You Can Conquer Addiction!
Are you addicted? Do you want it, crave it, covet it more than almost anything else? Do you lust for it so much that sometimes it is the only thing you can think about? Do you find it hard to remember what it was like before you began indulging in it? This is what addiction is like. It starts far simpler than this, and it can end far worse.
But you can free yourself!
We live in an environment driven by instant gratification. With the push of a button, you can obtain whatever your heart desires easily, quickly and, in many cases, anonymously. Everywhere you turn, the media is hurling an appealing product your way, trying to convince you that you need it, and you need it now. A lot of times it starts out free of charge. Nothing could be easier.
If you’re in pain, there is a pill that brings “relief.” If you’re bored, you can view hours of entertainment in the palm of your hand. Increasingly people are reaching for everything and anything to give them temporary relief from their troubled lives. Never before have we lived in an environment that creates so much addiction.
If you’re addicted, you are not alone. Tens of millions worldwide struggle with some kind of debilitating addiction. Often these addictions rise in an attempt to fill a void with some form of excitement, escape from reality, or cope with life’s stresses and problems.
One such addiction sweeping through our nation right now is opioids. Opioids are a class of drug that interact with your brain’s opioid receptors to produce pleasurable sensations and relieve pain. The medical industry prescribes as painkillers synthetic opioids, which mimic the effects of opiates derived from the poppy plant like codeine, morphine and heroin.
In the late 1990s, the medical industry began prescribing painkillers with increasing frequency. Initially they were for recovering intensive surgery patients, but now doctors prescribe them much more frequently, including for toothaches or chronic back pain. In 2015, a third of all Americans (91.8 million people) were prescribed prescription opioids. In 2016, the National Safety Council reported that 99 percent of doctors are overprescribing opioid painkillers! Is it any surprise that more than 2.1 million Americans are currently addicted to prescription opioids?
Last October, United States President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. That year, more than 64,000 Americans had died from a drug overdose, 83 percent of which were opioid overdoses! Each year, more people die from drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents and firearm homicides combined. The United States alone consumes around 80 percent of the world’s total opioid supply!
America is drugging itself to death, and the death toll continues to rise with each passing month. It’s getting so bad that the U.S. president, not to mention many others, is addressing it as an epidemic. “This epidemic,” he said, “is a national health emergency, unlike … what we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”
But the addiction to prescribed opioids is only the beginning. More and more people are taking pharmaceuticals, which are leading more and more people toward illicit drugs, which are less expensive, more potent and easier to obtain. Every 4 out of 5 heroin addicts first started out by using painkillers.
President Trump’s comments about the opioid epidemic made me think about the war on drugs that began over 40 years ago. The U.S. government officially declared war on drugs back in 1971. In 1980, 6,100 people died from drugs, and the U.S. began pumping billions of dollars into the cause. Despite the intensified funding, the problem has only grown so much worse today!
Isn’t it obvious that we have lost the war on drugs?
The problem is so bad that we haven’t just been defeated by drugs, we are now embracing them!
Take marijuana for example. In the U.S., 29 states have broadly legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. In nine states and the District of Columbia, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use! Many other states are considering legalization.
Earlier this year, I was shocked when I saw videos of a cnn reporter attending a New Year’s Eve pot party. The people there explained to him, on camera, different ways to use marijuana. This shameful report was broadcast on live television on one of the largest news networks in the United States!
I could hardly believe that this kind of behavior was being shown and even promoted on a mainstream news network. It used to be that drug use was something people tried to hide. But now our entire society is glorifying it. Even more shameful, the reporters on cnn were laughing about a dangerous drug that is destroying people’s lives.
Dr. David B. Samadi wrote for Fox News that “pot is dangerous, not funny.” He provided a medical doctor’s opinion on the nationwide marijuana crisis:
As a physician, my doctoring knowledge tells me that making marijuana legally available is a bad idea. … Marijuana is a potent mind-altering drug that can cause serious harm. …
From a health standpoint, why is legalization of another mind-altering drug the right thing to do? The U.S. is already in the midst of a devastating prescription opioid and heroin crisis. And individuals from all walks of life struggle with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. …
Too often, marijuana is treated as a harmless substance—something to joke and giggle about.
Marijuana has both short-term and long-term ramifications on the body. Dr. Samadi went on to say that marijuana use leads to changes in mood, altered senses, and impaired body movement, as well as impaired thinking, memory and problem-solving.
The younger the user, the more damage is caused. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that impairs brain development, especially for anyone under age 21. Teenagers who use marijuana experience anxiety, depression and a reduction in thinking, memory and learning functions. Even teenagers who have stopped using the drug after two years still show brain abnormalities similar to that of schizophrenics! If a user is under 18, he is four to seven times more likely to develop an addiction than an adult.
When you understand the destructive and irreversible effects that this drug can have on a young person’s mind, it’s even more appalling to discover that 54 percent of marijuana users are parents!
If nearly 82 percent of youth obtain cigarettes from social sources (family and friends who purchase them legally), how much more damage will be caused to young people when marijuana is legalized and easily accessible in their own homes!
Not only has marijuana become much more accessible, it has also become more potent, according to Dr. Samadi.
Is that really what we want for our nation and our children?
As my father explains in his booklet No Freedom Without Law (emphasis added throughout):
We have developed a drug culture in America and Britain. Drugs are increasingly mainstream and popular, moving well past the pockets within the big cities. They are taking over the lives of people of all income levels, all walks of life. Our entertainment is more and more obsessed with the drug world. Often we see high-profile entertainers grappling with severe addiction.
When California legalized marijuana for recreational use in January, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson said in an interview that legalizing marijuana would “[make] the world a better place.” He called recreational marijuana a “safer alternative” to other addictive substances like alcohol, claiming that “legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse.”
Thinking that marijuana will replace other addictive substances is plain ignorance. A study from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders found that marijuana use is also linked to other substance abuse. Their study revealed that adults who use marijuana are more likely to develop an “alcohol abuse disorder.” The study also revealed that if an adult already abused alcohol before smoking marijuana, they were at greater risk of their alcohol disorder deteriorating further.
Legalizing marijuana will not fix alcoholism in America. If anything, it will only make it worse—and the problem is already bad as it is.
Over the last 15 years, alcoholism in America has risen by about 50 percent. One in eight Americans now struggles with alcoholism. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans literally drink themselves to death! It’s difficult to even calculate the death rate because there are so many health disorders associated with heavy drinking. Last year it was estimated at somewhere around 88,000 lives lost.
Many people turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictions to try to free themselves from discouragement, hopelessness, anxiety and pain. But these addictions only bring further suffering. The preoccupation with the self adds to the pain and stress. It becomes a vicious cycle that ends up ruining the family as well as both physical and spiritual lives.
Notice again what my father writes in No Freedom Without Law:
People may consider it freedom to be able to drink to excess, but many people do that so often, they become alcoholics; they then crave alcohol and feel miserable without it.
Alcohol abuse comes with a staggering price tag, socially and economically. … Alcoholics have higher rates of divorce and marriage separation, crime, automobile accidents, property damage and injuries to persons, depression and suicide. They, their family and their friends all end up being the losers.
It is easy to see—as they struggle with their addiction, ruining their family, their career, their life—that alcoholics are not free. At one time they may have thought alcohol gave them freedom, but in truth it has enslaved them!
What most people call freedom today is really slavery. The Apostle Peter wrote: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19; Revised Standard Version). God says if you are overcome by something, then you are its slave!
It can be easy to think of addiction as something that involves only harmful substances like the ones discussed above. But the reality is you can become addicted to just about anything. You can even become addicted to productive activities that, within moderation, would actually be good for you, such as work and exercise! As Peter explained, whatever overcomes you, to that you are enslaved! An addiction is simply “the condition of being habitually occupied with or involved in something,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary.
Once a person becomes addicted to something, it can grow to the point where it seems virtually impossible to overcome. Many people who struggle to overcome their addiction for years become discouraged with their lack of progress and give up. Some are told that they have a genetic disposition for the addiction. They conclude that it is physically impossible to overcome, and that they must learn how to “manage” it—just live with it.
This may be hard to believe, but no matter what debilitating addiction you may be facing, if you sincerely want to change, you can conquer it!
Notice James 1:25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therin, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Here God reveals the answer! Faithfully obeying His law is the only sure way out of addiction’s captivity and the attainment of true freedom! Today, many people have been deceived to believe just the opposite—that God’s law is a burden that somehow enslaves them. That is false! God’s law brings the most wonderful freedom of all. Verse 25 clearly states that the man who obeys “shall be blessed in his deed”! By obedience to these laws, you can have an abundant, prosperous life (John 10:10).
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in The Plain Truth About Healing:
God’s law is not a horrible monster! Just and right laws are a terror only to the criminal—they are made to protect the good! God’s law is perfect (Psalm 19:7). It is a spiritual law (Romans 7:14), holy and just and good (Romans 7:12). All His commandments are sure and stand fast forever and ever (Psalm 111:7-8). Don’t you believe it when men tell you differently! God’s law is, simply, love! It is the perfect way of life. Every particle of human suffering, unhappiness, misery and death has come solely from its transgression. It was given to make man happy and is the only philosophy of life that can do so. It came from a God of love, and love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10).
In Philippians 4:9 Paul writes, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
By keeping God’s commands, you can have peace and stability in your life. Being a doer of the Word is the hallmark of a true Christian (James 1:22). But before you can obey God’s Word, you must first know what His will is (Ephesians 5:17). This requires that you study the scriptures daily.
So what does God reveal in His Word regarding addiction? You may be surprised to find that the Bible has a lot to say about the subject.
In several scriptures, God commands us to exercise moderation and temperance. Paul wrote the brethren to let their “moderation be known unto all men” and instructed them to be “temperate in all things” (Philippians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 9:25). Moderation simply means avoiding extremes or excess, which requires temperance—the exertion of self-control.
Moderation is a law! In many cases God commands us to abstain from certain substances because they are harmful. In other cases, such as alcohol, moderate consumption is a blessing from God. The Bible even reveals that Christ and His disciples drank wine (John 2). Consuming alcohol in moderation has its place, but great damage is brought on people’s lives by tarrying too long on the wine (Proverbs 23:29-30). Excessive consumption quickly turns into a dreadful curse.
What are some steps you can take to obey this command and conquer addiction?
The first and most effective way is to simply not let it begin in the first place. Once an addiction takes hold, it can be incredibly hard to overcome without mind-paralyzing trials.
Addiction, like all sin, begins in the mind. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
Our society hurls messages at us from every direction trying to appeal to our lusts. Once these thoughts enter your mind, you must purge them immediately.
In the June-July 1983 Good News, Mr. Armstrong wrote:
The temptation is in the mind. When you think about the thing that tempts you—let your mind dwell on it —turn it over in your mind—whether it be a desire to go someplace, to do something or to have something you know is wrong—that thinking about it finally conceives—leads to action—and breeds sin.
You finally do the thing you kept thinking about, wanting to do. If you keep thinking about it, after a while you’ll be unable to resist it.
That’s why you’ve lost so many of these struggles against sin—you kept thinking about it, desiring it, wanting it.
If something physical is tempting you, remove it from your environment immediately. You will find it much easier to prevent yourself dwelling on an addiction when the source of the problem has been removed. If you allow yourself to dwell on a wrong behavior long enough, you will find yourself unable to resist what you are coveting.
But how do you remove a wrong thought, and what should you do after it is removed?
Mr. Armstrong provided the answer: “The way to put a thing out of the mind is to put an opposite thought in the mind.”
God commands us in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise think on these things.”
Rather than dwelling on your addiction, there are many positive things that you can do to remove the thought from your mind. Rather than getting high on chemical substances, why not get high on healthy things? Like reading a wholesome book, playing uplifting music on an instrument, working on a constructive hobby, spending quality time with your family, or exercising outside in the fresh air? These are the kind of “highs” that are actually good for you and that will even strengthen your relationship with others. These are tangible strategies that you can use to eliminate and minimize the temptation your addiction is presenting.
But many people have been struggling to overcome an addiction for years without avail. Breaking an addiction is not an easy matter. It can be incredibly frustrating.
The truth is, your willpower alone will not solve the problem.
In Matthew 19, a man approached Christ and asked how he could be saved. Christ replied saying, “[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17). “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible“ (verses 25-26).
God sincerely desires to help you succeed in your battle against addiction. And if you draw near to Him, He promises to give you the power to do so!
This is strength you simply cannot get any other way. And it is powerful.
Notice what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
The word careful here would be better rendered as anxious. God says not to be overly anxious about anything! There is nothing so terrible in your life that you have no choice but to rely on any addiction. Rather, Paul says to give thanks to God and to make your requests known before His heavenly throne. If you do that, verse 7 says, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The Living Bible says: “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
We have to believe God when He encourages us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
This is how we can be overcomers! As Christ promised in Matthew 19:26, with God all things are possible. But we have to reach out to God and make our requests known to Him rather than turning to things like drugs and alcohol.
Notice the vital ingredient needed to overcome these deadly addictions: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
God’s commandments are love; therefore, to obey them requires “the love of God [which is keeping His commandments] shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
God’s Spirit provides power to keep His commandments; therefore, we must ask God daily to renew His Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 4:16). With the help of your Creator flowing through your life, you can be freed from slavery to debilitating addictions. With your Father and Savior Jesus Christ, you can overcome any obstacle and conquer any problem! If you look to God and trust Him in faith, He promises to deliver you!
How encouraging it is to know that God wants us to live rich and abundant lives, and He is willing and ready to give you the power to do so! Man-made chemicals and mind-altering drugs do not remove obstacles or lower stress. But a relationship with your Creator does! God desires to make our burdens light and give us rest (Matthew 11:28).
An unselfish, outflowing concern and love for God and for other people is the medicine we need to live a healthy, active and vibrant life (Proverbs 17:22).
If you would like to know more about how to overcome such debilitating addictions, request our free booklet How to Be an Overcomer. It will show you how to search the sin out in your life, and how to destroy it. It will show you what true repentance is, and how to escape the curse of destructive addictions.
To learn what true freedom is, request our free booklet No Freedom Without Law.