Why Won’t The Temptation To Use Go Away?

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

As soon as we get a little sobriety under our belts, we tend to think that the temptation to use our addictive substances or engage in our addictive behaviors is going to disappear. We believe that if only we work the program, we’ll be free of cravings. We’ve seen this miracle in the lives of others, so we know it’s possible.

And the honest truth is that it can and does happen. Many people get clean and never again experience so much as a craving to slip or relapse. But for others, it isn’t quite that simple. Though we may experience long periods without craving or temptation, it may not vanish forever. Others will experience fairly strong temptation that persists even years into recovery. Why is this? Why can’t we be free of it?

Temptation Doesn’t Mean You’re Doing Something Wrong

Can No Longer Stand Kneel - Temptation To Use - ChristianDrugRehabSome recovering, sober addicts will be plagued with shame and fear when they experience temptation. They’ll be reluctant to confess their struggle to their sponsors or program fellows. They imagine people will assume they’re doing something wrong or working a weak program. However, the two are often unrelated.

Working a strong program and maintaining fit spiritual condition is essential to keeping temptation at bay, but it’s not a magic pill. You may be doing all the right things and still experience temptation—even strong temptation. That said, temptation provides a good opportunity to check in and ensure that we are indeed doing what we need to do to stay sober and experience freedom. If you’re struggling, the first order of business is to talk honestly with a sponsor or program friend.

Even Christ Was Tempted

Knowing that God’s own son was tempted can help us to see that our own situation isn’t that unique. Christ was tempted when he was utterly starving. He could have done whatever he needed to do in order to secure comfort, sustenance and power in that moment. As the Son of God, face-to-face with the devil, he could have taken whatever he felt he needed. Yet he didn’t, and his example is one we can cling to.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18

We face the same temptations and we have the same opportunities to resist. We feel a hunger or experience a sense of need and, hating the very thought of discomfort, we begin to think of ways we might fulfill our own craving. We think about going to the liquor store, visiting a porn site or binging our way through the refrigerator.

Even Christ’s disciples, those who knew him best and had been with him all along, faced temptation. It’s for this reason that Jesus speaks to them of prayer and resistance. It says in Luke 24:40, “And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ ”

The experience of temptation doesn’t mean you’re doing it all wrong. In fact, it might mean you’re doing it all right. Recovery and spiritual strength is not a pinnacle we reach; it’s an everyday journey of faith, prayer, growth and working the program.

What Happens When You Resist

It may seem like cheap comfort, but every time you lean on God and resist temptation, you’re building steadfastness and resolve that is going to continue to solidify and strengthen your sobriety.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Each time you choose sobriety over addiction, each time you lean on God instead of a substance or behavior, you’re rewriting pathways in your brain and your heart that are going to change the way you look at the world and interact with it. When you say no to temptation today, you make it that much easier to say no tomorrow. Resistance and steadfastness is cumulative; the more we do it, the stronger we become.

Temptation is not a case of God tricking you or waiting for you to stumble. God is your strength and your source and the one who helps you in the temptation. He wants you to rely fully on him. And as you do, as the Book of James says, you become more “perfect and complete.”

Lean on God, work your program and make sure your life is set up to make it hard to slip. Then relax. Temptation will come, but it doesn’t have to take over and you don’t have to fear it. Though you may feel as if you’ll explode if you don’t heed the craving, be encouraged: you’ll make it.