Sobriety or getting clean is not enough to claim victory over addictions. How many loved ones have expressed concern for their addicted family member by saying “if I can just get him to go to detox, then we can beat this.” I wish that was true but the harsh reality is that detox is just the beginning. According to drugabuse.com, “detox is generally refers to the process of removing toxins from the body. In the case of substance use, detox specifically refers to the period of time that the body is allowed to process or metabolize any drugs and alcohol in the system and, in doing so, clears their toxic influence.” Detox is the physical part of recovery and only the beginning of a long hard road to not only sobriety, but to freedom.
Many will find that after their loved one completes detox they soon return to their addiction. Purging or cleansing the body is not enough. During periods of substance abuse the addict develops or discovers patterns, friends, places, smells, sounds, etc. that psychologically trigger his or her compulsion to use their drug or drugs of choice. For example, Joe is a heavy smoker who suffers a heart attack. After Joe’s recovery, the doctor orders him to stop smoking or die. However, Joe has one big problem. Every day Joe drinks several cups of coffee and when he does, he also smokes a cigarette. In his mind, the two simply go together. Soon Joe realizes that he must give up the coffee too because it triggers his compulsion to smoke. This same scenario applies to any addiction and the triggers are typically numerous. Again, these triggers can be smells, colors, sounds, places, etc. The longer the period of addiction, the more triggers a person inherits.
What’s the solution? Psychological professionals would call the solution “behavior modification.” Behavior modification is simply the approach one uses when training animals. It operates on a system of rewards or lack of rewards for certain behaviors. It is also the way one might discipline a young child either through “timeout” for an unruly child or candy for a compliant child. While there is nothing inherently wrong with behavior modification, it tends to work best on children since their ability to reason is low and trust levels are high. The same can be said for animals. As adults, behavior modification is less effective since they think at a higher level and patterns of thinking are more deeply ingrained. The old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is very applicable.
The Bible has a very clear solution and it’s called the “renewing of the mind.” The addict must develop a new way of thinking, since the old ways of thinking caused him much trouble. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:22-24, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” In other words, he must put off the old man, his way of life, and corrupt desires, renew our minds in the spirit, and that allows us to live as the new man who is righteous and holy.
How do I renew my mind? Ephesians 5:26 states that there is washing and cleansing power in the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says of God’s Word, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of God will cleanse, pierce, and divide our thoughts and our intentions. This will require intense and methodical Bible study, teaching, and discipleship. He must immerse himself in God’s Word and let the cleansing begin. The Word will convict and make us uncomfortable in our old ways of thinking and acting. Those who truly desire victory and freedom will embrace this new found way of thinking. Those who don’t want victory will run from it. God will never force us into freedom.
Will the old ways of thinking still pop up? Yes! But in times past the addict had only one tool to fight the battle and that tool was self. He had no other options accept to rely on the one thing that got him in trouble—self and self wants to satisfy self, not deny self. Addiction is all about self, so self cannot help. The addict must have a new weapon that denies self and puts the focus on His maker, and the only thing that can truly fix him—God’s Word!