326 – Help for Addiction and Compulsive Behavior

This Week on Soul Talks

Many of us have either personally experienced mental health issues like addiction, or we know and love people who have. These struggles are a normal part of our humanity, and there is no shame in these experiences. We have access to God’s healing power in the Kingdom of the Heavens right now!

Join us for this episode of Soul Talks, where Bill and Kristi unpack valuable tools and techniques for addressing and overcoming addictive behavior. Be encouraged with practical strategies that you can learn and integrate with your discipleship to Jesus. 

Resources for this episode: 

Help for Addiction and Compulsive Behavior Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

Kristi 

Hi friends, thanks for joining Bill and I for this Soul Talk here in May, Mental Health Awareness month. 

We’re continuing to talk about the importance of being aware of mental health issues in our society. 

How many of us struggle with that or have loved ones that do, and we want to recognize that even among Christians, there’s no shame. 

This isn’t necessarily a faith problem. This is part of our experience as humans. 

And we want to support you in that. 

We want to come and give you tools and information, things that we’ve learned that’ve been helpful to us. 

So we talked about anxiety last week. 

This week we’re talking about addiction, because this is a mental health issue as well. 

And it’s something that’s very relevant for us as Christians. 

We’re all prone to addictions. 

Some of us even have biological things that make us more prone to this.

It’s modeled for us. 

There are things that we do to self-medicate in our pain. 

We want to talk about that, but we also want to talk about how Bill and I are Doctors of Psychology. 

We have a lot of experience and studies around addiction, anxiety, and depression. 

These are the things we’re talking about this month. 

We also have found the area of spiritual formation to have a lot of value and a lot of help for us with these issues as well. 

One thing we want to talk about in this episode is how we’ve received a lot of help, information, and training in the area of spiritual formation. 

Our mentor, Dallas Willard, who on May 8th, 2013, went to enter into glory to receive his reward and fullness of life, health, and wholeness in the Kingdom with his savior Jesus. 

We’re so thankful for his life because he helped us a lot with our areas of struggle — Bill in the area of anxiety, me more in depression.

He also helped us a lot in our coaching, our work with people, in spiritual direction, and in our writing, because he gave us some understanding of the soul and of the spiritual life that was especially helpful. 

And Bill, you’ve especially made a lot of use of one of Dallas’s tools. 

It’s been your number one coaching tool that you have used more than anything else to help people with addiction.

VIM and Vigor

Bill

Yeah, we call it a V.I.M. plan and it comes from Dallas’s book Renovation of the Heart

V.I.M. is an acronym that stands for:

  • Vision 
  • Intention 
  • Means

The idea is that in order to learn, grow, or make a significant change in your life, you need VIM.

VIM and vigor. 

You need a vision of,  “Why is this a really good thing for me to learn or to do?”

That vision needs to form the intention of your heart, the purposes of your heart. 

And then you need to line up some means and methods around becoming the kind of person that you’ve envisioned. 

So often we want to rush to the means. 

The psychological techniques, the “Tell me what to do,” the spiritual disciplines. 

And we get all enamored with that. 

Many people in the spiritual formation world missed this point and they don’t understand Dallas. 

Because Dallas very clearly taught, and he was a spiritual disciplines guy, right? 

People would ask him to talk on spiritual disciplines all the time. 

I’ve heard Dallas give hundreds of talks on spiritual disciplines because I’ve listened to pretty much all of his talks more than one time. 

And every time I’ve heard him talk about spiritual disciplines, he never starts by talking about spiritual disciplines. 

And most of his talks, I would say two-thirds or three-quarters of the talk, he doesn’t even talk about spiritual disciplines!

He talks about the vision of life with Jesus in the Father’s world. 

That’s the way I like to say it, but he unpacks the Kingdom of the Heavens and the opportunity of a lifetime to be an apprentice of Jesus. 

Then he makes that really concrete through different things that we struggle with. 

What Dallas did was he trusted the Gospel of Jesus, which is the Good News that the Kingdom of the Heavens is open to you right now, right where you are. 

You can bring your life to the person of Jesus, who’s risen from the dead and into the realm and power of the Kingdom of God. 

That’s the good news. 

And the cross of Jesus is the gateway into this Kingdom. 

Dallas trusted that the presentation of that Gospel vision, the Good News, made concrete into people’s particular life situations and stressors; including anxiety, depression, and addiction, (the stuff we’re talking about in these podcasts) that will form the intention of your heart. 

You’ll be like, “I want this life!” 

And that’s what we see in the Gospels. 

We see people pressing in closer to Jesus’ body all the time. 

They’re screaming, they’re running, they’re crawling in the dirt between people’s legs, they’re jumping outta trees. 

They wanna get near Jesus because God is just coming off of his body, coming out of his smile. 

He’s healing people. He’s teaching them. He’s encouraging them. 

And he’s doing it with mercy and with understanding so that nobody is left out. 

Everybody is of concern and the attention of God. 

So it’s forming people’s hearts. 

When you’re like, “I gotta get this life,” you will find the means to change. 

So that’s the V.I.M. plan from Dallas.

Cultivate a Vision

Kristi 

“I gotta get this life” is the intention.

So we get this vision of:

“Wow, this life that God is calling me into, that God has created me into, this life is a spiritual reality. It’s real, it’s true for me. And I want it!”

This is the intention. 

Then we find the means to get what we want.

Bill 

Yes. And when I learned this understanding from Dallas — I had a spiritual renewal at age 40, and Dallas was so much a part of that. 

My even earlier mentor, Ray Ortland Sr., who was a spiritual director to me, it just changed everything about my life, including my work at that time as a psychologist. 

And I decided I was going to be a psychologist like Jesus would be, if Jesus was Bill Gaultiere.

Kristi 

And Dallas encouraged you in that.

Bill 

It was from Dallas that I got the idea and it was like a “going to the ultra” moment for me.

Dallas calls this “discipleship evangelism,” where I, in prayer and over time, repeatedly thought about the different roles of my life. 

And how would Jesus engage in this role, in this situation if he was me? 

And it changed everything for me, including how I function as a therapist. 

One of the things I needed to learn was how do I communicate this vision to a client who mostly just wants relief from their symptom, their mental health challenges.

And how do I help them get the bigger picture of life that actually a whole-hearted, whole life, emotionally honest, discipleship to Jesus will bring significant help to most mental health symptoms. 

Now sometimes we need medication. 

Sometimes we need intensive therapy, but even those things can be done as disciples of Jesus.

That led to the writing of Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke. 

My Easy Yoke book is all about different challenges with anxiety, as well as depression and compulsive behavior and “How does that fit into discipleship to Jesus?”

There is so much that changes about our understanding of walking with Jesus and serving the Lord in our relationships and in our ministry. 

When we take this approach of being really emotionally honest as part of our faith, there are many discipleship tools. 

And in Soul Shepherding, we love to give you tools — different ways of meditating on scripture, different ways of praying, different ways of journaling; integrating Christ-centered psychology and spirituality. 

This is why we created the Soul Shepherding Network as a place to house all these tools.

One to two page handouts for you and the people that you help, and to put all of our webinars.

Every month we’re doing a couple of new webinars, Kristi and I, and our staff, to put all these together in really easy access. 

It’s like “Soul Shepherding Netflix” where you can stream between pieces of content, written and visual, to meet the specific needs. 

Including mental health and emotional health needs that we’re talking about. 

That’s our Soul Shepherding Network. 

Kristi 

That’s why we train coaches in the V.I.M. coaching tool that we have received from Dallas; because it’s been so transformational to us. 

We have found it to be a tool that has really resulted in us growing in Christ-like character and growing in more mental health. 

And growing in more emotional, spiritual, relational health. 

We’ve trained coaches to offer V.I.M. coaching. 

That’s one of the things we do in the Institute, is we have a piece where we do V.I.M. coaching, because that is such a great tool for change.

Bill 

Yeah. We have a little sheet of paper that we give you that asks you questions that you fill out, in journaling and in conversation with your coach, to identify the area in your life or in your leadership or work that you need to improve. 

Then we work you through the “I” and the “M,” as to how you can develop a plan to actually make significant changes in your life. 

So, yeah, Kristi, we’re gonna talk about the area of addiction, because this is an example for how we can use a V.I.M. plan.

Kristi 

You’ve found this to be a great tool with clients who you have treated, who are struggling with addiction.

Compulsive Behavior Gets Into Our Bodies

Bill 

Yeah. I’ve done this in my own life, in spiritual formation topics, like being more joyful or being less hurried, or things like this, but I’ve also used these V.I.M. plans with people who are dealing with lust or pornography or sexual brokenness or alcohol addiction or another compulsive behavior, and found it to be extremely helpful. 

Part of what we’re talking about here in these series of podcasts during mental health awareness month is that in addition to talking to a psychiatrist who can help you with medicine or a psychologist, or a licensed therapist who is very specialized in dealing with unconscious processes and life debilitating problems.

There is so much help that we can get from talking with a Soul Shepherding coach or a spiritual director who listens and who guides us in these areas. 

Who provides us empathy, who can and uses a tool like the V.I.M. plan.

Kristi 

We also have assessments that are really helpful for this. 

We have an assessment in The Network for addiction to see, “Am I really addicted to this substance or this compulsive behavior? Has this really crossed over into an addiction or not?”

Bill 

So let’s say, take the example of people who I’ve helped were dealing with lust or pornography. 

So often it is so difficult to break free because illicit sexuality is tantalizing us everywhere in our world today. 

What happens for someone who has compulsive behavior, sexually, is that it gets into their bodies. 

We were talking last week with anxiety, all of the mental health disorders and challenges, they’re physiologically based as well. 

They get into our bodies. 

It’s living inside of us.

And lust is like that. 

The challenge with lust as an addiction, as compared to say, an alcohol addiction, is that an alcohol addiction is based on drinking alcohol. 

You have to go physically find the alcohol, and drink it or take the drug. 

But with lust, it’s inside your body, it’s in your mind.

t’s everywhere you go. 

And so it’s a lot harder to break free of that. 

Once you’ve got that habit in place, then as soon as the image, whatever the temptation is, comes to you.

It’s triggering chemicals inside your body that are creating feelings of interest, excitement, elation, and the positivity of feeling good. 

If you’re stressed, discouraged, depressed, feeling lonely, or you’re having some problems in your life, you can see how something that makes you feel good, even though you know it’s wrong, might become an addiction. 

That’s where people get with pornography and with lust. 

It’s very difficult. You can’t just stop that by saying, “Well, I shouldn’t do this. I’m gonna stop.”

Or “Gee, I don’t want to mistreat somebody in my mind by thinking of them that way. I shouldn’t do this. I’m not gonna do that.”

Or say, “Well, I’m just going to read this Bible and memorize it and say it to myself. 

And so that’s gonna enable me to stop.”

These behavior modification approaches— willpower is not enough. 

The change needs to happen on the inside. 

We need to confess our sin. 

We need to confess the emotions and the unmet needs and stresses associated with this. 

And not just in terms of confessing the behavior, but unpacking the emotions that relate to that. 

That’s why we need to talk with somebody like a coach or a spiritual director.

Or a counselor — someone who can really listen, understand, care, and help us get at the underlying dynamics of 

“When is it that we struggle with lust, for instance?” 

“What’s going on in my life at these times, because there’s probably a pattern to that. When did this start?” 

“What was going on in your life at that time?”

And sharing those stories and the related feelings helps us to understand. 

It helps us to learn to receive God’s compassion, God’s empathy, and God’s grace into those places where there is brokenness. 

Rather than just “I’m judging myself or pressuring myself to change.” 

So that’s one of those steps. 

One of the “means” in a V.I.M. plan is a relationship where I can be emotionally honest. 

And prayers, like praying the Psalms where I can be emotionally honest. 

This is part of what we need to do.

Fasting and Feasting on Scripture

Kristi 

Part of what we need, too, is to not do it alone. 

Again, we need support. 

We need someone who is helping us, like you’re talking about relationally. 

Someone who is a safe space for us and a place where we can grow in awareness. 

Where they can draw us out and where we can get help to engage with God in this emotionally honest prayer. 

But also when we’re struggling with addiction, we also need to probably be a part of a 12 Step group, a recovery group. 

There’s unique tools in community, and we need a sponsor. 

We need the kind of support, understanding, and knowledge a recovery group can give us when we’re facing addictive behavior. 

Addictive behavior that has these unconscious habits rooted in our behaviors, and in our mind, and then we need spiritual medicine as well. 

Like you’re saying. 

So one of the other tools that you use a lot when you’re working with people with addiction is you use “Fasting and feasting on Scripture.”

Bill 

Yeah. Because in addiction, as we’ve been saying, it’s bodily.

The concept of a spiritual discipline that Dallas teaches us is something that I can do, which enables me to do what I can’t yet do. 

And so in the case of lust addiction, the person cannot stop lusting. 

They cannot stop using pornography. 

And their willpower is not enough. 

The willpower is actually very tiny. 

We need God’s power. 

And so how do we tap into God’s power and how do we do that from a habitual basis? 

It’s gotta become a habit because addiction is a habit. 

The only way you’re gonna overcome that is with a new and positive habit. 

Like in Romans 12:21 [Romans 12:21] says, “overcome evil with good.” 

So it’s actually good that overcomes evil. 

And the psychology behind that is it’s a loving attachment to God and to God’s people that overcomes a negative attachment to lust, pornography, alcohol drugs, workaholism… 

We need the power of a positive bond.

The power of God’s love, joy, peace, and power, coming into our lives through relationships through scripture meditation. 

So I teach “fasting as feasting.” 

This is another tool that’s in our Network, which we go deep into in our Soul Shepherding Institute, but in the context of addiction. 

So I will share with someone, and our coaches now who have learned this approach, will share with someone, our scriptures that we call “Hungry Heart Scriptures” and learn the practice of “Feasting on God.” 

Learn the way of not only reading a scripture, but meditating on it and letting that scripture activate the desires of my heart. 

So this is scriptures like Psalm 63 and David says: 

“Oh God, you are my God. Earnestly, I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Cultivate a Deeper Attachment to God

Bill 

And so David is just pining after God. 

And so I read that, I meditated on that. 

I begin to pray and say, 

“Where is my hunger for God? Where is my desire for God? And I want more of this.” 

So I take heart from David, in the scriptures, and there are many scriptures like this that are “Hungry Heart Scriptures.” 

When we meditate on them, it can help show us the goodness of a life that is just longing for God. 

Longing is the breath of my soul to long for God. 

And so what I found is that if I meditate on these scriptures, while I am fasting from food, even if it’s just one meal, it helps to cultivate my own hunger for God. 

I let my hunger for food become as church bells, calling me to pray and to meditate and to trust the Lord.

And I let the hunger in my body remind me that even more than I am hungry for food, I am hungry– actually desperate for God and for God’s word. 

That is getting into my body through the truth of God’s word. 

And the desire for God is getting into my body, through fasting, through meditation and prayer. 

It begins to shift my desires. 

It begins to reform the desires of my heart. 

This is an example of a couple of spiritual disciplines: fasting, scripture meditation, then combining them into a practice that I can do.

A practice that a sex addict can do. 

The sex addict can’t stop the pornography use, the lust use. 

But the sex addict could fast from food for a meal, and then learn to do maybe two meals, or a day. 

You gotta get past the headaches.

You gotta get past the restlessness, you gotta get past the feeling of deprivation. 

And so there is stuff that comes up when you fast, and that’s the point of a spiritual discipline of abstinence is it’s purgative. 

It’s evocative. 

It evokes emotion, distress, sin that I can then confess to my coach, my spiritual director, my soul friend. 

And so these disciplines work together. 

I can do those disciplines, even as an addict. 

And that can then enable me to then do what I couldn’t before do, which is say no to pornography or lust. 

And so what I found is that in the context of therapy where I was having trouble helping clients get free, even when they were in therapy and doing a 12 Step group, I learned early on that therapy wasn’t enough. 

They needed a 12 Step group because in the 12 Step group there are steps that you take.

There’s fellow addicts who are further along in recovery. 

You have a sponsor you can work with. There’s a curriculum that you’re reading and all these things are helpful. 

And so I always said that’s essential: therapy and the 12 Steps. 

But I learned that in most cases, even that wasn’t enough because the average therapy experience in the average 12 Step group does not cultivate devotion to Jesus. 

It does not cultivate this deeper attachment to God. 

It does not cultivate deeper attachment to God’s love and joy and power. 

That is what enables us to say “no” to the unhealthy, toxic attachment to lust or alcohol or whatever it is. 

That’s where we need spiritual formation. 

That’s where we need these understandings about apprenticeship to Jesus and the use of spiritual disciplines.

A New Habit of Love for God and People.

Kristi 

That’s where a spiritual director and a coach can be really helpful to train us in some of that. 

To listen to us, to draw us out, to serve in a role like a sponsor, but with more training. 

Do you remember that statistics that somebody gave at the mental health collective last week about the percentage of people in a 12 Step that get a sponsor within their first month then get free of addiction or something like that? 

Do you remember the statistic?

Bill 

Well, the point of it was that if you will get a sponsor right away, you’re very likely to get help.

But if you just go through the steps without a sponsor, you are not so likely to get help. 

But another statistic I do remember is: 46% of us, listening to this podcast, have a loved one who’s dealing with an addiction. 

A family member. A friend. 46%. 

And so that’s just why this topic is so important. 

Think, if you’re a pastor and you’re preaching, or if you’re a small group leader, there is somebody in your audience dealing with addiction.

Kristi 

A lot of somebodys.

Bill 

A lot of somebodys.

Kristi 

And then there’s a lot of “somebodys” in relationships with somebody who’s dealing with addiction.

Bill 

And we’re giving you a tremendous tool in the V.I.M. plan for overcoming compulsive behavior or learning anything new, overcoming any sin, any stress, any emotional relational problem. 

The V.I.M. plan is just so helpful. 

It’s one of the favorite things that people experience in our Soul Shepherding Institute. 

Writing out their V.I.M. plan and then check back in with us six months later at the next Soul Shepherding Retreat. 

“How’s it going with that?”  

Meeting with other students in the Institute program as to how it’s going with their V.I.M plan. 

Encouraging and coaching each other through that because we need to get this stuff down on paper. 

Often we struggle with really making changes in our lives and our personality and our character because we just don’t go deep enough. 

We get the gopher hole syndrome.

We’re just constantly, “Well today I’m focusing on this. Next week, I’m focusing on that.” 

You can plug the gopher hole, but the gopher is still there. 

There’s gonna be more holes that are gonna show up in your yard. 

You need to get the gofer out and go take that gopher to a land, a forest preserve somewhere where there’s lots of room to make holes, but not in your yard. 

So you gotta get rid of the gopher. 

You gotta get rid of the broken place in your soul. 

The sin pattern, the habit, and replace that with a new habit of love for God and people.

Kristi 

And Jesus really gives us this vision for His Kingdom and friends. 

Friends, if you want a tool that’s shorter and easier and really focused on this V.I.M. tool: Bill’s book, Jesus’ Greatest Teaching, we don’t have it available in print right now, but we do have it in the Soul Shepherding Shop for a download and you can easily print it. 

It’ll print on 28 by 10 or so sheets. It’s 40 pages, half pages, the way that we have it printed up here in our little hands. 

But that’s a great tool to unpack. 

And then we’ve got Soul Shepherding spiritual directors and coaches that can journey with you to help you tailor that. 

Bill 

Jesus’s Greatest Teaching goes through the sermon on the Mount. 

I’ve paraphrased the Sermon on the Mount based on Dallas’ teaching in The Divine Conspiracy and other sources. 

Jesus’s Greatest Teaching breaks that down using the V.I.M. plan, showing you how you can become more like the kind of people that Jesus introduces us to in the Sermon on the Mount. 

People who are free of contempt, who are free of anxiety, people who have self-esteem, in God’s presence. 

People who are free of addiction to materialism or workaholism. 

And so we work that out in the context of these challenges and you actually make your own V.I.M. plan, and you can do this with a friend or with a small group.

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