Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” ― John 8:34
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. ― Galatians 5:1
The battle for self-control over an intense undesired habit consists of an endless series of skirmishes, in which our urges and our better angels clash several times each day. ― Matthew D. Lieberman
The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. ― Gerald G. May
Everyone on the planet is an addict in some way, shape, or form. What I mean is that everyone on the planet is in bondage to some version of self-medicating the emotional pain they’re in, emotional pain that comes from living in a fallen world where we human beings seem especially gifted at hurting each other.
To put this spiritually, everyone one has idols in their life, gods before God if you will. We all fall into the tendency to love things here on earth more than we love God, and that is the definition of idolatry.
When God commanded us, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), He was making it clear that, in our fallen, human state, we have a fallen bent to put people, places, and things ahead of God in what we love.
St. Augustine said, “The essence of sin is disordered love,” meaning that we are falling into sin when we love things more than we love God and our neighbor. If someone loves money more than they love God and their neighbor, they have disordered love. If someone loves power more than God and their neighbor, they have disordered love.
If someone loves a material possession (a house, car, jewelry, furniture, clothes, etc.) more than they love God and their neighbor, they have disordered love.
Pop has numerous addictions. I’ve spent my life being addicted to work, sports, approval, caffeine, carbohydrates, cleanliness, criticalness, control, and self-righteousness, just to name a few.
Even though you’re young right now, you already have addictions of your own—video games, snacks, toys, and irritating Pop, just to name a few. I don’t say that to put any of us down but just to tell it like it is so that we don’t walk around in denial about it. As they say, “Denial is not a river in Egypt,” and we sure don’t want to spend the rest of our lives running from the fact that we are multiply-addicted human beings who are in bondage to all kinds of things.
Not to rub our faces in it, but all of us are addicted to certain thoughts, feelings, and actions as we go through life.
I’ve spent my life addicted to thinking “I must be perfect,” and that way of thinking has only caused self-condemnation along the way. I’ve spent my life addicted to feeling angry and often find myself unconsciously looking for things to get mad about when I haven’t been angry for a while. I find myself addicted to cleaning things, cleaning them beyond what was necessary or constructive.
You’re going to struggle with this as well. You are going to be addicted to certain ways of thinking about life. You are going to be addicted to certain emotional reactions to life. And, you’re going to be addicted to certain behavioral ways of responding to emotional pain.
I’m writing all this to challenge you to become more consciously aware of your addictive thoughts, feelings, and actions as soon as you can. If you wait too long to face them, it will be a lot harder on you when you’re older to do anything about it. That being said, no matter how old you get, you can break free from the thoughts, feelings, and actions you’re addicted to if you work hard enough.
Some final thoughts about addiction.
When you try to break free from an addiction of any kind, you are going to feel worse for a while. It’s always darkest before the dawn in terms of the emotional pain that comes from stopping addictive behavior. Because that’s true, I want to encourage you to make sure you have others around you who can support your efforts to stay the course in overcoming addictive thoughts, feelings, and actions.
When you’re addicted to anything in life, what you’re really looking for is connection. All addictions are a substitute for what our heart really longs for—closeness with God and closeness with our fellow human beings. Hannah Brencher wisely observed, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.”
Finally, please extend yourself grace about being an addict. God does, and we need to do the same. Please don’t go the shame and self-condemnation route when it comes to the fact that you have addictions – you’re going to need all the energy you waste on shame and self-condemnation to stay committed to breaking the chains of your addiction.
Munchkins, I love you dearly, and it breaks my heart that you, like me and everyone else, are prone to addiction and damaging the quality of your life along the way. I want to encourage you to work on re-ordering who you love – God first, and you and your neighbor second, things a distant third. If you do that, your life can experience true freedom and the well-being that goes along with it.
Don’t settle for anything less.