Everyone knows addiction is unhealthy. Even workaholics (often considered an "acceptable" addiction) who make it to the top in their career and finances inevitably admit that they sacrificed many important parts of their lives to get there (namely, family relationships). And most addicts have had someone in their life tell them they need to get into recovery, but few are ever told the real benefits of doing so. Sadly, they are often left to conclude that recovery is as good as any other alternative because addiction clearly isn't working.
I believe there are countless benefits to recovery, but for the sake of space and time I am going to only share the following 5 major benefits. Maybe these will help you or a loved one have a better picture of why recovery is the best alternative to addiction.
1. Recovery leads you out of secrecy and deception.
Every addict has lied. It is Addiction 101 -- you must lie if you want to keep doing what you're doing. Lying becomes like a dialect of addicts. They become highly skilled in the art of deception so as to not let the truth of their addictive ways leak out. Their fear of being truly known is so overwhelming that they believe their only option for survival is to hide and lie.
This is why it is so difficult for addicts to enter recovery: they fear being known. This is also why it is so important for those seeking to help addicts to respond with kindness and encouragement when they finally do take that first step and tell their full story. The last thing an addict needs at that point is someone beating them up for telling the truth. That's a certain recipe for sending them right back into hiding and more addiction.
Recovery invites an addict to tell their whole story, every bit of it. No secrets. No lies. No hiding. It is a journey of disclosing the depths of the heart and learning what the power of the truth can do. The truth is the only way to defeat a lie. And the Truth (Jesus Christ) is what ultimately sets the captives free. It is a beautiful thing to see an addict share their story and discover that they can still be loved in spite of their terrible failures. Such grace turns many addicts from liars and cheats into men and women of great integrity and compassion.
2. Recovery leads to better physical health.
Much has be learned in recent decades about the impact of addictive behavior on the brain. Roughly eighty percent of sex addicts suffer from some degree of depression, which makes sense when you discover that repeated overuse of the brain in one area causes an imbalance of underuse in another. Such imbalances can cause all sorts of symptoms, from depression to anxiety to rage, etc.
The irony is that many sex addicts by overstimulating sexually are actually decreasing their ability to experience sexual pleasure. Neurologist Serge Stoleru has found that overexposure to erotic stimuli exhausts the sexual responses of normal, healthy young men. Many sex addicts we have helped in our ministry are actually impotent!
Recovery helps an addict regain balance in their brain (click here for a free e-book, Your Brain on Porn). By eliminating the practice of overstimulation, the addict's brain begins to reshape toward what a healthy brain should look like. This is called neuroplasticity; the ability of the brain to change shape based on usage. This is good news for addicts! Their brain doesn't have to stay stuck in the rut of addiction and all the garbage that comes with it. Recovery is a process of learning to live in a healthy way, which includes physical, as well as emotional, health.
3. Recovery leads to healthy relationships.
Every addict has poor relationship skills. There can be many reasons for this, but as it pertains to addiction this is due to selfishness, imbalance of brain chemistry, anger problems and a general lack of care about anything or anyone (addicts often describe themselves as "numb"). Addiction draws the addict more and more into themselves until all that is left (at least in their mind) is them; a sort of "god" unto themselves. This is why it is so frustrating to be in relationship with an addict; they are good liars who worship themselves. This doesn't make for strong relationships.
Recovery, however, is good because it helps expose the addict's selfishness and learn how to connect with others in healthy, caring ways. The addict discovers they are not the center of the universe and that being connected to others is not a distraction from their lives, but rather an enhancement. They come to embrace that relationships are necessary for health and growth.
But not all relationships are healed in recovery. Sometimes the damage is so deep and so overwhelming that family and friends might walk away. The addict can't do anything about this; there are often painful consequences to addiction. This doesn't mean, however, that the skills for healthy relationships in the future cannot be acquired. Recovery is a pathway to these skills.
4. Recovery leads to freedom and joy.
I have never met an addict who hasn't immediately answered 'Yes' when asked the question, "Do you want to be free?" All addicts know they are in prison (even if they won't verbally admit it, they know it in their soul). But not all are ready to be free. Not all are broken and weary enough to give up their way for a different way. This is why patience is so important when trying to help someone break free from an addiction. Freedom only comes to those desperate enough to die for it.
Jesus once said regarding life in His kingdom, "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." (Luke 17:33) Some addicts keep clinging to their life of addiction, all the while losing it more and more. But when an addict chooses to give up control, to submit their life and future to their Creator, they finally discover the life of their dreams.
Freedom is a beautiful thing; to no longer be controlled by impulses and temptations and false ideas of happiness. This freedom, however, is not found in recovery, but rather along the way. You see, freedom isn't a place, it is a Person, Jesus Christ, and the freedom He offers is more than simply cleaned up behaviors and properly firing synapses. Jesus offers freedom for eternity. He said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
The freedom that God offers leads to joy, something an addict has rarely known. Addiction and joy do not mix. But recovery can lead to freedom, and freedom brings joy. We believe that the goal of recovery is to lead an addict to a place of true love and joyful community. This is the way God made us to live, and recovery is a pathway for addicts to discover this.
5. Recovery leads to purpose and service.
If addicts are increasingly selfish, you can be certain they aren't serving others out of a caring heart. They may be involved in "service," but it's probably with an agenda or a sense of duty to cover up the truth about their raging addiction. This is another reason why addicts don't have deep joy: the greatest joy is only realized through giving.
As an addict progresses in recovery, there comes a point when a "nudge" starts happening. It's similar to a nesting bird when she senses it's time for the baby chicks to spread their wings and fly. The early stages of recovery are like the incubation and hatching period; a total dependence on the protection and nurture of the mama and papa birds (sponsors, mentors, counselors, etc.). But no bird is meant to live its entire life in the nest. And no addict is meant to live his or her entire recovery in the "nest." There must come a time to fly.
"Flying" in recovery is when an old-timer addict simply takes a few newbies under their wing and mentors them. He share his story with them. He encourages them as they tell their story and face all the fears of starting this awkward journey. He passes along insight and wisdom as one who knows through experience the highs and lows of the recovery process. And most importantly, he reminds them that recovery is worth it because there is a God who loves them and made them for something special, something beyond addiction -- something even beyond recovery...