The Face of Addiction - Part 1
Who is Behind the Mask?
When you think of addiction, what comes to mind? Perhaps alcohol, drugs, overeating, sex. What else fits your definition of addiction? Think it through for a minute.
Now, when you think of an addict, what do you think of? Do you think of someone who has cashed in their resources for the supposed pleasures of alcohol or drugs? Do you think of someone who has traded their family for their chosen addiction? Do you see a wasted life void of goals, ambitions, and purpose?
Thirdly, let us put a face to it. Who do you know right now that fits the description you have come up with? Maybe a husband, wife, son, daughter, co-worker, neighbor; the list goes on. If you have included any of the above criteria, you would be correct, but the face of addiction goes much deeper.
In this series I want to dissect the face of addiction. As a pastor, the most frequent situations I find at the counseling table deal with addiction. It may be the addict himself I am dealing with. It may be a family member that is affected by the addict's acting out. It may be society as we are left to pick up the pieces and prices of a senseless crime caused by addiction. The face of addiction reaches far into our lives, and nearly everyone is affected by it in one way or another. If we can understand the causes of addiction, and how the addict thinks, we will be in better position to help when we are called upon.
First things first - there is a God-shaped vacuum deep in the heart of man that must be filled. It will be filled. If it is not filled with the God that was meant to fill it, then it will be filled by gods of our own making. This filling with anything or anyone other than God can, and usually does take the form of addiction; that which we prize; which we hold above all else - our god.
So let us get some working definitions. Webster puts it this way: Addiction - When that which we sought to control begins to control us. Then again Webster speaks of the addict himself. Addict: A person who is confirmed in a habit; to apply or devote oneself to a habit or practice, usually harmful.
Let us consider this definition a little deeper. Habits are not necessarily addictions. Addictions occur when we lose control over an area of our lives. It may be something as simple as sugar. Let me give you a hypothetical situation - or maybe not so hypothetical.
You have just had a really bad day at work. The clock ticks down and you make a mad dash for the door. Relief is what you are looking for! You hurry to get home to your wife or husband, but you are not met with sympathy; just a quick "Hurry up, and get ready. We have a dinner date with the Jones, and if we're late, we'll never hear the end of it." More stress has just been added to an already hectic day. On your way through the kitchen you spy a chocolate candy bar on the counter. In your hurry you snatch it, and all of a sudden, for a moment things seem to be a little better.
A couple weeks later you have another horrendous day at the office. Subconsciously, you remember how the candy bar made you feel. Why wait to get home? You stop at the convenience store you pass everyday; run in, and run out with a chocolate candy bar. By the time you get home, you already feel better.
The following week you have a particularly good day at work .You decide to stop at the same convenience store and grab a chocolate candy bar. You deserve a reward. Now that one candy bar has laid the foundation for addiction in your life. That which you sought to control now controls you. You just can't say "no" even when you experience a good day. In time and over time you lose control and the candy bar calls the shots.
Our definition also says that addiction is usually harmful. How many people do you know who are addicted to peas or carrots? Probably not many - right? Addictive behavior harms the one that is addicted.
Next time we will begin to look at the underlying causes of addiction. Hang close. It will be ready soon.