How Habits Become Addictions

2 Timothy 1:7, ” for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Ever have a stressful work day and while driving home think, man, I sure need to relax with a glass of wine (or kibbles and bits) tonight?  Perhaps over the next few days as work stress progresses, you continue to reach for that wine.  That drink calms your nerves, relieving the pressures of nagging customers or belligerent bosses. Another day, another relaxing glass . . .  In time the pressures cease, work returns to normal but by this time, just like Pavlov’s dog, you associate a drink with after work relaxation and pleasure.

You just crossed over from that drink being a momentary pleasure to being hooked. Slowly, sneakily, that habit controls you instead of you controlling it!  However, with godly diligence, bad habits can be overcome.

Admit it, it’s difficult to give up something that feels good. However when one can’t bear giving up a certain pleasure, whether it’s alcohol, smoking or chocolate cookies, it becomes an addiction. You don’t control that desire, it controls you!  With enjoyment, a brain reaction occurs; our mental processes change and it chemically intensifies a neurotransmitter, dopamine. Our brain’s circuitry becomes re-wired for that pleasure.

It’s what occurs when entering your favorite restaurant. Although you ‘promised’ to be good, the pull of that deep-fried blue-plate special you ordered last month is too strong!  Restaurants know this. It’s one reason they load their menu with the combined salt, sugar and fat items customers love. That specific tri-combination alters brain chemistry for pleasure!

Habits become unconscious actions.  Ever brush your teeth, apply deodorant or place the mailbox key in the drawer and have to check to see if you actually did this action? Habits becomes second nature.  We’ve all done something without thinking, it’s a natural human response. So is consuming food unconsciously!

Now there are good and bad habits. Exercising each day and feeling a pull to do so is a usually a great habit which releases dopamine and serotonin, two feel-good neurotransmitters. Feeling ‘antsy’ if you’re not reading but are accustomed to doing so, or looking forward to that sit-com which you always watch, are all self-created habits. As soon as you sit down with that novel or favorite television show, an automatic response occurs. Notice how relaxed you become as you settle into your favorite chair and open a book or click the remote?

But what about harmful habits? Once a habit becomes ingrained, it’ll take about 3-6 weeks to overcome it. Understand why you are reaching for that popcorn or chocolate when you aren’t even hungry! Become aware of your actions. What provoked this feeling of need?  Is this a pattern you follow every time you get depressed, angry, bored or frustrated?

Recognizing a bad habit is the first step in overcoming it.

Then ask yourself, what can I do besides this destructive behavior? I can take a scented bath, walk, read outside, call a friend, listen to music, LAUGH – you decide.

Only you can change a habit and only if you really want to. If you still have no desire to relinquish it, you’ll be fighting against the grain and won’t. That’s frustrating! Are you happy being a test case for Satan? He delights in our inability to overcome addiction! He enjoys seeing us discouraged. Put him in his place.

1 John 4:4, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

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2 thoughts on “How Habits Become Addictions

  1. Amen!! Put him in his place! I like that very much! This was a terrific post! I have had one glass of wine in 3 weeks, ok I have been sick for two of them but still. I am going on a 2 weeks fast as of this Monday. I am a firm believer in not letting things control me. The wine thing came about just as you explained at the start of this post. Gradually you become used to it, you look forward to it and before you know it your are freaking out if there is no wine in the fridge. Not good, and the enemy always overplays his hand! I have been like this with all my guilty pleasures. I fast them and make sure I can stop. it is about balance. In God’s hands and for His cause, with His help we can overcome. We can avoid addiction. Thanks for sharing this great post. blessings to you!

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  2. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and for your testimony. I praise God for His strength and for allowing all things in moderation.

    Addictions are so hard to overcome without God’s strength and most of my patients were addicted to food. Anything placed before God’s Will becomes an idol and God wants us to be holy because He is holy. We wouldn’t take trash into the Temple in Jerusalem and throw it on the floor and yet that’s what we do when we ingest junk food into our godly temple. Blessings to you and I do hope you’ll return to view additional posts. 🙂

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