The Synergy of Scripture and Addiction Science
How to find Inner Peace, regain Control, with Christ Driven Behavior
- The Ultimate Book on Behavior Therapy
- The Addictive Belief System (Expectations)
- Understanding Addictive Behavior
- The Real Function or Purpose of Addictive Behavior
- The Single Most Important Variable in Behavioral Change
- The Neurology of Addictions
- The Psychology of Addiction
Is life stressful? Do you worry too much? Do you find specific circumstances in life that are important to you, to be intolerable and overwhelming? Do you have inner peace (ataraxia) – the ability to remain calm despite fear, anger, sadness, shame or stress ? Do you feel in control of your life?
Without control of our lives, there can be no satisfaction, no inner peace, no peace of mind. We are all biologically wired to seek control, to avoid pain and pursue happiness. We all want to experience happiness in our lives, we want to be in control, because the perception of control, makes us feel good.
In the 2019 movie, “Beautiful Boy,” the father asks his drug addicted son, "Why do you do all these drugs?" The son answers, “I don’t know why, when I tried it I felt better than I ever have, so I just kept doing it.”
This teen's statement goes to the core of human nature and hence human behavior. He is seeking to regain control of his emotions, how he feels, with the quick fix or mood changer of drugs.
All addictions (compulsive behaviors) serve an emotional purpose. Regardless of age, we all seek emotional happiness, control of how we feel. We are all driven to seek the neurochemical reward of happiness. All human behavior is driven by the pursuit of happiness (reward) and that, when we choose a specific behavior, we do so because we see it as our, "best available option for happiness, at a given moment in time." Sometimes, we choose what we think is our best available option for happiness, in unhealthy ways, with substances and other corrupt behaviors. We choose quick rewards, ignoring long term gains. The pursuit of self-interest is a fundamental economic motive. The fundamental human motive is the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We organize our behavior around these twin pursuits. Emotionally (not intellectually), many people believe that life should be fair, easy and painless and they should always get what they want. When life does not pan out this way, then we wonder why we continually engage in certain behaviors, are not happy and don't have peace of mind.
Consider that happiness is a genetically programmed, ego driven, genuine and transient emotional reaction, driven by our limbic system, to external circumstances, that excite us (example: roller coaster ride)! Serenity is a state of mind, driven by our prefrontal cortex, that transcends excitement, that leads to joy and must be learned (knowing yourself, having values, purpose and meaning). Serenity (peace of mind) requires self awareness and an understanding of what contributes and detracts from it. Serenity requires being mindful, employing self discovery, curiosity, awareness, gratitude, being of service and a personal connection that can produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We are all addicts, when you operationally define addiction as a continued use of a substance or behavior, despite adverse consequences. With respect to addictive behavior, if you think about it, you can't get addicted, to a substance, unless you have learned the drug helps you do something or offers a reward. After all, if you did not learn that alcohol allows you feel a certain way, you would not know what to buy! Feeling compelled to use a drug (or any compulsive behavior) arises from important reasons inside people, not from an inanimate bottle or substance! Addictive behaviors are never random, there is always a reason and a reward. There is always a, "Trigger-Behavior-Reward-Repeat." However, in the final analysis, if you truly don't want to do something, then you won't do it! We have, "Free Will," but are driven to always pursue happiness (reward), everyone is; it's human nature. The only way you will stop desiring heavy substances and change your behavior is by seeing more happiness in the change, than in the using. We stop abusing substances and other behaviors, when we decide (reason) abusing is not the best option for our happiness. This is exactly what the epidemiological evidence shows. However, we must reach this conclusion ourselves because, as Aristotle said, “We desire in accordance with our deliberation."
Most people never think about why they behave the way they do. Step back, take a deep breath and ask yourself, what emotion do I "feel," right before I have that urge and decide to take that drink, do a drug or engage in any compulsive behavior? I'm not asking what you are thinking, I'm asking what are you feeling? All addictions, all compulsive behaviors, always serve an emotional purpose! What is that purpose?
I spent 10 years in college studying the Central Nervous System, the brain and spinal cord. I spent 47 years abusing my brain and spinal cord, with drugs and alcohol. Regardless of age or background, most people don't think deeply about their behavior. Most people do what they do because it feels good-it makes them feel better. We are always looking for a bigger-better-offer (BBO Reward). We live in a,"feelings," based world." It's human nature to want to be in control of our feelings, to feel better. The truth is that people don't necessarily chase feelings, they escape their uncomfortable feelings. Feelings need to be faced and not run from. We need to recognize or be aware of our feelings, but not become our feelings. Feelings need to be managed, to work for us instead of against us. This management is called Emotional Intelligence or EQ. The takeaway here is understanding, “Why,” do we all have the emotional need to feel better, to be in control? "What," are the specific circumstances in life, that make us feel overwhelmed, helpless, anxious, frustrated, trapped, powerless, out of control - that make us feel bad? "How," do we manage our emotions and thinking in a direct healthy manner? The application of this understanding, is the antidote to regaining control over compulsive behavior as well as finding inner peace, in our lives in general! People change when they hurt enough and have to, or when they learn enough and want to! The biggest obstacle to increasing our self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from seeing ourselves as we really are, facing our feelings or emotions. Like it or not, discomfort is the price of admission, to a meaningful life.
What we think (cognition), what we feel (emotion) and what we do (behavior) are intrinsically linked together. Our thinking determines our feelings and our feelings determine our actions. Pastor, author and cognitive behaviorist, Rick Warren, states, "The way you think determines how you feel and affects how you act. If you want to change something in your life or break a bad habit, then figure out what caused you to do the thing you want to change."
To really know who you are, your core self, you need to know who you are pretending to be and who you intend to be. The way to heal is to grow in self awareness; to understand what motivates us, to realize our values and purpose in life, in some cases, to find a purpose in life. Without values and purpose there is no meaning in life. What are values? Values, are what we consider more important than our feelings. This is a psycho-dynamic approach to life, that goes beyond copying skills, that involves healing from the inside out. Socrates said it best, with respect to philosophy and love of wisdom, "The unexamined life is not worth living." The reality is, that to be true to ourselves, we must think, feel, and behave in alignment with our moral and spiritual values. We must work to be curious, observant and mindful. We need to pause and examine the auto pilot of our lives, our habit loops and to be able to visualize the forest through the trees.
Jud Brewer MD, addiction psychiatrist says, addiction is everywhere. We all have habit loops and every day addictions! Dr. Brewer states we are all addicts! Depending on how you operationally define addiction, he is correct. Dr. Brewer offers a simple definition of addiction as, "continued use despite adverse consequences." We all spend excessive time on behaviors that end up having adverse consequences (computers, our phones, TV, Twitter, Face Book, exercise, eating, you name it). Addictions are simply normal behaviors that have veered out of control. Addictions are not just substance abuses (drugs, alcohol), but also behaviors (compulsive porn, Internet, facebook, tweeting, cell phones, gambling, gaming, anger, etc.). Our modern world is increasingly designed to create experiences that are addictive. The digital quick fix with a mouse click is everywhere. The need to compulsively keep your desktop clean, wash your hands or clean your house, can also be an addiction, although not necessarily a harmful one. Addictive behavior is never random. People behave the way they do for a reason. There is always a reason and a reward. You can't get addicted to a substance or a behavior, that you have not learned does something for you. What is that, "something?" Why do we behave the way we do? What is the root cause of our actions? Why do specific circumstances in life, that are very important to us, make us feel anxiety ridden, frustrated, overwhelmed, helpless, trapped, powerless and lacking control? How do we regain control of our circumstances -our feelings (emotions)?
Addictive behavior always serves and emotional purpose! Addicts have learned to empower themselves and regain control of how they feel, with a displaced quick fix or mood changer of substances and other behaviors. Non-addicts empower themselves and regain control of their feelings by facing them directly and replacing them with a more healthy high-value behavior. Compulsive behavior (addictions) is really about managing our, "Emotional IQ," or making our emotions work for us instead of against us. "A fool vents all their feelings, but a wise person holds them in control." Proverbs 29:11
Take a deep breath, pause and consider this thought for a moment:
Is life easy, fair and painless for you? Do you always get what you want? Intellectually, the answer is no, but emotionally, many of us believe that life should be fair, without pain and require no effort and we should always get what we want. When this type of belief system fails, in other words, when life is not easy, fair and painless, many of us, attempt to regain control of how we feel, with a quick fix or mood changer of substances or other errant behaviors. Welcome to the human race, where life is not perfect and we all race to avoid emotional pain, change our mood and seek the need to, "escape our feelings and feel better."
Historically, the word addiction has referred to a social relationship of bondage: its Latin root means “enslaved by” or “bound to.” We all live in servitude or bondage, in that we want to feel good and be happy. Who doesn't? Changing how we want to feel, with substance abuse, is just one aspect of addiction. Addictions are not just substance abuses (drugs, alcohol), but can also be other behaviors (porn, gambling, smoking, etc.). Drug use spans time and culture. It is a rare human who has never taken a drug to alter how they feel (mood); statistically, it is non-users who are abnormal. Addictive behavior is only a symptom, not the primary problem. Addictions are no more and no less than psychological symptoms—just one of many human mechanisms for dealing with the trauma of life. Don't fool yourself, virtually everyone has a psychological or emotional problem of some kind. We all have habits, hurts and hangups. Having an addiction of some kind, places you squarely in the mainstream of humanity. You could argue, we are all people with addictions. Addictions are simply continued use of behaviors despite adverse consequences. Think of anything you do repeatedly that isn't good for you: Excessive worry, mindless shopping, surfing social media, playing games on your smartphone, getting angry, seeking approval, texting while driving. This could mean continued use of anything. Addictions are simply normal behaviors that have veered out of control like many other dysfunctional human relationships. Psychiatrist, Gerald May, MD in his book, " Addiction and Grace," states: "The same processes that are responsible for addiction to alcohol and narcotics, are also responsible for addiction to ideas, work relationships, power, moods, fantasies and an endless variety of other things. Addictions also make us idolaters, because it forces us to worship objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly freely loving God and one another." Indeed, addictive behavior is, in effect, making your values and purpose in life, worshiping idols or objects of attachment. The psalmist asks, “How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (Psalm 4:2). It's no coincidence that the first commandment is not to worship false idols. The greatest evil of addiction is that it separates the addict from God. Exodus 20:3
Many addiction experts perceive that that Behavior Science and Scripture are mutually exclusive; that Science and Scripture are antithetical; that faith and reason are not compatible; these are misconceptions. With respect to Behavior Science and Scripture, both recognize that values and purpose are the main navigational tools in life. Both emphasize personal values and how to manage those values; they acknowledge, motivation, life skills, community and relationships are human ingredients, necessary to behavioral change. Together they want us to manage our emotions, examine our thinking and change our corrupt behavior; to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Why do people take drugs or drink other than medical reasons? People take drugs for several reasons: 1. To enhance their existing mood (party time), 2. To increase their perceived intelligence (LSD), 3. To escape anxiety. What do we all have in common? We have all experienced stress, frustration, adversity, disappointment and pain. We have all developed learned coping mechanisms, that helped us to deal with difficult circumstances. Sometimes we have continued using corrupted coping mechanisms that no longer help us, and may actually harm us. These coping mechanisms all have the same purpose, to make us, "feel emotionally better, more in control of our circumstances, our lives." Emotions are the primary drivers of human behavior. Any compulsive hurt, hangup or habit, serves an emotional purpose. And what is that purpose? To help us to regain control over our emotions, our feeling overwhelmed, helpless, trapped, powerless and out of control.
What is addiction? The simplest definition is that addiction is a compulsive use of a substance or behavior with adverse consequences. Addictions are, objects of attachment or false idols. Buddhist teaching recognizes attachment (identified as craving) as the origin of suffering. Buddhism teaches that pain in life comes from unfulfilled expectations and desires. Lance Dodes, Harvard Psychiatrist, addiction expert and author of multiple books including, "The Heart of Addiction," describes addiction as a displaced behavior. All addiction is caused by one underlying emotion: intolerable, helplessness. According to Dodes, every addictive act is preceded, with or without conscious awareness, by a feeling of intolerable helplessness. This includes all addictive behaviors, including chronic abuse of alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, gambling, porn, internet use, and so on. Here is how it works: When people are presented with specific circumstances in life that they find personally overwhelming, intolerable, extremely frustrating, helpless, instead of responding with a direct action to deal with how they feel, they respond with a displaced or substitute behavior that helps them escape the trap of feeling helpless, powerless and out of control. Addictions are all substitute (or displaced) actions. Addictive acts, take the place of a more direct response to feelings of helplessness in a particular situation. When people understand the psychology of addiction, the way addiction works, they usually can find some more direct action to deal with their helplessness. When they do, they have become the master of their addiction rather than its slave. The bottom line here is, how does one regain control of their emotions? Do we respond with a direct or indirect displaced behavior? We have free will and reason. We always have a binary choice. We can regain control of helpless feelings with displaced substitute behaviors (quick fixes or mood changers of drugs or other behaviors), or direct healthy behaviors that empower us. What is fascinating here is that both direct healthy behavior and displaced behavior are both designed to empower us in regaining control over our emotions, our helpless, trapped feelings. The point is that when there is no direct action a person feels they can take to deal with overwhelming helplessness, they find a substitute (or a displaced) action. Yes, we are powerless over our tendency to take the easy way out (displaced), but we are not powerless to empower ourselves with a direct high value behavior (something we enjoy or anything besides the displaced behavior) that will help us regain control of our feelings! Pay attention to how you think, for everything you do flows from the heart. Proverbs 4:23. Yes, our thinking determines our feelings and our feelings determine our behavior.
Human beings can be compulsive by nature. Some people have a compulsion to constantly wash their hands, clean their desktop, exercise, clean the house, shop, others to drink, abuse drugs, smoke, drink coffee, over eat, fall in love, watch porn, gamble, obsess with video games, TV, cell phones and social media, lose their temper, control others, etc. When repeated compulsively, these behaviors are symptoms of something deeper and more important, that trouble an individual. Substance addictions like alcohol and drugs are merely the most visible forms of addiction (symptoms), but actually we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing anything, addicted to our own defense mechanisms, and most especially, addicted to our themes/styles or patterned ways of thinking. We all continue to repeat behaviors that have adverse consequences! No one is perfect, all humans have have habits, hurts and hangups.
What is stress? Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Most of us use the word stress to refer to negative experiences but stress is a vital part of life. Stress is really about our capacity to handle change. Stress is the set of emotional, physical, and cognitive reactions to change. Thinking of stress as our reaction to change, puts us in control over our circumstances and not our circumstances in control of us. With respect to addictive behavior, many people try to circumvent or escape their stress, their overwhelming anxious feelings, their frustrations, their helpless circumstances, with medications, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, porn, or any substance or any behavior, that brings relief, in essence, "A quick fix or mood changer." But none of these methods are permanently effective.
We all want inner peace, we want to be in control of our lives, we want to be empowered, because empowered people are in control of their emotions. What all humans really seek is a sense of control. People like to feel in control. We are biologically wired to seek control. What we really seek is not a drink, a drug, porn or a bet, but a sense of empowerment, especially in the face of feeling overwhelmed, helpless, trapped and powerless (out of control). The root of all conflicts in life is that we want to be in charge. We want to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge, we want to be God. We want to call the shots. Exactly how we choose to empower ourselves and regain control of our emotions (feelings), our life, is what needs to be discerned, understood and then managed.
The problem is, being in control all the time, can be impossible, exhausting and not fulfilling. Albert Einstein posits, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Jesus Christ made it simple, yet profound, when he said, "Come to me all those who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Mathew 11:28. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:29-30.
Christ uses three key verbs when speaking of stress management: come, learn, and take. Christ wants us to come to Him, collaborate with Him, learn from Him, take on a lighter load. God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us grace, as we overcome. Discomfort is the price of admission if you want to have a meaningful life. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. The number-one contributor to growth is difficult circumstances. All addictions are a by-product of how we decide to manage difficult circumstances.
Modern secular addiction treatment is preoccupied with labeling addictions and the effects of the substance involvement (alcoholic-DUI, crippled marriage from porn, gambling debt) rather than with the person's relationship to self, others, and the world. As with any hurt, habit or hangup, we need to look at ourselves from the inside - out. In other words, why do we drink or drug, or behave in certain ways? Discovering and understanding the root cause of our behavior, or hurt, habit or hangup, provides an ideal pathway toward understanding ourselves altogether. With respect to overcoming addictions, we can't permanently heal and change, what we don't understand and acknowledge. Without this self awareness, we are at best, "White knuckling sobriety." White knuckling simply means an individual has to hold on for dear life (envision someone gripping a steering wheel so hard their knuckles turn white), to keep themselves from taking a drink or behaving in a compulsive manner. The urge is simply so strong, it’s all they can do to get through the day. And, therefore, they tend to be obsessed and in a state of constant craving. Hurts, habits and hangups always serve an emotional purpose. For example, reasons for excessive drinking are driven by emotional factors, usually feelings of helplessness or whatever in life makes a person feeling overwhelmingly trapped. Having the tools to escape the trap, understand, discern and manage, how and why we think and feel, as well as, what we value or don't value, is life changing. When you truly understand the psychology behind your behavior, you will not white knuckle, in fact you will never have to feel an uncontrollable urge to use problematically again. It's never too early or too late to change your thinking and change your life. The greatest power anyone has is the capacity to change. Dr. Marmer, UCLA Psychiatrist believes it is never too late to learn, "Resilience." Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., defines resilience as, "The psychological capacity to adapt to stressful circumstances and to bounce back from adverse events. Resilient individuals find a calling and dedicate themselves to what gives life purpose. "
While there are many secular approaches to resolving addictive behavior, the ultimate, empowering and truly unique solution, only comes from God, with an indwelling and seminal psychotherapist and psychoanalyst (Paraclete/Mentor John 14:16) and He’s freely provided it to everyone. “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29). "His grace is sufficient for us, for there is power in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9-10. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes self control (Gal. 5:22-23). When we learn to empower ourselves from a spiritual aspect, the old is gone, the new is here, we become New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5: 17). If you value your relationship with God, more than your addiction to substances, or other corrupt behaviors, your addiction will cease to exist. It's finding serenity in choosing the right options that will make you happy in the long run. Finding meaning, values and purpose in life. You are not powerless to choose a better life.
If you are not completely satisfied with your life, maybe it is time to empower yourself and choose a better life? Whether you believe in God or not, perhaps it is time to look at the character and behavior of the historical figure of Jesus Christ. If you are intellectually willing to keep an open mind and put a governor on your hubris, that Higher Power just might turn out to be Jesus Christ. Consider, just perhaps, we are best served by delegating to someone more powerful than ourselves, to break our cycle and heal us from the inside out. To use the popular vernacular, we might benefit from a God-intervention; or better articulated, a Motivational Interview, where we jointly explore Christ driven thinking, motivation, goals, purpose and an understanding of any divergence between our values and our behavior (what we value and how we act). Where together we discover our desires, ability, reasons and needs, with respect to how we behave. God wants us to have a, psycho-dynamic," relationship, a personal collaborative therapeutic relationship, in which the participants engage in “thinking-together." God wants us to discover ourselves and our true image.
Chapter 1: The Ultimate Book on Behavior Therapy:
The Bible is a book on, "Behavior Therapy." In Dennis Prager's book, "The Rational Bible: Genesis, Prager illustrates that Genesis is a book about the human condition. Prager states, "To put it in medical terms, Genesis describes the patient’s (the human being’s) pathology, and the books that follow offer the wisdom and moral instruction necessary to cure the patient."
Prager continues, "The beginning of Genesis is probably the best-known story in world history, containing, as it does, God’s creation of the world, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, the Flood and Noah’s ark. What is not well-known is how this story changed the world. The first verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth,” alone changed the world. As I explain, this verse asserted for the first time in history that that there is one God; that this God is universal (as opposed to tribal); and that God is not within nature but is its sole creator—unlike every other god in history."
The Bible is the Logos on Behavior Therapy. The Bible is a book on human behavior from the creation of the human being, to the fall, redemption and restoration of humanity. The Bible has shaped western civilization more than any book ever written. The Bible is the only book, alleged to be the inspired Word of God. For this reason alone it deserves to be read. Nothing else ever written can match the simplicity and profundity, the wisdom and the revelation of Scripture. Many secular philosophers, good people, point out what they consider, logical contradictions and fabled stories, in the bible. This can be a specious argument when you fail to analyze scripture, written in the historical context of the times, with the nuanced memes, idioms and languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin) of an ancient society. I prefer to view the Bible from the big picture - the forest through the trees. In this context, the Bible is a book on God's redeeming love for mankind. The Bible is a book about creation; the evolution of morality and a Rational Intelligent Designer's (God) purpose for His creation. The Bible remains a book that empowers objective morality and gives meaning and significance to human behavior. Biologically we are social animals with empathy for each other. Being created in God's image accounts for human beings having a moral point of reference. Without this reference, we have, "humanism," where right and wrong and good and evil is all relative. Without a concept of right or wrong, behavior is meaningless. If there is no Creator, there is no design, and no purpose. God is the only absolute in a universe of relativity; without a creator, all is random and ultimately meaningless, including for the most part, right and wrong. The Bible is a book on an ethical monotheistic God, creation, slavery, freedom, redemption and restoration; laws and principles, truth, beauty and power, on choices, thinking, actions toward others, motivation, goals, life skills, community, relationships, purpose and values. The Bible is the, "Logos on, Behavior Therapy." In Isaiah 1:18 scripture says, "Come now and let us reason together..........." God wants us to think, understand and form judgments about how to behave - God wants us to embrace love and detest evil. Psalms 97:10. God wants us to be transformed with new thinking Romans 12:2.
In Genesis 3, God gives humanity their first lesson in behavior. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were given a choice to act with a direct behavior that honored God or a displaced behavior, that dishonored God, in that they ate the forbidden fruit of knowledge (in order to become like God). This is more than a cautionary tale, a moral fable, this is the Word of God, clarifying and simplifying, who is in control, who is God and who is not. Genesis 3, is an abductive explanation of human behavior, as simple as possible and no simpler, with respect to exactly who is in control, free will, pride, knowledge, making choices, good and evil and the consequences of our behavior. Adam and Eve’s behavior is symbolizing humanity’s ongoing willful rebellion against God, to always be in control, to be God. God creates us with free will, and we respond by trying to be God, knowing good and evil. We want to be the masters of our own destiny. We want to substitute our own will for God’s will. The implication is that man become the definer of good and evil. Humanism was born right there; man became the measure of all things. We want to control all our circumstances in life, we want control of everything. God gave humans free will, the ability to think and choose and that includes the freedom to realize we are not God; the freedom to choose or reject God! The freedom to learn from our circumstances. The freedom to choose direct or displaced behaviors. The freedom to choose our best option for eternal happiness.
In the book, "The Freedom Model for Addiction: Escape the Treatment and Recover Trap," the authors present addiction as a choice, not a disease over which we have no control. The PDP (Positive Drive Principal) says that all human behavior is driven by the pursuit of happiness (reward) and that, when you choose to do something, you do so because you see it as your best available option (reward). This concept is vitally important because the only way you will stop desiring heavy substances and change your behavior is by seeing more happiness (reward) in the change than in the using. You must reach that conclusion yourself because, as Aristotle said, “We desire in accordance with our deliberation.”
We all have free will and can choose our, "Best available option for happiness.” This premise might seem trite at first thought, but it is ripe with profound meaning and backed with cutting edge research. One engages in specific behaviors because they believe it will give them temporary happiness. They stop abusing when they decide abusing is not the best option for their happiness. The authors use reason, science and evidence for their premise. The book clarifies the need to address your problems where they actually exist: In the realm of personal choice! From a Christian perspective this secular book makes sense to me and here is why. We all have free will, freedom to choose, like Adam and Eve. This book is all about reward-based learning, what we value, the bigger-better-offer, what makes us the most happy. As Christians, if we surrender our lives to Christ’s control, we do so because we value the personal relationship that we have with God. This personal relationship is our best available option for happiness!
We all face challenges, choices, and consequences. Choices have consequences. Choices determine destiny. Life is a series of autonomous choices. It is our mind, soul and free will that allows us to rise above our genes and environment and act with autonomy. Life is about circumstances and how we choose to think and behave. God gave us free will and choice, so that we can learn and discern. By granting us freedom of choice, therefore, God gave meaning to our behavior. We humans are not a cosmic accident, a mere collection of fundamental particles of nature, as the late Steven Hawking would posit. God created us with utmost significance, in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God wants us to learn to be like Him, in His image, specifically, in Christ's image. God's moral and behavioral imperative is that we are designed to become Christ like in character, but not in being!
Who is Jesus Christ of the New Testament? The best introduction to direct healthy behavior and the character of God, is by introducing the incarnate person of Jesus Christ. Jesus never taught a specific Religion. He taught the value and importance of a personal relationship with God and others. Jesus Christ, uniquely came to redeem us through grace, but He also came to serve as a paragon of behavior for the human race.
Jesus was the model of behavior that God wants us to adopt in this world. Jesus came as a model of behavior on earth, so that we might know the Father! Jesus was a master story-teller, communicator, psycho-analyst and psycho-therapist, who lived by example. His teachings have shaped the world (arguably) more than any other teacher.
Jesus Christ was a brilliant thinker, a winsome rebel, who used logical arguments and psychology to refute His critics and establish the truth of His views. Jesus was an, "Out of the Box," thinker who taught us to, "Think Different." Jesus revolutionized thinking when he taught that inner peace is obtained not by what we get from God, but what we give to God. Jesus taught that inner peace comes from regaining control of life with a personal relationship with God. Jesus espoused that we must be born again with transformed thinking! Jesus taught that we receive by giving. We acquire by surrendering. We live by dying! Jesus did not conform, he transformed thinking and behavior! Jesus audaciously proclaimed, "I am the way, the truth and the light. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). Jesus was simply telling his entourage about his incipient departure from this world and in order to eventually join Him in the next, be Christ like in character, act with Christ Driven Behavior. Jesus taught that to know Him is to know God. Christ gave his life for this premise.
Jesus Christ was a man who lived his life based on relationships. He asked only three behaviors for mankind: To love God (with all your heart, soul and mind) and to love your neighbor, as yourself. Jesus taught, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In the abductive plausibility trilemma of C.S. Lewis, "was Jesus a liar, a lunatic or Lord?" You decide, but just know that Christ's thinking, behavior and instructions were centered around one simple, life changing, eruditious premise, "Love God and love others."
One could argue that Jesus Christ is the most famous/Influential person in human history. His presence on the planet had such a profound impact that: THE WORLD MARKS TIME by His birth, His death, and His resurrection! At the time of this writing, it is 2019 A.D. You can’t even write a check without tacitly acknowledging Jesus Christ. No other person in history can claim that his life was the fulfillment of dozens of stunningly detailed prophecies written hundreds and even thousands of years before they appeared.
Bill O'reilly in his book, "Killing Jesus," notes that Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount may be the most important speech in human history. What was this speech about? The speech was about thinking and behavior, with instructions on how to live a good life, how to be blessed and eternally happy (The Eight Beatitudes), with descriptions of individuals having been saved, by God’s grace. Jesus begins this great sermon by turning the common understanding of those in God’s favor upside down! The antithesis of present thought! The Pharisees, who largely set the religious and spiritual tone of the day, would have propagated the opposite view of the Beatitudes, with an incorrect understanding for the believer. For this reason, Jesus brings clarity to the scene with these eight corrections. To say that Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential man who ever lived is almost trite. Nearly two thousand years after he was brutally executed by Roman soldiers, more than 2.2 billion human beings attempt to follow his teachings and believe he is God. That includes 77 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2002 Gallup Poll. The teachings of Jesus have shaped the entire world and continue to do so.
With respect to behavior, Christ teaches us not to conform to this world but to, "Change our thinking and change our lives." In the words of Pastor and cognitive behavior advocate, Rick Warren, "Behind everything we do is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief. Every action is prompted by an attitude." “God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible.” Warren continues, "Anytime you see people messing up their lives, you can be sure that it did not start with their actions: it started with their thoughts. The way you think determines how you feel and affects how you act. If you want to change something in your life or break a bad habit, then figure out what caused you to do the thing you want to change."
With respect to circumstances and resultant behavior, all change ultimately occurs because of decisions (thinking) people make for themselves. With respect to addictive behavior, people change when they hurt enough and have to or when they learn enough and want to! People change, when they are motivated to change. People change when they understand themselves and what they really value in life.
The main navigational tools in life are values and purpose. People overcome hurts, habits and hang-ups out of purpose-based motivation (based on values) -- they better themselves when they recognize how their habits, violate who they were, what they want to be, where they want to go in life. What are the main values in your life? Write them out, because until you clarify your values, you can’t live by them. Consider this: Where do you get your values and purpose? Do you get them from yourself (internal) others-society (external) or (eternal) the wisdom found in the Bible? Worse yet, have you lost your values and purpose and now get them from objects of attachment, the false idols of substances and other corrupt behaviors? To be the right person, you must think, feel and behave congruent with your deepest moral and spiritual values. If you don't have values and purpose in life find them. If you have lost them, find them again.
Let's be realistic, no one is perfect. Many of us lack values and purpose. Many of us have created ungodly, displaced and unhealthy methods for handling life. Regardless of your imperfection, your struggle, if you have a hurt that haunts your heart, a hang-up that cause you pain or habits that have messed up your life, this essay is for you. An interesting corollary with respect to addictive behavior, is that the factors that lead a person to feel overwhelmingly helpless, in the face of specific circumstances, are always the same underlying factors, as those that lead to a person's general emotional problems, in life itself. This is precisely why we all have a tendency for multiple hurts, hangups and habits.
If you are not completely satisfied with your life, I'm asking you to continue reading. The text below is an explanation of how Scripture and Behavior Science interact and cooperative, with respect to the cause and effect of any hurt, hangup or habit, any addiction, or life in general! The foundational principles of psychology and behavior, as outlined below, apply to all humans, Atheists and Christians alike. Perhaps you will find inner peace, by changing your thinking and transforming your life. Perhaps you will choose to have a better life. The choice is yours to make.
Chapter 2: The Addictive Belief System (Expectations)
Addiction Psychologist, Dr. Arnold Washton states, "The inner disease that makes us so vulnerable to addiction, seems to originate in our belief system, for the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us determine to a large degree our feelings, personality, and outward behavior."
Set and setting (mind and environment) are critical to forming our belief system. Set or the mind is the element of a person that allows them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and to feel, the faculty of conscious thought, which is instrumental in forming our values. Setting is the environment, the social, cultural and physical surroundings. We interact and react to the world around us, with our personal set and setting. What we believe determines our behavior. Our behavior then determines what we become, and that has a direct effect on the direction of our life. Today, there are four belief systems that can underlie corrupt thinking with respect to addictive behavior. Materialism, (worship things, objects of attachment, eg. substances), Individualism (love for yourself), Secularism (God is unnecessary), and Relativism (there are no absolutes, no right or wrong). God is the only absolute in a universe of relativity. If there is no Creator, there is no design, and no purpose. All is random and ultimately meaningless, including right and wrong. Without a commitment to truth and a commitment to good behavior, as defined by an objective authority, our thinking, foundation and culture is doomed.
The Core of Addictive Thinking:
Chief among the ingrained beliefs (corrupted thinking) that contribute to addictions as well as hurts, habits and hangups are, “I should be perfect and perfection is possible; I should be all-powerful controlling myself and others; I should always get what I want and life should be without pain and require little or no effort.” The simple truth is that life will never be easy, fair and painless. We are never going to always get what we want. Intellectually, we may know this, but emotionally...not so much. The problem is, that the addictive personality believes that life should be easy, fair and painless! When we allow ourselves to think in this, "entitled," fashion, we lower our threshold to adversity, to feeling frustrated, helpless and overwhelmed. If we insist on avoiding emotional pain, on being comfortable all the time, we will seek ways to avoid reality, to escape our negative mood. With respect to addictive thinking, this type of corrupted belief system is the very core of addictive thinking and can lead to attempting to regain control with a, "Quick fix or mood changer," of drugs and or other errant behaviors, all designed to change the way we feel emotionally. The bottom line here is that addicts want and expect life to meet their demands, as opposed to meeting the demands of life.
Chapter 3: Understanding Addictive Behavior:
In order to understand addiction, one needs to understand human psychology. What we think and what we feel, are distinct drivers of our behavior. Epictetus noted some 2000 years ago that “it isn’t our circumstances, but our view of them, which creates our miseries." Victor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, notes in his book, "Mans Search for Meaning," if you have any freedom, it is the freedom to choose how you think and react. Frankl's thinking is that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. Our behavior is determined by what we find meaningful- what we value. Behavior, can be defined, as the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others. As adults, our behavior should ultimately be determined by our thinking, but is often usurped or overwritten by our feelings, our emotions. Emotions are the primary drivers of our behavior. Addictive behavior is driven by our emotions-our feelings. We live in an emotion charged society where people often derive their values, not based on thinking, but based on how they feel (if it feels good-do it)! Feelings, including urges to use substances or activities, are almost always temporary. It's true, we can't always control our immediate feelings, but we do have control over how we think and act, based on those feelings. Unfortunately, people often act, based on their emotions-how they perceive they should feel or want to feel.
Emotions are the primary drivers of our behavior. Emotional IQ is the buzz word these days in both business and psychology. Justin Bariso, author of, "EQ Applied," states the simplest definition of Emotional IQ is making emotions work for you instead of against you. As humans, it is important to discover and question the source of our feelings. We truly need to battle our nature. We live in a secular world. From a secular perspective, it is best to understand why we have a compulsive behavior, why it is hard to control and why it can be overwhelming. This secular recognition of "Why," facilitates a humanistic cognitive framework, that helps us to see the perspicacity of scripture and the efficacy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we truly love Jesus more than ourselves, there will be a change of heart after studying the Scriptures, that will result in a change of behavior. Christ shows us we need to manage our feelings our emotions in a direct healthy manner. We need perspective in understanding our emotions. It's human nature to try and maintain control of our emotions. Addictions, and all behaviors, are centered around our emotions or more specifically, "How we manage, how we feel." What separates humans from other primates is our ability to think and discern. Long before modern psychology, a wise King Solomon wrote, "Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts." Proverbs 4:23 GNT
All too often, people do not make decisions based on what they know. Rather, they make decisions based on how they feel about specific circumstances and people. If a person feels frustrated, anxious, helpless and trapped, they will always try and regain control of their feelings. In this regard, Addictive Behavior is a symptom of an underlying root cause of emotional trauma. This trauma can be minor or major, conscious or unconscious. This trauma can also be accumulative, culminating with an addictive act. It varies with each individual, but with respect to addictive behavior, the causative circumstance or issue is always very important to the individual and renders them feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, trapped, powerless and losing control. Addictive behavior is designed to regain control over this emotional feeling! Addictive behavior is designed to reverse feelings of helplessness. Take a moment to reflect on your own life. What were you feeling right before you got drunk, watched porn, placed a bet or got angry? If you are like most people, there is probably some theme in your life that always makes you feel helpless or powerless, and it is this theme that appears before your compulsive behavior.
Science demonstrates that addictive behavior is never spontaneous or random. For example, Chemical Addiction doesn’t just happen to people because they come across a particular chemical and begin taking it regularly. You can't get addicted if you don't learn that the drug (or behavior) helps you do something! Addiction is learned and has a history rooted in the person's individual, social, and cultural development. There is always a learned reason and a reward. Whatever is rewarded gets repeated. For example, an alcoholic learns that he feels comfort, pleasure or relief from alcohol, otherwise he would not be likely to repeat it, or even know what to buy. Maia Szalavitz in her book, "Unbroken Brain," clarifies why addiction is a developmental disorder—a problem involving timing and learning, more similar to autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia. In both autism and addictions, for example, repetitive coping behaviors are frequently misinterpreted as the source of the problem, rather than being seen as attempts at solutions. This finding is clear both from abundant data and from the lived experience of people with addictions. The bottom line is the addict does not have a disease or broken brain but has a learning disorder than can be changed with new learning! The book illustrates how timing, history, family, peers, culture and chemicals come together to create both illness and recovery- and why there is no "addictive personality" or single treatment that works for all. Unbroken Brain brings clarity to the evidence based efficacy of, "Harm Reduction," a learned behavior that reduces negative consequences of human behaviors. While reducing risky consequences, harm reduction is a positive end, but it’s not an end solution until we address the root cause, of the behavior. The issue in medical practice is always how best to help a patient. If a cure is possible and probable without doing greater harm, then cure is the objective. When it isn’t – and in most chronic medical conditions cure is not the expected outcome – the physician’s role is to help the patient with the symptoms and to mitigate the harm done by the disease process. This is the underlying premise of Harm Reduction.
Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., notes in his book, (Addiction: A Behavioral Economic Perspective), "the main problem with most addictive behaviors is that the costs (adverse consequences) occur in the future, whereas the pleasures from them occur in the present. For example, many of us would prefer to have a healthy body weight rather than eat a piece of cake. The problem is that the piece of cake is available right now whereas the healthy body weight may require time and exertion." This fact of human nature, is especially visible with respect to wanting to feel better with chemicals (drugs and alcohol). Chemical abusers are experts with their quick fix or mood changer (immediate gratification) for what makes them feel better, less helpless and more in emotional control. While substance abuses are obvious examples, the same principle applies to other compulsive behaviors (porn, gambling, anger, etc.).
With many people, especially young people, immediate rewards weigh disproportionately in our decision making. As the reward becomes more remote, it has less value in the present. The more we disregard our longer-term interests (values) in favor of immediate gratification, the more likely that we will have a range of behavioral problems, including addiction.
In the book, "The Freedom Model for Addiction: Escape the Treatment and Recover Trap," the authors present addiction as a choice, not a disease over which we have no control. We have free will and can choose our, "Best available option for happiness.” This premise might seem trite or ludicrous at first thought, but it is ripe with profound meaning. One engages in specific behaviors because they believe it will give them temporary happiness. They stop abusing when they decide (REASON) abusing is not the best option for their happiness. The book shows how our treatment and recovery system is based on learned connections and mythical beliefs. The authors use reason, science and evidence for their premise. The book clarifies the need to address your problems where they actually exist: In the realm of personal choice!
We are living in the NOW generation. Life is not all about us and how we want to feel. We sacrifice our future for the pleasure of the moment. We need to exercise self-awareness and self-control when it comes to the temptation of instant gratification. We need to mature and grow up! We need to learn to consider the cost of our earthly decisions so that we can anticipate, protect and secure, the future God has for us, on this earth and beyond. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV)
Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor and acid prophet emphasized the importance of what he called “set and setting” as key influences on drug experiences. With respect to drug usage, set is a person’s frame of mind, mood, expectations, and the prevalent cultural ideas about a drug; setting is the physical and social environment in which a substance is taken. Leary would posit that the combination of set and setting is what determined what the user psychologically experienced. Leary's supposition is important because drugs can have different affects on people with respect to their psychology and environment. This helps explain why some treatments work for some and not for others. In 1964, the Surgeon General put a label on cigarette packages stating they caused cancer. Millions (40%) of smokers stopped smoking cold turkey, because they valued their health. Tens of thousand of Vietnam soldiers returned to this country after being addicted to a potent and freely existing heroin in a stressful environment of Vietnam. 90% stopped when they came back to the US because they no long had the need to get high (Robbins Study). These are examples of set and setting. Even addicted rats (Rat Park Study) stopped taking drugs when they were exposed to an environment with other rats and objects to play with. Andrew Weil, MD, in his book, "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs," states: "Any drug can be used successfully, no matter how bad its reputation, and any drug can be abused, no matter how accepted it is. There are no good or bad drugs; there are only good and bad relationships with drugs."
Chapter 4: The Real Function or Purpose of Addictive Behavior:
Forget everything you have learned about the so called disease of addiction. Then, and only then, can you begin to understand the hidden simplicity behind this complex behavior. In a nutshell, addictive behavior is used to reverse feelings of overwhelming, intolerable helplessness. Addictive behavior occurs, when specific circumstances in life, that are always very important to us, result in our feeling emotionally overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, trapped, powerless and out of control. Instead of a direct behavior, used to regain control, some folks attempt to regain control of their circumstance with a displaced or substitute behavior of mood altering drugs or other types of behavior (porn, gambling, anger, controlling others, etc.). Addictive behavior works because getting drunk, taking the drug and other behaviors, temporarily removes the trapped-powerless- feeling, because the abuser is doing something about it, they are in effect, "regaining control of their emotions or how they feel." This feeling of escaping the trap of helpless-powerless feelings, is empowering and returns a sense of control! Human behavior is always seeking control, emotionally, physically and psychologically. If you are walking and start to trip and fall, your priority is to regain control of your balance. So it is with addictive behavior, it's all about regaining control. When people feel they're back in control of their feelings (lives), with specific behaviors, the behavior becomes a compelled activity.
A more cogent example is road rage, a careless driver swerves into your lane causing you to maneuver your car out of his path in order to keep from hitting your car. At that moment you are helpless and relatively powerless (you can't control him). You could flip him off, scream expletives or pull off the highway and go to a bar, where you can drink and vent. These types of displaced behaviors will help you regain control of your feelings at least for the moment, because you are empowering yourself and doing something about it; you are taking control! Alternatively, you could do something more direct and healthy, take down his license plate and call it in to the police, consider the possibility that the driver might be physically handicapped, having a hard day or a hard life, they may have been traumatized by a past traffic accident or racing to the hospital, we can turn on some mood changing music, take a deep breath and thank God you are okay, etc. Once again, you are empowering yourself and regaining control, but in the latter scenario, in a more direct healthy manner.
Behavior science demonstrates that virtually every compulsive act is preceded and precipitated by a feeling of overwhelming, intolerable helplessness or powerlessness. The function and purpose of addiction is to reverse this sense of overwhelming helplessness. Addiction is simply a displaced behavior used to regain control over an emotional state. All true addictions, always serve an emotional purpose. All hurts, habits and hangups, have the potential to become compulsive, Displaced-substitute behaviors, when they serve an emotional purpose. When they serve this emotional purpose, these behaviors repeat and become compulsive in nature. Think about the last time you had a compulsion to drink or drug or behave in a compulsive manner. What were you feeling right before that action? If you are like most folks, there is probably some theme/thinking pattern in your life, that always makes you feel helpless or powerless or trapped and it is this theme that appears just before your compulsive action. Often this behaviors become automatic and we run our life on auto-pilot, oblivious to why we think, feel and act the way we do.
Chapter 5: VALUES: THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT VARIABLE IN BEHAVIOR CHANGE
Jesus Christ never taught, "How we should feel." His teachings were based on thinking and our behavior (actions). What Christ teaches is Direct Healthy thinking, that is not conformed to this world, but transforms and renews our minds (Romans 12:2). Christ like thinking and behavior is also used to regain control of circumstances, but is based on the values and tenets of Scripture. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16). Like Paul, we are best served, to think along scriptural lines with biblical values that empower us! Our values are the starting place for all our beliefs, actions and behaviors.
Jesus told his disciples that the core value, the driving value, the eternal value is this: "Does my behavior please God?" "What would Jesus do?" This is not some pithy, trite question. It's a statement, a call, to think before you act. (Matthew records Jesus’ primer on values in Matthew 6:19-21).
Dennis Prager, at Prager University, summarizes what is most important in life. "What is the most important thing in life? Money? Happiness? Love? Those things are certainly important, but what matters most is good values. What are values? They are what we consider more important than our feelings. For instance, just about everyone feels like eating junk food, but if you eat whatever you feel like eating you will end up obese and unhealthy. So then, what stops people from eating all the food they feel like eating? The answer is good values. Indeed a lack of good values is the root of virtually everything wrong with the world. We should act based on values rather than our feelings."
Indeed, Dennis Prager is correct. Values are responsible for a person that stops smoking or drinking or other corrupt behaviors, after decades of abuse. Values often translate to the standards of behavior a person wants to demonstrate—to him- or herself, as well as to others. Our values help define the kind of person we want to be and the kind of life we want to live. When we live in accordance with them, our values influence our priorities, our thinking, our choices, our decision-making and our actions. When people work toward living in accordance with their identified values, their chances of success in recovery increases, as does their overall level of contentment. Invariably, when our actions are in alignment with our values, we do better and we feel better. When our actions are consistent with our values we participate in life in a way we can feel good about, regardless of external circumstances. Conversely, when our behavior violates our values it’s almost impossible to feel good about ourselves—no matter the outcome or external circumstances. Since values are important, where do we get our values? Do we get our values from our peers, parents, society, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, our friends? How about the Bible? With respect to the Old Testament Bible, Prager wrote a book called the, "The Ten Commandments Still the Best Moral Code." Prager notes, "The Ten Commandments are preoccupied with goodness. Each commandment is a moral tour de force. Together they present the most compelling plan ever devised for a better life and good world. Yet, they were written—and in the eyes of hundreds of millions, revealed by the Creator—three thousand years ago. The Ten Commandments are what began humanity’s long, arduous journey toward moral progress. With all our sophistication, the remarkable fact is that the Ten Commandments are more or less all we need."
From a behavioral perspective, the Ten Commandments are 10 Direct Healthy Behaviors. If you want to improve your life and make a better world, here is the Occam's Razor's Law of Parsimony, the blueprint for behavior. The understanding of human nature that you will find in the Ten Commandments is startling in its depth and sophistication. And most important, the Ten Commandments remain as germane today, as they were to our ancient ancestors.
Prager’s latest book, “The Rational Bible,” puts ancient biblical life, thinking and behavior, into a reasonable and logical perspective that makes rational sense in the past as well as in contemporary time. The Exodus clarifies ancient thinking and behavior as well as what God expects from his people, then and now. It's about God, slavery and freedom. The central message of his book is simply that God is good and demands that we as humans behave as good people, with good values, as this is the only belief that will enable a good world for humans to live in. The Rational Bible, is profound and demystifies scripture with human logic and reason. It’s simply life changing with respect to wisdom, adopting new thinking, good values and moral behavior.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, wrote a best selling book called, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” The main idea of the book 12 Rules for Life is to underscore the importance of having rules in life, to turn chaos into order. Dr. Peterson clarifies that life is a dynamic state of flux and humans interact with either good values or bad. The author offers twelve rules that are essential for success in life. In Jordan Peterson's best-selling book "12 Rules for Life," he tells men to "stand up straight with your shoulders back" and "accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open." He warns against getting stuck in the "unconscious paradise of childhood," and as the stern moralist tells them, to learn from Old Testament stories, beginning with Moses and those famous original 10 rules. In my opinion, Dr. Peterson could just have easily called this book the 12 Values for Life. Readers can also watch Dr. Peterson's Biblical lectures on YouTube. Peterson is articulating research that establishes empirically what Bible readers have known for millennia. The reason the book is useful for Christians is the same reason evidential apologetics can be: although evidences don’t prove our faith, they reinforce the faith of those who are already committed to believe the Bible. Peterson’s defenses of discipline for children, of gender distinctions, and of male leadership in marriage, are all examples of behavioral science agreeing with biblical wisdom.
A Surprising Truth About Addiction:
More people quit addictions than maintain them, and they do so on their own. That's not to say it happens overnight. People succeed when they recognize that the addiction interferes with something they value—and when they develop the confidence that they can change. Data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) tells us that over 90% of people with substance dependence overcome it, and that approximately 90% of these people do it on their own with no Alcoholics Anonymous, no meetings and no addiction treatment. A 2015 Canadian study confirms that most behavioral addictions get better on their own. There are numerous other studies, including the Robbins study of heroin addicted Vietnam Vets that returned to the United States, Rat Park, etc. You can’t argue with data, you can only choose which side of it you are going to be on.
Stanton Peele, is a psychologist, attorney, psychotherapist and the author of books and articles on the subject of alcoholism, addiction and addiction treatment. Dr. Peele has spent his career developing approaches that break the cycle of addiction, empower people with addictions to take back control of their lives. For decades we have been told that addiction is an irreversible disease, a biological force over which we have no control. That defeatist message not only is without scientific foundation, but actually prevents our overcoming addiction. Dr. Stanton Peele points out that most people recover from addictions on their own -- without AA or rehab, and what makes the difference is values, not biology. Peele states: There are fundamental building blocks that form non addicted lives, which can be regarded as tools to overcome addiction. Dr. Peele, does not ascribe addiction and alcoholism as diseases, but as the result of life choices that people can reverse. Peele considers values, the most important variable in overcoming any addiction.
These seven tools are:
(1) Values: Building on your foundation of values is your most important tool. Your values are your beliefs that some things are right and good and others wrong and bad, that some things are more important than others, and that one way of doing things is better than another.
(2) Motivation: Activating your Desire to Quit!
(3) Rewards: If motivation is the force that drives you to act, then rewards are what you gain from that activity
(4) Resources: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses, Developing Skills to Fill the Gaps
(5) Support: Getting help from those nearest you. Human beings are social animals. Our peers and intimates have an enormous impact on our perspectives and our behavior.
(6) Mature identity: Growing in self-respect and identity. Addiction is a search for immature gratifications—it is self-seeking behavior resembling that of a dependent child. As a result, overcoming addiction requires growing up and assuming adult roles.
(7) Higher goals: Pursuing and accomplishing things of value. Your goals in life are the directions you are pursuing.
Dr. Carl Hart, a Neuroscientist, in his book, "High Price," Hart talks about his life and how he did not particularly care for drugs because he was athlete and that was his primary motivation. Drugs made him lose control and this was not good for athletics. He valued sports, more than drugs.
Chris Voss, (Negotiate like your life Depends on it) an FBI Hostage Negotiator states that all decisions are based on what we care about, our emotions our passions. Voss considers, "Value drivers," essential to successful negotiating. Understanding human emotions are at the core of any thought process and consequent negotiation. Voss confirms that, "Fear of loss," is the single greatest emotional driver of human behavior. Success in negotiation is built around letting the other side feel like they are empowered and in control.
Values are important because they help form our, "Belief System." Good values are what allow us to overcome adversity and corrupted thinking! Sadly, many people get their values from their feelings. They advocate anything (substances/behaviors) that makes them feel better! As intelligent humans, it is best to not derive our values from our emotional feelings, but instead our thinking and reasoning and objectively analyzing what is important. Of course this is easier said than done, but when good values are more important than our feelings, there is no addictive behavior!
Simply stated, God wants us to think with the values of Jesus Christ and act with direct, "Christ Driven Behavior," (CDB) that honors God. This premise addresses the very core of addictive behavioral science and scripture in that when we act with direct healthy behavior instead of displaced behaviors, there is no addictive behavior!
Motivation and conviction is where God deals with us, not willpower! People change when they hurt enough and have to, or when they learn enough and want to. People change when they are motivated to change, when they decide to change, when their values trump their addictions, their hurts, habits and hangups. Figure out what you value in your life (e.g. Faith, family, friends, staying healthy, productive career, etc.) and start doing whatever it is you value. Take action-empower yourself with acting with good values! Our convictions determine our conduct. They motivate us to take a stand and to act according to our values. Our convictions include our values, commitments, and motivations- our purpose in life.
"The PDP (Positive Drive Principal) says that all human behavior is driven by the pursuit of happiness and that, when you choose to do something, you do so because you see it as your best available option. This concept is vitally important because the only way you will stop desiring heavy substances and change your behavior is by seeing more happiness in the change than in the using. You must reach that conclusion yourself because, as Aristotle said, “We desire in accordance with our deliberation.” (The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap).
All change ultimately occurs because of decisions (thinking) people make for themselves. “When do people change?” “When they want to; when they value change.” No amount of dopamine, endorphin, oxycontin, science, therapy, or brain scans are ever going to change this truth!
Willpower alone does not bring lasting change in our lives. Willpower deals with outward circumstances, a temporary solution. Willpower isn’t lasting because it comes from the very corrupted thinking that causes addiction in the first place— the corrupted belief that there is a “quick-fix” or "mood changer," for everything. Willpower is used to white knuckling sobriety. Willpower treats the symptoms and not the cause. You can't will your way out of trauma. Hence, Arnold M. Washton, Ph.D. has said, "Many people think that what the addict needs is willpower, but nothing could be further from the truth.” Attempting to overcome an addiction through grit and willpower only pushes the pain even further down into suppression. The only way out of addiction is through connection, not willpower. The opposite of willpower is connection because willpower is attempting to do something on your own. The secret to personal change is not willpower. It’s not a resolution. It’s not some vow that you make. The secret to personal change is not something you do or say. The secret to personal change is something you know. You know the truth. When you change the way you think, you change the way you feel. And when you change the way you feel, it changes the way you act. John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Goals are important building blocks in overcoming addictions. Pursuing and accomplishing things we value. Your goals in life are the directions you are pursuing. These goals are important advantages for overcoming addictions. You will not usually be sufficiently motivated to give up an addiction or habit simply because it is bad for you or because others want you to stop. But when a habit or addiction interferes with accomplishing a goal you want to attain, or something larger you are committed to (purpose), you are more inclined to quit.
The most basic question everyone faces in life is: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Pastor Rick Warren states, "Real meaning and significance comes from understanding and fulfilling God's purposes for putting us on earth." Do you have a global purpose in life and the goals to obtain it? A life without purpose, really is a ship without a rudder.
Abstinence: Dr. Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., UCLA Psychologist, author of, "The Abstinence Myth," states: "We need to throw away the silly (and unsupported by research) notion that anyone who needs help must commit to lifelong abstinence from alcohol and drugs before they can begin their journey. Thus, lifelong abstinence is the wrong goal (and is very rarely met).This ill-formed goal hurts the potential for success of those who seek help and keeps lots more people from seeking any help at all. Right now, only 10 percent of people get help, and they often “fail” at what’s offered. Recovery is not primarily about alcohol or drugs--it’s not about use! Drinking and using are NOT the problem—they are the cover-up of the problem(s).”
Sobriety literally means not being intoxicated or, in its broad sense, taking a serious approach to life. Sobriety is not absence of a substance but transformation of the self. Sobriety does not mean abstinence. Most addictions develop and persist because they work. They block, soothe, or cover up the real problem. With sobriety, the biggest challenge is learning and practicing the skills to deal with the real problem—which is overwhelming emotions—in order to create a way of life that's more rewarding than the previous one. Usually, sobriety involves what the bible calls repenting, which is simply changing one's mind. When we change our thinking and change our lives, this is called metanoia. Sobriety is where, "Values trump feelings," the need for a quick fix or mood changer. Sobriety lasts when we have, "Purpose and meaning," when we are not conformed to this world, but transformed with new thinking (Romans 12:2). Sobriety occurs when we get our values from the Bible and not from how we, "Feel." Living life from the perspective of, "Exercise some of the time, eat healthy most of the time, think well by pursuing God all of the time," (Mitchell Fitness).
Recovery does not necessarily mean avoiding a substance forever. Recovery is the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. When you recover something, you get it back. In other words, what we get back is ourselves. Recovery means regaining a foothold in life by finding purpose and meaning. In the medical world we call it Recovery. In the church world recovery is called, Discipleship.
Psychiatrist Michael McGee MD, in his book," The Joy of Recovery," states, "People in active addiction do what feels good regardless of what is right." "In recovery, people do what’s right regardless of urges to feel good through addicting." Today, drug policy experts and cutting-edge treatment providers follow the path of harm reduction in that life preservation and improvement are the primary goals for people with addictions, not a perfectionist goal of never drinking or using again. Recovery is employing the tools to exercise direct healthy behaviors, not displaced substitute behaviors in order to empower oneself and regain control over adversity. Life is fraught with overwhelming and helpless situations and events that cause stress. Recovery refers to a return of a normal God oriented healthy state of mind, body and spirit. Recovery refers to the action or process of regaining possession or control of your life, by how you think. How you think determines how you feel. How you feel influences your actions, your behavior, your compulsions. Recovery, in fact, is not just about self-control, but self-acceptance. Recovery is about gratitude. Without gratitude their can be no happiness or recovery. Only when you fully accept yourself as you are, a creation made in God's image, can you stop trying to control how things appear, clearly observe the destructiveness of the quick-fix approach, and honestly admit that it’s not working for you. This is mature thinking and where real recovery begins. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 1Corinthians 13:11 NIV
“No pain, no gain,” is not only true for developing a good body; but equally true for developing a good life. Trials and difficulties can build knowledge, perseverance and even joy. James 1:2-3. Sometimes we have to be reminded that the human personality grows through adversity. The secret of joy is not found in a problem-free world, because that world doesn't exist. Rather, true joy, is found in the way we think, based on our values! We can't always control our circumstances, but we can control our values and how we think and choose. Life is a series of decisions, not happenstance. Your character is shaped by your choices. God wants us to synergize our thinking free will, with His will.
Chapter 6: The Neurology of Addictions and Hurts, Habits and Hangups:
The human brain isn’t designed to make us happy and fulfilled. Our brain is designed to make us survive. This ancient organ is always looking for whatever can hurt us, so we can either take fight or take flight. The Central Nervous System (CNS) consists of our brain and spinal cord that controls, coordinates and regulates all activities of the body by transmitting and receiving nerve impulses. Emotions involve the entire nervous system, but there are two parts of the nervous system that are especially significant with respect to emotions: The limbic system and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic system prepares us for flight or fight situations and supplies various organs in the body including heart rate, sweat glands, breathing, blood pressure and many other functions. Emotions are found in our primitive brain, called the Limbic System. Children have less control over their emotions, because the axons that send information from the cortex to the limbic system are not yet fully developed. In addition, the neurons of the prefrontal cortex that provide much of our rational control over our emotions do not mature until early adulthood. In contrast, the amygdala (part of limbic system) is mature at birth and thus exerts a heavy influence on children.
Emotions are derived from our experiences. As humans, emotions are something that happens to us much more than something we decide to make happen. Much of the explanation for this lack of direct control over our emotions lies in the way that the human brain is interconnected. Our brains have evolved in such a way that they have far more connections running from our emotional systems to our cortex (the locus of conscious control) than the other way around.
All emotions are derivations of five core feelings: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and shame. Everything you see, smell, hear, taste and touch travels through your body in the form of electric signals. These signals pass from cell to cell until they reach their ultimate destination, your brain. Humans are wired so that all our actions and reactions begin in the old primitive Limbic System with feelings or emotions. How we react with our rational thinking and decision making new Prefrontal Neocortex, determines in large part, whether we demonstrate Direct healthy behavior or Displaced-substitute behavior. With respect to substance abuse, drugs can inhibits executive (cortical) function. Impulse control is one of the first things to go and can lead to a host of problems. Changing behaviors is possible, but recent research shows that the first step is to learn how to work *with* your brain, not fight it. Bottom line, in the words of Psychiatrist, Judson Brewer, MD PhD, "Our brains are set up to get hooked. It’s not our fault, they’re trying to help us survive. Our old primitive brain acts on impulse;reward based learning. Trigger-Behavior-Reward-Repeat. This can lead to behavior on autopilot. The modern world is designed to addict. Food, phones, email, shopping, dating apps, etc., all engineered to release dopamine and addict us to everyday things! Our new brain (prefrontal) is the rational logical decision maker. Self control and will power, but often too weak to compete with the old brain. Habit change strategies rely largely on our new brain and often fail when the prefrontal cortex goes off-line when needed, under stress, tired, hunger, in other words overwhelmed. Modern science can unite the old and the new brain together. Mindfulness (and other strategies like motivational interviewing) tap into reward-based learning to help our brains see the lack of reward in harmful habits (i.e. how bad they really feel), and the real rewards of helpful habits (e.g. curiosity, kindness etc.). Understanding our minds helps us change our brains. Awareness, curiosity and kindness are key for learning (e.g. growth mindset)."
Dr. Gabor Maté posits that all addictions originate in childhood trauma and emotional loss, whether they realize it or not. Addiction is manifested in any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up. In brief: craving, relief, pleasure, suffering, impaired control. Note that this definition is not restricted to drugs but could encompass almost any human behavior, from sex to eating to shopping to gambling to extreme sports to TV to compulsive internet use: the list is endless. Gabor continues, "When we do brain scans on adult addicts, you see several neural systems that just don’t work very well, including the opiate pain relief, pleasure, reward, attachment, and love circuitry. Other problematic systems include the stress regulation circuitry, the impulse regulation circuitry, and especially the dopamine-driven incentive motivation circuitry. As a result, doctors often conclude that because these brain circuits aren’t working well, there has to be a brain disease and that addiction is that disease. The actual truth is that these circuits are shaped by early experience. From countless studies and from the overall consensus in brain developmental science today, we know these essential brain circuits develop through the interaction of genetics and experiences. Experiences turn genes on and off. What we are seeing in the adult is not the result of some inborn genetic disorder, but the result of childhood experience. That’s the first point. The second point is that addictive behaviors, particularly substance use disorder, further distorts the structure of the brain. Certain neural changes can be seen in the majority of substance addicts. The longer they use, the more significant those changes are. However, the brain also has a remarkable capacity to change, which is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s innate ability to develop new circuits, even later on in life, in response to new experiences."
Travis Bradberry, PhD in both Clinical and Industrial Psychology, author of, "Emotional Intelligence 2.0," clarifies that emotions are the primary drivers of our behavior. Emotional intelligence is about understanding our emotions and our response to our emotions. Emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. We live in a, "Politically Correct," society. Perhaps more than ever in history, we live in an immature, emotion charged society of needing to feel good. In fact, many of us feel entitled to feel good! Emotions are at the core of our lives, all our hurts, habits and hangups. All addictions and hurts, habits and hangups start with our ephemeral emotions, how we feel or want to feel when confronted with specific circumstances, considered very important to us. Addictions are simply displaced or substitute behaviors used to regain control over an emotional state. Scripture addresses our, "Emotional Intelligence," (EQ) succinctly in Proverbs 29:11. "A fool vents all their feelings but a wise person holds them in check (control)." Emotions unchecked are what lead to quick fixes and mood changers of drugs and other errant behaviors. On the upside, emotions are not inherently bad. God gave us emotions to experience life, to protect us, not to self destruct. As adults, we need to understand our primitive emotions and lend a thinking-mindful, discerned discipline. Of course, this is easier said than done.
God, our Creator, is the Master of neuroplasticity and Hebbian Theory and God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. God's plan starts with personal communication with us. From a behavioral perspective, when we pray, our neural focus is in our frontal cortex and not our emotional primitive limbic area. Neuroscience demonstrates that neurons that fire together, do wire together. When you have a convicted personal relationship with Jesus Christ, where your attention goes, neuro-firing flows and neuro-connection grows. "Grow close to God and God will grow close to you." James 4:8. “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2.
God wants us to, "Think," with Christ Driven Behavior, so that we act with Christ Driven Behavior. When we act with Christ Driven Behavior, we become new creations, old behaviors are replaced with new! 2 Corinthians 5:17. These are neurological engrams that propagate Christ Driven Behavior, that quiet our emotions, changes our thinking and changes our lives, for the better.
Chapter 7: The Psychology of Addiction:
In today's society, there is a lot of money, myth, propaganda, politics, political correctness, hype and hysteria on the subject of addiction. Addictive behavior, is simply a psychological symptom of something else that is wrong in our lives. We all have symptoms. Addiction is not an incurable disease over which we have no control. Addiction is a compulsive, displaced-substitute behavior intended to reverse a profound, intolerable sense of helplessness (emotional state). This helplessness is always rooted in something deeply important to the individual. Addictions are substitute (or displaced) actions. Addictions, take the place of a more DIRECT response to feelings of helplessness in a particular situation. A direct response, is simply a behavior you would employ instead of the substitute behavior. A DISPLACED behavior is substitute behavior, always an emotional response to circumstances that cause us to feel overwhelmed and helpless, trapped, powerless and lacking control. Again, this helplessness is always rooted in something deeply important to the individual. Imagine for a moment you are overwhelmed with money problems, or a fight with your girlfriend or spouse or your boss just overloaded you with even more work. If this is critically important and overwhelming for you, how will you respond? Will you regain control and empower yourself with a displaced or direct behavior?
The inner engine of hurts, habits and hangups is consistent for each individual, namely an effort to relieve feelings of being trapped or helpless and to establish a sense of control. Addiction is a behavior intended to reverse this profound, intolerable sense of helplessness. Often, we attempt to regain control of our helpless, trapped feelings with compulsive Displaced Behavior! (Drinking, anger, drugs, sex, porn, controlling others, etc.).
Dr. Michael R. Edelstein, author of 3 Minute Therapy asks, "Are we powerless?" "When addicts believe their impulse to abuse is irresistible, they don’t attempt to resist their impulse. Then they view having failed to exercise control as confirmation they have none, thus using their failure as “proof” the impulse is irresistible. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of their circular thinking, they continue as if they were powerless."
I think it is fair to say we are powerless over our tendency to do the wrong thing, but we are not powerless to choose, if we assume free will! Are we powerless to think, to choose and to change? Nothing is more discouraging when you’re already feeling depressed and hopeless than the news that you’re also powerless over you situation. This is especially true for women who often, and legitimately, already feel dis-empowered in other areas of their lives. We can change our thinking and change our behavior. Telling yourself that you are powerless over addiction is self-defeating; it negates personal responsibility, it limits your proactive capacity to change and grow and redirect your life. Experience and research both support the fact that you do have the power to change, to repent (change your thinking). Research demonstrates that the best predictors of relapse are lack of coping skills and belief in the powerless disease theory of alcoholism (Miller et al.). As outlined below, empirical research clarifies that empowering ourselves with direct healthy behavior is the antidote to powerless feelings.
Some people have a compulsion to clean their desktop, others to clean the house. Others have a compulsion to drink or take drugs, watch porn, gamble, etc. Virtually every compulsive act is preceded by a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. Addictive-compulsive behavior functions to repair this underlying feeling of helplessness. It is able to do this because taking the addictive action (or even deciding to take this action) creates a sense of being empowered, of regaining control—over one’s emotional experience and one’s life. Addictive behavior is never random. There is always a reason and always a reward. The reason and the reward always involve emotions and "Control." Allow me to clarify with a simple secular example, that you can extrapolate to any intolerable, helpless circumstance. In addiction, adolescence is the high-risk period because this is when the brain changes to prepare for adult sexuality and responsibilities and when people begin to develop ways of coping that will serve them for the rest of their lives. For example, I started drinking in my teens because I was introverted and shy, especially around females. I felt helpless and overwhelmed and found out that I could regain control of this helpless feeling with an empowering quick fix or mood changer of alcohol. I could have regained control with a direct healthy behavior like a conversation with the opposite sex, perhaps paying a genuine compliment (always works), but instead, for me it was just quicker and easier to drink. As an adult, confronted with emotional circumstances on a daily basis, I waited until the weekends to imbibe. I could have abused daily, but there was no need, because I had escaped the helplessness trap and regained control over my feelings, by deciding to drink on the weekends! I was on auto-pilot. I had learned what worked for me. One could consider addictive behavior as a learned behavior, a developmental disorder much like ADHD or dyslexia. This is clear both from abundant data and from the lived experience of people with addictions. As noted earlier, Maia Szalavitz, addresses these issues in her book, "Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction."
Ouch! What is Physical Addiction?
The concept of Addiction confuses and frightens people. There are two types of addiction, physical and psychological. Nobody gets physically addicted to substances by using them once or twice or even several times. This is a common myth. Physical dependence is a physiological condition caused by chronic use of a tolerance forming drug, in which abrupt or gradual drug withdrawal causes unpleasant physical symptoms. Alcohol and tranquilizers produce the most dangerous physical withdrawal. Suddenly stopping alcohol or tranquilizers can lead to seizures, strokes, or heart attacks in high risk patients. A medically supervised detox can minimize your withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of dangerous complications. The withdrawal symptoms depend in large part on the emotional makeup of the individual. We all know people that get the flu and you would think the world was ending for them. With others, they just feel miserable and ride it out. So it is with most withdrawals.
As stated above, physical addiction is how our bodies react to certain drugs, and it is essentially out of our control. Physical addiction can be a cause of repetitive behavior that looks like a psychological addiction. Don't confuse physical addiction with the psychological cause of addiction. It needs to be carefully distinguished, however, because physical factors are of relatively little significance in understanding the causative nature and treatment of addiction. Stopping physical addiction is accomplished by not taking the drug long enough to allow your body to readjust to being without it (completing a withdrawal). An addict in physical withdrawal, is physically dependent on a substance. The body has adjusted to the presence of the drug. In the absence of the substance, the addicts body craves the substance (drug) in order to regain control and maintain homeostatic balance. The addict knows that a quick fix will temporarily get rid of his withdrawal symptoms. This repeat craving behavior, is often what makes an addict look and behave so radically. If all you have is a physical addiction, then after withdrawal (detoxification) your problem is basically over, as long as you don’t have a psychological addiction as well.
Narcotics are not uniquely or especially addictive. The fact that you or people you know have been treated with high doses of synthetic narcotics in a hospital, then went home without a hitch, is evidence of this. A 2015 study of insurance records found that, among people taking prescribed opiates, 0.6% of the entire sample wound up “misusing” opioids — meaning they became dependent on the drugs, abused them, or had an overdose. Still, our culture just doesn’t believe it. However, patients on prolonged narcotics should always be given discharge instructions with respect to what to expect from withdrawal (mild to moderate flu like symptoms). Experimental pharmacologist Carl Hart wrote a provocative book: "High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society." Hart said that drugs, including narcotics, are not distinguished by being special agents of addiction, and that narcotics and other drugs (crack, methamphetamine's) effects are consistently exaggerated.
Drug use does not cause addictions, it is how people respond to helpless circumstances that cause addictions. You can’t get addicted to a substance (or behavior), that doesn’t do something for you. Remember, genuine addictions always serve an emotional purpose. Unfortunately, many addictions start with prescribed pain pills, but continue or escalate after the pain is gone, precisely because of the euphoric-empowering feeling that the drug gives the user. Remember, an abuser is temporarily empowered by substances (and other behaviors), in order to regain control over their feelings or their emotional state.
All great beginnings start with a sober conversation:
Freud said, "Psychotherapy helps you get rid of your neurotic misery so that we can use our strength to fight ordinary misery."
Einstein: "You can never solve a problem using the same thinking that created it."
Thales: Scientific philosopher, mathematician and astronomer: "The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself."
Socrates said, "A life not worth examining, is a life not worth living."
Epictetus the Greek philosopher said, “No man is truly free until he masters himself.”
Jesus Christ, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Christ wants us to have a conversation with ourselves; to understand how we think and feel, greater self awareness and self realization. His hope is that, when we get to the end of a conversations with ourselves, we get to the beginning of a conversation with God.
The first step toward living in freedom is to recognize any attitudes, or negative emotions that are dominating your life. Then ground yourself in the truth of Scripture and claim God’s promises and provisions. He’s ready to help the moment you ask. If and when you choose, to have a committed personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you will navigate life with motivation, values, meaning and purpose. You will come to understand yourself and more importantly, God's Word and purpose for your life. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
Chapter 8: Treatment:
Lance Dodes, MD, Harvard Psychiatrist, author and addiction expert states, "True addiction (not physical dependence) is neither more nor less than an emotional solution to manage feelings of intolerable helplessness. When people feel utterly trapped they have to do something, and if they feel they can't act directly to get out of that trap, then they have to do something else. The "something else" is, therefore, a substitute action (technically called a "displacement"). When people repetitively perform a displaced action to try to manage overwhelming helplessness, we call this driven, compulsive behavior an addiction. But there's always something people can do at these overwhelming moments that is more direct! ( even if not perfect). People find that when they take direct healthy action, the addictive urge almost always vanishes! This sounds like magic but it makes sense because having acted more directly, they no longer need a substitute behavior."
This direct healthy action, that Dr. Dodes refers to, could be simply facing your helpless circumstances, talking to another person or channeling your actions into a less destructive manner. Humans always attempt to regain control when they feel helpless and trapped! Exercise, talking to someone, music (praise music is a powerful mood changer), reading a book, going to a movie or doing something fun, do something you value that empowers you (besides drugs or other corrupt behaviors), and this direct action will change your mood and you will regain control! This is where Christ driven behavior excels! Christ Driven Behavior (CDB) is a direct behavior that honors God, a way to regain control over helpless feelings. When are we most vulnerable to an intolerable sense of helplessness, a complete lack of control, in our lives? From a Christian perspective, the answer, is when we are separated from God.
The optimal way to overcome any addiction, any hurt, habit or hangup, is to start with understanding yourself, the psychology of “Why.” Why do you compulsively abuse substances or behave in certain ways? What is the root cause of your behavior? Addiction is simply a behavior used to regain control over intolerable helpless feelings. Once you understand yourself (human behavior) and why you abuse, then you can understand how to overcome your helpless feelings and empower yourself in a direct healthy manner.
Intelligent Delegation: aka Surrender
Every day we are controlled by something; the expectations of other people, fear, anger, guilt, resentment, bitterness. Maybe even a substance or a habit. Ironically, freedom comes when you choose what’s going to control you. When you choose Jesus Christ to be in control of your life: when you Delegate Control to God. The optimal, empowering treatment, for any hurt, hangup or habit, in a single word is to, "Surrender." Surrendering in this case, is not tantamount to agreeing that one is incapable of managing one’s own life or has no free will. It's humbling oneself enough to accept change and the admission that you can't control everything. Being a, "Believer," does not does not necessarily mean your behavior will change. For real and lasting change, you need to repent and genuinely, "Surrender." In business and life, in order to grow, you have to let go of absolute control. Pride is what keeps us from our best thinking and acting. Humility, is the door to inherit clear thinking. ("Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Mathew 5:5). Today, surrender typically has a negative connotation. With surrender we generally think in terms of capitulation, meekness, to give in and submit. What irony, for there can be genuine power in Surrender! With respect to God, "Surrender," is simply delegating our thinking and circumstances to a more qualified entity! Consider for a moment, like it or not, you are the proactive Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of your life, with the ability to think and choose. Is it a weakness to hire a tax expert, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or a Chief Operations Officer (COO) for your business? Of course not! You're simply delegating control to a more qualified person. Surrender is not a weakness or giving up, when you have a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Surrender is an intelligent decision! This personal relationship is absolutely essential for growth and lasting success. Ah, the cognitive dissonance of being in control, by relinquishing control! Giving God control is absolutely empowering! Change happens through conviction and commitment! Surrender is the most important decision of your life. Surrender is a decision, a binary choice of either yes or no. When you choose to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, the decision is proactive and simple. Give God control! Simply stated, relinquish your pride and choose to give God control and God returns that control to you with the empowering Holy Spirit! "My grace is sufficient for you, for there is power in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9-10.
This empowering biblical construct can be thought of as, "Intelligent Delegation and Reciprocal Innervation." Intelligent Delegation (ID) and Reciprocal Innervation (RI) equals Christ Driven Behavior (CDB). (ID+RI=CDB). There is no addiction with Christ Driven Behavior!
How behavior science synergizes with scripture:
Christ Driven Behavior (CDB), is a Direct behavior that honors God, a direct way to regain control over helpless, trapped, powerless feelings! When we surrender to God, He empowers us with a mentor, that imparts motivation, conviction, purpose and the fruits of the Holy Spirit called values. Self-control is one of those fruits or values! When we execute self control, we act with direct healthy behavior and not with displaced behaviors. This is God's scriptural promise and makes Christian Behavior Therapy uniquely successful! Old displaced behaviors pass away to be replaced by new direct behaviors! 2 Corinthians 5:17. This is the marriage of behavioral science and scripture.
The purpose of addiction is to regain control over intolerably helpless-trapped-powerless feelings, an emotional state. We always have a binary choice. We can regain control of helpless feelings with displaced substitute behaviors (quick fixes or mood changers of drugs or other behaviors), or direct healthy behaviors that empower us.
We can choose DIRECT Healthy Behavior when we give God control; when we decide and commit to surrender or more specifically, "Intelligently Delegate," control to Christ, we become empowered! We become even stronger! Yes, God's grace is sufficient for you, there is actually power in weakness! 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Simply stated, we regain control over our adversity our helpless feelings/emotions, with the help of a built in Mentor/Helper, that will be with us always, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). This Helper, empowers, convicts, guides, and comforts all believers.
The Holy Spirit actually empowers us with values and Direct behavior that, "Honors God!" We conduct our lives with Christ Driven Behaviors (CDB) when get our values, motivation, purpose, behavior and self control from the Bible. Galatians 5:22-23. When we change our thinking (repent or metanoia) we are not conformed to this world, but transformed by new thinking, when we let God change our life. Romans 12:2. Always ask, what would Christ do? Does my behavior honor God? This type of thinking empowers, values, motivation and purpose. We can't always control our external circumstances, but we do have free will and we can change how we think about them and therefore change how we feel and behave! God wants our beliefs turned into direct behavior. Direct behavior is having the wisdom to think according to God’s perspective and the ability to respond or behave according to scriptural principles and values.
Posit this: The feelings of intolerable helplessness and lack of control are key elements to causing addictive behavior. With Christ Driven Behavior, when one surrenders their will to God, then the element of control is intellectually delegated absolving the addict from helplessness and lack of control. When we fashion our lives after Jesus Christ, our thinking changes, our behavior changes, our actions change, we become empowered with the Holy Spirit and regain control! Remember, Christ Driven Behavior is not just praying or reading scripture! Direct healthy behavior can be, "Whatever you do, do in the name of Jesus our Lord." Collosians 3:17. Remember, there is no addiction when you behave in a direct healthy manner!
These are the behavioral principles of Jesus Christ with respect to regaining control of helpless circumstances with Direct Christ Driven Behaviors instead of substitute displaced, quick fixes or mood changers of alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, or any hurt, habit or hangup. Empower yourself and choose to allow the philosophical values and principles of Jesus Christ to TRANSFORM your thinking and change the very essence of your life-forever. When we have a relationship with Jesus Christ we learn Building and Maintaining Motivation, Coping with Urges, Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors, Living a Balanced Life. Christ driven behavior is putting the values and virtues of Christ into habit. When we retrain our brain with direct Christ Driven Behavior, (CDB) we learn to change our thinking (neural engrams), our motivation, our values and purpose and that changes our character and our lives. We don't react with displaced compulsive behavior but instead react with healthy direct behavior, that is Christ Driven Behavior based on a personal relationship that empowers us with the values and virtues of Jesus Christ. When we practice these values, we find motivation and purpose, joy, competence and connection. The best antidotes to addiction are joy, competence and connection—joy as the capacity to take pleasure in the people, things, and activities that are available to us; competence as the ability to master relevant parts of our environment and the confidence that our actions make a difference for ourselves and others. Connection is a reborn and surrendered, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that empowers our thinking and consequently our behavior.
All addiction experts will agree that the main navigational tools in life are values and purpose. People overcome hurts, habits and hang-ups out of purpose-based motivation ( based on values)-- they better themselves when they recognize how their habits, violate who they were, what they want to be, where they want to go in life. One fundamental question in life stands above all others. Who or what will have the final authority in your life? What sources will help you determine your values, your purpose?
The Bible is a book on values and purpose. The Bible is the book that contains this template for purpose based motivation, mindfulness, character, values and tenets for life (Sermon on the Mount). Bill O'Reilly, in his secular history book called, "Killing Jesus," notes that, "Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount may be the most important speech in human history. The teachings of Jesus have shaped the entire world and continue to do so."
I submit to you. The Bible is the ultimate book on behavior therapy. Loving God and loving others is at the core of the Bible. When you love God and love others, you learn to love yourself, you learn to manage your thinking and emotions. Most importantly, you learn that you have the capacity to see things from God's perspective and to respond according to scriptural principles. Yielding control to the Holy Spirit allows God’s will to be done and enables us to accept it. When you decide to give God control, God will return that control to you, with the Holy Spirit. This is our Designer's promise. When you regain control of life with direct Christ Driven Behavior you will find purpose, joy, connection and inner peace. This is the synergy of behavioral science and scripture.
The common core element in any addiction or compulsive hurt, habit or hangup, is the emotional feeling of being powerless, trapped, and helpless. When these feelings become intolerable and overwhelming we feel loss of power and control. Humans always seek to regain control of helpless circumstances with either a displaced or a direct behavior. This is God’s message to all of us. Understand and manage our emotions and delegate control to God, who will reciprocate and empower us with the Holy Spirit and in turn change our thinking and change our behavior, with the fruits or values of the Holy Spirit - not the least of which is self control. With self control we act directly and not with substitute displaced behaviors.
Recognize: Recognize the problem and understand why certain situations or relationships lead us to feel so overwhelmingly trapped, powerless and out of control. Recognize the feeling, the errant behavior; the key emotional moment of the overwhelming helpless circumstance, recognize the underlying emotional theme present in our lives, that will lead to feeling trapped and helpless. Look for this theme in your life that underlies all addictive episodes and leads to addictive thoughts. Look backward from the moment of doing an addictive behavior (or even thinking about it). Look for the emotional precipitants. Remember, thoughts and feelings, including urges to use substances or activities, are always temporary.
Reframe: Reframe the behavior. What are the problems associated with your displaced behavior? What are the benefits from your stopping? What are the pros and cons of regaining control with a displaced temporary quick fixes or mood changer, versus regaining control with a direct healthy behavior?
Replace: Replace your attempts to regain control of circumstances with displaced behaviors and instead, employ high value, direct behaviors that empower yourself! In other words, what more direct alternative actions can you take in place of the addictive act, in order to regain control? Replace your old behavior with direct, empowering, Christ Driven Behavior, that honors God. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17
Think and always ask yourself: Will my behavior honor God? When your actions are Christ like in character, you have regained control. There is no addiction, there is inner peace, you have regained control with direct Christ Driven Behavior.
Most addiction experts perceive that Science and Scripture are antithetical; this is a misconception. We need scientific explanation to understand nature. We need meaning to understand human behavior. We need God to give us the answers to both. Jesus Christ taught His personal psychotherapy, over 2000 years ago. He authored by proxy, 66 books on behavioral principles! Read the Bible to be wise, believe it to be saved and practice it to be holy and healthy.
Spread the empirical evidence of direct Christ Driven Behavior (CDB),
while discouraging the dissemination of myth, hysteria and hype.
Change your thinking and change your life.
The Victory Prayer:
Lord, I invite you into my life today. Guide my footsteps and help me make wise decisions in order to manage my feelings, my emotions. Help me to regain control over emotional circumstances in life, that make me feel helpless, trapped, powerless and lacking control. I accept that I cannot control everything and I delegate that control to you, so that you will transform my thinking and empower me, through the Holy Spirit.Empower me to regain control over adversity with (Direct), assertive, Christ Driven values and behavior and not with (Displaced substitute behaviors), the quick fixes or mood changers of chemicals and other errant behaviors. Always allow me to be sensitive to Your Will, especially if You desire to change my thinking, plans and behavior.
Lord, I invite you into my life today. Guide my footsteps and help me make wise decisions in order to manage my feelings, my emotions. Help me to regain control over emotional circumstances in life, that make me feel helpless, trapped, powerless and lacking control. I accept that I cannot control everything and I delegate that control to you, so that you will transform my thinking and empower me, through the Holy Spirit.Empower me to regain control over adversity with (Direct), assertive, Christ Driven values and behavior and not with (Displaced substitute behaviors), the quick fixes or mood changers of chemicals and other errant behaviors. Always allow me to be sensitive to Your Will, especially if You desire to change my thinking, plans and behavior.