A couple of weeks ago, we began discussing the concept of self care as an antidote to addiction. Addiction is often fueled by self neglect, whether in our spiritual life, our physical bodies, or our emotional health and relationships. We turn to unhealthy behaviors as a way to avoid pain, loneliness, boredom, conflict, and many other thoughts and feelings that make us feel bad. I wrote about how our spiritual health is a key component of self care and reviewed some tools we can use to address our relationship with God.
As Christians, we are taught to “buffet our bodies” and to “hate the flesh.” I believe that we often take this further than God intended. We neglect our bodies and our senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing) that God gave us to experience the world around us, because our spiritual life and our Christian service are “more important.” The result of starving ourselves of “sensual” experiences is that in the process, we are repressing legitimate needs. Our need explodes in front of us and we do our best to put out the fire, many times turning to the intensity of sin and addiction. We then feel ashamed, separated from God and unable to serve, disqualifying ourselves from the very things we were trying to do in the first place.
Repression of Legitimate Physical Needs
Most days, I am in “repressing” mode when it comes to experiencing the world around me, living on autopilot for much of the time. So many things are on my mind on my way to work, that I don’t remember anything about my morning commute. I eat a meal, but I don’t stop to think about the way it tastes. I listen to the radio, not for enjoyment but to keep my mind busy. I don’t stop and allow myself to be present to the world around me.
Ignoring our bodies can have dire consequences, particularly when we are discussing addictions. Addictive behavior is often an overindulgence of something good. When a person disregards their need for touch, for example, that need continues to build. Eventually, this need will be overwhelming and they may turn to inappropriate ways of meeting those needs, like sex outside of marriage or pornography.
If you are struggling with an addiction, there is likely a sensory experience attached to it. It may involve more than one of the five senses. Try to connect the dots between what you are struggling with and the legitimate physical need you have. I believe God will provide a healthy way to meet that need.
Our Need for Sensory Connection
Pornography has been a big struggle for me. Of course there are emotional, spiritual, and relational issues which are a part of the problem too, but I can also see a clear connection between my temptation for porn and neglecting my physical needs. When my body is starving for touch, masturbation is a really intense way to get it. Seeing other people touching in intimate ways gives me a false sense of meeting my need for connection.
Food is another thing I use addictively. Regardless of what I eat, my stomach eventually feels full. If I have filled up on junk, I may still be hungry, because I haven’t given my body what it really needs. My body is telling me it needs something healthy, but I keep giving it the unhealthy. I need something simple like an apple, but I turn to the intense flavors of a burger and fries!
Some Helpful Tips
Here are a few things to try which may help you connect with your body and avert the desire to turn to addiction:
- Think about how it feels when you are washing your hands. How does the soap smell? What does the towel feel like when you are drying your hands?
- Try and be aware of the world around you on your drive to work or when you are out running errands. Who is walking down the street? What stores am I driving by? Try turning off the radio and driving with the window down.
- Think about what your food tastes like. What does it smell like? What does it feel like in my mouth?
- Go for a walk. What does the wind feel like on my face? What does the grass feel like on my bare feet?
All of this may seem very basic, but a surprising amount of our discipleship counseling sessions involve discussions about this type of information. Getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising are recurring themes in those appointments. Regular visits to the doctor and the dentist are also simple things we can do to take care of ourselves.
God gave us the gift of our bodies. He created us in His image and said that “it was very good.” I challenge you to enjoy the body God has given you, and feed all five of your senses daily. Caring for your physical needs will help you in your battle with addiction.
In the spring of 1995, the conflict Roger felt between his faith and his sexuality, as well as an addiction to pornography, led him to WGA. His personal journey has provided him unique insights into sexuality and the pain of adversity, which he shares through his testimony, facilitation of small groups, writing and public speaking.
Roger began working with WGA in October of 1996 as the Assistant office Manager. Since that time, he has worn many hats and served in several different positions, including Assistant Program Director and Operations Director. In April of 2007, Roger assumed the position of Executive Director.
Roger attended West Texas A&M University, where he studied Music Business. Much of his training has been “on the job,” where he was mentored by the ministry’s Founder, Mary Heathman, and the Program Director, Scott Kingry. He holds a BA from West Texas A&M University.
Roger, his wife Jill, and their daughter Julia and son William, attend Celebration Community Church where Jill serves as Associate Pastor.
I really think you’re on to something here, Roger! Thanks.
I am learning though my recovery programme from sexual addiction, those areas which are off limits and those which are risky; sin and temptation. These form inner and middle circles with boundaries round them.
God is showing me how to see and do things which are beautiful, positively sensory, creative, satisfying, wholesome to fill my mind and to keep my God given desires pure and in balance. It is replacing the addictive habits and healing me, by having an outer circle.
I have a better way to live. My sense of God is being restored. Lusting after things that only hurt me and others is slipping away. I have a growing joy in the Lord and trusting Him to meet my needs and He is giving me more besides.
Your points are well made, thank you.