‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.
Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.
I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).
Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.
One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.
In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘
I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.
If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’
So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’
Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.