An addiction is a lot like being on a merry-go-round, but with the exception that it’s not fun.

You turn to food, gambling, shopping, one-night stands, codependency, hoarding, or something else. The more you turn to your addiction, the more shame you feel and want to numb that feeling. So you go back to the very thing you don’t want to do. Now you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of addiction. And it’s going so fast that you don’t know how to stop.

The apostle Paul put it this way “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:18). To interrupt this cycle of addiction, you must break free from pain, acting out, shame, and relapse that keeps you in bondage.

Here is a more in-depth look at each phase.

Pain — Before you even realize you are dealing with an addiction, you’re in pain. You feel emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational pain. These painful feelings create a longing for you to get rid of the pain. Pain and addiction go hand in hand—they feed off of each other. As your pain increases, your desire for relief increases. Recognizing you are in pain and in need of help can be the first step in recovery.

Acting Out — Beginning to look to drugs, alcohol, overeating or porn, as a way to escape and numb the pain, is the behavior associated with addiction. Perhaps you’re codependent–focused on someone else’s pain or issue. Turning to addiction might deaden your pain for the short-term, but it’ll leave you in bondage long-term. Acting out is an external indicator of internal pain.

Shame — When the high and momentary relief wears off, you’ll feel shame. You may have distracted yourself by acting out, but it did nothing to help deal with the pain. Your pain increased and came back in another form. Shame is what will attempt to keep you in the cycle of addiction and will only be relieved through recovery.

Relapse — Amidst your pain, you feel truly alone. You could ask for help and be honest with others; instead, you disconnect from the world. At this point, you are right back where you started. Relapse begins the first time you decide to not go to a meeting or ask for help–you think “I’ve got this under control.” As the pain gets worse, the cravings get more intense. You have no support, accountability, or community. So you turn to your addiction, and it will require more than before to address the pain. And the vicious cycle goes on and on.

Is it possible to interrupt this cycle? Yes!

You can make the decision to get into recovery. Like jumping off a merry-go-round, you can break free from the vicious cycle of addiction by seeking help.

Perhaps your friends and family members have tried to help you by having an intervention. An intervention can help you two ways. First, it makes you aware of how your addiction is hurting others. Second, it shows you how your addiction is harming yourself–ultimately getting you into treatment.

Interrupt this dangerous cycle by seeking treatment. It might be an inpatient treatment center, seeing a Christian counselor, or attending a Life Recovery group. The first step out of the cycle may feel overwhelming, but many people have made this step and are no longer on the merry-go-round of addiction!