WoW 135: On understanding addiction, Recovery Part 11 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 135: On understanding addiction, Recovery Part 11

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Repeatedly choosing unwanted sexual behaviors, abusing alcohol or other substances can be confusing, even baffling. On the one hand, we are all responsible for our own choices. On the other hand, it may really seem like you are a victim of your own choices. There are different ways to talk about this, different attempts people have made throughout history to describe this phenomenon.

Sin. The flesh. Unwanted behavior. Compulsivity. Addiction.

Today we are going to talk about addiction. We will shed light on the concept of addiction and help you better understand how it might apply to your life or to a loved one. Addiction is a word that has a lot of meaning and connotations. Some of you might 100% be convinced that you are addicted, others might be terrified by the idea, and some of you might be adamantly opposed to the term.

So let’s slow down and take some time to reflect on addiction.

We can think about addiction on many different levels. Here are four:

  1. Psychological - the thoughts and feelings that contribute to addictive behavior. The shame, lies, pain, trauma that contributes to addictive behavior.
  2. Physiological - the physical and chemical functions of the body and how the body and brain interact.
  3. Story - the narratives and meaning made from life experiences that impacts one’s identity and choices.
  4. Spiritual - the relationship between self and God, the depth of presence and connection to God and His power and His redeeming love.

Today we can start by reflecting on the psychological level, looking at habits vs addictions.

A habit is a behavior that is developed through repetition. It’s a choice that gets applied to specific situations. Over time they become unconscious, automatic behaviors. Healthy habits ultimately lead to positive long-term outcomes and are balanced within the overall context of one's life. Unhealthy habits, of course, lead to negative longterm outcomes and degrade the quality of your life. So much of the quality of your life is determined by your habits. Small actions over time determine whether you flourish or live in chaos.

An addiction, however, is different than a habit. It’s a complex condition that affects both the mind and body. It begins with the use of a substance or behavior, which gradually escalates into a compulsion that takes control over the individual. As the addiction progresses, it leads to devastating long-term consequences and creates a profound imbalance in the person's life, affecting their relationships, work, and overall well-being. In later stages, the addiction is the dominating factor in the person’s life, controlling and impacting every aspect of life, and it ultimately leads to death.

Addiction serves various unconscious purposes for the individual, often rooted in attempting to manage or escape from the challenges of reality. It can be a means to cope with the difficulties and pain of life, providing a temporary escape from overwhelming emotions or circumstances. Addiction may also be used to numb uncomfortable feelings or alter one's mood, offering a false sense of control over an otherwise uncontrollable reality. For some, addiction combats a deep-seated sense of powerlessness, while for others, it fulfills a craving for intensity and excitement. Ultimately, addiction is a maladaptive response to the complexities of the human experience, promising relief but delivering destruction.

The key is to ask if you are in control of your desire and your behaviors, if they serve you, or if they are in control of you. If you’ve been powerless, and if your behavior has caused unwanted consequences.

Sex isn’t bad. Alcohol isn’t bad. It’s what you do with it, the choices you make, the meaning you make, it’s the power that it has over you that matters. At the end of the day you must ask yourself: are my behaviors enabling me to live life according to my values? Or are my unhealthy desires dominating or destroying my life?

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, remember that help is available. Reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, therapist, or support group can be the first step towards recovery. Never underestimate the bravery it takes to seek help when struggling with addiction.


"At the heart of any addiction is a deep-seated sense of helplessness. The addict feels utterly powerless to stop the compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences it brings. This profound powerlessness is often rooted in childhood trauma or emotional wounds that have never healed. The addiction serves as a desperate attempt to numb the pain and escape the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. But it only compounds the problems, creating a vicious cycle of shame and self-destruction. The path to recovery begins with admitting this powerlessness and seeking help to address the underlying issues."

Dr. Gabor Maté, renowned addiction expert and author of ​In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts​

“Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior: Family breakups, financial disaster, loss of jobs, and risk to life are the painful themes of their stories.”

Patrick J. Carnes, considered the grandfather of sex addiction treatment, ​Out of the Shadows​


Based on what you learned, how would you answer the question, often asked of addicts: “Why can’t they just stop?”

To what degree are you powerless to stop a certain struggle?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and to guide your prayers this week)


Understanding addiction is the first step towards empowering yourself or your loved ones to overcome its grasp and embrace a life of freedom and flourishing.

Live wisely,


*Special thanks to Ginny Mosby, LMFT for helping contribute to this writing.

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