Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 15

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says addiction means eventually hating the thing you think you can’t live without.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, that’s what happens when we give in to these temptations and they become a habit pattern, an addiction, an enslavement. We think it’ll make us happy initially, but ultimately it makes us sick and miserable.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Friday, February 24, 2017.

Earlier this week Nancy offered some helpful advice on whether it’s wise to drink in moderation or better to not start drinking at all. That discussion flowed out of our study of Titus in the series "God’s Beautiful Design for Women."

Now, even if you’ve never tasted alcohol, it doesn’t mean you’re not susceptible to addiction.

Nancy: We’re looking at this phrase in Titus 2 that says that older women—and, by implication, this is what younger women are to be aspiring to and moving toward—older women are not to be “slaves to much wine” (v. 3). The New International Version says they’re not to be “addicted to much wine.”

Over the last couple of programs, we addressed the use and the abuse of alcohol in particular. But I believe the principle Paul is talking about here is broader than just the use and the abuse of alcohol. So I want to take a couple of sessions to address the issue of addictions in general.

The word addiction is a modern term. It’s really not my favorite term because, the way it’s used today, it tends to imply that we have no responsibility or culpability, that this is something we can’t help.

We’re not saying that. We’re saying we make choices that lead to bondage and strongholds in our lives. The biblical concept is that of enslavement. That’s why it says, “Don’t be ‘slaves to much wine’” in the translation that I use.

In this session I want to talk about the anatomy of addiction or enslavement and identify some common addictions and how and why we become enslaved to these things. Then, in the next session, I want to talk about breaking free from addictions.

There is probably hardly a person listening to this teaching, myself included, who doesn’t need to grow in insight and understanding in how we deal with bondages in our lives. And if you don’t have any that you can think of or identify, you have a lot of friends who do.

As you get to be an older woman, not only do you want to live a life that is free from addiction and excess, but you want to be the kind of woman who can help younger women deal with these issues. We live in a highly addictive culture. We think we're so free, especially since the sexual revolution of the 60s. But the fact is, we have become profoundly enslaved.

We’ve been talking about the example of enslavement to alcohol. Researchers say that more than four million people in the United States need treatment for substance abuse. The fastest growing category of substance abuse among women is the abuse of prescription drugs—for example, stimulants, painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers, etc.

I want to just tick through, starting with drugs and prescription pain pills, a number of areas that are characteristic of our addictive culture. First, this issue of prescription drugs, prescription pain pills.

In 2003, the U.S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health said that 6.3 million people were misusing prescription drugs—which is, by the way, more than twice the number of people who use cocaine. There’s been a significant increase in recent years in non-medical use—that is, non-prescribed use—of prescription pain medications. Usually, people who are using prescription pain medications in ways that are not medically prescribed also are involved with multiple drugs and alcohol. They tend to go together.

Of course, related to this whole issue of prescription drugs, there are millions of women dependant on psychotherapeutic drugs to just function today. It’s become a bondage, an addiction, for many people.

Then there’s the whole area of food and overeating. You say, “Now you’ve gone to meddling. You’re talking about something most women struggle with in one fashion or another.”

The most common eating disorder in the United States is binge eating. It affects one in thirty-five women, three times as common as anorexia nervosa. CNN.com calls this kind of binge eating “a way to numb feelings.”1 That’s what we’re going to see as we look at these different addictive behaviors, lifestyles, and choices; often, they are a way to medicate the pain of the heart.

We’re not just talking about those who are unchurched. One recent study of women who attend church indicated that one out of every ten church women is or will become addicted to alcohol or drugs. One out of every four women in church has an abusive relationship with food.2 So if those statistical average hold true in this room of about forty women, four of you are currently are addicted or will become addicted to alcohol or drugs and ten of you (one out of four) have an abusive relationship with food. So this applies across the board—not just to people outside the church, but people in the church as well.

Gambling is another area, more accessible now than ever. There are more outlets. It’s out in the open. There’s little stigma attached to gambling anymore. Online gambling has made this a whole different game—no pun intended there! Gambling is available anytime, day or night, by means of the Internet.3

Americans spend approximately 500 billion dollars per year on legal gambling—more than they spend on groceries. I was shocked to learn that 55 percent of gamblers are women.4 I read on the Internet a couple of stories of women who were telling how they became involved in gambling. One said,

It started as fun, buying a few scratch tickets. I felt lucky when I won $1,000. I thought it was an easy way to get extra money to treat the kids. But soon I was buying tickets every day. I was spending the little money we had. The kids want to know why we never have any food or fun anymore.

Another woman said,

After my husband died, friends took me to the casino for a night out. I loved the slots, the noise, the special treatment. It helped me forget my grief and fill the lonely hours. [There’s where you see the anatomy, the heart, of addictions.]

I started going on my own and moved from the quarter to the dollar slots. How can I tell my kids I’ve lost all the money their father worked so hard to save? I’m so ashamed. I’m so glad my husband isn’t here to see what I’ve done.4

So we know this isn’t just statistics. These are lives; these are families. These are hearts that are impacted through these addictive behaviors.

Computer games: One of the fastest-growing groups on the Internet is adult women who play cyber versions of familiar games such as gin and cribbage.5

Then there’s the whole area of pornography. There’s been a huge escalation in porn addiction among evangelicals in the last couple of decades. A new survey shows that 50 percent of men who regularly attend church in the United States and 20 percent of women who attend church are addicted to pornography. One out of every two men and one out of every five women who attend church regularly acknowledge being addicted to pornography.6

That is true in your church, most likely. The numbers may be off a little bit, but if it’s half that in your church, that’s serious. There are probably some in this room who are battling pornography addiction. It's a secret thing; it's a silent thing; it's a shameful thing. You'd be horrified for anyone to know. It's a struggle. It's an addiction. It's an enslavement. There's been dramatic increase among women in recent years, Christian women, of online pornography addiction.

We got an email this past week from a woman involved in campus ministry. She said,

During our recent women's retreat I was up until 4:00 a.m. talking to young women addicted to Internet porn and self-stimulation—some since they were fourteen . . . help!

And then there’s the whole issue of romance novels, which some have called “girl porn.” Some of them certainly would fit that description. I read an article called, “I was Addicted to Romance.” The author said,

Feeling trapped, I escaped by reading romance novels. The formulaic stories, the exotic locations, and the tension between a man and a woman falling in love were stimulating yet soothing.

Since I worked only in the mornings, I’d spend afternoons reading one or two novels before the children came home from school. In the evenings, after the kids went to bed, I’d even progress to a third.

But reading the steamy romances didn’t fulfill me or help my marriage. After a while it wasn’t enough to just read about romance. Long, solitary walks or drives blocked out the real world, enabling me to conjure up my own fantasies.7

In that story you see something that’s telling, and that is the fact that when you taste and partake of things that are addictive in nature, just a little bit doesn’t satisfy. You want more—and then you need more. What you’ve got isn’t enough; you want more. It pushes you. It’s a doorway, a gateway into other types of addictive behaviors.

Television and soap operas: Studies indicate that the television is on more than seven hours per day in the average American home. That means that during the course of a day, families in those homes are being exposed to 135 commercials per day. That adds up.

In the course of one year, the average person is exposed to 2,500 hours of TV viewing, including nearly 50,000 commercials promoting things that you don’t need—promoting consumerism, materialism, greed, extravagance and all kinds of excessive lifestyles.8

Thirteen percent of Americans admit to being addicted to television. I think the number is a lot higher than that. Now what was television addiction for many people has become Internet addiction—which is where we get so much of our entertainment today.

Soap operas: Some of you are familiar with the name Shannon Ethridge. She’s written some books for women dealing with moral issues. In one very candid article, as she reflected back on her story, she said, “It’s no coincidence that I was experiencing the most extramarital temptation during the days that I watched All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital while my children were napping.”9

It is no wonder that if you put those things into your mind and into your heart, not only will they become addictive, but they will shape and mold your thoughts, your emotions, your relationships and ultimately your behavior. As we think in our hearts, so will we become.

Here’s another addiction: spending and shopping. Some of you are thinking, Wow, you really didn’t touch anything that affected me till you got to that one.

CNN.com says that compulsive shopping affects up to 8 percent of the U.S. population, and 90 percent—no surprise—of those “shopaholics” are women. There was an article in Money Magazine not too long ago called “Confessions of a Compulsive Shopper.” The author of that article told a story about another woman. She said, “At the height of her addiction, this woman estimates that she spent $400 a week and 8–10 hours a day shopping for Gymboree outfits on the web.” 10

This woman said, “I’d get a rush, a physical high. It got so bad that, just thinking about shopping, I’d start shaking.”

For some of you, this is unfathomable. But it didn’t start out that way. It started out by tasting, by giving in, by yielding, by excess that gradually became a compulsion.

The author went on to say that “maxed-out credit cards”—speaking of the same woman—“more than $50,000 in shopping-related debt, and the slow realization that she chatted more with other Gymboree-obsessed moms than she did with her own family finally convinced this woman that she needed to kick her habit.”10

This whole issue of debt, by the way, is one that has people in so much bondage.

As people apply to our ministry, we ask if they are really financially free to come into a situation like our ministry. So many of them who have credit card debt say, "Shopping . . . I'm not compulsive. It's not an addiction." If you say it’s not an addiction—whatever it is—I’ll give you a little challenge: Quit for 30 days. If you can’t do it, it may be an addiction.  Some of these things that we say, "Oh, I could do without it," then, see if you can, really. See if there is more of an addiction than you realize.

There are other addictions. The other day I was interviewing a woman about the issue of alcohol addiction. But when it came down to it, the real issue wasn't the alcohol. She said, "My deep addictions were men and money. Alcohol abuse became the way to deal with those addictions."

For others, it's things that are not so tangible: the fear of man, or the drive for approval.

I want us to ask the question: How did these addictions develop? They don’t start out as addictions. You don’t wake up one morning and find yourself enslaved to gambling or romance novels or alcohol or prescription drugs.

Over the last week, I’ve been talking with people, asking questions, listening, observing, and trying to discover something about the anatomy of addictions. Here are some observations I’ve made.

In many cases, people are trying to dull or anesthetize pain. They’re trying to deal with hurt. They’re looking for relief—relief from loneliness, relief from pain. They’re looking for comfort, for solace, for escape.

What are they trying to escape? All sorts of things. Some are trying to escape their past—failures, abuse, rejectionor trying to escape problems—marriage problems, financial pressure, problems with their children. In some way, they’re trying to dull the pain, trying to escape, trying to find comfort.

In some cases addictions result from anger that is not being handled in a biblical way. Life hasn’t worked. There have been disappointments; there have been hurts. So for some, getting into addictive behaviors is a way of shaking their fist at the world, at themselves, at others, or even ultimately at God: “God didn’t come through, so I’m going to make myself feel good. I’m going to justify something that I know is not healthy or wholesome as a means of expressing my anger.”

In other cases, and probably in most cases, people are trying to satisfy unfulfilled longings. They’re trying to fill the empty places of their hearts. That’s because we all have what the Bible calls desires.

James chapter 1 tells us, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (v. 14). Some of your translations use the word “lust.” We’re lured into temptation by desires that are resident within our own hearts. It can be a desire for pleasure, for recognition, for approval, for significance, for companionship, for control, or for relief.

Listen carefully: The desire itself may not be inherently wrong. It may be a legitimate desire. The problem is when that desire becomes a demand, when I say, “I have to have this. I will have this. I will have it now. I will have it my way.” The temptation we face is to fulfill our natural desires that are just neutral—they’re not evil or good, in many cases—to fulfill them in a way that is contrary to God’s way or God’s timing.

Take the desire for companionship. God made us for companionship; He made us for relationship. Or the desire for sexual fulfillment—nothing wrong with that desire.

What’s wrong is if I say, “I have to have this now, even though I’m single, even though this is outside of my marriage. I have to have this companionship or this sexual fulfillment. I will have it my way. I will have it now.”

Then the desire has become a god; it’s become an idol. It’s become a demand. And the desire becomes so strong that we find ourselves giving in to the temptation to fulfill it in an illicit way.

What happens once we give into the temptation once, we find that we’re drawn in, reeled in. As Satan threw out that lure to us, it was our desire. So we nibbled, we bit, we got the hook in us. Then we’re lured in again and again and again. What was a one-time choice to say “yes” to fulfilling this desire my way becomes habit. It becomes a bondage, an enslavement.

We think this thing will fulfill our desires. But actually, what it does is end up destroying us. That’s what James 1 goes on to say. We’re lured and enticed by our own desires. Then, it says, “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (v. 15).

Now, we wouldn’t have bit into this, we wouldn’t have gone for it, if when we were being lured we thought it would lead to death. We thought it would fulfill us. But ultimately it destroys us.

We think this thing—this food, this shopping, this drug, this thing we’re doing to salve and medicate our soul-pain—we think it will make us free. Actually, what it ends up doing is just the opposite. It ends up putting us in prison.

I read a testimony on a website for a Christian weight-reduction program. This participant talked about her love affair with food. She says, “I was addicted to food—the smell of it, the taste of it, the idea of it. Food had me by the neck, and there was no escape.”11

She didn’t go into this food addiction thinking that food would make her a prisoner, that it would put a noose around her neck. She thought it would fulfill her, that it would set her free. But she said, “It had me instead of me having it.”

I talked recently with a recovering alcoholic, who talked about the time when the craving in her life was so strong that she said, “Every time I drove past that bar I had to stop and go in.” The women who were sitting there listening to her talk, who also had been dealing with alcohol addictions—they all nodded. They knew exactly what she was talking about.

Now, I’ve not experienced that in relation to alcohol, but I have experienced it in relation to food and overeating. I’ve experienced it in relation to other temptations where I have yielded. Then I find myself . . . it’s just calling my name, and I’m feeling snared, feeling trapped. You think it’ll set you free, but actually it’ll put you in prison.

There are different cravings. It may not be alcohol for you. It may be, as I mentioned, craving for the pleasure of eating—you can’t say “no” to that dessert even though you’re not the least bit hungry—or an intense desire for companionship or affirmation. You feed it; you fuel it. You keep going back to that chat room to connect with that man on the Internet. Or you send another email to that man at work. You say, "I'm not going to do this again." But then you do it again.

You find that you’re trapped. You’re ensnared. You’re enslaved. You’re addicted.

You may be single or married and craving sexual sensations. You say, “I know I’m not supposed to do this, but I do it anyway.” And you keep going back to self-stimulation.

So many younger women, and older women as well, married and single, have written to us about feeling enslaved to personal immoral habits. They thought they’d be free, but the desire when it was conceived brought forth sin, and sin brought forth slavery and ultimately death.

That’s why Peter says in 2 Peter chapter 2, “Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (v. 19). He’s talking about being mastered by our passions. We think these things will make us feel better—we wouldn’t do them if we didn’t think they’d make us feel better. But actually, they end up making us sick and miserable.

I think of that verse in Proverbs 25 that says, “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit” (v. 16 NKJV). It makes you sick. It’s too much.

Psalm 106 talks about how the children of Israel craved intensely in the wilderness. They tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but He sent a wasting disease among them. I think that's a reference to Numbers 11 where the people demanded that God give them something to eat that was different than the manna that they were sick and tired of.

God finally had enough of their grumbling, enough of their insisting, enough of their demanding. He said, "You want meat? I'll give you meat." Then He says in Numbers 11:19, "You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes your nostrils and become loathsome to you because you have reject the Lord who is among you." (vv. 19–20).

You see, that’s what happens when we give into these temptations and they become a habit pattern, an addiction, an enslavement. We think it’ll make us happy initially, but ultimately it makes us sick and miserable. So we start to hate the very thing we craved and thought we couldn’t live without. And that leads to shame, guilt, fear, secrecy and this cycle of hope and despair, hope and despair, hope and despair.

We feel guilty. We promise to quit. We try to quit. We fail. We get back into it again. And then there’s more guilt. So the cycle goes on and on. And that is the enslavement.

Romans chapter 7 describes that internal battle, that sense of bondage and defeat and hopelessness. The apostle Paul said,

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . 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 (vv. 15, 18–19).

He goes on to describe his struggle and finally says,

Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? (v. 24).

I am a captive! Does that describe you? Is there some area of your life where, as you just read that, you said, “Yes, that’s me. I keep going back. I keep getting lured in.”

Well, Paul goes on to say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25) There is liberty. There is freedom. In the next session, we’re going to talk about how to find it. But let me say that you will never find true freedom apart from Christ.

I’ve mentioned some women I’ve interviewed recently about their alcohol addiction. One of them described having two and-a-half years of sobriety. But she said, “It was a constant battle.” She wasn’t free. She wasn’t drinking, but she wasn’t free. She said she was totally dependent on her own effort.

Then she came to faith in Jesus Christ and began to have the power of the Holy Spirit within her. And she said, “Through Christ and the change He has made in my desires, I no longer crave the alcohol.” It was Christ who totally set her free from the bondage and the addiction.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Satan put you in bondage by means of lies and deception, but the truth will set you free. Who is the truth? It’s Christ. Christ is the truth. The power of Christ and His cross can set you free. We’ll talk more about that in the next session.

Leslie: The power of the cross is greater than any addiction. It doesn’t matter if the addiction involves alcohol or drugs or if the addiction represents something more subtle. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us the danger of any kind of addiction.

And Nancy, I know the programs on addiction this week are speaking to listeners right where they are.

Nancy: Yes, it’s true. I received an email from a Revive Our Hearts listener who started using drugs around fourteen years of age and quickly became an addict. After several years of abusive relationships she ended up in a women’s shelter and discovered the Bible study I co-authored and we offer through Revive Our Hearts called, Seeking Him.

This woman with such a difficult background wrote to tell us it was her first Bible study she had ever gone through, and she told us, “what precious treasures are in that study.” She said “Thank you for your love and dedication to the Lord.” She wrote to ask us about coming to one of the Revive conferences so she could be better equipped to serve other women and to share the freedom she’s found in Christ.

You make it possible for Revive Our Hearts to be there for women like this one when you support the ministry financially. When you make a donation this month, we want to say "thank you" by sending my brand new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s a verse by verse exploration of Titus 2:1–5 that is so full of rich, practical, life-changing truth for us as women.

Ask for your copy of Adorned when you call to make a donation of any amount to this ministry. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation.

All this week we’ve talked about the problem of addiction. On Monday we'll look practically about the solution to addiction—looking to God's Word for a path to freedom. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is calling women to freedom in Christ, and is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/02/22/VS.binge.eating/index.html

2ibid

3http://www.gamblingwatchglobal.com/archives/category/online-gambling/

4Today’s Christian Woman, “What I Lost by Gambling” by Maxi Chambers -- http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/1996/novdec/6w6074.html

5http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0611/p13s01-stin.html

6The survey was conducted by ChristiaNet.com, an online Christian Internet community. http://www.onenewsnow.com/2007/06/survey_finds_evangelicals_addi.php

7http://www.christianitytoday.com/mp/2002/004/1.34.html

8American Demographics, 8/91.

9“What Women Must Know about Lust” by Shannon Ethridge, SpiritLedWoman; http://spiritledwoman.com/display_cms.php?id=12425

10http://money.cnn.com/2005/07/20/pf/shopper_0508/index.htm

11http://www.wdworkshop.com/FFWCandaceAnger.asp?Weight%20Loss

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