Bad habits interrupt what a good and healthy lifestyle really is. Bad habits prevent us from accomplishing our goals. They put in danger our health mentally and physically as we waste time and energy. Spiritually speaking, bad habits can prevent us from having a close relationship with the Lord and with others as well. A bad habit could be triggered by trauma, psychological disorders, mental illness, and physical and emotional abuse, just to name a few negative factors.
For some, bad habits are simply a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom.
With time for leisure, boredom really is a trigger. With boredom, spiritual dryness and distractions can kick in and temptations seem to be more recurrent. On the other hand, stress can be a leading factor to look for unhealthy ways to escape from our stressors.
There is an effective way to overcome bad habits. We can substitute bad habits with good habits. Recognizing the causes of the triggers is crucial to overcoming bad habits. We have to identify them and then put those bad habits in the hands of the Lord, at the foot of the cross. There is always hope in the LORD. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Rom 8,25.
Also, a great dosage of humility is required to accept those bad habits. For people who are suffering from addiction, recognizing their addiction could be a great challenge but they can overcome feelings of loneliness, despair, and abandonment through prayer. It seems really easy but we have many tools available: human, psychological and spiritual help through counseling or therapy.
I started to do Exodus 90 www.exodus90.com a few weeks ago with the purpose of being more aware of my bad habits accompanying some other men who are struggling to overcome addiction and bad habits as well. There are three pillars for this exercise: prayer, fraternity, and asceticism (mortification, fasting, and penance). It is been a learning journey. I was able to understand that we don’t want to eliminate a bad habit, we want to replace it. In other words, I understood that a bad habit is a pattern saved in your brain, and we can “overwrite” this pattern with new behavior. Abstinence may be a new behavior as well.
Please read the following reflection taken from EXODUS 90 website:
How long does it take to regain freedom? Eight days, thirty days, ninety days? When it comes to regaining our freedom, the task involves more than just successfully jumping through hoops for a set duration of time. It involves reforming our very way of life. Think of a man who struggles with alcoholism. After faithfully giving up alcohol and attending ninety Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in ninety days, is the man free to return to an empty house stocked with liquor? There is more to recovery, more to freedom, than that. Our very way of life must change.
For a man who struggles with alcohol, this looks like ridding his home of the things that lead him to drink and changing how he spends his time. Stopping by the bar each day after work must no longer serve as a way for him to unwind. Regardless of what you are striving to be free from, your freedom will not come from jumping through the hoops of this spiritual exercise for ninety days. Your heart and your way of life must be open to change.
God’s plan for us can’t be overlooked here. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). God desires us to be free to love and worship him. He knows that trying to find life or freedom anywhere else will be nothing short of a return to slavery. We must allow God to change our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). This includes being attentive to God’s promptings in prayer, learning how to live from the example of Christ’s life, and staying connected to God’s will through our unity with his bride, the Church. The scriptural roadmap of prayer, asceticism, and fraternity, emphasized in this spiritual exercise, makes these things possible for us and disposes us to the grace we need to obtain the freedom God made us for.
In his book Your Brain on Porn, Professor Gary Wilson states that individuals trying to “reboot” their brains in order to achieve freedom from their addiction to pornography strive to go “three months” without looking at pornographic images. For men with serious addiction symptoms, however, they sometimes need a “far longer” period of time to achieve freedom. Eight days is not enough, thirty days is not enough, ninety days is better, but still not enough for true and lasting freedom.
Don’t lose hope. This period of ninety days, challenging as it is, is more than just a period of time with hoops to jump through. This is a real spiritual exercise. This is a time to give your life to God and allow him to transform it. If you do this, you will encounter Jesus Christ our Lord in a new way, and you will find freedom.
These ninety days are just the beginning to a life lived in freedom.
Disclosure: Those Catholic Men, Inc. makes no claims to a man’s individual success in overcoming addiction. Exodus 90 employs the time-honored competencies of the Church, including prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. Personal success depends on the individual’s investment, commitment, and God’s grace. Exodus 90 is a roadmap to freedom. If you find additional assistance is needed, we recommend the following resources: