The word “addiction” carries many meanings in society; moreover, it encompasses a broad range of applications. Webster’s Dictionary speaks of addiction as being the “abandoning of oneself to something compulsively or obsessively.” Edward T. Welch points out in his book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, that the traditional use of the word addiction has been turned into such an ambiguous application that a new word is necessary.
The word addiction is used now to finish a punch line in a joke and to light heartedly describe a habit we would like to break. While one person can be using the word to talk about their love of ice cream and desire to eat less of it in the new year, there are people who use the word like they would to describe a cruel master that they cannot break free from. For countless people, addictions are very real and very destructive.
Addictions are complete enslavement. For the person caught in the addiction, there is a complete feeling and reality of being a slave to the object of their desire. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some, this can mean overeating or using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances that have them trapped.
People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.
When we think of addictions we often immediately think of the alcoholic or drug addict that we have crossed paths with at one point in our lives. Addictions cannot be oversimplified to just substance abuse or overeating. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.
The nature of addictions
Nobody presently caught in an addiction wanted to feel trapped by it when they first started. Sadly, though, that is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors. They begin as an object of relief from anxiety, stress, or even fear. The addict began indulging in the object of their addiction as a means to relieve the stress or anxiety. The object, like all objects of addictions, gave them an immediate bodily experience of relief. They felt more at ease. They felt their nervousness subside, or their hurt inside melt away. They were able to forget what brings them pain, at least for a little while. For some it was just a matter of curiosity that got them hooked on the object of their addiction. Whatever the reason for beginning, once the addiction is in full swing, the person feels a complete loss of control over it. It is no longer a question of, if they will indulge again, it is a matter of when.
The root of addictions
Edward T. Welch writes that sin is the root of addictions. More specifically he writes that idolatry is the root of addictions. Idolatry is not only worshiping a false god, it is anything that takes our attention and worship away from the one true God. Idolatry can be something as simple as spending too much time watching football, such that we forsake studying scripture and praying daily.
People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.
People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol. They found something that promised to give a good time, or make things better, or easier to deal with. What entered into their life as an understanding friend and savior quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that they are chosen because we want what we believe they can give us. We believe that they will do something for us, so we give them our devotion. But they are actually stone godsillusions and lies that trap us.
Welch points out that for many it is more preferable to be a slave to the object than it is to be free of it. This is because they can no longer imagine their life without the addiction. The behavior becomes so much a part of their life that they cannot see themselves getting along without it.
How can you be free?
Believers have a special advantage over all others when it comes to finding deliverance from addictions. Paul speaks of the war with the flesh in chapters 7 and 8 of Romans. He talks about the battle between the desires of our bodies and the desires of our spirit to be free and devoted worshipers of Christ. He talks about doing what he does not want to do and struggling with doing what he knows is right. This is much like the battle an addict has with the object of their addiction.
For the believer there is great hope. They are not alone in their addiction.
For the believer there is great hope. They are not alone in their addiction. No matter where they are, the Holy Spirit is within them, and intercedes for them before God. Galatians 2:20 tells us that we are “crucified with Christ, therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the hope that we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us, and in Him we are free. When we are focused on Him, we can find much strength for freedom and victory over addictions.
For friends and family of addicts
It is important to remember that there is a personhood that becomes quickly lost for an addict. The word addict fast becomes a brand burned into the person caught up in an addiction, and the individuality and personhood becomes lost or overlooked. It is true that many addicts bring pain and suffering into the lives of those around them, but it cannot be forgotten that they too are enduring great pain and suffering. This is not to absolve them of their responsibility or guilt. Every single believer struggles against idols. The temptation to sin is likened to the struggle that an addict endures. For the addict it is one of compulsion and obsession, which is much stronger than the struggle of others.
- The Book of Romans
- Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, by Edward T. Welch