What is Self-Medication and How to Overcome or Prevent It?

Self-Medication: Many of us are busy caring for others in the different ministries God has given us. (And the testimonies of transformed lives we read on here are spectacular!) We expend an enormous amount of energy and time helping others with the difficulties in their lives. However, we tend not to take good care of ourselves. It is not God’s will for us to neglect ourselves whether it is spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Taking appropriate care of you is not selfish; it is self-protective. A healthy you is more beneficial to the people you are ministering too compared to a weak, sickly you.

Many times I have asked other Christians how they’re doing personally and they admit they don’t take great care of themselves. And when you don’t take great care of yourself, guess what you end up doing in almost every case? You end up self-medicating. Every individual has a choice between taking care of themselves or self-medicating, and many choose the “polite” version of self-medication.

What is self-medication? Self-medication is what people do to cope with the stress, anxiety, and difficulty in life apart from leaning on the truths found in the Word of God. When stress and life overwhelm you, you will either choose to respond to it in a healthy, godly manner by turning to the Lord or an unhealthy way called self-medication. When you think of self-medication, don’t just think of pills or alcohol. As I will detail below, there are some very “socially acceptable” ways even for Christians to self-medicate. The choice is yours, but the first reality is this: choosing to take care of yourself is so much healthier than self-medication. The second reality is just as important: if you don’t intentionally choose to take care of yourself as an individual, you will end up self-medicating in some manner.

I would like to describe how Christians use Self-Medication.

#1 – Working More

Working too many hours is socially acceptable, even rewarding in some circles. It is somewhat ironic, but the way some individuals cope with the stress associated with work and/or ministry is by working more. Working more for some people numbs the pain albeit temporarily. Instead of working more, we need to make our time at work more effective and productive.

#2 – Overeating

Food can be the “drug” of choice for many people. Food can bring a person comfort after having a day filled with anxiety and stress. Food doesn’t argue or talk back. It just sits there looking good and tasting even better. Many Christians have found their solace in food and have suffered the physical and even emotional consequences. Food is obviously necessary, but in the right amount at the right times. May we always find our comfort in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

#3 – Gossiping

This is a general statement, but I believe for the most part it is true – “When we feel bad about ourselves, we tend to say bad things about other people.” Gossiping takes the focus off of our troubles and pain and puts the focus on others and their difficulties. Often when an individual has not taken proper care of themselves, they end up with enough toxin inside that they want to take down others. They find themselves talking about someone else and their terrible misfortunes instead of helping them. We are better able to help others when we are healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

#4 – Spending

Whether it is shopping in a mall or online or getting involved with the constant climb into a bigger house, a better car, the latest tech or the latest trend, Christians can easily numb their pain endlessly accumulating things that end up in a landfill site one day. One of the consequences associated with this behavior is debt, which can be crippling.

#5 – Under the Radar Substance Abuse

You may not develop a heroin addiction (although it can happen), but most of the time it is more subtle than that. Whether it is a hidden drink of alcohol every evening to decompress after a busy day or an overuse or misuse of your legitimate prescription, Christians can fall into the classic pattern of turning to a substance rather than turning to God for relief. Please remember that the alcoholic started down that road with one drink and the addict started down their road with one pill or with one hit.

So what do you do to prevent the self-medication option?

#1 – A Dynamic Daily Time With God

Time with God matters! Your personal walk with God is often a casualty of self-medication. Spend time every day with God by reading His Word, praying, meditating on the things of God and memorizing Scripture. Have a God consciousness throughout your entire day.

#2 – Exercise

It is wise to keep our physical body in good shape. Our poor physical condition can adversely affect us emotionally and even spiritually. As God gives you His mercy and grace try to exercise several times a week, which simply can be walking for 20-30 minutes at a time.

#3 – A Healthy Diet

Another general statement with a lot of truth – “You are what you eat.” As God gives you knowledge put healthy food into your body. The benefits can be enormous.

#4 – Proper Sleep

You need 7-8 hours a night or at least on a semi-regular basis. I believe that appropriate sleep is one of the most underrated secret weapons there is.

#5 – Open Space on Your Calendar

Regularly schedule time off and downtime in the same way you schedule meetings. You just have to do it! Time management is very important. If you do not schedule your time, someone else will.

#6 – Godly Friendships

Ministering to others can be draining. You need to have fellowship with godly friends you don’t necessarily need to minister to at that given time. Regular doses of life-giving relationships can make a huge difference. Spend some time with your friends and have a good dose of laughter.

#7 – Family Time

Spend regularly scheduled, uninterrupted time with your family. Regularly go out on a date with your spouse. Your family is one of the most precious gifts God has given to you. Invest heavily in your family.

#8 – Counseling

Godly counselors can help you get through many road bumps and life issues. This can be looked at as an investment in yourself and even in your family and ministry. I can inform you that I am different and better because I frequently seek out godly counsel.

I believe that at the end of our lives, we will be so much better for taking care of ourselves rather than taking the path of self-medication.

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Dr. George T. Crabb (D.O., F.A.C.O.I.) is a Board Certified Internal Medicine physician and a Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internist. In addition to practicing Internal and Addiction Medicine in Naples, Florida, Dr. Crabb writes medical communications for Reformers Unanimous International. Dr. Crabb’s passion has always been to help others through the liberating truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

One thought on “What is Self-Medication and How to Overcome or Prevent It?

  1. Very useful. Keep them coming.

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