It seemed like nothing could break the chains that bound me in my addictions to drugs, alcohol, and sensual sins. I had tried and tried many times to rid myself of them and to no avail. I went to rehab for a year, I did a two week detox, a weekly addiction group meeting with a certified specialist, and several other drug classes.
It seemed like I tried everything. Then, on one spring evening in 2007, after a terrible period of time when I was getting drunk everyday, I had my last sip and never went back. To me this is as significant, impossible, and miraculous as St. Peter being freed from prison while he was chained and sleeping between two guards in Acts 12. My chains were broken, my guards remain asleep, and I am truly free!
Over the past years I have been asked how I did it. I have finally gotten around to actually write down my answer. The following are the first Three of Seven steps that should be taken to overcome addiction. However, I have learned in my experience that you can never limit God and His grace. This might mean that one only needs to start these steps or get through a few of them before God releases you from your chains. Freedom is the goal, so my prayer is that you find it, regardless of how many of these steps it takes.
Step One: Put Others First
In my battle to overcome my addictions, I noticed that usually when I was only doing whatever I wanted, I would get into trouble. After giving all of my addictions up in a day, I decided that to ensure my sobriety, I would need to do whatever was asked of me.
I moved in with the family of one of my college professors to change my scenery and keep myself away from places where I had done drugs and drank in the past. I said yes to everything that was asked of me whether I wanted to do it or not. This allowed me to strengthen my will power as comfort and pleasure were removed as the central foundation from which I based all my decisions.
I began to view being uncomfortable as the new normal. It’s amazing how good it felt! I mowed lawns for people, volunteered my time for various projects, went and did whatever this family asked of me, and more. I really did not have much time to myself, so drinking and drugging had to be put on the back burner while I focused on the things in front of me.
Not choosing what I did each day allowed me to strengthen my willpower in order to say no to myself in other situations when I might be tempted to give into my temptations. Addiction is strong, but saying yes to others lets me practice saying no to comfort seeking and basing my decisions on what feels good. When we live our lives with this mentality, it will be hard to push ourselves out of our comfort zones when we want to give in to our addictions, which are usually the most comfortable things for us to do.
Step Two: Run to Something Else
You cannot simply cut your addiction out of your life and expect success. Something else needs to take the place of what you spent all your time focusing on. Quitting your addiction will leave a void that needs to be filled with something else.
For many addictions there are communities, programs, and groups established to do exactly that. For instance, if drinking is your addiction, you can attend AA meetings, or NA if it’s Narcotics. There are also hobbies, clubs, and other activities that require heavy involvement that can fill your time as well. For. Me, I turned to the Catholic Church and the Godly life that it encompasses, which successfully filled the void left open by me quitting my addictions.
Instead of drinking beers, I read books about Theology and prayed. Instead of slamming shots, I went to Mass and adoration. Instead of hitting bongs, I sought ways to serve others. I celebrated Feast Days, I put my duty as a student first, I looked for ways to better my community, I aspired to imitate the Saints, and much more.
I also poured myself into my love of music and hanging out with new friends. If you think that your old friend group will not help you stay away from your addiction, make sure you find some new friends. This might require some level of discomfort and coming out of your shell, but that’s just part of this whole difficult process of overcoming your addictions.
Step Three: Repeat the opposite action as often as possible.
When the Israelites were in the desert after Moses walked them out of Egypt, they constructed a tent called a tabernacle where they would worship God by sacrificing various animals by killing them as an act of honoring God. A deeper look at these sacrifices shows us that the animals that the Israelites were sacrificing were the same animals held sacred by the Ancient Egyptians in the worship of their own pagan gods.
Living in Egypt for so long under the bondage of the Pharaoh allowed for the Israelites to pick up some bad habits. One of these habits was that they began practicing the Egyptian religion and worshipping their gods that were represented by these animals. This is why they made the Golden Calf in the desert after Moses disappeared on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, because it was something that they were used to doing, that made them feel better, maybe it was even a coping mechanism for them.
That sounds a lot like an addiction to me, so it makes sense then to utilize the same practice that God used to help rid the Israelites of their dependance on the Egyptian pagan gods. He had them sacrifice or kill the animals that represented the gods over and over and over. We too need to sacrifice and kill our addiction over and over and over.
We can do that by repeating the opposite action that involves our addiction as often as possible. This will help us avoid giving in to our addiction and strengthen our will at the same time. Practicing choosing other than our addiction will set up a good habit that will set us up for super success as well.
Some examples could include:
For pornography - The opposite action for this is all in how you view others. Every time you see a person that you find attractive, practice thinking about their family, what they might like to do with their free time, or even how they are incredibly loved by God. This will help you to see humans as not mere objects for use, but as subjects meant for love whose purpose is much more than sexual gratification. The less you see people as simply body parts meant to arouse you, the more respect for them will grow, and the you will find yourself discovering a value in them that should not be cheapened by porn.
For drinking - The opposite of drinking is not drinking, which is really a lot harder than it sounds. One tip to do this is to fill your time with many other things to help stave off the temptation. What are some other activities that bring you joy that can fill your time instead of drinking? While some addictions require medical treatment to overcome them, one who is not quite at that level yet can work on overcoming this addiction by filling their time with other activities. This can range from working out and eating healthy to pouring yourself into other people and your relationships with them. Why not become a cafe frequenter instead of the bar connoisseur that you were previously known as. Also, because drinking can be a social conquest, try finding ways to be social in a healthy way. (like maybe joining a softball league?)
Phone addiction - This one is tough because we use our phones to do so many harmless things. The opposite action would be to use the phone less. Practice setting time limits on your phone use. Or try only using them for calls, emails, and navigation. I have a friend who regularly will take months off of using the internet and apps on his phone and he is still able to run his business and function as a good citizen in society.
We hope that you or someone you love finds these steps useful. If you are looking for assistance in overcoming any addictions in your life, we can help! Reach out to us today to enroll in our one on one mentoring program. Find out more here.
Stay tuned for Steps 4 through 7 next week!