HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE CAUGHT IN AN ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR?
If you have ever met someone who questions whether or not he or she is caught in an addictive behavior or if you personally are questioning this fact you know this is a difficult question. Therefore, it is important to establish what are the characteristics of an addictive behavior. Once you have determined these characteristics then you can easily answer this important question.
I. The characteristics of an addictive behavior.
1. An addictive behavior is any sin you continue to practice even though you have repeatedly tried to stop. In Romans chapter seven Paul explains his own struggle: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15-20). Note that Paul declared that he hated this behavior which is the reason he wanted to stop it in the first place. But, only when someone attempts to stop a behavior that is hated will they see the power that it possesses over them. Paul realized that if he was brought under the power of any behavior, even lawful ones, then he wasn't really free (1 Cor. 6:12).
2. When you practice a sin and then blame it on your circumstances or other people for your failure to stop. Blame-shifting is another critical proof that you are caught by an addictive behavior. We all have heard someone say, “I wouldn't need to drink, get high, eat, or view this pornography if my spouse were treating me different or things in my life weren't so difficult right now.” However, this excuse is exactly what keeps you practicing your addictive behavior and is a fruit of that behavior. It is essential to understand that there will always be people and circumstances that are difficult in your life. Others experience these problems just as you do and they are not using these circumstances as an excuse to sin. Remember, God did not accept the excuses given by the first blame-shifters in history, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8-13).
3. When you deny and deceive yourself that your behavior is not really a sin. Another characteristic of any addictive behavior is that of denial that what you are doing is really sin. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). There is only one standard for determining what is a sinful behavior and what is not and that is the Word of God. He declares that drunkenness, drug use, gluttony, pornography and many other similar activities are sinful (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-20; Lev. 20:17)
4. When you convince yourself that this sin has no power over you and that you can stop any time you want. This is another form of self-deception thinking that you are stronger than you really are. We have all heard someone say, “I don’t have a problem with this behavior. I've got it under control.” When the reality is this person is caught by their own sin and they don’t even know it. Many times a person rationalizes that they are in control because they don’t commit this sin as much as they used to in the past, but this is self-deception too. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). The word indeed in this verse means truly or in reality. In other words Jesus is promising true freedom, not false or partial freedom, but that you can really be free from your sinful behavior.
5. When you continue to repeat the sinful behavior even though the pleasure is short lived and the pain and problems from this behavior increase. Another characteristic of someone who is caught by their sinful behavior is no matter how difficult or hard the consequences they continue to practice the same behavior. Why? Because they are caught by the power of their own sin. No matter how much guilt or how much pain they cause others they continue. King Saul is a good example of this dilemma. Read through 1 Samuel chapters 9-31.
6. When you seek to hide your addictive behavior. Hiding your sin is what our first parents did after they fell and sinned against God in the garden (Gen. 3:8). Hiding your sin is another form of dishonesty and denial which only makes the problem worse. Solomon warned his son, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
7. When you lie regularly to others about how often you commit your addictive behavior. Lying about your sinful behavior is another way to hide your addiction. You are caught and you don’t want to admit it to yourself or to others. Lying only compounds the problem by destroying your credibility when others catch you in your lies and further displeases the Lord. Solomon said, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22).
8. When you keep a separate set of friends or acquaintances and carry on a double life. Another way to carry on the lying to yourself and to others is to keep a separate set of friends that will keep your secrets secure. Your separate set of friends only enables more lying and prolongs a solution. Your friends will either help you or hinder you. Paul said, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33).
9. When you try to convince others that you are living the Christian life when you know you are not. This is more self-deception, denial, and lying. All this is done to continue the charade that everything is OK when it is not. When someone sees an inconsistency in your lifestyle you become indignant and act surprised that anyone would question your behavior. Solomon warned about this deceit: “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit” (Prov. 14:8).
10. When you continue this sinful behavior even though you know it is not pleasing to God because you are not being conformed into the image of Christ. When anyone continues to practice any sin knowing that it is displeasing to God and a contradiction to their personal transformation into the image of Christ the heart is hardened because the voice of God must be silenced in their conscience. Behaving in this manner is all a fruit of the above actions of blame-shifting, dishonesty, self-deception, and lying.
II. If you want freedom from your addictive behavior?
1. Take responsibility for your own actions.
2. Admit your addictive behavior is sin and ask forgiveness of God.
3. Acknowledge that you cannot stop your addictive behavior and cry out for the power of the Holy Spirit to set you free.
4. Be honest about your failures with God and others.
5. Stay away from the friends that are involved in your same addictive behavior and seek out strong Christian brothers and sisters to encourage you.
6. Determine what kind of lifestyle is pleasing to God by studying the Scriptures.
7. Walk in obedience to the Lord and allow Him to conform you into the image of Christ.