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.
In addition to avoiding and reframing temptation, you need to be personally strong – physically, mentally, and spiritually. In this section we will look at approaches to building your physical and mental stamina for your battle with addiction.
Read Matthew 26:41. Notice that Jesus ties the strength of temptation to the condition of the body; in this case fatigue. In the preceding hours, the disciples had traveled, secured a place to hold a ceremony, prepared an elaborate meal, eaten a meal high in carbohydrates, and then walked to a dark-quite place to pray. When they repeatedly fell asleep, Jesus’ response was, “Your spirit is indeed willing, but your flesh is weak.” There is comfort in knowing God is patient with our weakness, but we should also apply wisdom and avoid creating physical challenges that will heighten our temptation. That is what this section is all about.
1. Regulate Sleep:
Getting adequate sleep has a multifaceted impact on addiction. First, sleep has a significant impact on our physical energy and self-control. These are vital to resisting temptation. Second, good sleep hygiene serves as an effective schedule regulator. An irregular schedule provides more opportunities for temptation to arise in moments for which we will be ill-prepared. Finally, being awake late at night results in boredom at a time when our support network is least available.
If at all possible, arrange your schedule to get 7-8 hours of sleep each evening between the hours of 10pm and 8am.
If you are having trouble sleeping, consider the following suggestions to help with sleep at this time.
- Establish a bed time routine to help habituate your body towards sleep.
- Establish a deep slow breathing pattern as you lay in bed that simulates sleep breathing.
- Believe that sleep is intended as a good gift from God and do not feel guilty for resting.
- Pray that God would give you restful sleep and believe He wants you to have it.
- Memorize a passage of Scripture related to God’s care for you and repeat it slowly as you lay down to sleep.
- Play soft music or nature sounds to help prevent your mind from drift-thinking while trying to sleep.
- Reduce the level of caffeine and sugar in your diet, especially after the noon hour.
- Avoid daytime naps so that your sleep is in concentrated blocks; the physiological benefits of sleep are less when we break our sleep into smaller units.
- Take a warm bath to relax your body.
- Try muscle relaxation or stretching exercises about an hour before going to bed.
- Talk with a medical professional about the possibility of a sleep aid; disclosing your history with addiction and asking for non-habit forming medical interventions.
2. Balanced Diet:
The addictive lifestyle is often a lifestyle of extremes. The more areas of your life that you bring into intentional moderation, the less hospitable your life will be for addiction. A balanced diet also has a multifaceted impact on the experience of addiction.
First, making healthy eating choices is a form of self-care; addiction is a form of self-abuse. Addiction doesn’t care about your body. Making healthy food choices is a demonstration that you matter. Second, a balanced diet contributes to a healthy self-image instead of feeling ashamed. Third, a balanced diet reveals that little choices matter. As you begin to experience the effects of these choices, your sense that you can positively influence your life (self-efficacy) will grow. Self-efficacy is highly correlated with continued sobriety.
In addition, a healthy diet contributes to balanced emotions. Where does our body get the component parts that comprise our brain chemistry? From our diet. If we recognize how much our diet influences our cholesterol, blood pressure, and energy levels, why don’t we equally appreciate its role in our brain chemistry and emotional states?
If you are not already, implement the following practices.
- Eat at least three meals each day at consistent times in the morning, around noon, and evening.
- Have at least one serving of fresh fruit or vegetables at each meal.
- Limit foods that are high in fat or sugar content; which create blood sugar imbalances that enhance temptation.
- Begin taking a multi-vitamin to offset any nutritional deficiencies that your addiction may have created.
3. Physical Exercise:
Here we will talk about exercises for both your body. But is should be remembered, we have already discussed how a healthy-strong body contributes to having a healthy-strong will.
Similar to improving one’s diet, exercise also has the psychological benefit of being an emotional investment in one’s self-care. Exercise is evidence that you are caring for yourself and usually results in improvements in energy and appearance. Exercise can also contribute to your sleep regulation. In this way, exercise contributes to all the other enhancement strategies we’ve listed.
Additionally, exercise triggers the releases of the body’s natural endorphins and dopamine. Much of addiction has resulted in the artificial stimulation of these molecules. A consistent exercise program can be an excellent way to begin to re-establish your body’s natural production of these pleasure molecules at healthy levels.
4. Self-Control Exercises:
Addiction often results from or, at least produces, low impulse control. Growing in impulse control is both an important part of overcoming addiction and a skill that is highly correlated with life satisfaction. Impulse control is the ability to tell yourself “no” or “wait” and obeying.
Make a list of the non-AoD substances and activities over which you struggle to exhibit impulse control.
Begin to intentionally practice moderation in one of these areas. Do not try to tackle them all at once. Pre-determine what a reasonable amount of time or quantity for the item you want to moderate. Inform a friend of how you are seeking to grow and explain the impulse control goal behind this discipline. Begin to allow your recovery process to be about more (not less) than AoD as you grow in self-control in a variety of areas in your life.
5. Emotional Endurance:
Emotional endurance is another form of personal enhancement. Working through recovery is a very emotion-laden process. As you continue to work through the latter steps in this process, you may begin to focus more intently on particular emotions that are prone to disrupt your recovery. Materials, similar to this study, are available for a variety of emotions at bradhambrick.com.
However, some general guidance may be beneficial on how to increase your emotional endurance.
- Continue to grow spiritually and intellectually. Growth brings hope. It also brings fresh perspectives that may present new ways of addressing challenges. When you are intentionally growing, it is sign that you have not surrendered to the hardship of life; that is endurance.
- Always face the truth. Retreating from the truth is a step back towards addiction. However hard the truth may be, it is more liberating than a lie. Refuse to fall back into a life of escape; emotional escape (avoiding truth) is a precursor to substance escape.
- Practice gratitude. Grumbling is a very exhausting mental activity. Rehearsing your disappointments does not lighten or decrease them. You may think that rehearsing your blessings is cheesy or a form of denial. But realize there is an attractional quality to our attention; whatever we pay attention to we will notice more. If you focus on your disappointments, you will notice more disappointments; the same is true for your blessings.
- Forgive. Sin must be paid for. But when you persist in unforgiveness, you are paying the penalty for the sins people have committed against you through the burden of bitterness you bear. The souring of your disposition becomes a temptation to relapse and a drain on your emotional resilience.
“But holding on to that hurt and not being willing to forgive the person who hurt you in the past is allowing them to continue to hurt you today, in the present (p. 56).” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide
- Live in the present. God promises to give you what it takes to live each moment well (Matthew 6:25-34). Think of this like a “manna promise” (Exodus 16). God provided enough manna for each day. It was an act of faith for Israel to only gather what they needed for that day. Similarly, living in the present is an act of faith in God’s faithfulness to provide what you need each moment. The obedience that emerges from this faith – staying in the moment – is a primary means by which God keeps this promise.