Confronting the Resistance to Change

Chris Cole

Have you had the situation where you decided to change a habit or behavior and are successful for a couple weeks (maybe longer), only to find the habit or behavior returning? I have. Change is hard. It is difficult to give up old habits and patterns of behaving and relating. How many times have you said to yourself and others that you are going to change and yet resort back to the old way of acting? Maybe you are just beginning recovery and are not sure about making changes others say you need to. What is the resistance to change about, and how can you overcome this resistance?That is what this article addresses.

Resistance is a force that pushes back against movement in a particular direction. In terms of dealing with sexual addiction (and addiction in general), resistance will be encountered as you try to change the old way of behaving. This resistance will manifest in several ways. The first resistance encountered will be simply to admit you have a problem that needs change. This admission is the first step in the recovery process. It is the step of honesty. Overcoming denial often results when the pain of our behavior is worse than the rewards it brings. Pain is a powerful motivator in breaking down resistance to change. Admitting the consequences of our actions can make us face reality and the pain it brings. It further helps one see the unmanageability of life and powerlessness over one’s behavior. When one sees the insanity of what you have been doing, you are ready to truly move forward in recovery. I have found that in the early stages of recovery, being in a recovery group and in individual therapy is indicated in order to break through the denial and have the needed support to deal with the pain of the addict’s life. I have more to say on denial a little further on.

In understanding resistance to change, one must take into account the physical impact of addiction. Research on sex addicts’ brains show a striking similarity to the brains of cocaine addicts. The implications in terms of treatment is that the hyperstimulation that comes from engaging in a sexual addiction alters the brain chemistry, leaving a clear biochemical component as one quits the habit. Withdrawal symptoms include distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability when unable to engage in the behavior. Resistance can be experienced simply yet powerfully as the person goes through withdrawal. A person must consider a good evaluation by a therapist familiar with addiction with the possible recommendation for referral to a doctor for medication where indicated.

As a person begins to give up the old patterns of behaving, all of the emotions he or she has been medicating through the addiction will begin to come back. Simply put, there will be an awareness of emotional pain. Resistance here will be to find another way to medicate the pain. No one likes to feel pain, yet it is God’s way of driving us to look to Him to find solutions rather than in our own resources. Here again, one must confront and put into place new strategies for handling pain. Addicts generally have more than one addiction. So while stopping the sexual addiction, the addict may increase the activity in another addiction to medicate the withdrawal symptoms. Or while the person gives up the sexual addiction, he replaces it with another addiction with the majority of emotional and behavioral features remaining the same (Carnes, Pat. Addiction Interaction, p.2). Here, the person has not dealt with the core problems. He has simply found another way of self-medicating.

Perhaps the greater battle will be found in changing your belief system. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things. We have this capacity to deceive ourselves. It also says that change comes by the renewing of our mind. When we get caught up in a pattern of acting that gets entrenched, we find numerous ways of defending that behavior. Stronghold beliefs (II Corinthians 10 3-5) are the ways we protect patterns and actions that we wish to engage in that are contrary to living the way God wants us to live. Denial is the way addicts protect sexual behavior that they want to continue to engage in. Resistance will be found in the reasons one continues to justify engaging in self-destructive ways. Rationalizations (‘I don’t have a problem, you all are just sexually too conservative’), minimizing (‘it’s not a problem’), and comparison (I’m not as bad as some of the others’) are just a few. In twelve step language, this equates to ‘stinking thinking.’ One must be relentless in rooting out distortions in thinking. In order to do this, the individual must ask help of others in the recovery community to confront distortions when they hear it. You must not allow pride (‘I can do this on my own, or I don’t need to tell others or ask for help’) to get in the way. Remember, it is your own thinking that has got you in the mess in the first place. We must recruit the help of the recovery community in overcoming resistance to change.

Recovery and change doesn’t just happen. Breaking through resistance is a daily battle that Paul reminds us in Galatians 5 of the spirit and the flesh at war with one another. Paul had to crucify the flesh and its passions. To overcome resistance, one needs to be honest. Find safe people where you can share and be held accountable. Get a sponsor to assist you to work through a twelve step program and establish and maintain sobriety will really be helpful. Establish good spiritual habits of devotion, bible study, and fellowship with other believers. Avoid isolating. We need each other in this battle.

See Every Man’s Battle for more help.

Rejection in Recovery: Handling an Earthquake to the Heart

Pastor Ed Grant

The rain-slick highway was more dangerous than it appeared in the headlights, especially through the blurry eyes of someone who had indulged in a few too many drinks. But Bob knew the way home, and he had driven it countless times before without any problems. He had called his wife, Denise, to say that he was on his way home and assured her that he was fine to drive. However, once outside the tavern, he stood for a full half hour telling a friend about a recent fishing trip. Denise worried: it was only a ten minute trip from the tavern and her husband had yet to come through the front door.

She decided to drive there to see if something had happened to him. Bob knew she would be angry for a time – as she always was. He’d stop drinking for a while, attend a few AA meetings, and Denise faithfully came along side him to cheer him on. As Bob approached a curve in the road his front tires lost all traction. He began to slide across the double yellow line just as a car came around the curve the other way. In his headlights he saw the terrified face of a woman: it was Denise. To avoid a collision she went off the road and hit a telephone pole, demolishing her car and breaking her leg in two places. Surgery was necessary to repair the damage: steel rods, pins, and screws – equipment better suited for a metal shop – now held her leg in place until it would heal.

It was now three months since the accident. Bob attended AA meetings faithfully and hadn’t had a drink since the accident. He was excited about his sobriety and grateful to God for sparing his wife’s life. He was also terribly sorry for the pain he had caused his wife. But, truth be told, Bob was growing increasingly frustrated with Denise. She was cold, somewhat distant, suffering both from physical and emotional pain. He longed to have his cheerleader wife back in his corner again and was both sad and miffed that she didn’t celebrate or even seem to notice all the changes that were taking place in his life.

But Denise could not cheer him on. She had a wounded heart and a broken leg – and he was the cause of both.

Bob was feeling rejected by his wife, one of the most painful emotions we can experience. Those in recovery feel it even more acutely because they have stopped medicating their pain with drugs, alcohol, or pornographic fantasy. They are fragile and self absorbed, typically more aware of their own pain than of the pain they have inflicted on others. They want to move on with their lives, wanting everyone around them to notice what they’ve accomplished, to cheer them on and to trust them again. The trouble is, the cheerleader’s leg is still broken.

Emotional Pitfalls on the Road to Recovery

1. Unrealistic expectations
Those in recovery need to remember the years of pain, deceit, broken promises, and hardships created by their addiction have had a greater negative impact upon their loved ones than they can possibly know. Their loved ones require selfless support throughout the healing process. We can’t ‘fix’ our loved ones or undo what we have done, but through sincere and patient love we can help create the climate in which God can bring healing.

2. Riding the ’emotional Ferris wheel’ with loved ones
Those in recovery often give their wounded loved ones the power to dictate their feelings. If the loved one is hopeful, they feel hopeful; if he is having a bad day, they don’t feel they have the right to be happy. While riding the emotional Ferris wheel is normal for our wounded loved ones, it is unhealthy to take a ride with them. It is a nasty trap that keeps us from recognizing and celebrating what God is doing in us, making it difficult for us to leave shame in the past and to fight the temptation to return to the addiction.

Finding refreshment for the Journey

The road to recovery is too demanding to walk alone. Sponsors, mentors, pastors, and support group members are prepared to offer the encouragement that loved ones are not able to give at the moment. This requires time, energy and a willingness to allow others to minister to us.

Finally, time spent with God in prayer, meditation and the reading of His holy Word are indispensable assets for recovery. St. Paul reminded the congregation in Rome of this, ‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves’May the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:4 & 5, 13).

For help with alcohol or drugs, call our Resource Center at (800) 639-5433.
For help with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Summer Battle Tactics: Keeping the Bounce in Your Eyes

James Hutchison

Summer is coming and so is temptation. This warning comes to prepare you, so be ready. As the temperature rises and the heavy clothing drops, remember your covenant with your eyes. Staying sexually pure takes renewed resolve every day and every season. This is the time to review your battle plan.

Have you been having your time with God, in his word and in prayer? It is there that we find our strength, as we are told in Eph 6:10-13: ‘Finally be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.’

Reading the scriptures is only half the job. It is important to meditate on them also, so that we become different after having read them. Would a farmer, after having planted his crop, walk away hoping for a harvest, or would he tend to his crop? Just like the farmer who works hard to nurture what has been planted, we need to look carefully at what we read. Spend time thinking deeply about what you have read until it changes your heart and life.

In John 14:26 Jesus was telling the apostles that He was leaving but the Father was sending someone to help them: ‘But the Counselor, the Holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to .. Let the Holy Spirit do its intended work in your life. If you don’t understand the purpose of what you have read and how it should affect you, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. This is the kind of prayer God loves to answer.

The time we spend with other men is also crucial to our ability to endure all temptation. Not only can we hold each other accountable, there is something to be said about the encouragement that comes from the companionship of a common struggle. The French author and war hero, Antoine De Saint-Exupery said: ‘Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in the warmth of human relationship. Our sordid interests imprison us within their walls. Only a comrade can grasp us by the hand and haul us free. And these human relationships must be created. One must go through an apprenticeship to learn the job. Games and risk are help here. When we exchange manly handshakes, compete in races, join together to save one who is in trouble, cry aloud for help in an hour of danger-only then do we learn that we are not alone on earth.’ The close friendships that we develop can support us when we are struggling, comfort us when we hurt, and equip us for new challenges ahead. If you have been ignoring this part of your battle plan, do something today. Call a friend, make a new one, get connected; you won’t regret it! To ignore this is to reject the model of the creator God; 3 in 1. It is part of the design. If Judas had gone back to the others with his remorse like Peter, instead of isolating himself, he could have received forgiveness through the others. Instead of hanging himself, he could have experienced God’s love.

It’s Gods plan for your life; don’t reject it when you can enjoy it!

For more help in the battle for purity, see Every Man’s Battle.