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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

5 Mindsets of “Addictive” Thinking

5 Mindsets of “Addictive” Thinking

Since 23.5 million Americans are estimated to be substance abusers, it is likely that if you haven’t already, you are going to encounter an “addict” soon. This represents more Americans than are diagnosed with diabetes (17.9 mil), depression (14.8 mil), cancer (11.4 mil), and HIV/AIDS (1.1 mil).[1] Given this epidemic, I want to give you five mentalities that are usually exhibited by someone enslaved to any type of “addiction” and the five fruit you can look for as you counsel a transforming “addict.”

The Problem As I See It

The word “addict” is in quotation marks for a reason: I do not believe it is a biblical word. The word has American ancestry and came into the English language as a noun in 1899.[2] It is the idea that someone loses control over the decision to partake in any pleasurable substance, commonly a drug.

The prevailing thought in today’s world is that “addiction” is compulsive and the struggling person has lost control, but biblically I believe that the “addict” is responsible for his or her choices and therefore becomes habitually enslaved to the pleasure of choice. It is a decision rather than a disease or a demon. It is a practiced action that has become a habit and results in idolatry. The pleasure becomes what the “addict” lives for and he is willing to live and die for it, just as long as he gets to experience it just one more time. It truly is a worship disorder.

“Addictive Thinking”

So how does an enslaved “addict” think? I describe these five mentalities in more detail in two of my books, Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies and Addiction-Proof Parenting, but I want to briefly delineate them for you now. You will see how each of these mentalities builds upon the previous one.

Put-off                                                Put-on

Entitlement Mentality                         Be Humble

Consumer Mentality                           Be Giving

Victim Mentality                                 Be Responsible (Obedient)

Perishing Mentality                             Be Grateful (Joyful)

Rebellious Mentality                           Be Submissive[3]

Addictive Mindset # 1: Entitlement Mentality

First, a counselor will see pride manifested in what I term an “Entitlement Mentality.” For example, Bonnie[4] believes the lie that she should get everything she wants when she desires it.

“It belongs to me” and “I must have it my way” are two of her favorite slogans though she is savvy enough not to ever admit it. Her parents fostered this thinking by giving into her every whim as a child because they never wanted her to experience any pain, but Bonnie is responsible for her choices. What she wants, she now gets.

Addictive Mindset # 2: Consumer Mentality

Second, the “Consumer Mentality” is fueled in Bonnie’s mind as she longs to consume everything in her path upon her own lusts and desires. “Since it belongs to me, I can enjoy it” and she will not easily share it with others.

Matthew 22:37-40 says (parenthetical inserts are my words): “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ENTITLEMENT occurs as a failure to do so) This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (CONSUMERISM results when we fail to do so) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

When an “addict” fails to love God with all of her heart as Bonnie does in active “addiction,” she believes she is the owner rather than a steward of what she has, not acknowledging that God has giver her everything. She loves neither God nor her neighbor.

Addictive Mindset # 3: Victim Mentality

A third mindset Bonnie demonstrates is a “Victim Mentality” when her desires are not being met: “This is supposed to work, and it’s not my fault that it is not.” She may use passive language like Aaron did in Exodus 32:24: “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” She says things like “they dealt me a bad hand” or “my cravings just overcame me” as if she cannot control her own thoughts or actions.

She also has a difficult time seeing that the negative consequences she is experiencing are her own fault. When her daughter asks her why God would make them move out of their home after being evicted for failing to pay the mortgage primarily due to drug usage, Bonnie tells her child: “We don’t know why God allows these things to happen, but He does, so we will just have to trust Him” She’s failing to take responsibility for her wrong choices.

Addictive Mindset # 4: Perishing Mentality

Fourth, a “Perishing Mentality” (derived from Proverbs 31:6-7 in which wine is recommended medicinally for those who are truly physically dying) begins to take root with statements like: “I deserve better than what I am receiving” and “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

This lack of gratitude results in despondent thinking, feelings, and actions and now the person mired in self-pity and covetousness, focusing too much thought on herself and what she does not have: “It doesn’t matter what I do, it will turn out bad. I’m going to die if I don’t get what I need!”

Addictive Mindset # 5: Rebellious Mentality

Finally, having given up, she exhibits the full “Rebellious Mentality,” although rebellion has been at the core of her heart motives all along. She notices that authorities do not bow down and grant her every desire, so believing herself to be entitled to consume and a victim of unfair treatment when consequences arise, her unmet selfish desires bring frustration and self-pity.

Rather than blame herself, she blames others: her parents, her authorities, her environment, and perhaps even God. Yes, she has been rebellious all along, but now Bonnie begins thinking and acting like a rebel in all her ways. After she quits her job, she asks, “Why should I even try to do right and submit to my boss?” Angry and foolish, Bonnie’s biggest desire is to be independent — free from any rules, laws, or restrictions. “I am my own boss. No one tells ME what to do.”

These last three mentalities are described in much more detail in my other writings and can be taught along with Ephesians 5:18-21: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (you are not a VICTIM; you are responsible to obey this command) addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (you are not PERISHING; you should be more thankful) submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (you are REBELLIOUS; you should be submissive).

The Goal of Christlikeness

For many, the goal in “addiction” counseling is recovery, which is a good goal focused upon sober living and serenity in this temporal life. But there is a better, eternal, and more biblical goal for the “addict” based upon Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18—transformation. God wants the addict to put off the old self and these five mentalities by replacing them with the new self, fashioned in the likeness of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-24).

Put-off                                                Put-on

Entitlement Mentality                         Be Humble

Consumer Mentality                           Be Giving

Victim Mentality                                 Be Responsible (Obedient)

Perishing Mentality                             Be Grateful (Joyful)

Rebellious Mentality                           Be Submissive[5]

Coming alongside those struggling with “addiction” can be exhausting, but I want to encourage you. It can only be done by God’s grace in the context of a local church. Recruit some disciple-makers to co-counsel with you. God is faithful to work in us and through us by the Holy Spirit to bring about a change in our thinking to be more biblical and Christ-like. Transformation for those struggling with “addictions” can and does occur.

The good news for a pastor and biblical counselor working with an “addict” is that one does not need to guess if the “addict” is changing by God’s grace. As the mouth reveals what is in the heart (Mark 7:20-23), God will reveal to you how the “addict” is thinking by what he or she talks about. You will either hear statements soaked in self (entitlement, etc.) or saturated in humility, sacrificial love for others, responsibility, gratitude, and submission which reflect the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:3-8) and are the beautiful fruit of repentant hearts.

[1] Obtained via Sandor Cheka from The Freedom Source at

[2] Dunnington, K. Addiction and Virtue, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL, 2011, p. 99.

[3] Taken from Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies and Addiction-Proof Parenting, Focus Publishing.

[4] All the persons named in this blog are combined fictitious situations and not actual biblical counseling cases.

[5] Taken from Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies and Addiction-Proof Parenting, Focus Publishing.

This entry was posted in Addictions, Christian Living, Idolatry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Worship and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Debbie Teater

    Interestingly, the five mindsets you spoke of are also prevalent in the many of children I have encountered who were abused, institutionalized and then adopted. As parents, we combat these mindsets daily, teaching our kids each of the put ons mentioned, addressing not just their behaviors but their hearts as well. Yet we still see these five mindsets crippling our kids as they enter adulthood, whether or not they become addicts. Those kids that commit to the Lord have difficulty sustaining their relationship with Christ (and with their parents). I appreciate your comment on the necessity of God’s grace (for all involved!) and the local church for facilitating transformation. I am confident that those who truly desire to submit to the Lord can and will change.

    • MarkandMary Shaw

      Yes, Debbie. Your comments show that you understand completely. Our hearts need re-alignment just like our automobiles do – and our hearts need it every day!

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