DISCLAIMER: Feed the Right Wolf is not a religious program. It is not for religious people only. I am writing as a coach to share how my personal upbringing and Christian belief system kept me locked into addictive behaviors. This article was written for anyone who wishes to read it, but specifically for the person who claims Christianity as his or her faith. It is not intended to be offensive to anyone or to deny the existence of other views, But it is written directly for those of the Christian faith so it uses terms and assumptions made by all Christians. For example, I capitalize the word God because that is typical for people of a Christian faith. I refer to scripture as a basis of belief, because that is what Christians look to as the ultimate authority of their lives, and I refer to God as a “He” because that is the mainstream Christian belief. Feel free to share below the post how your alternate belief systems have kept you trapped in addiction, or how they have helped you escape it.
I was reared in a strict Christian home with loving parents. I also attended a Christian school growing up. I was steeped in the protestant Christian tradition. In this setting, I found principles that I will always apply to my life with positive results.
Unfortunately, I also formed what I now feel are faulty belief systems that kept me stuck in negative patterns spanning from childhood and well into adulthood. And I do not believe I am alone in this.
As a coach, I work with people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds. I make no distinction between any of them. But I feel it is my duty to specifically address this issue for Christians who might be visiting our blog. I have been there. I know the power of negative belief systems. I know the crippling shame. And I want to help.
Be open to an alternate view, and realize that all of this is shared to help you break free from the clutches of addiction and move on with your life.
I started thinking of how my own theological belief system actually kept me locked into behaviors that were making me miserable.
The Top 3 Belief Systems that kept me locked into addictive behaviors:
1.Faith in God is an instant fix for life’s problems. .
Don’t be quick to discount this one. “Of course, I do not think God is instantly going to fix my problems!”
I would like you to shift your focus from the right thing to say about this, to what you actually do.
-Do you catch yourself despairing because you haven’t overcome your addiction yet, despite all of the many prayers you have prayed?
-Do you find yourself wondering if you actually are connected to God when you cannot seem to overcome this addiction, no matter how often you follow the right rules, or participate in the expected traditions?
-Do you view your inability to stop addictive behavior as a confirmation of God’s lack of favor for you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider that these thoughts typically spring from the aforementioned belief that says: “If I have faith, everything will go easily for me. And if things do not go easily for me then that must mean that I am not pleasing to God.”
In other words, if you do all of the right religious things, then God will operate like a cosmic coke machine (as I heard one minister say). Input will equal output.
Input- conversion to Christianity- check!
Input- pray for healing- check!
Input- trust God more- check!
Input- go to church faithfully- check!
Input- follow church leadership-check!
Input-wait on God’s timing- check!
The expectation is: you pay into this faith based life, and it will reap rewards and returns.
And if you do all of these things and do not reap a reward, then you are to blame.
I once believed that if my troubles were not erased, it was most likely due to my own sinful nature and lack of obedience.
Unfortunately, for me (and most of us), I had problems like OCD that were not going away, and were exacerbated by this type of thinking!
How does this belief keep you stuck in addiction?
If you have an addictive behavior, you gravitate towards what is familiar, soothing (at least in the moment), numbing, and easy. Your addict brain has become accustomed to the path of least resistance. It is on auto pilot. It only craves the fix.
And when pain and difficulty arise again and again- as they are certain to do if you are breathing– then the addict brain once more seeks the numbing to escape.
The theology of God as the “cosmic coke machine” does nothing to help the addict out of his addiction. It promotes the belief that “Someone else must get me out of my addictive cycle” and that “if I do something easy like pray and believe then a miracle will happen. I will be cured.”
I spent years praying for God to release me from addictive behaviors. Guess what? He never did.
What changed? I decided to use the resources and brain I was born with, and chose to get away from that myself. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. But I made choices because no one else was going to do it for me!!
The alternate view for the religious addict:
There is no rescue coming!!! I cannot emphasize this enough!!!!
You have an addiction based on choices you once made and continue to make.
Your brain perpetuates that addiction on autopilot now. The only escape is through the same door!. And it is NOT going to be easy. If you believe that God is the creator of all, the creator of your body, your brain, then you follow his rules to get out of addiction. He set up the brain to operate the way it does, respect that. Learn about how to use scientific knowledge of your brain to break free from addiction. We do this every day in our programs with addicts.
You have an addiction because of choices, and those choices have consequences when paired with how the brain is designed to operate. Now you must CHOOSE a new path. Christian scripture supports this when it talks about choosing between two moral alternatives.
2. You believe in an all-powerful God to the exclusion of personal power. Yet also memorize Bible verses that contain commands, instructions, and choices – all things that require the enactment of personal power to follow – all concepts requiring action that is not made by a creator, but you.
Personal and power. Two words that become dirty once paired together, in many religious settings. I have had talks with individuals that were highly concerned and felt that I promoted personhood over Jesus. I knew exactly where they were coming from, because I spent most of my life thinking that way.
In most churches it is being taught that we are powerless. To see ourselves as powerful and capable is labeled an attempt at playing God.
And for Christians, there is only one God, It is believed that Playing at God is blasphemy. Doing anything that ventures into the do-it-yourself realm in the church is often seen as a denial of God’s power, at the worst, and definitely a lack of trust in His ability to help us overcome the difficulties of life.
How this perpetuates addiction:
If you have no power, then you can do nothing to help yourself. NOTHING!
Nothing useful for breaking addiction anyway. Oh, you can pray, because that acknowledges God’s power. You can lament. Because that keeps you in a humbling place of acknowledging your helpless state. You can trust God to overcome through you, because that, again, puts the ball back in his court, where it is believed to be anyway.
You aren’t even able to do anything with the ball, unless he physically lifts your arms and makes the shot!
You can never be the star in your own life, because you view yourself as helpless and dependent upon the mercies of a powerful God.
With this mindset, you will never tap into the power to choose. You will never see yourself as able to break away from anything negative, particularly addiction.
No, you will continue to be at the mercy of your addiction while you wait on God to deliver your from your own actions and choices (which ironically you would not be able to make without personal power).
An alternate view for the religious addict:
How about this? What of the heroes in scripture? Would these men have experienced the power of God in their lives to help them if they had not used their own personal power to move and act to follow God’s commands?
What if God actually gives us power to choose and we are just lazily abdicating the responsibility to him?
And what makes us think that if a powerful God created the universe, that he would be threatened or insulted by us using our own power of choice to choose a better, and frankly, more spiritually rewarding life?
Like a life without addiction?
3. You believe that true spirituality is divorced from the sexual.
Yet God created sex, and asked people to have babies, (meaning- have sex to get those babies).
But then the theology starts to get pretty sticky…
Sex is beautiful and yet dirty.
Sacred and yet not to be discussed.
Essential yet shamed.
And to add to the confusion, you also believe that God made everything perfect…
so you must also believe that he made sex the most pleasurable thing we do with our bodies.
Yet we should avoid the very discussion of it, much less the act!
Deny. Repress. Avoid. Christians everywhere squirm at the topic of sexual needs, sexual power, and sexual expression.
Bible verses, mock shock, trite explanations, rigid expressions, shaming, anger and fear are typical responses to children in Christian homes (or adults in the Christian community) who dare to rock the boat or just ask questions.
And all too often, the topic is treated as if it NEVER exists.
Not once in my Christian high school was sexuality addressed outside of the expectation that we would be abstinent until marriage.
Despite the fact that many, if not most, of my peers and I were already having sex, masturbating or making out with boyfriends and girlfriends.
Why? Because the standard mode of operation is to deny what is hard to control or explain.
When we do not understand our own sexuality, we fear it. And understanding can never happen when we are not willing to open something up for discussion.
How does this keep you locked into addiction?
Wow. I could write an entire blog on just this belief alone.
Sex is a powerful gift. The Christian community calls it a gift from God.
But Christians need to challenge contradictory belief systems in this area.
If you receive a gift, what do you do with it? You OPEN IT! You look at it. You express gratitude for it. If it is such a beautiful gift, then why aren’t you looking at it? Why aren’t you talking about it? Why do you treat it like something dirty to be hidden behind closed doors?
The CHURCH perpetuates addictions with its fear of sexuality!
And people, especially the addict (who has often had painful sexual experiences and abuse in his or her past) take that fear and that belief system into themselves.
The addict INTERNALIZES it as part of his sexuality. He is ashamed of his sexuality. He is afraid of it. So he hides with it and manipulates it in the dark and experiences the momentary high, the pleasure of opening the gift he believes he can never freely open. It become a dirty secret.
And what we try to repress only grows stronger and ensnares us and takes us places we never wanted to go!
If this offends you, I apologize. But the consequences are too dire for silence.
Keep in mind that among the nameless victims of addiction are children.
The addict who starts as a child and is locked into addiction for life.
The children abused by addicts who veered into the realm of child pornography and abuse.
And then add to that, the women who are married to men who can not enjoy intimacy.
The broken homes and ruined lives.
THIS is the result of addiction. And addiction is perpetuated by silence, shaming and repression.
IT IS TIME FOR THE RELIGIOUS TO BREAK THE SILENCE AND END THE SHAMING AND REPRESSION! THERE IS A BETTER WAY! IT CAN START WITH YOU!
An alternate view for the religious addict:
You can choose to believe that God gave you the power to create life, the power to give ecstasy to one through sex, the capacity to enjoy and use your sexuality to the betterment of your life.
Instead of denying your urges and your impulses- you need to be exploring what those mean.
Ask Yourself what needs have not been addressed.
Ask yourself how you might meet these needs in a way that does not compromise your moral values and standards.
And above all be REAL. Ask yourself how you can embrace your sexuality.
If you believe that God made all things good, then you must acknowledge that he created you to be sexual and that you can choose to use that sexuality for love and passion and all that is good.
And you can choose to see that, yes, you do have darker desires that cannot be ignored.
Ignoring something is not a solution!
Open up the topic of sexuality with someone you trust, someone who will not shame you, and start your journey away from addiction to a new life.
At Feed the Right Wolf we are here for you and we see lives transformed every day. We work with people of all backgrounds, religious or not, and we will help you reach YOUR goals for healthy sexuality and break free from addiction.