My experience with self-destructive coping behaviours has been 26 years long. Several comorbid addictions, namely Relationship-, Sex- and Gaming addiction were part of my life before I started seeing progress in breaking free. I was unable to stop it.
As I progress in my journey, I see that other things pop up that my brain would like to use to soothe myself and find peace but nothing except true love can satisfy my hurting heart.
“Did I have a choice?”John Theodore
When I came to faith in Jesus, his words in the Bible confronted me with my sexual behaviours as being immoral and sin against my own body.
From God’s perspective that means it hurts me and others and is therefore not good. To use sex for selfish reasons and outside of the marriage promise is hurting myself and my partner and should be avoided at all cost.
I know this is controversial to some and definitely counter-cultural, but I knew that I didn’t want to continue in my relationships with women or men as I had so far. I gained nothing but shame and hurt over all these years of sexual liberality and didn’t want to be that kind of man any longer.
Now, I trusted God to be All-knowing and that he would know better than I and so I made promises to myself to stop acting out, laying aside these behaviours by focusing on long term relationship building and abstaining from sexual intimacy.
“I was powerless to stop my unwanted coping behaviours.”John Theodore
I made some progress after starting to actively work on resisting the addictions but the results were sobering. I was powerless to stop my unwanted coping behaviours.
A year and many broken promises later, I decided to open up about my incapacity to stop to my mentor. It was a humbling moment, but one of the best things I have done at that stage in my life. It was healing, because I didn’t feel condemned. To the contrary, I felt accepted and grace was emphasised, even though my behaviour remained just as bad. He encouraged me to not take these things too hard and that time would bring growth and freedom. I made a commitment to read books about the topic and to be accountable to him when I would fail to stay sober.
Reading more about the battle of addictions, I came to the realisation how detrimental my addictive behaviours and especially pornography and selfish self centered sexual practices are to my body, my closest relationships, my mental health and my spiritual health. I knew I did not want those consequences in my life and I had to make a choice:
Either I stop coping behaviours once and for all or I continue to, literally, hurt myself again and again.
“I came to the realisation how detrimental my addictive behaviours and especially pornography and selfish self centered sexual practices are to my body, my closest relationships, my mental health and my spiritual health.”John Theodore
That first step of realising that I had a problem was important. And the second step, to come out of the dark, was the right thing to do. And yet, the grip of my addictions would not leave me.
As soon as some stressful situation, boredom, tiredness or anxiety would come up I would almost instantly revert back to old patterns of dealing with it. Also in particular situations, when I was in particular locations, saw certain things or heard certain words, I was immediately triggered to seek for that sex or game high.
The grip of shame
One would not think this is a bad thing, until one knows and believes that it is bad for one’s self and for others in the community. I felt like a failure and became more and more ashamed of myself, because I could not keep my promises to myself nor toward my mentor.
“I felt like I was a prisoner.”John Theodore
I felt like I was a prisoner. Before I became a Christian I had no idea how addictive and dopamine driven I was by my brain. I was a slave. Now that I promised to stop, I saw that I couldn’t! “I am so stupid”, why do I continue to watch porn, why do I continue to treat women as objects in my mind, why am I continually reverting back to games when I see that it is a waste of my time?
Did I have a choice? Yes, every single moment! But have I understood the nature of addiction? No!
Behind the scenes of addiction
Addictions and addictive behaviours are driven by beliefs and emotional pain. Most of us have some kind of addiction or way of dealing with the stress of every day life. Usually there are good ways to cope and there are bad ways to cope. The bad ways are those that hurt your own body, mental health or your relations with other people around you.
Yet, changing the behaviour might not be enough. Many things have been written about this topic and I am grateful to God that I have been led to tools that helped me deal with that underlying emotional pain.
“Addictions are a way of coping with stress and anxiety that have taken a life of their own and we feel powerless to stop the things we do and don’t want to do anymore.”John Theodore
Addictions are sinful habits of coping with stress and anxiety that have taken a life of their own and we feel powerless to stop the things we do and don’t want to do anymore. We have learned in our brain that it works to take the edge off our stress and fear and so we automatically go back to it and avoid the pain that we face.
If we want to grow, either personally or in our families, we need to figure out what creates the emotions of stress, anger or fear, and then follow the path to the place of hope, joy, peace and rest. Only from that place of peace and rest will we be able to face our emotions and find out what beliefs are hidden behind our emotions in order to heal them with the love that comes from God and community.
When it comes to defining an addiction we have to make clear that we always have a choice. An addiction is never an excuse to give in to destructive behaviour. We are always responsible for our actions and there is no reasonable argument that can be brought to the table to overturn such a self evident notion.
We are not victims, we are human creatures who have been hurt and who now have the choice to continue the cycle of hurt or to be redeemed to live loving and rich relationships. And that is great news!
Great News! There is HOPE!
What about you? Have you been stuck in certain ways of coping that you know are detrimental to your health and wellbeing? Have you considered facing your fears, stress and anger?
I am facing my fears and learn to grow by the day! We can choose to live that kind of life and it only needs one step to start living free. I can teach you how I did it and you can choose what to do about it.
I invite you to take the step to face your fear and get in contact with me. Do not let isolation and shame get the best of you.
Learn more about the author on the Simple Man page.
King James Version (KJV)
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.