This post has been a long time coming. Honestly I’m terrified to type out these words because this post is sharing the totally behind the scenes, not pictured stories and moments that I don’t often share on my social media “highlight reel.” Today I want to share with you my story of battling through an addiction.
When I write out the word addiction, still to this day I feel like the word is a little too extreme to use for my scenario but I know that is the enemy trying to deceive me into believing that what I struggled through truly wasn’t “that bad” of a problem. When I was in the middle of my addiction I always wanted to just call it a “season of struggle” but looking back I can clearly see that me believing that it was just a “season of struggle” held me back from seeing the dire need to make a change and break free.
It’s interesting because my addiction wasn’t drugs or alcohol or any of the things that most of us commonly associate with someone being addicted to something, but it caused eerily similar affects in my life on certain levels. My addiction caused me to become emotionally numb in some ways to the people I love the most, to neglect responsibilities in my home out of a desire to feel the next “high,” to lose sight of my priorities and many more little things that affected me and my family along the way. So what was my addiction? My addiction was ACHIEVEMENT.
Maybe you just read that and are thinking, “Ok Paige, achievement? Maybe you were being a little too extreme labeling this as an addiction. Isn’t achievement a GOOD thing?” I think achievement is and can be a very good thing but I think that the caveat is that it isn’t ALWAYS a good thing. I believed that lie for most of my life and then I fell for this lie even harder in the last 2.5 years of my life. I think a lot of us believe that lie, that achievement that leads to success is always good, and I believe this little lie is why a lot of families are currently experiencing so much hurt and brokenness. Satan is crafty and a great deceiver my friends and since the time of Adam and Eve in the garden he has deceived us into believing lies like this by presenting us all with the same two questions (which I learned from one of my husband’s amazing sermons). The two questions are:
1) Is sin really that bad?
2) Do you really think God is good?
The first time I was presented with those two questions above was my freshman year of college. I had gone to college to play college softball as a pitcher and anytime I got put into a college game I couldn’t pitch. My hand literally froze up and I felt like I had zero control of what my body was doing. It was terrible. What was even more terrible was that softball was so much of my identity and without consistent success in it I felt anxious and like I was a complete failure. I knew that those feelings arose because I had my identity in the wrong place and was seeking fulfillment from the wrong places but I kept thinking “Is it really that bad to pour all of my time, energy and efforts into softball?” I was more focused on softball than loving people and spending time with God but “was that sin really that bad?” Oh and while we are asking questions, “God, why in the world would you have me work SO hard my entire life, playing travel ball, making so many sacrifices to bring me here to college, the pinnacle of my softball career, to just have me embarrass myself?” “God are you really that good if you let me down like this and aren’t willing to give me the desires of my heart (which at the time were to be the starting pitcher on our team)?”
Three years later the questions presented themselves again. I got married a month after graduating from college and only three weeks after ending my softball career by having our team win the national championship (no, still not with me as the starting pitcher). I moved in with Christopher once we were married completely lacked a sense of purpose. The two things I had placed my identity in before, school and softball, were no longer available to me so I started to find my identity in being Christopher’s wife. He was all that I had in this new area and new chapter of my life. Christopher was already established in his job and with his friends group so every time he wanted to play basketball with his friends or do anything outside of spending time with me I felt resentful and punished him by acting differently towards him anytime he would choose “them” over me. I thought to myself, “Is it really that bad for me to just want to be a good wife and have my husband be at the center of my life?” “God are you really all that good if here I am, married to a pastor where you would think I would be so filled with joy and God’s spirit, but instead I’m sitting here at home every day feeling semi-depressed, with no sense of purpose and like my marriage is suffering because of that?”
I worked through each of those seasons thinking I had achieved victory and the ability to move on but I didn’t realize that the disease of being addicted to achievement and placing my identity in the wrong things was still lying dormant within me. When the third big “identity crisis” hit it was at a time when the stakes were much, much higher. Not only was I married but we had two little babies at this point. I had joined a business that I was so excited for because it was going to be such a GOOD thing for me and my family. I was going to be able to make an extra income stream doing something that I was passionate about, while never leaving my babies. It sounded harmless until I quickly found myself addicted to gaining more and more success for no other real reason than to “be more successful.”
At first I told my husband that it was just a week of intense hard work and sacrifice. Then it turned into a season, and pretty soon a year had gone by and things were starting to fall apart. When I was with my kids, or anyone for that matter, all I wanted to be doing was working, I felt a laziness towards taking care of my home and would choose to work instead. I only wanted to hang out with people if it would be beneficial to my work success and even when I was in a room I wasn’t really present because my mind was focused elsewhere.
Looking back it makes me sick to think about that long season that ended up being close to two years before I felt like I was completely freed from the bondage I had put myself into. Throughout that time Christopher would gently nudge me, trying to get his wife back, but I was so consumed that the thought of letting go of my business and the current pace that I was working it literally made me sick to my stomach. The whole time I kept asking myself “Is it really that bad to just want more for me and my family?” and then on the flip side of things I was asking “God why would you put these strengths in me, knowing that I could so easily fall into addiction when I actually utilized them? Why won’t you just give me the desires of my heart, which are success and to be at the “top”? If you give me those things THEN I will go back to a more balanced life. Are you really that good God?”
By the GRACE OF GOD and THROUGH GOD ALONE was I able to open up my hands and my tight grip on my business and worldly success that had consumed me during that season. It’s so scary to know that Christopher and I were both so close to checking out of our marriage, not through divorce, but emotionally, which would have been devastating for our family, raising our children and our ministry. I thank God every day that he allowed me to gain back control of my life. I learned SO much during the process of trying to heal and let go and I wanted to share my top tips for working through an addiction to achievement and/or success.
My Top Seven Tips For Battling Achievement Addiction
1) DEFINE WHAT THE ACTUAL DESIRES OF YOUR HEART ARE. When I was going through this struggle I listened to a sermon and the pastor talked about how there is a difference between what we think we want and what we actually want. He encouraged us to think of what we will actually want by thinking of the moment we are on our death bed. What will matter then? Who will be around us? Are our actions today leading to us getting what we ultimately want or what we think we want right now? I knew that what I ultimately wanted was to get to heaven and to look Jesus in the eye knowing I had stewarded the gifts and people he had put in front of me very well. I knew that at the time I wasn’t stewarding anything well and that I was neglecting what I ultimately wanted, which was an incredible marriage, great relationships with my kids and a fruitful ministry.
2) BE SURE NOTHING IS ON THE THRONE WHERE ONLY GOD BELONGS. Through each of those seasons that I mentioned above I realized that my addiction stemmed from placing something in the position that only God should belong in my life. As my husband says all the time in his sermons, “what we idolize we will ultimately demonize.” I had idolized money, success and being at the “top” and as a result nothing else in my life was working out the way I wanted it to. In Jonah 2:8 it says “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them,” and that was exactly what I had done. We must “seek first the kingdom of God” or else our lives will be spent chasing worthless idols that wont get us what we actually want like we had talked about in point number one.
3) RENEW YOUR MIND DAILY. Once you know what you ultimately want and what you need to stop doing to regain what you ultimately want in life it usually isn’t good enough to just expect our desire to change to actually create change in our lives. We must “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We must “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Nothing will create lasting change like completely renewing our minds will because we are all sinners and our flesh is naturally at war with the spirit within us. If we don’t feed the spirit through reading Gods word and spending time in His truth daily then it will be so hard to overcome any struggle our flesh might be enduring. ‘The Renewing of the Mind Project’ was an incredible book that helped me so much during that season and still helps me to this day. This was my first realization that lead to me knowing something needed to change.
4) PRAY FERVENTLY. Most days my prayer was just, “God I can’t see how I am possibly going to be able to give this up. Intercede for me. Give me your strength to change and give me the desires of your heart and not my own.” We can’t expect God to deliver us from something if we don’t communicate with Him and ask Him to deliver us. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
5) SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES. This was one that Christopher suggested over and over again to me and in my stubbornness, I just wouldn’t do it. Now I regret that and see the importance of having boundaries in my life. There are times to work and not to work, times where phones can be out and times where they need to be put away. This is still not easy for me but my prayer every day is “God please bless the hours that I work and do with those hours what you desire. Let me be content with the amount of hours that I can work while still maintaining health in the other areas of my life.”
6) BE ON GUARD AND DO NOT BE DECEIVED. The enemy knows what you have fallen into in the past and will do anything to get you to fall into it again. In 1 Peter 5:8 it says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When we have victory over a struggle in our lives it is very easy to think we are good and don’t need to continue to focus on that area when in reality we need to be renewing our minds in Christ every single day. We need to shut the door on our sin and run a little bit further away from it every day by running towards Christ. No one is above any sin and we cannot be deceived by believing that we will not fall into our old patterns.
7) FORGIVE YOURSELF AS CHRIST HAS FORGIVEN YOU AND MOVE FORWARD. Forgiving myself for what I did to myself and my family during those few years of my life has been a challenge. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being strong enough and for letting the enemy have such a stronghold over me for so long. While there are consequences that have to be worked through when we choose sin, we have to remember that Jesus declared victory over our sins when he went to the cross. To stay in bondage to our sins is like telling Jesus that what He did on the cross was not good enough. He has set us FREE, our sins are covered, we have victory and we must choose daily to obey and move forward so we can fulfill God’s purpose on our life.
As I wrap up this post I’m fighting the urge to push cancel instead of publish. It’s hard openly talking about our sins and the struggles we have gone through. I just hope that someone can be blessed by this post and that someone out there who struggles with an addiction to achievement who is reading this can be delivered from it. Satan wants nothing more than for us to keep our sins secret and in the dark….NOT TODAY SATAN, NOT TODAY.