There is hope if you are struggling with addiction!
by Dr. James Carlson, guest writer
Addictions are devastating. Alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, even computer games—each of these, to name a few, have become a source of heartache, suffering, and often death.
Whenever you habitually engage in a pattern of behavior that gives you immediate gratification in spite of adverse consequences, you are addicted. Almost everyone in the world has confronted additive behavior sometime during their life. It is part of the human condition in a fallen world.
A person who is addicted to alcohol will say, “I can’t help myself. I am well aware that my first drink of the day will lead to another and another. I know I may ultimately hurt someone because of my drinking; yet, I am unable to say, ‘no’. I even hide my alcohol because I fear being reprimanded by family and friends. I should pour it down the drain, but I just can’t.”
A person who is addicted to gambling will lament, “I want to stop, but every time I pass a casino, I wind up turning into the parking lot and heading for the craps table. ‘Just one bet,’ I tell myself, but then it turns into another and another. And I lose everything.”
A person who is addicted to drugs will cry, “I must have more. I know they’re destroying my body, my personal relationships, and my future, but I can’t live without them. I will do anything to support my habit, even if it’s immoral.”
Surprisingly, the Word of God addresses addictive behavior in Romans 7:18-19. Paul the Apostle writes,
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (NKJV)
In Romans 7:23 Paul admits that in his flesh he is in “captivity to the law of sin.” (NKJV)
As if he is speaking for every member of the human race, he asks in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (NKJV) Each year thousands enroll in high priced recovery programs, trying to find someone—anyone!—who can help them discover freedom from addictive behavior.
Modern physiology has identified a chemical called Dopamine that is released from deep within the brain every time we feel pleasure. Like a messenger boy, Dopamine travels directly to the cognitive (thinking) part of the brain and suggests, “Do it again! We like it.” So we do it again. When a TV commercial advertizes chips with the claim, “You can’t eat just one,” it’s because of Dopamine.
However, when it comes to addictive behavior, Dopamine turns into a cruel taskmaster that enslaves the will. Rather than simply suggesting, “Do it again! We like it,” this powerful chemical demands absolute compliance. When a situation arises that triggers the thought of past pleasure, Dopamine issues the command, “You MUST do this again!” and the cognitive part of the brain immediately obeys … even in the face of negative consequences.
This is why addictions are so hard to break. An addict’s rational decision-making ability ceases to exist. The impulse for immediate gratification trumps all other considerations. The bondage due to sin that Paul talks about in Romans 7 is literally part of our physiology in a fallen world.
So, what are we to do?
Thankfully, the Word of God has an answer. It is found in Romans 8:1 Paul the Apostle writes again, but this time he offers hope.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (NKJV)
A Christian—one who has discovered new life in Jesus Christ—has the privilege of living according to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This is the key to freedom.
The difference between the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is like the difference between the law of gravity and the law of aerodynamics that allows a plane to fly. The law of gravity pulls us downward. The law of aerodynamics overcomes the law of gravity and pulls us upward. So it is with the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It overcomes and supersedes the law of sin and death.
Here is how it works. When you permit the Holy Spirit to fill your life, control your life, and master your life, the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus takes over and gives you a new spiritual power. Supernaturally, this trumps the law of sin and death, and you begin to experience true freedom.
If you have been struggling with an addiction—first, commit your life to Christ; second, submit to the Spirit’s power; third, find a small group of Christians with whom you can pray and be accountable. Weekly programs like AA and Celebrate Recovery can be very helpful.
Finally, consider each day to be an end in itself. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow … each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV) Overcome your addiction TODAY by living according to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. When tomorrow arrives, begin anew and live that day the same way—by the power of the Spirit. Before you know it, days will turn into weeks; weeks into months; and you will ultimately find your greatest pleasure in God, Himself.
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