Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3

Part 3  The Confusion of Relapse:

Sobriety & Lapses

Among the most compelling questions for people struggling with addiction and those who love them is the phenomenon diagramed above.  In short, the variations in the amount of time between addictive acting-out lead to a sort of false security.  Let’s examine this more closely.

In the diagram above, there is a line representing time, progressing forward predictably.  Circles, showing the addiction cycle (explained in the two previous pages) are superimposed on the timeline.  The circles remain the same, except for one characteristic, size.  Some of the cycles are larger, allowing more time between lapses, and some are smaller, with very limited time between acting-out.  However, the end result is always the same, destructive behavior.

Now comes the confusion.  People mistake sobriety with recovery.

Sobriety is ongoing time spent refraining from the destructive, addictive behavior.  Periods of sobriety can vary, from very short, hours or days, to very long, months or years. 

Recovery is the active, ongoing change of the individual’s way of living.  It involves the alteration of the person’s very foundation, making them incapable of producing the fruit of destruction any longer.  In recovery, a person lives for what they are now free to do.

In simple sobriety, life is about a list of “don’ts.”   Recovery does not happen without staying active in treatment!  For the addict, this means accepting that you cannot do this on your own and need help.  For those who love them, you must no longer enable the addict by accepting their excuses about lapses being isolated incidents which will not be repeated.  Life would be easier if this were true, but it is only a seductive fantasy.  This easier life does not exist, it is a manifestation of avoidance, an essential component of an addictive system.

How do you recognize if a person is truly in recovery, or simply remaining sober?  It’s a prudent question, asked by the people who have been hurt.  There simply is no completely safe way to love.  However, in true repentance, certain evidence should be present.  Specifically, if the individual has truly surrendered to Christ, they have become a new creation, or a new “tree.”  As such, we examine the fruit they are now producing:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. -Galatians 5:22-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

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Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 2

Part 2 The Individual’s Tendency for Cycle-Preservation:  Why does a person seem so committed to their destructive behavior, even when they say they want to change?  Again, we will use the simple concept of a circle to understand this aspect of addictive/destructive behavior.  A circle is a circle because the curve remains constant.  In other words, at any point in the circle, the line’s curve is the same.  The result is a circle that will continue to repeat itself indefinitely.  The steps of pre-occupation, impaired thinking, ritual behaviors, addictive acting-out, and shame & despair will always lead to one another.  But. . .

What if we change the curve?  If the curve is altered, at any point, to any degree, the circle changes and the cycle cannot repeat itself.  It is here we find freedom.  There is a catch, however.  If alterations can be made to the curve in one direction, they can also be made it it’s opposite.  Changes can be changed back.

Addictive Cycle Change & Correction

Why, if someone is making healthy changes in their life, would they go back to the way they were?  Perhaps, we have sat with them as they recalled their past behaviors with horror, disgusted at themselves.  What does lapse into destructive, sinful behavior mean?  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:15-19-

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

The mind can be thought of like an old-fashioned set of scales, the kind that required weights to be measured against one another.  The mind desires balance, not health.  Often, our way of achieving balance is to give-in to our sin.  Changes, even those which are healthy, blessed by God, create a time of imbalance.  The scales are skewed and the individual experiences discomfort.  It is at this point, corrective actions are taken remedy the problem.  The individual sabotages success, going back the old curve, the old cycle, and achieves balance once more.

It is not a matter of whether or not a person will work against their recovery, it is a matter of when.  Much of the work in Christian Counseling and support programs is found in identifying and changing this sin pattern.  As believers, we see our sinful nature as a result of the fall of man.  Man, ultimately, is in need of a Savior and there is hope.  Paul goes on to say:   

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:24-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

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Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 1

Part 1:  Understanding Addictive/Destructive Behaviors as Cyclical:  When you think of your own or a loved one’s  addictive/destructive behavior it is helpful to imagine a circle.  A circle is a continuous line with no beginning or end, flowing into itself.  There is no defined point of entry, no easily identified trigger that sets the whole process in motion.  Instead, at any point you engage in the circle of behavior, you will eventually experience the entire cycle.  This seemingly pointless, disorganized string of destruction leaves those involved confused, angry, and hopeless.  They are unable to answer the question of “why” effectively.  In other words, does John act-out because he feels great shame or does John feel great shame leading to his acting-out destructively as a means of medicating himself.

Below is a diagram of a basic addictive cycle.  Not every addictive cycle is the same, so this example is not meant to be definitive.  However, it is a solid guide to understanding some of the basics of destructive cycles.  Let’s look at the components that make up the cycle:

Addiction CyclePre-Occupation:  The individual enters a time of rumination or internal obsessing on acting-out.  This can also occur in the form of obsessing on not acting-out.  It is important the individual acknowledge obsessive thought patterns are a part of addictive/destructive behaviors.  Rather than hiding this pre-occupation, they should be actively processing it with their counselor and support groups.

Impaired Thinking:  At the heart of destructive cycles, are faulty belief systems, which work to perpetuate problems.  Both addicted individuals and those with other destructive behaviors live according to these beliefs.  Some examples include-

  • I do not need others.
  • If others really knew me, they would reject me.
  • It’s not okay to show my emotions.
  • I don’t deserve love.

Ritual Behaviors:  Leading up to the actual acting-out, are a series of preparatory behaviors.  Often, when individuals have not fostered self-awareness via counseling and support groups, they are oblivious to their own ritual behaviors.  These can include, but are not limited to- isolating themselves from loved ones, looking for possible times or ways of acting-out, engaging in risky/”all most” acting-out behaviors.

Addictive Acting-Out:  The identified event of behaving in a addictive, or, otherwise, destructive behavior.  It is the “identified problem”, the piece of the cycle the addict and others point to as needing change.  However, it is only one of a set of steps.

Shame & Despair:  Inevitably, the individual experiences the impact of their destructive behavior.  If they have not been caught, this is the point at which they convince themselves they will never do “it” again.  The chief objective here is secrecy, and in the event they have been discovered, it shifts to minimizing the damage they have done.  In other words, the individual will attempt to convince themselves and others that what has happened is not “a big deal.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help.  At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help.  Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

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Is Pedophilia caused by biology? | An LA Times Article Critique

The LA Times Article on pedophiles is misleading at best. The title of the January 14, 2013 article reads, “Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia”. While an interesting title even more intriguing is that only one (not many) researcher is referenced, James Cantor of the Center of Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto.

 

Dr. James Cantor

Dr. Cantor also serves as the editor of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment contributes to the APA’s newsletter on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender psychology. The significance is that this division is very politically motivated to find a biological explanation for sexual minorities, including in this case, pedophilia.  In a 2003 editorial article Dr. Cantor argues for the APA’s increased focus on the “biological research on sexual orientation” at its conventions.

In fact, Dr. Cantor’s single research project, amongst a Canadian prison population, is the only “research” project that suggests a biological origin for pedophilia. Further, Cantor, in his own research, makes it clear that in utero developmental influencers are only 1 of many possible explanations for the findings.

The other two professionals cited in the LA Times article, Dr. Fred Berlin and Dr. Russell Swerdlow, only say that “good people are struggling” and that brain tumors can cause obsessive thinking. Neither suggest a biological cause for pedophilia.

 

Chicken or Egg?

Brain patterns are shaped by environment and life experience. Often people make the mistake that assuming because an MRI or PET scan shows a pattern in brain activity or structure for a particular diagnosis that this indicates causation. The misnomer is, “They do ABC because their brain structure is XYZ.”

The truth is that environment and behavior patterns shape neuro-structure and brain activity. Just because brain scans show a certain pattern does not mean that the brain structure caused the behavior. It’s just as possible, if not likely, that the behavior / environment resulted in the brain structures / patterns.

Attractions do not CONTROL behavior.

Being attracted to my neighbor’s wife does not mean I have to sleep with her. Being attracted to my prepubescent step daughter does not mean I have to molest her. The experience of attractions does not compel behavior.

Christian Theological Perspective

 From a spiritual perspective, sexual behavior and even intent for behavior, has moral implications. That is engaging in sexual behavior outside God’s design for our sexuality, including pedophilia, or the intent to if you could get away with it, is in the Bible’s language, sin.

That doesn’t mean that struggling with distressing attractions is sin. There are many people who experience distressing attractions that do not act on them, choosing instead to live in a way that honors their values. The Christian’s attitude towards those who experiencing distressing attractions should be one of compassion.

Help is available.

If you or someone you love struggles with distressing attractions the counselors at The Relationship Center know how to help. Visit TheRelationshipCenter.us for more information.

Check out these resources for more trustworthy information.

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