Freedom Connection

The Vicious Cycle – Part 1

19

Dec 10

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[tweet_dis]Are you on a wheel that is turning and you can’t get off?[/tweet_dis]  I remember thinking so many times “stop the world, I want to get off!!”

That is what the cycle of addiction feels like when one is caught in its vicious cycle.  Let’s take a look at a diagram of the cycle of addiction.

Addiction Cycle by Phil Monroe

It is as if a whirlwind has taken over and you are moving along through the stages of this cycle without control.  The cycle starts with “Triggers” and ends with “Abstinence”, then typically repeats itself.  However, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB).  What I want to emphasize is that God ALWAYS makes a way of escape when we are tempted.  Most often, we have our focus on the temptation rather than looking for the way of escape that God has promised.  As I walk you through the stages of the cycle of addiction I want to share with you some ideas as to what to look for, and even to prepare for ahead of time, in finding God’s escape route.  Because with each stage of the cycle of addiction, God does provide a way of escape.

Looking at addiction from a bird’s eye view like this provides clarity and perspective to the whirlwind of addiction.  Instead of being trapped within an unstoppable whirlwind, you can prepare ahead of time to deal with each phase of the cycle.  In doing so you will begin to see the various ways God provides for you to escape from that which tempts you.

Let’s walk through the addiction cycle diagram which was created by Phil Monroe[1], a Christian psychologist.  I also want to credit Luke Gilkerson[2] for his contributions on the stages of addiction.  These gentlemen have written about their insights on God giving “ways of escape” in each stage of the addiction cycle that I have gained from.  Here, I add some additional thoughts on God providing a way of escape in each stage of addiction.

Trigger(s)

The triggers are usually the start to the cycle.  For each individual they are different.  They can be a phone call, an email, a smell, a thought, a memory, a situation, a feeling.

  • Way Of Escape –  Identify the triggers.  Recognize the times, situations, people, environments that trigger you.  Are there times of the day when you are most tempted?  Have you considered H-A-L-T?  Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired?  ( http://dancingwithhim.com/2010/10/17/halt/).  These situations can make one more susceptible to temptation.  Knowing your triggers can help you avoid some temptations altogether.   For instance, if driving in a certain area of town sets off triggers for you, don’t go there.  If getting on the internet sets off triggers, don’t go to your computer alone.  Get creative in your solutions.  When you do not see an obvious practical solution to avoid certain triggers, ask the Lord to show you His way of escape.  Set your course prior to being triggered by temptation.  This is a critical stage.  The earlier on in the cycle you stop and find the way of escape, the easier it is.

 Tempting Thoughts

Tempting thoughts are when you start to ponder the idea of going to search out pornography or a sexual experience.

  • Way Of Escape –  Identify tempting thoughts.  You begin to believe subtle lies that the sex or pornography will make you feel good. You justify the thoughts in your mind as harmless.  You must quickly identify these thoughts and replace the lies with truth.  The truth is that after the temporary “high” of acting out, there is a crash.  The truth is that you will have repercussions from your actions.  The truth is that pornography and sex addiction do harm.  In finding the way of escape in this stage of the cycle of addiction, the direction the Bible gives us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is very important.  The last part of the verse says “…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV)  We are directed to take our thoughts captive, which means to bring our thoughts under control.  Stop dwelling on the thoughts of temptation and the lies that go with those thoughts.  The Bible gives us some more great wisdom in what we should be thinking on.  In Philippians 4:8 it says “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (NIV)  You don’t have to do this all on your own… ask Father God for His help.  He has provided the escape route.

 SUDS

SUDS are “seemingly unimportant decisions”.  The little decisions that get us closer to acting out in sexual addiction.  An example of this would be if it is ultimately pornography on the computer that is your temptation you may decide at this stage to just go and check your email or to go on-line to verify some information.

  • Way Of Escape –  Identify the SUDS.  Ask yourself, what are the seemingly unimportant decisions that you make which bring you closer to your indulgence?  Be aware of your behaviors.  Realize that there are no “small” or “unimportant” decisions at this point.  What you decide to do will have a significant outcome.  Have a list already made of alternative choices other than following through with SUDS.   Activities that will turn your direction from inching closer and closer to the actual indulgence in the addictive behavior to the way of escape that the Lord is providing.  Activities on the list could be to pray, read something encouraging (the Bible is always a good source), call a friend, go for a walk, exercise, journal, a hobby or whatever it is that turns you from the SUDS to a good source of healthy activity.  A big key is to plan ahead, have alternative ideas already in your mind and available. 

Indulge

Indulgence is clear in its definition.  It is usually accompanied by a false sense of control that “I can handle it”.

On the diagram, there is also a direct line from triggers to indulge.  Many who are deep in addiction move extremely quickly between triggers and indulging to the point they almost cannot identify the steps in between.  In those situations, it is even more critical to be keenly aware of the cycle of addiction, your own typical behaviors, and to be prayerfully on the lookout for God’s way of escape.

Indulgence is not the conclusion of the cycle of addiction.  There are following stages and God continues to have ways of escape in each stage.  In Part 2 of this blog post I will continue with Defeated Interpretations, Guilt, Penance, and Abstinence.

I encourage you to spend some time pondering this verse of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB).  This is a wonderful promise from our Father God!

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