BIBLICAL KEYS TO OVERCOMING ADDICTIONS
by Jerry Falwell
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
percent 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
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 online. 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, hardcore pornography includes bestiality (sex with animals),
incest, rape, sadomasochism, 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
The Playboy website 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 percent of convicted molesters of girls and 77 percent 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 hardcore pornography outlets in America than
there are McDonald’s restaurants.
A staggering 86 percent of convicted rapists admit regular pornography
use — 57 percent admit actually imitating pornography scenes in the
commission of their crimes.
It is estimated that hardcore pornography is available in 80 percent 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.
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.
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;
“dry drunks,” for instance, may exchange their alcoholism for sobriety but
continue to suffer from deep inner conflicts. Often addicts will be
depressed, anxious, and obsessive-compulsive. 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!”
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.
The need for change
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
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
Life without my habit is too terrifying. Few addicts really
believe they can get through their days unaided by drugs, alcohol, or other
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
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 rules for change
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Addiction and sobriety are processes. Relapse is possible and
the addict needs a safe place to be and safe people to be with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Victory through Christ
Speaking on behalf of all of us, in verse 24 of Romans 7, Paul writes,
“O, wretched man that I am! Who should deliver me from the body of this
death?” Then he adds, in verse 25, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our
Christ alone is the answer to our addictions. He took all our sins 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 goes on to say, “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
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Biblical keys to overcoming addictions.