By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Bellevue Christian Counseling
References “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” by Patrick Carnes, Ph. D.
Addiction means to be out of control. A compulsion has taken over your life. You are powerless to stop. However, because of stigmas associated with addiction, you think you could quit if you were a stronger, more righteous person. This is not true.
As an addiction pervades your life, it eliminates almost every other source of happiness– hobbies, family and friends. It soon becomes the only opportunity for relief and enjoyment. It ruins your life, but also becomes the only thing that makes it bearable.
Do not let anyone tell you (including yourself) that being an addict makes you a lost cause or subhuman. Christ came to redeem people just like you, people hopelessly lost in sin. Remember who he socialized with– tax collectors and prostitutes. No one is beneath God’s compassion. Keep that in mind as you read this article. What makes a person an addict is not that they are more sinful, but that they cannot control their compulsions. However, you can control whether you take the initiative to seek treatment.
Why do people become addicted?
The two primary reasons people become addicted to something are because they have a biological predisposition toward addictive behavior and they use the pleasure derived from addiction to cope with pain in their life.
How does this behavior manifest itself?
Self-medicating is rooted in the addict’s self-perception. “The addict’s belief system contains core beliefs that are faulty or inaccurate and, consequently, that provides a fundamental momentum for the addiction. Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction.” (16)
Indulging in the addiction (overeating, sex, drugs or alcohol) provides a relief from this misery. Unfortunately, they cannot keep their behavior within appropriate boundaries. A person taking a long bath after work, and a person drinking until they are unconscious both have the same end in mind– to feel better after a long day. However, the person taking the bath can get out any time they want, and won’t face repercussions more serious than pruny fingers and toes.
- Impaired thinking
People are really good at denying there is a problem when they are the one who caused it. Addicts take this to a whole other level. Carnes calls this “sincere delusion.” When they vow to never view pornography, take another drink, or play another game of blackjack again, the addict’s intent is sincere. “Sincere delusion is believing your own lies. It might seem paradoxical to be sincere about telling a lie. It is not, but it is evidence of seriously impaired thinking.” (18)
It might help to have a more familiar example of a husband who has developed a problematic relationship with a woman at work. He has given her a couple knick-knacks and has lunch with her at least once a week. He drives to work every day excited to see her. But, because they have never been physically inappropriate, and because he has never lied to his wife about their interactions, he tells himself the relationship is harmless.
If his wife were to confront him, he would be furious over her accusations because his relationship lacks enough critical characteristics to not be full-on infidelity. His sincere indignation at being accused of cheating and his self-deception about the tone of his relationship mix to create delusion. (18)
- Justification of behavior
Gifting yourself small pick-me-ups and taking the occasional vacation are essential to mental and emotional health. The problem with addicts is they have so deluded themselves about the quality of their integrity that they exaggerate their need for a reward.
Because addicts refuse to acknowledge they have indeed earned the disappointment and ire of their loved ones, they view these people as unreasonable. “This appearance of integrity further insulates the addict’s world from reality. The blame dynamic provides further justification for the addict’s behavior. Ungrateful children, demanding spouses, hard-nosed bosses create an unfair world in which the addict deserves a reward.” (19)
Christian counseling for addiction
The first step to tackling an addiction is admitting you have one. Remember what scripture tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” As you gather the strength to break through your self-delusion and be honest about how your compulsions have made a wreck of your life, take hope in the accompanying verse, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9 NIV)
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction, get in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They can help you understand what truly causes addiction, and help you to fight it. A professional Christian counselor will use therapeutic techniques and the hope of the Gospel to break the power of addiction. Create a better life for yourself.
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