Overcoming Addiction: Setting the Right Goal
Overcoming addiction is like eating an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time.
At the outset, it feels like an overwhelming task. Sometimes, what pushes the addict
over the edge is hearing that the goal of the process is that they never drink again, or
take drugs again, or gamble again, or look at pornography again or overeat again. Ever?
Many cannot imagine life without their addiction.
AA and other 12-step type programs try to soften the blow of this goal by cutting it up
into smaller bites. Each day, when you wake up, you simply set the goal that you will not
give in to your addiction on that day. The addict heaves a sigh of relief, surely he can
make it through the end of the day without giving in.
Armed with this lighter load, the addict starts out on the road to recovery. Somewhere between the 2-month chip and the 3-month chip, a thought begins to occur to them, a depressing thought. The best I can hope for is a lifetime of days in which I try not to give in to my addiction. Despair.
At this point, many give in, fall, have a relapse, call their sponsor and after an appropriate period of wallowing, begin again. Another 1-month chip, etc., another lifetime of NOT doing something. Is there any way to make this process easier? Less depressing?
What if we change the goal? What if we take the focus off of the forbidden behavior and put it on something much more positive. What if we focus on LIFE? Isn’t the desire and passion for life what led us to the addiction in the first place? Either the addict believed that life could be found in the addiction or the addiction was a way to escape the fact that life wasn’t happening they way they hoped it would. In either case, understanding what abundant life is and making that the goal, one day at a time, seems a much better motivator than trying NOT to do something every day.
God created us to experience life. His breath in man is the source of life. That breath was extinguished because of sin but it was restored by the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus said he came to “give us life” (John 10:10). Love, laughter, adventure, community, these were all a part of God’s original design for us. As we get in touch with our own passions for life, explore what makes us come “fully alive”, we find a reason to keep moving forward, a reason to live and a better gauge for evaluating our progress. We could keep counting the times we give in to our addiction, it really does rob us of abundant life. But why not opt for a different approach. How many days this week did I experience life to the fullest? If I gave in to my addiction once after 3 months of sobriety, focusing on the addiction means I have to start over. Focusing on life means I celebrated life 89 days and chose the addiction 1 day. There is still hope and I am still winning the battle!