When we think of addiction, we immediately think of alcohol, drugs, and illegal substances. To start, addiction is actually a disease affecting the brain. It is so much more than a choice or something willingly done; it is a mental disorder.
Chemical is the use of substances. These include, but are not limited to nicotine, vaping, illegal drugs, alcohol and the misuse of prescription drugs.
Behavioral addictions involve compulsive behaviors, driven by uncontrollable impulses that occur even if there is no benefit to the individual. Some of these include: gambling, caffeine, food, pornography, sex, anger, technology/internet, and work.
Let’s understand what happens in the brain. When we participate in an activity that we enjoy, our brains release chemicals. These chemicals reinforce certain behaviors with certain feelings. This leads us to participate in those behaviors more and more. It’s a reward system. It’s how our brain is wired to work.
When we continue doing the activities that make us feel good, we continue doing those behaviors. This then leads to cravings. We desire that feeling again, so the behavior continues, and eventually becomes a pattern. What happens next, is because the feeling does not last long enough, the behavior increases. This is called tolerance; a little bit is not enough, the brain wants more to get that feeling.
Depression, anxiety, or other feelings may come into play, like being unable to deal with stress. Those feelings become uncomfortable, intolerable, so the substance or behavior becomes the source of all focus.
If suffering from an addiction: it becomes hard to avoid the substance or behavior, there is an increased need or desire for the substance or action, there is a loss of feeling expression, and a lack of self-discipline or control. This starts to affect the person’s daily life over a period of time. There may be changes in behavior, secrecy, health, memory, their social environment, and a pursuit of the substance or behavior.
Why do people take drugs, drink alcohol, or engage in any of these behaviors to begin with? They want to relax, escape from the trouble at home or work, to fit in, relieve boredom, relieve stress, to rebel, to experiment, or the genetic predisposition one may have.
While they think they have found a solution, taking part in the addiction, what they find is a problem. A healthy person can identify a problem. If you are under the influence of a substance, a person denies the problem and continues in the negative behaviors.
Since 1990, drug overdoses have tripled in number, this is over 100 people per day. 90% of addicts started drinking alcohol or using drugs before the age of 18. In a 2019 national survey, alcohol users were 12 and older. Americans who suffer with depression or anxiety disorders account for 20% of the addiction population. Addictions lead to various health related and social related consequences, also leading to death. Chemical and behavioral addictions are increasing over the course of the pandemic.
These are all forms of temptation, and the way sin gets into our lives. In 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, Paul discusses worldly struggles. We do not know the details, but the struggle is identified as a “thorn in my flesh.”
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Just like with mental health issues, many in the Bible struggled with various addictions. This did not make them less worthy or less deserving of redemption and reconciliation to God. We live in a world constantly looking for the next big fix, the next big thing. Due to shame, guilt, hopelessness, many are looking for answers, a way to end it all.
For starters, it requires stopping use of the substance or discontinuing the behaviors, identifying them as a problem. This may require medical intervention or some type of therapeutic treatment. This has to be done in a safe and managed way. It may require psychotherapy, psychosocial intervention, medication, and other interventions.
Addiction is a very real issue, however, it is not impossible to overcome with the help of God. Getting help requires learning or relearning of a healthier way of life. This includes removing the addictive substances, changing the environment, and changing the community you are around. Changing friend groups, or behaviors that you do in secret.
You have to learn your triggers, the reasons why you developed the addiction, and work on those. You may also need to treat underlying issues of anxiety, depression or any other concern. There are support groups and 12-step recovery programs.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
If you or someone you know needs assistance with a chemical addiction,
go to your nearest emergency room.
If you are wanting Christ Based support, you can contact: https://www.celebraterecovery.com/ This group also addresses non-chemical addictions.
If you are needing a confidential assessment for treatment, please call: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or go to www.findtreatment.org
For other resources: https://www.samhsa.gov/
If you are a teen, contact www.herefortexas.com
Texas resources: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/transition/mhsa.aspx