Recovery must be about more than just the addictive behavior.
Recovery is much more than just dealing with an addictive behavior. The addictive behavior is but a symptom of the deeper issue: a rebellion against God. If our focus is primarily the addictive behavior, then the numerous supporting issues will remain fully intact, enabling the continued rebellion and ultimate destruction of the individual.
I wish to address what happens when only the surface issues of the addictive behavior are addressed. Specifically, how an emphasis on sobriety alone produces an attitude of symptom management, rather than that of a full cure. In such a scenario, it is not recovery that occurs but tolerance.
An Incurable Disease
Let me put it in terms of dealing with an incurable deadly disease. If I believe there is no means for curing the disease, then my medical focus ceases to be curing the core issue through painful but profitable treatments and I instead emphasize the need to deal with its symptoms so that the individual can live a somewhat normal life. In such a manner, I would consider myself successful if my patient achieved a level of normalcy in spite of their ailment. In this sense, I am seeking to help others “work around” the issue rather than actually dealing with it.
This is not Biblical nor valid for treatment of addiction. God does not give room for me to simply “work around’ the core issues within my life, rather, He demands that at the heart of my being I learn to submit to Him. If my focus is merely to gain a more stable life while still engaging in the core rebellious thinking, I am not seeking recovery: I am seeking a reduction in consequence.
This idea may seem unpalatable, because it demands changes in arenas of life that many are not willing to make. Unfortunately, anything less is a dependence on self rather than on God. Any reliance on self ultimately fails, for I am incapable of changing my core beliefs which drive my primary behaviors. At best, in self-reliance, I can achieve management of my behaviors, but not victory over them.
Beliefs, Thoughts, Behaviors
In general, Behavior is driven by Thoughts, which is driven by Beliefs. Beliefs can be further broken into two categories: Surface Beliefs and Core Beliefs. Surface Beliefs are those ideas and thoughts that I tell myself are true. Core beliefs are those ideas and thoughts that I believe at a core level to be true. Or, Surface beliefs are those which I think, whereas Core beliefs are those which I feel. Surface Beliefs are established through consistency of thought and personal interpretation of experience, whereas Core Beliefs are established by personality and experience.
Behaviors, thoughts and Surface Beliefs can all be affected by the consistency of my choices. This is the nature of workarounds: I establish healthy patterns that are dependent upon the consistency of my choices. Unfortunately, the core beliefs are not affected by such choices and thoughts and behaviors are predominantly guided by core beliefs. As I cannot drastically change my personality and I cannot change my experiences, I cannot change Core Beliefs. Thus, I find a means to compromise with them in such a way that I reduce their negative social consequences and can live a somewhat stable life.
This may appear to work for a while, but it is like trying to keep a beach ball under water. Eventually, it is going to come up, and with great force. In this kind of thinking, it is no wonder that many believe the only means to remain sober is in lifelong attendance of recovery meetings. Unfortunately, that is not freedom from addiction. It is management of its symptoms.
Finally, this approach emphasizes the power of the will: I must choose to work around the addiction. Thus, only those who are strong willed enough to make these consistent choices can succeed. Many find that they cannot achieve such consistency with any measure of success. Recovery of the individual becomes contingent on a personality type rather than a program, process or attitude. It ceases to be possible for everyone to recover: only the strong can.
An Outside Force
As an addict, I am trapped in my dysfunctional core beliefs. In myself, there is no means to achieve real success, only that of symptom management. The Bible talks about this internal conflict between knowing what is right but finding something at war inside myself.
Romans 7:21 – 25
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
God is willing and capable to transform my innermost being into something actually stable. Jesus called those who are weary and burdened to come to Him, to follow Him and learn from Him (Matthew 6:24). This kind of offering is that of a loving God who knows our nature but loves us anyway. As such, I have no excuse for not pursuing real change in my life. Nor, does the Bible give me any excuse for not dealing with these core beliefs.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Our goal in recovery must be more than mere sobriety, or some happy subset of workarounds for the core beliefs of destruction. Yes, these may be needed in the short term. But our ultimate goal must go beyond these surface issues: it must reach for the core of my rebellion against God. It must go to submission.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
If you need help or have questions, please feel contact us. For those struggling with sexual addiction, or spouses of someone who does, please consider attending one of our meetings in Fort Worth. Everything we do is open and freely offered. We only ask that you be willing to pursue the truth wherever it leads.