There is nothing more frustrating and at times down right painful than watching a loved one struggle with addiction. No matter what you say to him, he just will not quit. No matter how much you love her, she will not come to her senses. No matter how harsh the consequences, there appears to be no end to the irrational behavior. The addiction consumes them.
For many of us on the outside looking in, we simply cannot understand what is going on in the mind of the person consumed with the unrelenting destruction that comes from and with addiction.
Or can we?
Think about your own life. Most likely there is an addiction that you are unwilling to part ways with. Caffeine. Sugar. Tobacco. Work. Exercise. Laziness.
These addictions might seem minor to you, but they are still addictions that are controlling your life at some level. Most people could not make it through the day if they had to give up something from the list above. Why? I’ll give you two big reasons.
Your brain and body have been trained to expect them
Your brain is a highly efficient machine. Somewhere along the line you introduced one or many of these things into your life in order to help you cope, wake up, get reenergized, or some other reason. Your brain was stimulated by the action which released chemicals into your body that perked you up and gave you the motivation you needed to keep going.
Subsequently, your brain logged this activity and stored it in your memory for future access. The brain always leans toward efficiency. Once the body begins to drain and your energy levels drop, or stress enters your life, the brain automatically begins to look for the “file” that helped you before. It might be caffeine, tobacco, or some other substance or activity. These things bring a temporary “high” or “relief” to your body. In the short term, you find these things helpful, but in the long run they are destructive. The alcoholic started off with a “harmless” drink to help her relax after a stressful day, but soon one drink wasn’t enough.
The brain does not remove this filed away information. This is why the heroin addict continues to use heroin, long after the drug stops working for him. He becomes frustrated, and starts chasing the high he once had, but never finds it. Soon he is making even more irrational decisions and life begins spiraling out of control. He wants to quit but he can’t as the brain and body demand more and more with little satisfaction. The spiral downward is in full motion.
It’s the only way they know how to cope with life
At this point, they now have a chemical and a psychological dependency. The next step is to admit the loved one into a detox facility in order to safely eliminate the drug from their body without harm to their health.
Once the detox is complete, though, the problem is not resolved. Most addicts return almost immediately to their drug(s) of choice soon after detox. The challenges and problems they had in life remain and are most likely worse. The addiction drove them to ignore their responsibilities while chasing the next high. Most come out of detox with no job, no money, no car, broken relationships, and no hope. Life seems impossible.
Their solution is to return to the very thing that caused the problems. Why? Because that’s what is filed away in their brain. Again, the brain looks for the easy way out. It looks for efficiency and this means returning to the same old thing. When the stress and worry return, the brain immediately pulls the file it knows, and in this case that file is called heroin. An immediate and familiar solution is introduced that brings temporary comfort and helps them cope with the life they are facing.
The real solution takes time and renewing of the mind
The brain must be retrained. New ways of facing life must be introduced and practiced. Your loved one must learn to think differently. This is why detox alone is not enough. Detox does not change one’s way of thinking. Detox addresses the physical problem, but not the psychological and spiritual problem. Addiction must be addressed at three levels—medical (body), psychological (soul), and spiritual. The psychological side addresses what impacts our thinking in the world, and the spiritual side addresses how God designed us to think and operate for our best success.
Ideally, these ways of thinking must be introduced early in life. God shows us in the Bible that we are train and give direction to our children early in life in order to set them in the right and successful direction.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Training children is much easier than trying to train an adult who has developed unhealthy coping mechanisms that are deeply entrenched in brain matter. We must teach our children what God says about living the challenging but successful life in a world that is going to oppose the very plan God has for them. God made us therefore He knows what we need and His Word gets us there. Training our children God’s way avoids a whole lot of grief later in life.
However, if you are reading this article, then most likely you are well beyond trying to train a child. You are most likely helping an adult who is deep into an addiction and wrong, worldly thinking. Essentially, you must teach an old dog new tricks. It can be done but they must be willing and humble.
Detox must be immediately followed by counseling or long-term recovery programs that address core issues and not just different ways of coping with life. Your loved one needs people to help him understand that there is a new way of thinking, living, and succeeding, even if all seems lost.
Ephesians 4:22-23 states very clearly,
“that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,”
There must be a putting off and a putting on process for your loved one. This is called the renewing of the mind. It is developing new thinking patterns according to God’s ways and not man’s ways. God’s ways work, our ways don’t. He must be humble enough to admit that.
Are you ready for someone to show you the way to freedom and a new way of thinking? If you are then there is hope and victory for anyone.