In my former life, one of my jobs was a counselor in a substance abuse residential facility. When I first started working there, I had very limited experience working with people with addictions, and I had many preconceived ideas about what it meant to be addicted. Many people with addictions will sink to the lowest points in their life, and when they finally decide to get help, they can be in pretty bad spots.
At first it was difficult to not be judgmental and see them as less than human. However, when you sit down with another human being and invest in them, you begin to see that none of us are really that different. Overtime I began to realize that most people are addicted in some form. I also began to realize that I had an addictive personality. I learned that anytime we choose not to address our pain, anxiety, or problems, but instead we choose to engage in behavior that soothes or distracts us, we are engaging in addictive patterns.
For me, my addictive personality would manifest anytime I felt rejected, alone, or weak. When I felt disapproval from someone I was close with. This would lead to feelings of being alone or not taken care of. When I would talk about these feelings, I would feel weak or vulnerable, and rather than feeling this way, I would try to bury or ignore these feelings. However, ignoring the feelings just left me with more internal tension and conflict. So rather than feel these feelings, I would find ways to ignore or suppress the conflict.
On the good days, I would drink large amounts of caffeine. On the bad days, I would turn to pornography as a distraction. The pornography would lead to feelings of guilt. However, the feelings of guilt were easier to deal with than the feelings of rejection and vulnerability. Over time the feelings of guilt became a familiar feeling that would only last for a time, and then I could move on. Guilt became a reset button. This led to two big problems. The more I would avoid my problems, the worse I got at tolerating and dealing with these emotions. The bigger issue, though, was that the more I would engage in active avoidance of my painful emotions, the less I would go to and rely on Jesus to help me through these emotions. When I am engaged in sin I cannot also be engaged in the Kingdom.
It is my belief that much of our sin and temptations to sin are caused by an addictive pattern. We are confronted with a difficult emotion that we find intolerable or unacceptable. Rather than dealing with this emotion, we engage in active avoidance: drugs, sex, gossip, criticism, overeating, etcetera. This avoidance behavior then leads to guilt and often bigger problems in our life which leads back to the intolerable emotions. Then the cycle starts all over again.
The best description I have heard about addiction is trying to meet realistic needs with unrealistic solutions. In Jeremiah 17:9 it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” When we try to solve our own problems without God’s plan, it only leads to more problems. I often set out with good intentions, but my own desires get in the way. For me, the only answer through my sin is relying on Jesus for all of my needs. In Philippians 14:9 it says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Let’s look at the examples from my life. When I seek to be loved by another person so that I feel that I am acceptable or a worthwhile person, I am setting myself up for failure and disappointment. Every person, other than Christ, who you come in contact with will eventually let you down. Only Jesus love can fill the void of needing to be loved and worthwhile. When I rely on someone else to meet this need, I am setting myself up for disappointment. I am only worthy because Jesus loves me, not because of what someone else says.
So, I have begun to realize that the only way through my sin is to realize that my solutions will always fall short. I am incapable, on my own, of solving my problems. I must look to Christ and accept his solutions in order to be whole. Only Christ’s plan, love, and acceptance can make us feel whole. Everything else will lead to disappointment and sin.
— Written by Jeremiah