When you’re struggling with an addiction of any kind, you’re bound to learn.
Yeah: learn. You learn stuff. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the addiction and finding that next fix that you miss out on what addictions teach you.
But when you begin to get a handle on the addiction, begin to fight it, you start to learn some important life lessons. Some real ones. Here are five.
1. Your mistakes don’t affect just you.
When you’re addicted to something like pornography, the temptation is to think that the only person affected is yourself. It’s a private thing you consume with no one else around. It’s only you. But you can forget that your actions affect those around you.
There are countless stories of women whose lives are wrecked and devastated by their husbands’ porn addiction. They’re destroyed emotionally. They can’t trust anymore. I’m getting married in June, and discussing my struggles with pornography and sexual sin has affected my fiancée emotionally. Men and women have lost jobs due to their addiction. Pastors have lost ministry positions while employees accessing pornography at workplaces have lost careers.
2. Some scars are permanent. And those wounds hurt when they’re hit again.
One of the most painful parts of dealing with sexual addiction is seeing reminders of it in surprising places. Whenever there’s a joke on a television show about porn or a reference to masturbation somewhere, I wince because I’m reminded of something that brought me pain.
Just like reminders of bad relationships and family members gone too soon hurt us, memories of addiction can take a toll. This is something that’s been real for me, and sometimes it’s been raw.
When television shows and movies treat pornography like it’s nothing, it’s like a gunshot wound to the stomach of my emotions. And that’s something that will never go away.
3. Get back up when it knocks you down.
I originally worded this lesson as “perseverance is key.” When dealing with any habit or addiction, you’ve got to keep going. If it’s something detrimental, you can’t just quit and let it run your life. Part of that is getting up when you get knocked down.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 24:16, which says, “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” It’s saying that the one who proves himself righteous or obedient or faithful to God is one who gets back up when he falls.
Getting back up when we fall is evidence that we really want to beat the addiction, we want to beat what is holding us down. Just like the boxer who won’t let a knockdown ruin his fight, we can’t let losses hold us back from pursuing victory in the end.
4. Bad decisions are a slippery slope.
One bad decision leads to another, and another, and another. For the alcoholic, he rarely starts out intending to become addicted.
But he begins to make compromises, and more compromises, and all of a sudden he can’t live without it. If a journalist makes up details of one story, and is rewarded for it, then what’s to stop them from doing more?
They continue to lie and fabricate, and all of a sudden they’re stuck in a web of deceit and falsehoods. Sexual addiction is the same way. The first time you explore pornography or masturbation, you don’t intend to get hooked. But it happens.
That’s the pattern of addiction: it starts small, and then expands.
It’s truly a slippery slope. Much like skiing down a mountain, one step leads to another and another and then your momentum just carries you forward.
5. Any bad habit requires time, attention, encouragement and effort to overcome it.
To get through an illness or work off a bad habit, you need to do the right things, and be consistent. If you have a bad habit of snapping at any criticism of your work, you need to give time to work it off. You need to give attention to what causes it and what the best steps are to overcome it. You need encouragement from others to keep going to beat it. And you need to put in the effort, work at it, don’t give up.
Sexual addiction is the same way. If you hardly spend any time trying to overcome it, you won’t get anywhere. It needs your full attention. You need encouragement from other people, and you need to give all of yourself to fight it.
I’ve learned many life lessons fighting sexual addiction. Some of them are lessons I’ll carry with me to the grave. Some of them are temporary. Either way, there’s one more thing I’d like to encourage.
Don’t let your learning of these lessons go to waste. Other people need to learn these lessons, and perhaps you are the person to share your struggle with them, and what you learned about it. I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t let us struggle just for us. When we go through hard times, fight certain sins, and experience difficulties, we can help others who deal with the same things. Humanity is built to need each other. So don’t waste what life’s taught you. Share the lessons you’ve learned.
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