Sunday, May 17, 2009

Overcoming Addictions

I think this is the first time I have ever devoted an entire sermon to addictions. You can listen to this morning's sermon here. Thanks to Joseph O'Meara for speaking with me and thanks to Aaron Johnson for sharing his story. Here are the notes:

1. What is an Addiction?

Addiction is an uncontrolled, compulsive use of a behavior or substance.
Many types of addictions exist: Alcohol and narcotics are can be highly addictive. Non-substance addictions include, but are not limited to: sex, gambling, body image, clothes, money, food, running, the Internet, power, etc…

2. What leads a person to be addicted to something?

Addiction is generally a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

The biological view is that addictions, such as alcoholism, are diseases that our brains are wired up for.

Psychological - Co-morbidity: the clinical view that most addictions have a co-morbid (co-existence of two or more disease processes) dimension.

Social - The pain can be the result of deep wounds we received either as children or later in life. This is not to say all addicted people have some kind of childhood trauma, but the point is we have to know our stories and the stories of others if we are to be compassionate in the face of addiction.

3. Where does God fit in all of this?

Addiction in the spiritual realm can be seen as a desert experience. Moses and the Israelites spent time in the desert. They demonstrated withdrawals, longing for life of slavery, lack of trust, hoarding manna, idolatry, etc. Addictions like alcoholism or drug abuse may lead someone into the desert by destroying all of their relationships, taking away their ability to provide for themselves, or landing them in jail.

4. How do you recognize an addiction before it gets out of control?

  • Do you have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms if you remove a substance or behavior from your life?
  • Do you beat yourself up on a regular basis or see yourself as undeserving of grace?
  • Do you cover up or lie about behaviors you think others will disapprove of?
  • Do you use certain behaviors or substances to medicate pain in your life?
  • Have you tried again and again to stop a behavior and been unable to?

5. If you are addicted to something, what are the first steps you can take toward wellness?

1. Honest Self-Evaluation: Search your heart.
Ask, seek, and knock. (Matthew 7:7)

2. Embrace Grace: Forgiveness and repentance
For now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

3. Remember you are not alone
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:24-25)

4. Accept the Reality of Recovery
Accept that any authentic effort to break free from addiction comes with a price; it comes with the pain of letting go.

5. Get in Community
We cannot deal with this alone. Community is a necessary part of the process of healing and freedom. If you are someone who is invited into this journey, please rid yourself of the false notion that addicts are simply weak people that like being addicted and that it is not just a matter of them sucking it up and praying more or striving for perfection.

Bear each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2)

6. Seek out Resources
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
(Psalm 23:4)

The Psalmist uses the word “through,” indicating this is not an unending experience; it indicates that the valley ends somewhere, that the shadow will be replaced by light. Resources are available to help you walk through the valley.

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