By Erich Schoeman (Clinical Psychologist)
Matters of the Soul (www.mattersofthesoul.org or www.sakevdsiel.org)
4 - 5 minute read
We have all been addicted to something or someone in our lives. It does not have to be hard core drugs, it could be something as everyday as coffee or smart phones. Here are 10 interesting thoughts about addiction:
1. Ancient definition
The term addiction originates from the Latin word “addictus”, ranging in meanings from “to consecrate, deliver up, sacrifice” to “enslavement” and “attachment”.
Today the definition of addiction is a physiological addiction to a habit-forming substance that is harmful. It involves compulsive behaviour, tolerance and withdrawal. It affects all areas of your life, psychological, social, physical and spiritual.
The ancient definition describes a condition of slavery and bondage, quite true to the actual effect of addiction, that of selling yourself to slavery.
2. Strict boundaries
Studies in the USA show that Christians have less likelihood of becoming addicted to substances due to strong instructions in the Bible against the abuse of alcohol. Strict external boundaries may therefore help our internalisation of them and this may improve our ability to control ourselves.
Substance abuse or any other addiction such as work or pornography is an attempted solution for a problem. However, your solution usually becomes a problem and then you're left with multiple problems. Doesn’t really make sense to do it then, does it?
4. Addicted to feelings
Addiction is certainly a means of escape and avoidance of reality, but more so, it is a search for pleasurable feelings. Even smartphone addiction is a pleasurable distraction. We end up becoming mood addicts.
Negating the responsibility of seeking pleasure in God’s way by delighting in His love and person, enjoying natural pleasures such as love, exercise and play, we substitute the really important things for fleeting, temporary excitement. Strangely illogical of us..
5. Dependent beings
We were created by God to be dependent on Him, finding real and fulfilling satisfaction in His love and care. Yet we tend to pull in the opposite direction, fleeing the safety of a relationship that offers all that we really need. Our sinful nature sets us up for living as orphans that decide our own right and wrong. Great praise to God for giving us His Son! In Him we stay connected even though we drift to and fro.
Struggling with scattered attention and concentration can create many difficulties in life. I think that addicts tend to experience this with short- and long-term goal-setting. Impulse control goes haywire because long-term goals are not clear and therefore short-term ones are misplaced.
The best long-term goal is an eternal one. Knowing that you will give an account to God for the life He gave you is sobering and keeps you from getting distracted by destructive short-term pleasures. Living your life to bring joy to Jesus for loving you can energize you to use your opportunities to optimally serve Him. It will deter you from persistently keeping an addiction going.
It becomes a more weighty priority than temporal pleasure. However, it does not mean you will not fail, it just gives you great reason to get back up again and keep going.
All of this reminds me of Moses:
24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.
Hebrews 11:24 - 26:
Stimulants provide 10 times more dopamine than natural pleasurable activities would. This sets you up for failure. Fake ‘heaven’ steals something precious and invisible from you...the deep, long lasting satisfaction in life, yourself and others.
Working hard at building a loving marriage, strong career, striving to influence the world for the greater good and the deep wholeness of trust in relationships are gone. Future success, self image and security are all betted on the lottery of fleeting pleasure.
A bird’s song, child’s laughter, self-controlled fun amongst friends, the quiet stillness of nature, exquisite music and lots more all lose their ability to compete with fake heaven. You export yourself to lala land where the real world tribulations and triumphs are exchanged for more intense but hollow pleasure and excruciating, far-reaching pain and loss. This is especially true of substance abuse.
8. Victim or Guilty?
Taking on a stance of a victim with reduced responsibility for your actions leaves you thinking that you are helpless to change. It casts your will and choice aside. On the contrary, condemning yourself to darkness is equally as bad. Both prevent you from changing.
Yet, owning your sin is what God asks. He wants you to acknowledge your fault, but then blesses you with forgiveness. Neither false innocence nor self-blame solves the dilemma.
9. The self
Kurt Goldstein, a psychiatrist, coined the word self-actualization a hundred or so years ago. Maslow made it famous. The aim is to become fully you, a developed and holistic individual. Many people now strive for this ideal. The pursuit of happiness.
Ironically, addiction leads to an ever increasing focus on the self and the immediate gratification of your needs. Self-actualization is actually thrown overboard and self-centeredness embraced.
You then grow backwards, regress into childhood.
Recent research by R.J. Rose indicates that once you start abusing drugs and alcohol you run a very high risk of stunting your emotional and psychological development, especially when starting as a teenager. In other words, you push pause on your IQ and EQ and that has an unfortunate knock-on effect for years.
The way out of slavery is always liberation. But to be really free, you need to be delivered by and then belong to the real Master. Once you understand your position in God through His Son Jesus, you will find reason enough to live and fight for your and other people’s freedom. Why not take the next step towards Jesus?
But now, as God’s loving servants, you live in joyous freedom from the power of sin. So consider the benefits you now enjoy - you are brought deeper into the experience of true holiness that ends with eternal life!
Romans 6:22 The Passion Translation
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