This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Six: RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
The longer you have struggled with an addiction, the more things in your life become associated with the addiction; activities, locations, times of day, and people are just a few of the everyday things that get associated with addiction. One important way to manage your temptations is to rearrange your life to eliminate or limit your exposure to these temptations. Sometimes we have to be strong by actively resisting temptation, but more often than not we should be strong by wisely avoiding temptation.
Read Matthew 6:7-13. As you read this model prayer from Jesus, focus on verse 13. Your implementation of this section is a large part of God’s answer to this part of the Lord’s Prayer. One of the ways God “leads us not into temptation,” is by providing wise principles in Scripture that help us organize our lives to avoid predictable temptations. Pray for God to supernaturally limit the number of unpredictable temptations in your life. Obey God to radically eliminate the ones you know are coming (Matthew 5:27-30). We will look at 5 areas of your life you need to examine.
Begin with the assumption that no one in your life is neutral. Ask yourself, “Does this person contribute to my sobriety or a relapse?” List out the top 10 people in your life who contribute to your sobriety and rank their influence on a 1-10 scale. List the top 10 people who would contribute to your relapse and rank their negative influence on a 1-10 scale.
Note: The terms “sobriety” and “recovery” are sometimes used interchangeably and other times used with distinct meanings. When they are used with distinct meanings “recovery” is the broader term referencing the pursuit of a full and satisfying life without AoD, and “sobriety” is the narrower term referencing the abstinence from AoD. In this material, the terms are often used interchangeably, but the holistic nature of this journey should make it clear that the aim of this material is “recovery” and not mere “sobriety.”
“The overwhelming majority of addicts testify to the power of friendship as the single most important factor in their recoveries from addiction (p. 185).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice
- Do you have at least 10 people who are positive influences towards your sobriety?
- How can you invest in those relationships in such a way that increases the amount of influence they have?
- What have you been unwilling to relinquish that would decrease the number of negative influences in your life?
Read I Corinthians 15:33-34. These are strong words that have direct implication for how much you interact with the people you listed in the right column. Many would object, “But wouldn’t God want me to be a part of reaching these individuals? Isn’t that the loving thing to do?” The loving thing to do is to be an example of the freedom that Christ can provide and the choices necessary to pursue that freedom. You don’t love them well by making their life seem okay or sabotaging your own recovery. You love them by being a light on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16). If they want to take the same journey, they need a mature guide (Galatians 6:1-5). You are not that person yet. Trying to be more than you are prepared to be will result in more pain for both of you.
2. Routes / Routines:
Addictions make themselves at home in the rhythms of our lives. We use AoD “before” or “after” parts of our day. We pick up AoD “on the way” to places or events. In order for addiction to be life dominating, these rhythms necessarily become very well established. We no longer feel like we’re doing them. They just seem to happen; like our morning routine before our coffee kicks in.
Make a list of the routes and routines where your addiction can easily feel mindless. These are points when cravings can feel particularly intense.
- I use AoD before
- I use AoD after
- I pick up AoD on the way to or from
- Other routines or routes strongly associated with addiction are
This is where your plan has to be tailored to you. You need to talk with your sponsor, support group, pastor, or counselor to devise alternative life rhythms to eliminate or mitigate these influences. For those that cannot be eliminated you need to make your support network aware of the occasions when temptation is likely to be heightened. Raising awareness in your support network is an important way of feeling less alone in moments of temptation.
Where have you hidden or preserved access to AoD in your home? Our homes should be places of rest and refuge. But, because addictions often degenerate to private activities, home often becomes our place of greatest temptation. You restore your home to the refuge God wants it to be when you radically remove and disclose all access to AoD in your house.
This does not mean merely removing all alcohol from the refrigerator. But disclosing where you would hide AoD to your spouse, parents, or roommates (whomever you share a residence with).
What changes or disclosures would be needed to make your home as safe as possible from temptation? (Note: We are the source of our temptation, so we are not “building a better mouse trap” to resolve addiction. However, we are seeking to make every wise step possible to reduce temptation.)
4. Irregular Events:
Many one-time events are closely associated with AoD usage: weddings, graduations, New Year’s parties, birthdays, etc… Approaching these kinds of events is different from relationship and routines.
Are you willing to forego attending any event that is unwise for your recovery? Yes No
This is the first and foremost question. If you’re answer is “no,” then irregular events are likely to derail your recovery. You will miss things that are important to you as you pursue sobriety. It is better to intentionally miss small portions of life than to miss large chunks of life because of addiction.
These questions can help you assess the wisdom of your attendance at irregular events where there is likely to be AoD.
- Awareness: Have I talked about this event with people in my support network? If no, don’t go.
- Journey: Where am I in my journey of recovery? If my sobriety were an ankle injury and recovery a sport, would a doctor let me in this game?
- Companion: Will there be someone in my support network or someone committed to sobriety there?
- Energy: Where are my current emotional and relational reserves? Am I walking into this depleted?
- Plan: Do I have a plan for how to avoid temptation and accountability for key junctures in the event?When considering an irregular event where there is likely to be AoD present, you need to discuss these questions with multiple people in your support network. If they are hesitant to affirm the wisdom of you attending this event, you need to be willing to forego attending. These kinds of events are when we are prone to begin arguing for folly over wisdom; which is a dangerous step towards relapse. But since no substances are involved yet, we feel justified in downplaying the significance of this change in our mental and emotional attitude.
Less is more. Stress is a near universal temptation to relapse. We won’t eliminate stress from our lives, but we can significantly reduce it by removing unnecessary activities and commitments from our lives.
What activities or commitments in your life are contributing more stress than blessing?
Writing these things doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means they are likely a bad emotional investment during recovery. There are only so many things you can do well during each season of life. During this season of life one of the big things you need to do well is recovery. This will require removing other things.
As you get to steps 8 and 9 in this material, you will make a decision about what things to reintroduce to your priorities as your recovery becomes more solid. Having stepped away from excessive business (if that has been a temptation for you), will help you assess what things are most worth investing in when you get to that point in your journey.
If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.