The Causes of a Downward Spiral
By Todd Strandberg
There are many reasons why people fall into a pattern of self-destruction. We have no cut-and-dry reason one person stumbles and another avoids addiction. One individual may be born with a weakness for alcohol while another may have a natural dislike for intoxicants.
Somewhere at the core of all addictive behavior is the way people deal with temptation. We can educate people, but knowledge doesn't mean that people will automatically make the right choices.
In most cases, the destructive process is hidden from the person undergoing the transformation. No one typically says, "I think I'll slowly waste away my life." A more likely statement people end up making is, "How on earth did I get into this mess?"
Because so many factors are at work, it would be impossible for me to list a stage-by-stage example that could be applied to all cases. The best thing I can do is compile a list of the most common reasons people get trapped in a downward spiral.
People in their youth often believe they have plenty of time to correct a behavioral problem. What they don't realize is that as we get older, we lose our ability to cope with the poor choices we make. The errors we make in life create obstacles that compound over time.
Many people believe they have the ability to cut off desire/thoughts anytime they wish. They say, "I can give this habit up any day, so why let today be that day?" As long as they don't run into a problem, their confidence remains intact.
When people are faced with a fact that is uncomfortable or painful to accept, they reject it as untrue. Despite what may appear to be overwhelming evidence, they remain steadfast in their view of reality. We cannot force people to believe something they refuse to see as fact.
The Lack of a Foundation
Without a moral compass to guide individuals, there is nothing to prevent them from getting into trouble. A person who has no foundation of truth will sink into error with just as much certainty as someone who is standing in quicksand.
The Tolerance Factor
The typical experience with drug abuse is a good way to explain how the tolerance factor works. As people continue to abuse drugs and alcohol, their condition is often made worse by their bodies adjusting to the effects of the intoxicating substances. Over time, an addict needs an increasing the amount of drugs in order to achieve the same high. The cycle may progress to the point where the addict needs to take large quantities of a drug just to cope with daily life.
Unsuccessful Attempts To Stop a Habit
When people fail in their attempt to quit a bad habit, their lack of success can create a feeling of hopelessness. They give up trying to achieve sobriety based on the assumption that they lack the ability to kick the habit. The failure to moderate their behavior may cause them to identify with or even defend the addiction.
Emotions Are Stronger Than Reason
It's important to realize that emotions are a key driving force in our lives. Once emotions are aroused, the intellect or the reasoning faculty becomes overshadowed. The emotions are stronger than the reason and tend to have the final say. A good example of this would be someone who has a short temper and makes decisions based on his or her likes or dislikes.
"I Don't Care Anymore"
One of the strongest drives in mankind is the desire for self-preservation. We take care of ourselves because we want to go on living. When people reach the point where they don't care what happens to them, they become enveloped by their addiction. The people who reach this stage are very difficult to successfully treat.
There is no easy answer for people seeking to dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in. If it took time for people to get their life into a mess, it will take time to put their world back into some working order.
Recovery starts with a realization of life's core values. Those who are involved with something like drugs begin recovery with the understanding that the habit is morally wrong. They say, “I shouldn’t be messing with this stuff.” The most chronic drug users tend to be people who lack a strong moral foundation.
The next step of the recovery process involves accepting, understanding and releasing negative feelings. Because hostility can be a major obstacle to healing, it is very important for people in recovery to make amends with their friends, family, and--most importantly--themselves.
A third step is about choice -- people have to decide that they are going to take an action that is best for them. Without a sense of determination, it is very easy to fall back into the spiral of despair. Most individuals can give up a vice for a short time. The problem is maintaining sobriety.
The final step is one that never ends. Once people decide to turn their lives around, they need to take a continual inventory of life. When they stumble, it's important for them to admit to the error and quickly get back up.
An addict seeking recovery needs to realize that they never will get back to 100 percent. To be cured means that someone is no longer destroying his or her life. All addictions leave some type of lasting physical or emotional scars.
The Bible has several verses that tell me we can overcome temptation:
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:13-15).
With any attempt at restoration, there needs to be a reliance on God's grace. The Lord has the power to supernaturally break the hold of any sin that binds us. Some of the most successful programs for chronic addiction have been ones founded on prayer and Scripture. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous advise people to realize that “a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Because everyone is born in sin, we all have our addictions. Most of these shortcomings don’t cause us to end up sleeping in a gutter. A business man who sings in the Sunday choir at church, unless he has Jesus as his Saviour, is spiritually no better off than the most tragic drug addict or alcoholic.
We have no room to say we're better off than anyone else. The Lord warned us that "Unless you are born again you can never see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
God does not send his angels to rescue us from our destructive ways. He gives victory to people who put their trust in Him.