The Pain of Addiction

Pain

If you have never struggled with addiction you must read this!  This short essay was written by an individual in throws of addiction.  Note the way the writer describes this struggle with addiction.  It is almost seen as a living breathing enemy.

“The pain of addiction can never be fully realized outside of the human soul so unfortunate to have found him or herself within the grasp of her ugly piercing teeth.  What metaphor is appropriate to describe addiction? How could one who has never experienced it ever understand the gravity of addiction on one’s life?   Perhaps it could be likened to a choking vine that grows up beautiful at first but soon is so wild and nu-tamable.   It wraps it’s self so completely around you that it is difficult to determine what part is you and what part is the addiction.  It has grown so fast and wild that it chokes out nearly every area of your life.   Perhaps addiction is best described as a demon inside you.  He fights for control of your thoughts and actions.  Although there are victories you are constantly aware of his presence and his power.  I think of addiction as a dragon.  He is fierce, unmerciful, and seeks to utterly destroy you.

Sometimes the addiction is so overwhelming that I can literally pray to God for strength to turn from the destructive beast only to go immediately after it.

(Anonymous)

Let’s pray for those caught in the dragon’s teeth.

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Identity and Addiction

identity1

In my recovery groups we have been talking about the lies we believe that lead us to and keep us in our addictions. These are the same lies that most of us believe from time to time.  Although they don’t lead us all to addiction we can see the exact same pattern of destruction in all of us.

This morning I have been thinking about how our identity directs the course of our lives. The way we identify ourselves leads us toward or away from healthy choices, and our addictive and or compulsive behaviors.  It also occurred to me that our identity is not always consistent.

Let me explain. A friend of mine is a marathon runner.  She is not only built like a runner and trains like a runner, but she thinks like a runner.  Because she identifies herself as a runner there are certain things she will do and other things she will not do.  For example, most mornings she will go for a jog before work.   For lunch she will often eat some green leafy thing that doesn’t look all that appetizing to me.  She rarely eats sweets and never drinks coal.  All of these choices are directed by a single force, her identity.

Someone who is trying to maintain an image of a tough guy will make different choices. He will say and do certain things to sustain this tough guy identity.  Conversely, there will be things he will never do.  This guy wouldn’t be caught dead at a day spa having his nails done.  You will never find this guy crying over a particularly sad movie.  Why?  Because it goes against the way he identifies himself.

The challenge comes when two worlds collide. What happens when a person who previously identified himself with the drug and criminal lifestyle suddenly decides to get clean?  Let’s say this guy goes through recovery and is making some real progress.  He is minimizing his exposure to triggers and is using the tools he has learned to help him work through the challenges of life.  When he gets out of prison he is right back at his mother’s house, the place he grew up, and the center of his previous life of drugs and crime.  All goes well until a few of his old friends stop by.  Suddenly the new man is confronted with his old self.  Who is he going to be in front of his old friends?

Are we ever tempted to be one way in front of some people and another in front of others? This is a problem with identity.  In recovery and at meetings he may act one way and when he is with his old friends he may act another.  The truth is not that he is necessarily putting on a show.  He may just be struggling with his identity.

If we desire to live clean and sober lives we need to solidify our identity as clean and sober individuals. When we are secure in our identity we are free to be ourselves 100% of the time.  If you find yourself struggling with this here is a word of encouragement.  It takes time and it takes intentionality.  In other words this isn’t something that will just happen.  We need to work on it.  We need to draw the line in the sand today and say, “I am clean and sober.  This is who I am.”  When temptations come we need to remind ourselves that those choices are not consistent with who I am.  In the same way a runner would not eat ½ of a chocolate cake an hour before his or her run, we would no longer give in to the temptation to return to the drug and criminal lifestyle.  That is simply not who we are any longer.

I’m big on positive affirmations, and positive self talk. Why not choose 10 of these statements from the list below and write them down, or print them off.  Then read through them on a daily basis.  I have this list printed out and hanging up in my office right by my desk.  It only takes a minute or two to read through all 60 statements.  After reading through them I always, always feel better, more confident, and it solidifies my identity as a successful, confident, and powerful person who is at peace with God, myself, and others.

  1. I am a person of immeasurable worth, inner greatness, and have unlimited potential.
  2. I am enjoying life free from the bondage of addiction.
  3. I am increasingly happy and healthy.
  4. I am calm, confident, and in control.
  5. I am deeply loved and I love deeply.
  6. I feel joy and contentment in this moment right now.
  7. I awaken in the morning feeling happy and enthusiastic about life.
  8. I can tap into a wellspring of inner happiness anytime I wish.
  9. By allowing myself to be happy, I inspire others to be happy as well.
  10. I have fun with all of my endeavors, even the most mundane.
  11. I look at the world around me and can’t help but smile and feel joy.
  12. I find joy and pleasure in the simple things in life.
  13. I have an active sense of humor and love to share laughter with others.
  14. My heart is overflowing with joy.
  15. I rest in happiness when I go to sleep, knowing all is well in my world.
  16. I expect to be successful in all of my endeavors. Success is my natural state.
  17. I easily find solutions to challenges and roadblocks and move past them quickly.
  18. Mistakes and setbacks are stepping stones to my success because I learn from them.
  19. Every day in every way, I am becoming more and more successful.
  20. I feel successful with my life right now, even as I work toward future success.
  21. I know exactly what I need to do to achieve success.
  22. I see fear as the fuel for my success and take bold action in spite of fear.
  23. I feel powerful, capable, confident, energetic, and on top of the world.
  24. I am a problem solver. I focus on solutions and always find the best solution.
  25. I love change and easily adjust myself to new situations.
  26. I live in the present and am confident of the future.
  27. I have an intention for success and know it is a reality awaiting my arrival.
  28. I approve of myself and love myself deeply and completely.
  29. I am unique. I feel good about being alive and being me.
  30. I have integrity. I am totally reliable. I do what I say.
  31. I act from a place of personal security.
  32. I fully accept myself and know that I am worthy of great things in life.
  33. I choose to be proud of myself.
  34. I find deep inner peace within myself as I am.
  35. I fill my mind with positive and nourishing thoughts.
  36. Every cell in my body vibrates with energy and health.
  37. I am completely pain free, and my body is full of energy.
  38. I nourish my body with healthy food.
  39. All of my body systems are functioning perfectly.
  40. My body is healing, and I feel better and better every day.
  41. I enjoy exercising my body and strengthening my muscles.
  42. My world is a peaceful, loving, and joy-filled place to live.
  43. I sow the seeds of peace wherever I go.
  44. I surround myself with peaceful people.
  45. My work environment is calm and peaceful.
  46. I breath in peace, I breath out chaos and disorder.
  47. My home is a peaceful sanctuary where I feel safe and happy.
  48. In all that I say and do, I choose peace.
  49. I release past anger and hurts and fill myself with serenity and peaceful thoughts.
  50. Peace descends all around me now and always.
  51. Calmness washes over me with every deep breath I take.
  52. Every day I am more and more at ease.
  53. Being calm and relaxed energizes my whole being.
  54. All the muscles in my body are releasing and relaxing.
  55. All negativity and stress are evaporating from my body and my mind.
  56. I breath in relaxation. I breath out stress.
  57. Even when there is chaos around me, I remain calm and centered.
  58. I transcend stress of any kind. I live in peace.
  59. I am free of anxiety, and a calm inner peace fills my mind and body.
  60. All is well in my world. I am calm, happy, and content.

Addicted to Lies

Lies

The first of the 5 D’s of addiction is Deception. Deception describes the lies we believe that lead us to and keep us in our addictions. The truth is we all believe lies. These lies are sometimes called, “Negative Core Beliefs.”  It can’t be overstated how dangerous it is to believe these lies. The lies we believe can have an absolutely devastating effect on our emotions and can lead us to or keep us in our addictions, ruin our marriages, and destroy relationships.  It is so important we discover and combat the lies we believe.

Belief

Earlier we discussed the fact that out of our beliefs come our emotions and out of our emotions come our actions.  When we look at the equation in reverse we can follow our emotions back to the beliefs that caused them.  By discovering our negative, or lie based beliefs we can begin work on healthier thinking leading to healthier emotions and actions.  One way to identify our lie based, or negative core beliefs is to discover the way we internalize things.  Internalization is the beliefs about ourselves based on the things we experience in life.

How we internalize both the negative and positive things we experience in life, directly affects the way we interact with people in every relationship. This means that the way we internalize things affects our marriages and families.  It effects our relationships at school, work, and in the community.  It affects the way we treat everyone from the gas station attendant to the police.  It affects the way we feel about people we see every day and people we may only meet once.

Perceptions, Emotions, and Internalization

To discover how we internalize things we must first understand our perceptions and emotions. When negative things are said, or done to us, and when we go through a negative experience we have certain perceptions, we respond emotionally, and often internalize the event in some way.

Let’s look at this simple example. Suppose you called a good friend or family member on the phone and invited them out to lunch on the following day.  Your friend or family member replied in a harsh tone, “You know I don’t have time for that!”  What would your perception of your friend or family members comment be?

Your perception could be one of many things. You might simply think that they are busy and don’t have time.  You might think perhaps they are having a bad day. It is important to note that our perception may or may not be right and true.  We might perceive a person’s harsh response to our simple question as a personal dislike for us.  The truth may be that the person is just having a real hard day.  On the other hand we might think they are just having a hard day when in fact they really don’t much care for us.  The point I’m trying to make here is this, our perceptions are not always accurate.

When bad things are said or done to us our perception might be one of the following statements.

They think I’m an idiot.

They think I’m not good enough.

They think I’m worthless.

They think I’m garbage.

They don’t respect me.

They don’t obey me.

They don’t listen to me.

They don’t understand that my way is best.

They are trying to control me.

I deserved that.

I had it coming to me.

I should be better so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

Emotion

How we feel about what was said or done depends on our perception. Let’s go back to the example of a loved one being rude on the phone.  How would that make you feel?  If your perception was that he or she was just having a bad day and it was nothing personal you would probably feel OK.  If your perception was that they really do think you are pretty stupid for even asking such a question knowing that they are so busy you might feel a bit angry or upset.

Some of the emotions we might feel are:

Anger: Raise my voice, Punch something, Throw something, Swear, Put the person down, Flee the situation in rage.

Anxiety (have Fear or Worry):  Fear the worst, What if this is the end?  What if I can’t make it through this?  What if I die?  What if they never come back?  What if they think less of me?  What if I fail?  What if they don’t respect me?  What if they laugh at me?

Depressed: Things are never going to change.  It will never end.  It will always be this way.  It is absolutely hopeless.

Internalization

This is the area where we can really get ourselves into trouble. When trying to discover how we are internalizing something it is helpful to ask ourselves a couple of questions.  Ask yourself, “How did what he said or did make me feel about myself?”  Another question you can ask is this, “By what he said or did he was basically saying what about me?”  This will help us discover how we have internalized what was said or done.  Here are some examples of how we sometimes internalize things people have said or done to us.

I’m worthless.

I have no value.

I’m a piece of garbage.

I’m out of control.

If I’m not in control I can’t have peace.

I’m tainted.

I’m too polluted to be any good.

I’m so dirty after what I have done or what has been done to me that I don’t deserve anything good.  I’m ruined, stained, and defiled.

So why are these so dangerous and what’s the answer to all of this? As stated previously, out of our beliefs come our emotions, and out of our emotions come our actions.

If you believe you are worthless you are likely to feel angry or depressed. If you are feeling angry or depressed you are more likely to turn toward an unhealthy pursuit of love, joy, and peace such as addiction and compulsive behaviors.  You are also more likely to mistreat others.  That is why these negative core, and lie based beliefs are so dangerous.

Replace

In recovery we must learn to replace the lies we believe with the truth. Jesus said that the truth will set you free.

My prayer is that if you are reading these words you won’t be put off by my use of God and the Bible. Here’s why.  I’m not talking about the God of Judgmental Christians who say you are going to hell because you use drugs.  I’m not talking about some fairy tale, or some old outdated book that has no relevance for today.  I’m talking about the Creator of all things.  I’m talking about the message of the cross that is foolishness to so many but to me is the very power of God to free me from addiction, compulsive behaviors, and sin habits.  I’m talking about the God of all grace who looked down on me in all my fears and failures, and when the whole world sees me for the terrible things I have done God sees me through the eyes of grace and for the man He is molding me into.  It is the God of grace and mercy, the God of power and renewed purpose for our lives of whom I speak!

The truth is you were created for God’s pleasure and for His unique purpose. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV). You were created by God and for His pleasure and purpose!

The truth is God thought so highly of you that even before you knew Him God knew a relationship with you was worth giving His life for. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed,” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV).   A relationship with you was worth God giving His life for!

The lies we believe lead us to and keep us in our addictions. The truth brings freedom!  Let’s focus on and celebrate the truth.

Addiction Recovery an incredible Journey

free

A good friend of mine once said that there are 5 ways the enemy assaults us.

  1. Deception
  2. Distraction
  3. Discouragement
  4. Domination
  5. Destruction

My eyes went wide and I’m pretty sure my jaw literally dropped. “That’s the cycle of addiction!” I responded.   Having worked with addicts and led step groups for years I recognized the downward spiral toward destruction immediately.

One morning as I was thinking about the 5 D’s of addiction I drew the chart you see below. Beneath it I wrote the 5 D’s followed by the 5 R’s of recovery.  Over the next several months I created a recovery program I called, “Freedom Christian Recovery.”  Since then I have taught the program to several groups and am currently teaching the program (In a secular form) in prison.

The longer I have studied the 5 D’s and the corresponding 5 R’s the more I realize their scope goes far beyond addiction. The principals taught in this program apply to marriage and family issues, challenges at work, and in the community.

Freedom Christian Recovery is based on the 5 D’s of addiction, 5 R’s of recovery, and this simple diagram below.  (Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved)

Deception is Replaced with the truth.

Distraction is Redirected toward God’s best plan for your life.

Discouragement is replaced with Relationships.  

Domination turns to Renewal as we discover God’s purposes for our lives.

FCR CHART

 

Let’s examine the various elements of the FCR Diagram.

Vision Goals and Dreams

Whether you know it or not you have a vision, goals, and dreams.  Your vision may not be written down, categorized, or prioritized but you have one.

Love Joy and Peace

                In the big picture all of goals and dreams have to do with these three things love, joy, and peace.

Let’s take a look at the first category love. Many of our goals in our lives have to do with relationships.  We desire good relationships with our families, friends, co-workers, and with God.  We desire to love and to be loved.  We desire to feel valuable.  These goals fall into the love category.

The second category is joy.  Many of our goals have to do with finding joy or pleasure.  We want a better car.  We want nice cloths.  We want new toys like electronics, house hold appliances, tools, clothes, purses, shoes, boats, motorcycles, campers, sporting goods, and the list goes on and on.  We want to surround ourselves with the good things in life because we desire pleasure.  These goals fall into the joy category.

The third category is peace.  We desire a sense of security.    We would like to have the assurance that life is not totally out of control.  We desire physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.  These goals fall into the peace category.

 

Anger Anxiety Depression

                Whether or not we realize it we all have some sort of vision or goals for our lives.  Those goals fall into the three categories we have discussed.  The challenge comes when situations in life threaten our ability to find love joy and peace.

Anger

                We know anger is caused when a goal is blocked.  Let’s use the illustration of running late for school or work.  You are running late while the guy in the car in front of you is talking on the cell phone to his sweet heart, laughing up a storm, and going ten miles below the speed limit.  You can feel the anger well inside of you.  Your goal of getting to where you need to be on time is blocked.  This causes you to get angry.  Anger is caused when a goal is blocked.

Anxiety

                We know anxiety is caused when a goal is uncertain.  Let’s use the same illustration of running late.  You are running late and it is down to the wire.  You may have just enough time to get to work if that bone head in the car in front of you makes a right turn up here at the light.  You see a train coming but you may have enough time to get through before the gates come down.  You know if you don’t make it the boss is really going to yell.  It is going to be close.  You feel your heart race.  Your arms begin to tingle.  The anxiety is high because the goal is uncertain.  Anxiety is caused when a goal seams uncertain.

Depression

                We know depression is caused when a goal seams unattainable.  Let’s go back to the same illustration.  You are running late for work and it does not look good.  You got stuck by the train.  You are still stuck behind the goof ball on the cell phone.  You have a fifteen minute drive ahead of you and you are supposed to clock in in five.  You begin thinking about how your boss is going to fire you, or how the school is going to suspend you.  You are depressed.  Your goal of getting where you need to be on time is hopeless.  Depression is caused when a goal seams hopeless.

Substance Abuse Compulsive Behavior and Sin Habits

Now we are feeling all of these negative emotions.  We deeply desire love joy and peace but it is blocked by the situations and circumstances of life.  It is in these moments we seek an alternative.  Rather than finding our love (Sense of value), joy, and peace in healthy ways we turn to our compulsive behaviors, and addictions which turn into sin habits.

When we were not made to feel loved or valued in life we turn to addictions which ease the pain.  We sometimes feel acceptance from others who engage in the same behaviors we do.  When we do not have joy in life we seek pleasure from our compulsive behaviors.  As we will learn in detail, compulsive behaviors work in the pleasure center of our brains to flood our brains with dopamine (The brains natural, “Feel Good” chemical).  When life is anything but peaceful we turn to addictions for temporary relief from the chaos of life.  In short, our addiction becomes our love, joy, and peace.

The 5 D’s of Addiction

                All of this leads to the five D’s of addiction which are Deception, Distraction, Discouragement, Domination, and Destruction.

Deception:  At the outset we are deceived into believing we can find our love, joy, and peace from our compulsive behaviors as a suitable substitute to finding them in healthier ways.  As we will discover we also often believe lies about ourselves that effect our emotions and actions.  In FCR we will learn Deception is Replaced with the truth.

Distraction: Our addictions distract us from experiencing true love, joy, and peace.  They also distract us from our responsibilities in life and we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of inefficiency.  In FCR we will learn Distraction is Redirected toward God’s best plan for your life.

Discouragement: The more we use our drug of choice (including addictive behaviors such as gambling, shop lifting, pornography, etc.) the more tolerant our brains become.  We need more and more to get the same high.  It gets harder and harder to simulate the original high.  No matter how hard we try we can’t seem to fill the void for love, joy, and peace.  We become discouraged.  In FCR we learn Discouragement is replaced with Relationships.  

Domination:  What started out as something we could control in an effort to find love, joy, and peace slowly began taking control of certain areas of our lives.  We became dominated.  We became addicted.  In FCR we will learn how addiction works in and affects our brain.  We will also learn how Domination turns to Renewal as we discover God’s purposes for our lives.

Destruction: The final, “D” of addiction is destruction.  We know it all too well.  Addiction has begun to destroy our families, our school or work, and every other area of our lives.  Nearly everyone knows someone or knows of someone whose life was taken because of addiction.  In FCR we will learn that Destruction gives way to Restoration as we begin to restore cracked and broken relationships.

Let’s begin the journey of healing, freedom, and hope, the journey of recovery.

Comment below and let us know your recovery story.  Feel free to send me your questions.