Laying the Axe at the Root of Addiction
The longings and cravings are a part of a divine design, for those who acknowledge they are powerless are in a place to receive supernatural help.
As I write this article on the roots and spiritual origins of addiction, my cup of hot Caffe Americano is sitting inches from my keyboard. If it were not here I would be wishing it was. To some degree, we each use things and people to sustain or reach levels of well-being. Sadly many things are destructive and addictive, and even moderation enslaves if there are deeper wounds and insecurities which we are seeking to medicate. It’s common for people to medicate inadequacies with things that leave them even more ravished.
Hundreds of millions of people struggle with compulsive addictions such as smoking, substance addictions, food addictions, sexual addictions, gambling and shopping. Society smiles at some addictions (i.e. caffeine or body art) and shames many others (i.e. masturbation or internet porn). Few would connect the dots and see any commonality between the workaholic and the cutter though they both stem from the same emotional and spiritual roots.
A popular comedian gets a laugh noting that he drinks so much Scotch because he has so many thirsty demons inside him. What’s not funny is that there is a very real demonic dimension to the things that seek to exploit, control, possess and destroy us. Denying the spiritual dimension treatments.
We need truth to set us free (John 8:32). Addicted people aren’t living in the truth – they aren’t telling themselves the truth and they aren’t telling others the truth. That same comedian jokes – “You wanna get the truth out of me, get me hammered.” The irony is that when we remove the deception, the addiction has nothing to hold on to anymore. A man once told me he drinks to drown out the condemning and accusing thoughts that come into his head. His problem wasn’t alcohol; his problem was his head was full of things that weren’t true.
There are known genetically-inherited chemical and neurological predispositions to certain addictions. But even these aren’t the root. These are our vulnerable soft spots where the roots most easily penetrate and take hold. Addictive behaviors are only a form of compensation for underlying problems, unhealed wounds and inadequacies and deceptions. For example, rejection is a common a root cause that manifests down the road in a variety of destructive compulsions. Rejection communicates noxious falsehoods to people about who they really and truly are as those who bear God’s image. All addictions at some level are rooted in the need to be loved and valued.
In dealing with a hurting teenager recently, I discovered she was the product of an unplanned pregnancy. Her whole life she had been told she was an “accident” which made her feel unwanted and I discerned this was fueling self-image and self-worth problems which were feeding unhealthy behaviors. Things started to shift when I addressed the fact that she was not a mistake, that she was not just the next random mutation of some unguided evolutionary process. Unapologetically, I tell people that life doesn’t begin at conception; it begins long before that in the mind of God. The Bible says every day of our life is ordained long before the creation of the world. God has a dream for each life that only manifests in a mother’s womb at conception. When these truths replaced the falsehoods she’d been told and believed, the shackles binding her to addictions started to fall off.
Honesty and truth about who we really are in God and how powerless we are without him are steps one and two in severing the emotional and spiritual roots that feed addiction and out-of-control living. Addiction is the loss of self-control. The Bible lists self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit. The lack of self-control is evidence we are functioning solely in the flesh. It is not possible to muster up enough will in and of ourselves to shake off the shackles of rooted addiction. The starting place in most addiction recovery programs is some form of acknowledgment that we are powerless to overcome our addiction in our own strength. It is “the truth that sets us free,” and those who overcome are those who first come to this honest place about themselves. Those who acknowledge they are powerless are in a place to receive supernatural help.
Addiction is also evidence of an unmet longing. I have a friend who says it this way: “There are inescapable cravings deep within every human heart that cannot be ignored, denied or pacified. They must be satisfied.” We are each body, soul and spirit and there is a cavity of the spirit that cries out to be filled. These cravings are part of our divine design and are nothing to feel bad about, repent of, or try to change. Where we get into trouble is when we seek to fill these deep longings of the heart with unhealthy, ungodly and destructive things. These deep longings are only truly satisfied in a relationship with God.