The global pandemic has thrown gas on the fire of addiction. There was already a porn, opioid, weed, meth, food, gaming and social media addiction epidemic—now, with everyone coping with stress in more unhealthy waves and forced isolation, it’s even more pervasive and fortunately, much more public. It’s great that addiction has come to the forefront of the media and Church because it’s hard to address what isn’t acknowledged. So, with addiction on the front page of the news and our minds, let’s start today by getting free from that which is devouring our lives. Being a recovering addict myself and having overseen the world’s largest recovery program for the last ten years, I know you’ll find these 10 free, easy-to-implement tactics to be healing and addiction-killing.
1. Take an online assessment (Search: How to know if you’re an alcoholic, addicted to food, gambling, porn, etc.).
Without having a personal realization that you are addicted, there will be rationalization and avoidance of getting help. If you already admit you’re an addict, this is unnecessary, but still can be very helpful and even comforting to read you have a problem and there is a solution.
2. Tell someone who loves you. (James 5:16, Prov. 28:13).
As the notes say in the New English Translation, if we cover sin, God will expose it. If we expose sin, He’ll cover it. The more open and out there you are with your sin the greater the accountability and the less likely you are to return to it knowing that more are praying, more are going to ask and more are going to support you in it. I tell everyone who will listen that I’m a recovering alcoholic.
3. Attend a recovery meeting.
Getting free from addiction alone is hard (I’d say unrealistic and unbiblical). Being around others who are seeking healthy choices and freedom is so helpful for encouragement, momentum and a vision of what can be. You’ll find relief you’re not the only and camaraderie to keep fighting against that which is killing you.
4. Focus on the root, not the fruit.
Without heart change, there is no change (2 Cor. 7.10). This is why court-appointed Alcoholics Anonymous rarely works; they are fulfilling an obligation rather than a desire. If you focus on trying not to do bad habits, it’s like trying to not think of a pink elephant. Instead, focus on good—God, others, new habits. The root of the issue is the heart—so place your focus there by prayer, reading the Bible, meeting with other believers, worshipping and serving.
5. Rules vs. Redeemer.
Like the point above focusing on the heart, this is to focus on the one who alone changes hearts. Rules don’t get people well; only an abiding walk Jesus does (Gal 3.2-3). Spend meaningful time throughout the day with Him.
6. Only the Full Resist the Pull.
If you are satisfied by the bread of life, you can resist the junk of death (Gal 5.16). If I’m a junk food addict, the answer isn’t to stop eating junk food—in which case I would just starve to death. The answer is to eat so much healthy food that I no longer hunger or crave the junk. Satiating your appetite is the only way to not feast on the worst. So spiritually feed and fill yourself and you won’t long for the physical trash. Worship music, podcasts, bible memorization, prayer and meditation (the Christian kind, not mental emptying), and the like will fill you and thus kill the cravings of the flesh.
7. Remove access (Mt 5.29-30).
Nobody gets sober with booze in the house. When the Lord took the Israelites into the promised land, he said raze the cities and destroy everything. Remove access to the idols and destroy them. Be separate from that which enslaved you. This may mean getting rid of your smart phone, deleting numbers, breaking up with an unhealthy sexual relationship and more. This isn’t excessive or controlling; it’s wise to eliminate access to that which leads you into sin (Rom 13.14). Whatever can and does lead you into sin, get rid of it.
8. Restrict freedoms (1 Cor 6.12).
Talk about your triggers, share your location on your phone and car, give up your wallet, create a schedule and invite others to check-in. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Sure, it’s legal for you to have a smart phone, but it may not be wise given your decade long porn struggle.
9. Create discipline.
Discipline begets discipline. To increase discipline in one area of life will flow over into others – and the inverse is even more true. Create discipline around sleep, exercise, eating (fasting), serving, media, bible intake, attending church and prayer.
10. Sober 24 hours (Mt 6.33-34).
Reactive confession of sin after the fact is good, biblical and right. But a proactive decision to not give in to a sin for the next 24 hours will bring about freedom. It’s why John Owen said that we must go on the offense against sin, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” And why Martin Luther’s first four thesis of his 95 that sparked the Reformation were all to do with daily repenting. So, “Will you remain sober from your struggle for the next 24 hrs by God’s strength?” Repentance is daily, not once and for all (Mt 6.33).
Lastly, and most foundationally, a person ultimately cannot be free from sin without being born again. People don’t stop sins, they swap sins. For example, a person may quit drinking and become a sex addict. They didn’t stop sinning; they just changed their flavor or drug of choice. Each addict must search their heart and know are they in need of justification with God because they are dead in sin or are they in need for sanctification because they are an unrepentant follower of Christ. Regardless, the answer is the same—Jesus saves you and keeps you safe. What is needed isn’t to get rid of an addiction, but rather to get a new heart that hates sin and loves God. Heart change equals life change.
John Elmore is the senior director of pastoral care and director of re:generation, the world's largest weekly recovery program, at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, and author of Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time