Join Josh and Kit this week as they discuss how old habits, addictions and compulsive behaviors can rear up this time of year, and what we can do to handle them differently this Christmas season.
…there is a reason we need a savior…
…it’s going to require some intentionality…
…practice God’s presence as you go…
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
Because there’s one time of the year where we see and many of us experience an increase in unwanted compulsive behaviors, or addictions, our struggles. It’s actually this time of year this most wonderful time of the year where we see an increase in those things or an increase in those temptations. Kid Elmer and I here today talking about this reality and some of the difficulties so if you’re listening or someone you are, you’re listening for yourself, or or you know, someone you love, who is struggling with a bad habit that compulsive behavior and addiction. This podcast is for you. Okay, what are some of the things that you you’ve seen as you walk with women or just in your own circles, that that become more difficult and more tempting for people this time of year?
Well, this time of year is stressful, it really is that there’s a lot going on. And so when we get stressed, we sometimes go to some bad habits, so and there’s a lot of parties. So you know, there’s food everywhere. So you’re stressed, you go to a party, you got all these things you don’t normally eat, but you’re like, Well, you know, it’s the holiday. So I’ll just have two of these and four of those. Alcohol, you know, it’s like, oh, everybody’s drinking, and everybody’s, you know, kind of feeling no pain. I think I’ll join in that too. And I’ve got a party tomorrow night in the next night. So, you know, it’s just kind of this. There’s stress, and then there’s all these things that you know, we can dabble with that are not necessarily good for us.
Yeah, I think I think that’s it. So food, alcohol, and I think we kind of make a joke about it. A lot of people like, well, how much did you gain over the holidays? So yeah, right. Um, but for a lot of people, that’s actually it’s not just a Oh, yeah, you know, gained a couple pounds like, yeah, this again, again, you know, like I’ve, you know, certainly in in our ministry, as I work with a lot of men, yeah, sexual addiction stuff just goes off the rails, and it’s loneliness. And
then there’s like, I’m feeling lonely. Everybody’s got somebody we can talk
a little bit more about, about what’s underneath some of that, but, but I just wanted to highlight, you know, if this is an issue for you, like, don’t be surprised if this temptation increases this this time of year. Media too, I think for a lot of people, and that’s one of the more maybe socially acceptable addictions or compulsions, but just a lot of time in front of movies, TV, amusement of some kind, or another video game out. Yeah, just checking out in those ways. And we keep we can keep naming those, you know, we know there are Christians who wrestle with Christians and non Christians, like who wrestle with other kinds of narcotics, or prescription drugs or things like that. But just heads up, for those of you who are vulnerable to those things, are our family members, our family members who are like, expect this to get more difficult than the weeks ahead? Why can’t you start it, you let us grow, but why and this is, it’s Christmas, it’s so it’s, this is the most wonderful time of the year, like, our families can get together? Like, why would somebody ruin it, or struggle with these things during it.
And, you know, this is where the, you know, many people this time of year compare, and they always come out with, with less. So, you know, you hear about all these people are having all these great family get togethers, and you don’t have a family that’s getting together, you know, you’re driving through a neighborhood, and there’s, you know, all the Christmas lights, and you can see cars and everybody’s gathering and you don’t have that and and so then, you know, we’re left to think, where it’s just you and your, your mom, or just you or your sister or you know, and so we come we always compare up and we’re always left, you know, feeling like I don’t have as much and so we get lonely. And then we look for ways to get to comfort ourselves.
Yeah, I think I think so comparison is a great place to start because I mean, if the if this season just feels rife with that. Yes. Whether it’s the advertisements that are on TV, yeah. Where I’m looking at these happy people who are beautiful dresses,
our kids are behaving
Oh, that’s that’s what you get. If you eat at McDonald’s like that. You’d look at it just like that. So come then and then it’s also the year I don’t know about everybody but our family gets a daily of mail that has have these beautiful pictures of families who are doing great least they look like they’re doing great and financially fitness wise. You know, they all seem really happy. And by the way, if you’re listening like we love those Yeah, stop saying Yeah, but but if we compare and my therapist I used to see put it this way. He said, You know you’re comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Yeah. That is a recipe, you feel like your insides are just crap. Because we can’t, it doesn’t compare
well and just think about the Christmas letters. Right? Nobody writes Christmas letters that say, nobody’s doing well. It’s doing well my son’s flunking out. And, you know, it’s just everybody’s like, just got this award and straight A’s here. And, you know, just the exotic vacations.
What would you like to if you could receive from, you know, Christian brother who said, it? Here’s the start of a letter I think we typically would hear right, like, we are so grateful this year for the birth of our Savior, who reminds us of all the things that we have that we’re grateful for. What if we would have we are so grateful this year for the birth of our Savior? Because Damn it to hell, we need some saving. He got a sorry, life. been awful this year. Yeah, our kids aren’t doing well. I went through a severe bout of depression and anxiety and, and forgive us for cussing. But I think, for those of you who are in that, you feel that the passion and it’s true, like yeah, we we need to save your work. And we’ll get into this later in the podcast, but there’s a reason we need a savior. And it’s not because we look pretty, and we’re doing well.
Comparison, I just hear it, I feel it in myself. I totally fill it in myself. And I hear it from you know, really, probably pretty much anybody that comes in this time of year is thinking about what in some ways in some people are certainly grateful. But a lot of times it’s just like, what, what they don’t have the losses that they’ve experienced in the past year, or the ways that their life isn’t going well. And the way that they think other peoples are all that stuff is huge. And it gets definitely magnified this time of year.
Yeah, so even moving away from comparison a bit. They’re they’re just as authentic, pain difficult. It’s not always comparing ourselves to other people. Sometimes it can be comparing this year to last year, when, you know, my husband was still here, or when my mom was still alive. And or, or when I was doing well and wasn’t feeling so depressed. I think there’s also anything this is a subconscious for a lot of people. But some people give two different examples of how the past can impact here. Some people when we hit this time of year, they’re there, their brains, their bodies, even remember, traumas and pains from past Christmases. I don’t know some of it spiritual warfare, I don’t know. But I think there’s there is a lot of trauma and difficulty this time of year. And sometimes we get to this time of year, and that old stuff kind of comes rushing back. And so there’s kind of this that just gets stirred up. And we don’t even know why. I think the other thing that can happen is we can compare our experience as adults with Christmas with our eyes wide open to the realities of the difficulty the world with our Christmases as kids, when we weren’t bearing the weight of the world, when you know, Mom and Dad were paying the bills, and all we had to do is wake up and open presence and, and you know, a plastic toy, that a little engine in the works for a month was the best thing in the world. And so we that we can something is some kind of unconsciously compare and think isn’t it supposed to be like that? When it’s it’s not?
I want to circle back to because I think talking about all these stresses that we all have. I do have such a sensitivity for people, we talked about the parties and the temptations, but you know, there are people who are have been in recovery for a long time or newly in recovery, for abstinence from alcohol or food. And it’s kind of a it’s a, it’s just incredibly overwhelming for those people to, to not feel left out and to be able to go and enjoy those parties. And so, you know, I think for those people, I just want to encourage you like, it’s okay, you can have some boundaries, you know, like you mentioned something about, you know, what happens in families sometimes in the way people over drink or something like, feel free to go for a shorter time, you know, go earlier in the day, or whatever at work, whatever works for you to have some boundaries, as you’re trying to hold on to a very important, you know, recovery program that you’re Yeah,
well, so let’s keep going there. Like let’s shift gears a bit. We can spend a lot more time kind of unpacking the why this time of year is more difficult and tends to trigger people and tempt people more I feel like there’s something actually important there that we ought to hit before we leave from that. Which is I do think for a lot of people this is a time of going home or being together with family or having family come over. And and it’s you know, this crazy cocktail of a family expectations with comparison with others with our own hopes and dreams for the way our family would be with the reality of our own family dysfunction just kind of blossoms into this crazy mess. And it can be really, really difficult. I mean, yeah, if there are if there are problems in your family systems this time of year, if there’s dysfunction that’s never been dealt with, there’s wounds in the past that never been healed if there are poor boundaries, and you know, mom expects this, and grandma expects this, and you know, Uncle Charlie expects this, and they’re all different things. That’s really, really difficult stuff to navigate. And it can just be easier to try to, you know, numb out yack out drunk, you know, whatever. So, so let’s, with that, with those kinds of things in frame, what, what are some alternatives? I mean, you mentioned one, because we really want to do we want to just in this podcast, talk a little bit about if you are headed into the holidays, and you don’t want to do it the same old way, you don’t want to find you have an extra five pounds at the end, or he slipped and had a drink for the first time in two years, or, you know, you don’t indulge in porn or whatever that the unwanted behavior is on your part. Are you seeing oh snap, did your kids and raise them and we’re becoming perfectionist and all that thing. You don’t want to slip back into some of those things? How do we do this differently?
Well, one thing that came to my mind, just as a little bit of a, an overview is, is to remember that you’re not alone, like some people do have better family situations than others. That’s true. But pretty much everybody has broken this. And so again, some are more broken than others. But I think I get into trouble. And I think a lot of people get into trouble when they think I’m the only one who has this really messed up situation. So that’s one thing we can do is check how we’re thinking about it. Like, how am I getting myself more and more into despair? Because of how I’m thinking about it, how I’m ruminating and how terrible it is? And is it? Is it possible for me to step back and think differently about it? You know, so I think that’s a hugely important thing, like just stopping How am I thinking about this? And how might I choose to think differently?
Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s heavy work. I mean, especially if you haven’t done that before, to even recognize what you are thinking. But I think one one application point with that kid, I think it’s a really good point is if you find yourself kind of heading down the rabbit trail of acting out in some way, or of you know, just checking out in some way or losing your temper, or whatever it is. Take a step back. And, and, you know, you might need some help with this even but, or you might need to journal about it. But what what’s going on with the things in my thinking about right now? Yeah. So that you do introduce a little mindfulness into the process
is huge, just breathing, just stopping what’s going on checking in and just realizing, oh, gosh, I do have some choice here. I do have some choice here. And that’s a new thought for some people. And so if that’s a new thought, like, you know, sit with that a little bit journal about it, you know, but it is it’s a very important step, I think,
yeah. I think all the things, I’m guessing that all the things that we’re going to talk about, are actually going to have one thing in common. And I think they’re all going to have in common that they will actually take time and energy, this holiday season. And so maybe maybe even just take a pause real quick and say, if you don’t want to find yourself, having taken the rabbit trail and ended up where you don’t want to end up, there’s gonna it’s gonna require some intentionality, not the wishful thinking of like, Why just hope this Christmas goes better.
Which is, we’re all tempted to go there. Because because we’re already tired, or already stressed and tired. And so but, but just an encouragement, like, if you take the time to do some of these things, I do believe you will find a blessing right now. You will.
Right? Right. So you can take some time ahead of time, like prepare in advance. I think one of the things that my wife and I learned to do early on with, with family visits and vacations was to talk about two things. One, we talked about her expectations. And that was a way for us to unearth some of our honestly, the unrealistic hopes we had, you know, like, Come on, let’s just let’s let out No, no, nothing’s off the table. What are you hoping for? What do you expect? Like, what are your expectations on? Well, we’re gonna go out to dinner three times, and we’re gonna all get along, and the kids are gonna love to play, you know, board games with us, and we’re gonna not watch much TV and wow, I mean, that’s another great exercise and to
really get out, get it out there. Yeah,
yeah. And so in some, sometimes it just becomes self evident. Like, you know, if a couple two people share, they like going, Oh, gosh, if your expectations actually all do come true, and mine do, we will have lived in very different worlds like, yeah, you know, and sometimes it’s just like, this way too much. There’s just no way that’s possible. I think it’s also a good a good chance to assess like, how much of that is actually in my control? You know, like we’re all going to get along. Well, all of us includes the 18 people in the house, like how many people have those Do I have control over Well, one barely, you know, we’re still learning. So, so just to kind of let unearth those and take some time to be mindful and examine them to laugh about it a little bit. And then the second thing we would do is we would do this thing we call, we call them bare minimums. And it’s, we basically give ourselves one or two things that we want to have happen over over the holiday. And there are some requirements for the one we have that has to actually be in our control to make happen. So you can’t say as a bare minimum, like, it’s going to snow on Christmas Day, like, you know, good luck. But you could say, whether it snows or not, whatever the weather is, on Christmas Day, I want to go for a walk. You can’t say I want to go for a walk with everybody in our family, because well, what if they don’t want to go for a walk? But I can say like, I want to go for a walk. Yeah. Great. And part of what we do for each other in that is we, we kind of agree together like I can help you make that happen. And so I’m going to I’m going to guard that space for you to make that thing happen. That’s been so and and here’s the here’s the kicker about the bare minimum. We decide if that happens. I have these two bare minimums. You have your two bare minimums. If those happen, the holidays a success. Like that’s what we want. That’s it. And it kind of simplifies some of our expectations.
I love the simplification. I think that’s huge. I think we do in our hearts are in the right place to think about all these great things we can do. But it usually is overwhelming. So how do we simplify? Yeah, and and get it out there and talk about it. I think that’s really good.
It also requires that you begin really kind of mining for what do I really hope for this Christmas?
Unknown Speaker 16:41
Do I really hope for? Because even under like wanting the whole family to get along? What what’s really underneath that What are you looking for? I’m longing for a bit of a bit of peace. I’m longing to be loved and to love Well, what aside from everyone getting along what is in your control that you can move towards those things with so it can be a whole nother podcast but so one of the things can might for you like steps that people especially people who struggle with addictive behaviors or compulsions can can intentionally do as they prepare for a walk through the holidays?
Well, a lot of women that I talked to that struggle with some some sexual addiction, exercise, and getting outside is huge. And of course, getting outside is huge for all of us. I think that for me, that’s a place of replenishment when I’m stressed. And when I’m, you know, feeling some of these things that the holiday tensions are and so I’ve been I’ve been struggling with it this past week, because it’s cold, and I don’t want to go outside. But if I really just make myself even if I just go out for a brisk walk for 15 minutes, you know, just there’s something about being outside and looking at nature and having quiet, that just is really very restorative for me and for a lot of other people too. So it’s one way to to be distracted from something that you’re tempted to do. And it’s also just restorative.
Yeah, yeah, I’d say. Like, in my experience, I don’t know how how much it’s been a helpful, like, I’m not I don’t think I’m a big fan in general of like, the strategy of just distract yourself from what you’re tempted to do because I think it because that’s gonna end like yeah, I can’t do that. 24 seven. But yeah, but I do think like looking for what are what are some healthy alternatives to the to the old?
Yeah. To feel to feel a sense of aliveness? Yeah, not the old way of doing it, but actually a healthy new way of doing it.
Yeah. And the other thing, like, just if you’re listening, you’re going like, I’m not really an outside person or a walk person, I’d actually push you a little bit and say, like, Hey, this is a great time to experiment with doing things differently. Because the old ways haven’t been working. So what, what could you try this year and even approach it with a posture of creativity and adventure? You might, you might just find that there’s something you like, why have I never done that before.
And don’t say, I’m going to get up at 6am every morning, and walk for an hour. You know, begin where you are, and start slow. But just just I do believe that once we try some new things like that, it’s hard to it’s hard to imagine the benefits until you actually do it.
They in in, in a lot of recovery circles, they compare acting out which is entering into the compulsive behavior, just you know, the drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever, and acting in, which is like the, I’m constricting myself, I’m going to be you know, I’m going to do this perfectly. I’m going to you know, I’m gonna wake up at 6am and do my math, which is they’re both kind of the same beast, but they’re just Yeah, they they don’t work against each other. They actually work together to keep a person stuck. So yeah, yeah, give yourself room to try to fail the Yeah, try again.
Yeah, it’s huge to try and fail and try again. You know, God knows that some of these things are hard and he’s not there going being a taskmaster. You know, he’s he’s like, delighted you’re trying something and he’ll be right there to help you. Get that up if you fall.
Yeah, I feel a special concern for our introvert listeners, yes. Because I think that the holidays are theirs their extra expectations to be together. And so if you are a person who, who it takes energy, even if you love being with other people, but you just find afterwards that your energy is depleted, or you find yourself longing to be alone a bit, not in us in a sulky, isolating, you know, even temptation kind of way, I don’t mean in that regard, but just, I just need some space, I need to go read a book by myself, I need to go draw a picture and paint or color. I want to go, you know, read some scripture or listen to some music on my own. Oh, really? Come on, we’re all together. Like, I just need 15 minutes, you know, registering an hour. And honoring that in you honoring. That’s who you are.
I think that’s really great. Yep. And for those of you who aren’t introverts, you know, just honor that. Don’t don’t don’t cajole them into coming back saying, Okay, I know you need that my husband has told me that the way that I love him, is to let him have solitude to let him have the space that he needs. Because it really, it really blesses him for me not to try to cajole them into not having it. So that’s been a good thing for us. And I’ve learned, because I actually love solitude, too. But it’s allowed me to take more of that time for myself, too. So these things can can rub off on us in some ways, too. If we enter into some new habits,
yeah, it’s good. I think another another helpful tip dealing with addictions during the holidays, is get your wingman or your wingman, like find somebody who’s who’s in your corner, who knows and is supportive of you. And I’d say actually, depending on how intense this struggle is, like, get in touch with them. Once a day, yeah, get in touch with them. Right before you go to the party. And right afterwards, wherever the wherever the kind of the harder spots for you are. And this isn’t, this isn’t just about like, you know, hey, I wanted to talk to you, I want to talk to you so I can report back Did I do it? Or did I not? Did I was successful or not? It’s it’s really like finding someone who, hey, I’m in your corner, I care for you. How did it go with you? Hey, this has been tough in years past, like, give me thoughts about how this is gonna go differently this time and call me afterwards. And let me know I care so much about you mean to somebody who’s who’s caring for your heart through that.
And that can be a friend. I also heard some beautiful stories of people who have sponsors, so you actually have sponsors that that play an enormously helpful role on a regular basis. So I think those are those are good, good things. Yeah. I also think, you know, one of the things that we can do, that’s very life giving, and we need to make sure we don’t shoot an otter self to death about it is you know, I’ve been listening to some Advent podcasts and doing some readings, and I’m really enjoyed it. But I also find myself thinking I should do more, I should do more. And I talked to a client the other day who was feeling a lot of this compulsion, like, I’m not doing my admin reading, and when I do it, I feel like I’m not really you know, feeling the full, like feeling the contentment, I should feel with God. And I could just tell she got herself all worked up. So it’s like, take a breath. Yes. It’s great to you know, read these Advent, these inspirational things. be intentional. And don’t should not yourself and overdo it, because then it turns into something that it was never intended to be.
Yeah. Yeah, I love I love the way Richard foster talks with the spiritual disciplines when he says that we don’t do them because they get us to God, they really are just an environment where we can be connected to God, God is with us always. And that’s me. That’s one things I wanted to say as well. It’s just sometimes we can go into situations almost like, you know, hey, God, I’m getting ready to go in and like, you know, be with me what really mean is like, you know, kind of where I’m gonna I’m not gonna really be with you, but be with me as I go. Practice God’s presence as you go.
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great, great sort of transparency over all this, you know, be aware that God is with you.
Yeah. You know, that. We are talking about Advent, after all and Christmas, the good news of a great joy. Emmanuel, God with us. Yeah. And it’s, it’s not good news of a great joy. If it means he’s with us checking over our shoulder and making sure we don’t screw up again or eat too much or that we have our event, you know, quiet times or whatever. It’s a good news and great joy because he really loves us wants to be with us wants, wants to love on us and to help us grow, to become stronger to to learn to say no to sin, and yes to Him,
because he’s good. And this can be a time of preparing our hearts to be more open to receive something in Oh, that’s very sacred and special. A time of reflection and receiving.
Yeah. Let me come back to one thing I said at the beginning, which is all of these things are going to require intentionality. And I think especially of the word spaciousness. Gerald Mae talks about this in his book addiction and grace, he says, we, we like to think we can just leave our unhealthy attachments, and find ourselves in a different place. But there is a space that happens between these old unhealthy attachments, our addictions, or compulsions, or porn or drinking too much or eating too much. There’s a spaciousness that happens, and we’re going to experience that. So experiencing the loss of those things, a yearning for those things. Sometimes just a, maybe even a boredom of I don’t quite know what to do with myself right now. I’m not going back to those old things. That’s actually a normal part of this process. And the goal, let’s make the goal not kind of the Christmas season well did was it a good season or not? Let’s make the goal, your ongoing sanctification, your ongoing sobriety, your ongoing, ongoing growth, and this is a season to walk through that. So even the goal is podcast is not you know, and have a great Christmas and not go back to your old addictions. That’s we can’t promise that. But how can we walk through a season that usually is so rife with temptation, in a way that’s different so that in the long haul, we can become people who are less and less attached to those unhealthy things, and more and more dependent upon and abiding in the goodness and presence of Jesus? Yeah. So let’s close with this, this verse. JOHN 15, I’m the I’m the true vine, Jesus says, and my father is the vinedresser every branch in Me that does not bear fruit he takes away and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, so that it may bear more fruit. So these old attachments, these old ways of managing and trying to cope with the holidays. If God is pruning those away, it’s because he wants you to bear more fruit, not because he wants you to be less, it might feel like less than in the meantime. But it’s it’s not he’s really he’s wanting it is less than the meantime, but he’s wanting eventually for you to be more fruitful. Jesus, because honestly, you are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you abide in me. And I knew, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. Pastor friend of mine pointed out with this passage, that the word abide doesn’t require that you go anywhere, doesn’t require that you strive, a branch doesn’t have to, like, you know, can wrap itself around the vine. You just remain you just stay in the vine. That’s where you are. If you’re a believer in Jesus, you are in him. And we we want to encourage you to state and so a lot more we could say, but let’s stop there and get why don’t you just um, could you just close in a quick word of prayer blessing people as we move into the holidays?
Lord, I just pray that anyone who’s listening could take a moment after they listen and sit with you and say, Lord, what does all this mean for me? What does this mean for me during the season, and trust that you want to share with them, you want to show them and that you want to bless them as they intentionally seek you and your ways. Thank you, Lord.
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