Addiction is Not About a Failure of Worship

Upon reading the first line of this article, I found myself already ready to be highly critical:

 “I find addiction, and the bondage of addiction, to be very difficult to understand.”

I composed myself, and continued to read; however, the further I read, the more my initial concerns of it being a skewed perspective clothed in holy garb to be a fairly accurate.

Not much further down the article, he quotes an author who suggests that addiction is in fact “seeking a good life” through the process of becoming addicted to a substance or behavior. To quote him, again, he states,

“‘Ecstatic intoxication.’ That is what addicts desire, whether the intoxication comes through a substance or an experience, through the rush of the drug or the rush of the sexual experience. In either case, addicts long for that consuming experience and convince themselves it can be found in drugs or alcohol or gambling or pornography or in whatever it is. In this way we see that addiction is actually a failure of worship.

The only point he had me connecting with his perspective is where he stated, “…addicts long for that consuming experience and convince themselves it can be found in drugs or alcohol or gambling or pornography or in whatever it is.” This I agree with, but not for the reasons he is stating they’re longing for the “consuming experience.”

To suggest an addict has any notion that they’re seeking an ecstatic worship experience is barking up the wrong tree.

The more I put myself out there and meet people who are in recovery from substance addictions, or even behavioral addictions such as sexual addictions – or they have yet to engage in recovery – one thing I note for sure is this: they’re not after an ecstatic experience. They’re seeking to escape their pains.

Is addiction sinful? Is it an idolatrous behavior? Yes, however, to an addict – or one who is in recovery for it – one must dig deeper and address the emotions of humanity that are somehow being glossed over when it comes to the modern-day hyper-Calvinistic perspective of addiction and recovery.

This is what has always bothered me about the hyper-Calvinistic mindset. And yes, I mean “hyper” because there comes the point where even God’s word itself can become an idol.

When we make God’s word above God himself, even when we say we’re speaking his word, we engage in idolatry veiled in God-looking clothing.

Hi, narcissism.

The argument in this article is that because the addict fails to engage in a life of worshipping God, they now desire to worship something else that appears to bring them happiness. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Again, it’s not about seeking a good feeling as much as it is escaping a bad one.

The seeking out is to cover up the pain with something that brings a momentary breath of relief from the agony that is dwelling within them.

I agree, worship is essential that living a Christ-following, Christ-centered life. But, nowhere in God’s word does he declare feelings and emotions necessary to be ignored. To not be our feelings, yes; but to just feel them – and to struggle with them? No. Therefore, it’s essential that anyone who struggles with any addiction, get to the root of why they’re seeking to avoid the pain in the first place. This can only happen through the process of a recovery program that will help them reconnect with God so they can worship him through their lives; instead of seeking to avoid their lives.

To someone who is addicted to substances and/or unhealthy behaviors, reality is painful. And to just survive another day is the goal.

Those who engage in addictive behaviors are engaging in coping skills they learned along the way to help them cope with the pain of their life that they were not taught early one how to hand. It’s not about worship or seeking out something to make them happy. Ask any addict who’s been in recovery long enough, and you’ll discover they didn’t engage in recovery because they needed to, but it was because they wanted to.

They knew they were sick and tired of being sick and tired, and the coping skills of the addiction were no longer soothing the pain.

Upon entering recovery myself nearly eight years ago, I was sick and tired of being depressed. As a new mom and depression grabbing ahold of my life hold of my life with a vice grip, I felt like I was drowning. I felt suffocated, and the medicine created me into a zombie. I wanted to break free of the numb feeling, yet the only way I felt I could do that is if I controlled everything; and when I wasn’t able to control anyone or anything, I raged.

My life had completely become unmanageable, and it was time for me to admit it.

I wasn’t seeking joy or worship; I was seeking pain relief – and the only way I knew how to do that was through the coping skills that I learned from the conditioning of the abuse I endured through codependent behaviors. And when those didn’t work, anxiety kicked in; and when I didn’t cope well with the anxiety, I turned to either depression or rage. It was an ugly cycle of merely trying to escape what I perceived as my hell-based reality.

Going for happy wasn’t my aim. Just not hurting anymore was.

I didn’t know how to give my hurt to God. It was through Celebrate Recovery’s 12-step process, with a focus on the 8-Principles, where I learned how to do that through having a relationship with God.

It doesn’t do anyone any good to try to make sense of addiction by over-hyping it into an arena it really has no place. It only confuses the conversation we all need to be having about addiction and recovery, and how to help those who are addicts.

The only way addiction is to be made sense of is to listen to those who have been addicted to anything from alcohol, drugs, sex, food, love, or controlling behaviors, and understand the seeking is not joy – but an escape from pain.

In turn, this allows those struggling with addiction to feel every feeling they feel that they’ve not felt before; and to have other healthy people be there with them every step of the way supporting them as they engage in healthier ways to manage their lives. In turn, encouraging them to turn their eyes and hearts toward the only hurt healer who can help any of us.

Instead of trying to make sense by generalizing addiction, let’s start having a conversation about it. This is great month too, being it’s National Recovery Month.

So, let’s chat.

What are your thoughts on addiction and recovery? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below.