Overcoming Addictive Behaviors
"When you ask [pray], you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures"1
A Daily Encounter reader writes: "I am writing because I need to confess some things I am struggling with. I have a drinking, smoking, and pornography problem and am irresponsible with spending. As a result I have lost my home. I don't want to do these things and repent over and over but keep doing them. I am so sick of this filth that's inside of me. I feel like I'm going down this shame spiral. I feel very frustrated, depressed and angry. I want to change in a hurry before something more drastic happens."
Dear Tim (name changed), thank you for sharing your struggles. This is the beginning point of recovery. Unfortunately, I can't offer you a quick fix as it takes commitment, time and hard work, as well as God's help, to overcome problems that have established themselves in our life over a period of years.
The next step in recovery is to learn how to pray the right prayer; that is to pray honestly with the right motive. For instance, it is imperative that you admit that you are an addict—addicted to drinking, smoking, pornography and over-spending. Realize that any habit that controls us is an addiction. When we want God to deliver us only from our addictive behaviors without admitting the real issue of being an addict and dealing with the cause or causes (often hidden) of the addictive behaviors that enslave us, we are praying the wrong prayer with the wrong motive.
True, while your addictive behaviors are problems that need to be confronted, they are not the main issue, but the symptoms of a deeper problem—the fruit of a deeper root. It's at that deeper root level that God wants to heal you. When we focus our prayers only on the symptoms, we tend to reinforce them, for what the mind dwells on, the body acts on.
From what you have shared about your family background, it is obvious that you are suffering a deep love-deprivation need that goes all the way back to your childhood. It is at this level where you need healing. Your addictive behaviors have been used as a defense against feeling this pain and as a means to medicate and deaden it.
You need help to stop acting out in addictive behaviors so you can feel your pain, face it, confront it, and resolve it. Start by praying the right prayer. Admit to God that you are an addict, that you are powerless to overcome your addictions in your own strength, and ask God to help you see the real cause of your problem, and to lead you to the help you need to overcome it.
Also, realize that you can't overcome your problem alone. You have already learned that this doesn't help. A recovery program such as an AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) group can help you to stop acting out in addictive behaviors. This will allow you to get in touch with and resolve the cause or causes of your addictive behaviors.
Chances are that you are going to need help from a capable counselor who can help you work through and resolve your childhood hurts and lack of meaningful love—which is undoubtedly at the root cause of your addiction. (See below for helpful information.)
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in all my praying, please help me to be honest with myself and with you, admit what I really am (an addict that needs help … or name whatever problem you are struggling with), and see the root cause of my addictive behaviors. And please lead me to the help I need to resolve and overcome my problem. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
Note: For help to locate a counselor/counseling in your area see "Suggested Resources for Counseling" at: http://www.actsweb.org/counseling_resources.php
1. James 4:3 (NIV).