WHAT COMES TO MIND when you hear the word “addiction”? For most people, mental images of drugs, alcohol, or pornography appear. Many other things can become addictions too, and for a variety of reasons.
I hate to admit it, but I’m a recovering addict.
When I was a child, my parents moved to an Adventist academy out in the country, where they both taught various classes. They wanted to give me every opportunity to make good choices and have a solid spiritual foundation. At that time, they made a conscious decision not to own a TV because they recognized the control and influence that media can have over the mind.
I’d often hear academy students talking about TV shows or movies they had seen, and my curiosity was piqued. When they’d ask if I’d seen the shows, I’d self-consciously answer no. They’d laugh and shake their heads as if I was really missing out. More than anything, I wanted to feel accepted—to be a part of their group. If I only knew what they were talking about, everything would change, I was sure!
I began spending a week at my grandparents’ house every summer. During that week, I packed as much TV into my brain as possible. There were no restrictions on what I watched, and if I didn’t like what everyone was watching in the living room, I could go into my grandmother’s room and watch her TV.
Armed with this newfound media knowledge, I was ready when the students came back to school. Now I would be accepted! I knew what they knew. My plan backfired, though. I was still that “annoying little staff kid” who had trouble fitting in.
My media addiction continued into my college years, unfortunately. The characters in shows and movies became my friends, and I found myself living vicariously through them, watching up to eight hours of TV a day. When I wasn’t working or attending classes, I was comfortably seated in front of my television, mindlessly ingesting whatever came on the screen. I no longer cared about spiritual matters and resented family worship. Movie and television plots occupied my mind most of the time.
I’ve noticed this is how Satan works. He will find weak points in our character and slowly, almost imperceptibly, introduce us to things that draw our attention away from Christ. He knows that Jesus is coming soon and his time is short. So he works “to keep minds diverted from eternal realities. The enemy has arranged matters to suit his own purposes.”1
One evening as I attended prayer meeting, an elderly gentleman shared a news story relating to end-time events as we understand them from Matthew 24. At that moment, the Holy Spirit broke through the foggy shadows in my mind. "You are not ready," He whispered.
I was scared! All my life I had heard about the Second Coming and the signs that signaled Jesus’ return. I told myself that when I saw events beginning to happen, I’d turn my life over completely to Jesus. Now I was strongly convicted that things in my life needed to change.
There in the pew, I knelt and prayed, asking God to give me the strength to turn my heart completely over to Him—and giving Him permission to take my addictive tendencies away: “God, I am powerless without You. I’ve tried to give up my addiction many times, and I keep going back. You’re going to have to take the desire away from me.” I felt a renewed sense of freedom spring up in my heart as I rose to my feet and left the meeting. I completely trusted that God would give me victory, and He did.
Throughout this recovery time, prayer and personal devotions became my constant companion. As I filled my mind with spiritual nutrition, the frivolous things of the world became less important. I gained new strength to face each day.
I wish I could say that my struggle with media addiction is over, but it isn’t. It’s a daily choice. As I pray and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, He gives me power to overcome temptation. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:
1. AVOID THE TEMPTATION
I cut up my video store rental card and stopped going there every week. I moved my TV and VCR out of my room and limited my television time to watching only the news or a program with my family. Recently, I removed a popular video streaming app from my phone to provide some accountability and eliminate unwanted temptation. Romans 13:14 advises us to “make no provision for the flesh.”
2. CHANGE ROUTINE
I changed my nightly routine to avoid slipping into natural habits. I began eating dinner at a different time, going to bed and getting up earlier. I spent more time talking or playing games with my family instead of hiding in my room.
3. REPLACE THE ADDICTION
I began reading and exercising to fill extra time after work instead of sitting down in front of the TV. I bought a good quality camera and channeled my creativity into taking and editing photos.
The Great Controversy warns us that “Satan well knows that all whom he can lead to neglect prayer and the searching of the Scriptures, will be overcome by his attacks. Therefore he invents every possible device to engross the mind.”2 In these significant times, just before Jesus returns, Satan has any number of diversions prepared to distract God’s people, be it through alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, shopping, food, or even politics!
Recognizing this, we’ve chosen to address addiction and temptation in this issue of The Journal. Perhaps you don’t struggle with a particular issue, but you know someone who does. We hope this content will be encouraging, inspirational, and helpful in your spiritual journey and personal ministry.
1 Ellen White, Counsels for the Church, p. 64.
2 Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 519.