a follow-up to my blog on “A Biblical Basis for Addictions“, it will be good to examine four steps that are required to find total deliverance from addiction. These are
- Define triggers,
- Have an accountability relationship based on agape love,
- Rebuild broken walls, and
- Feed wholeness through a spiritual community.
The process begins with an acknowledgement of the problem, that one has a particular weakness that is destroying his life and something has to be done. It is helpful when the addict recognizes that God has the ultimate answer.
So much of the process is directly related to willingness, a willingness to allow things that have been kept private to be brought out into the light. Most of us have a tendency to maintain a secret life with no one allowed in, not even God. A successful road to recovery from any addiction requires the assistance of others who will provide leadership, direction, accountability, and support. Bringing light into dark places defines the real dark areas and allows the light to cleanse its environment. In John 3:20-21, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Bringing the Light of God into any environment is its ultimate salvation.
1. Define Triggers
A trigger is any form of stimuli that initiates the desire to engage in addictive behavior. During the course of a recovery program, triggers may prompt an individual to slip-up and use a substance or engage in a behavior that they otherwise are trying to avoid. Triggers are associated with a memory or situation that relates in some way to prior substance abuse behaviors. As someone struggles with addiction, the people they interact with, the places they spend their time and in some situations their place of work can become strongly associated with their addictive behavior. A lack of understanding of the particular triggers that can cause a relapse are essential in overcoming the warfare surrounding the addiction.
In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” To face the trigger(s) is to acknowledge its exists and do something.
2. Have an Agapic Accountability Relationship
When the biggest challenges invade our lives and disrupt our sense of well-being, it becomes all the more likely we turn to escape mechanisms that never really deal with the difficulty. As the addictive behavior gets more rooted in one’s physiology over time, deliverance from the addiction is no longer possible alone. Finding an accountability partner, one motivated by an agape (unconditional) love becomes essential in addressing the problem. This person, many times a trained professional becomes the one in whom we must place our trust to tell us the truth and who is willing to accept the challenge and commitment necessary for its completion.
Accountability partners are healthy for any Christian. Proverbs 11:14 says that there is safety in a multitude of counsel. In Proverbs 15:22, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed”. Then there is Proverbs 24:6, “For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory”. Since dealing with addictions is warfare, becoming accountable to another provides a visible path to victory since it opens the door for clear thinking by reliable sources who care. Trusting another to this degree is not easy, but trust is never easy when so much of life is hidden. Yet trust is the elixir that opens wide the door to hope that the circumstances are not the end of the story.
3. Rebuild Broken Walls
Once light is being shed on the addiction and there is acceptance of accountability partner(s), the process requires honesty, a willingness to come clean and accept the consequences, a risky proposition. Most of us have heard the old proverb, “honesty is the best policy”. Honesty deals not only with the negative effects of the addiction on the addict, but also on the ones also impacted. When Jesus was teaching the parable of the sower and the seed, He spoke about the good soil in this way, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15). The good heart is an honest heart, one that is done with hiding from the failures and negative effects of addictive behaviors. This heart is ready to bear fruit.
Rebuilding broken walls includes restoring relationships as well as offering restitution where appropriate. In Leviticus 6:1-5, the Law of Moses commands that the one who “sins and acts unfaithfully against the Lord, and deceives his companion” is required to “restore what he took” in full and even one-fifth more. This principle is addressing the need that restoring relationships requires restitution in some way. That restitution may be in many different forms, not just in material ways. It means going the extra mile to make sure the wronged parties are aware that the abuser is sincere about making things right. The principle of restitution creates a good heart.
4. Feed Wholeness Through a Spiritual Community
God has ordained a community of believers, known as the Body of Christ (church) to provide a safe environment of support and reconciliation. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul defines many of the dynamics of this spiritual organism, including the fact that it is one, made up of many members. This oneness is possible through the working of the Holy Spirit as each member recognizes one Head, Jesus Christ. In verses 14-15, “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body”. In the same way, each member has a different function based on the spiritual gifts given. In verse 21-22, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” This organism values each member, especially the weaker ones.
Within the Body of Christ, there is a united effort to honor those less honorable, but how? In verses 23-25, “and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another”. Inherent is the working of each member for the benefit of the whole with those weakest receiving the greatest honor. It is this provision that makes the Body of Christ the greatest place of support for the one struggling with addiction. Finding one’s place within the church allows each member to realize his particular call and giftedness and to exercise those gifts. It also is the place where God’s love is manifested (Ephesians 1:6).
Wholeness is the final work of the cross in the believer’s life. The Apostle Paul tells us that to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ is to “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19), the place of God’s wholeness. Mature believers provide the clearest manifestation of His agape love and the strongest community to care for those that need its support, for the glory of God.
“In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline Your ear to me and save me. Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You.”
Ultimately, one’s devotion to the person and work of Christ is his greatest protection, his place of deliverance from any enemy. As the believer learns to press in to His life through His Body and the believer’s unique call, the enemy is progressively being made ineffective in destroying quality of life. The addictive behavior become less and less an issue to wrestle.