The Face of Addiction - Part 3
Steps to the Addiction Process
From the chart above, we can see how the cycle of addiction works. It is exactly that - a cycle. One step leads to the next which leads back to the beginning of the cycle, which by now is quite well known to the addict. Even though the negative emotions of pain, frustration, and anger are involved, the pattern is predictable and there is comfort in knowing what the next step will be. The addictive relationship can be trusted.
Addiction occurs in stages. The first stage develops internally (the Internal Change Stage). It begins with a mood change. Remember the chocolate bar example from Part 1? A person experiences a mood change from an object or an event. We are told in Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Rather than seeking relief from stress and pressing problems by going to God or at least one of the other natural relationships,the person begins to seek relief from their problems by turning to the object or event. Temporary relief is given to the addict and his mind is reinforced with the thought that this is the answer.
Following the Internal Change Stage, the addict enters the Negative Conversion Stage.In the beginning the pain gets masked by the pleasure of the addictive experience. Eventually the pleasure becomes intense enough that any pain can be fixed by the addictive process. Here is where a shift occurs, and could very well be the point of no return for addict - the pleasure from the mood change becomes more important. That is, the addict no longer needs pain to drive him to his addiction. He seeks his addiction simply for the supposed pleasure derived from it. Of course, in times of pain, the addict will seek his chosen object or event as well.
The Addiction Cycle
The Personality Splits
At this point, the addict develops a split between the two sides of their humanity, There is the side that believes in people and craves unity. There is the side that lacks trust and lusts for control. In short, a good and evil side begin to develop.
In no way do I take the psychological or the physical cravings in an addict's life for granted. These things are real and promote a real battle for the addict as he works through his addiction. I do not minimize this in any way, but Scripture gives us the answer to the dilemma of the personality split. I John 1:7 tells us, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Again in Ephesians 5:11 we are told, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." I do not want to over-simplify the problem, but if we walk in the Light and avoid contact with the darkness, addiction will cease to exist.
The challenge is for these two sides to co-exist with the positive side winning out. The simple answer can be found in Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." However, in addiction the negative side is dominant.
At this point it is worthy to mention that giving in to sin is not necessarily addiction. Addiction is a repetitive behavior when left untreated increases in intensity and devotion to time. The addictive act is an act of self-betrayal in which self-respect and self-confidence start to diminish. As the self diminishes, the addict begins to feel more isolated from the self and others.The catch-22 is that the source of the addict’s emotional stability is also the source of his unmanagability.
As the addict acts out he comes up with a logic to rationalize his behavior. The person feels different in their addictive state. They begin to feel more confident; more in control because their trust has been completely given over to the addiction. This process is known as addictive narcissism. Addictive Narcissism flies in the face of such verses as Galatains 5:23 and Ephesians 5:18 which direct us to be meek and trusting God at all times.
Addictive Ritual is the next step. The self (the good side) begins to fight the addict (evil side). The addict wins all major battles, with the self suffering an increasing loss of control. The more the self fights, the more pain is felt. More pain translates to more need to act out the addiction to kill the pain.
At this point the addict’s logic, beliefs, and values have become the primary person to interact with the outside world.The person begins to depend on the addictive personality as the object of their addiction.It structures the person’s personal belief system. In the late stages of addiction, self has all but been destroyed leaving behind a wasted life. The tragedy lies in the fact of what might have been.
We will continue with Part 4 shortly. Until then keep on keeping on!