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What is your definition of addiction? If you are trying to break free from an addiction, it’s easier to focus more on the object of desire such as food, alcohol, or sex than the internal workings of your mind. This denial of what is really going on is another core trait of an addict. In fact, addictions often start because we don’t want to focus on ourselves–specifically the pain we’re going through.
Addiction is over-reliance on creation in an attempt to cope with (or control or manage) anything undesirable. Coping is seen as positive in pop psychology. However, it’s more of a quick fix than a permanent solution. Coping should be what people do until a solution is available and they are ready to pursue it.
Coping without hope is just making someone comfortable. As Christians, we know there is always a reason to hope, so focusing on comfort further hides the solution. If you don’t trust a better future is coming, you have less strength to endure unfortunate events. The best you might be able to do is pretend it doesn’t matter so you can, at least, derive greater pleasure at the moment.
Coping with hope is waiting for a real fix. As Christians, we can face our suffering because we already have the fix. We’re just waiting for it to take full effect (when we pass on to the next life). Our coping and hoping is not in vain.
Addiction Avoids Discomfort
If you’re addicted, ask yourself, “What does my addictive behavior help me avoid?” You are probably trying to avoid seeing your own brokenness. But brokenness can be buried beneath layers of discomfort and bitterness.
It’s one thing to say, “I’m angry because I didn’t get the job I applied for.” But it’s another altogether to admit, “I didn’t get the job because I didn’t work hard enough at my previous job.” Or maybe, “I think God is trying to tell me I have to work on being more responsible before I get the job I want.”
We tend to vastly overestimate our ability to control outcomes. Forming an addition is tempting because it provides the solution we’re looking for (reduced pain). The real problem then is that we aren’t looking for the right solution (character growth).
Addiction Focuses On Pleasure
How does anyone avoid discomfort? It’s beneficial to resolve pain. God gives us pain so that we will make corrections.
The wrong way to manage pain is to simply turn off the registration of the pain. If you step on a nail but don’t feel it, you’ll probably further damage your foot. You want to feel pain that screams, “Address this problem now!” But then, after you register the hurt and are committed to correcting the injury, it’s humane to seek relief.
Feeling pleasant body sensations is only going to help for a short time. It’s possible to be in significant distress but experience an overall sense of peace. Knowing that whatever you’re going through is temporary–that’s the highest degree of comfort.
Seek relief, but only after you’re committed to God’s solution.
Addiction Ignores Identity
All addicts struggle with an identity crisis. They can’t trust who they really are. They can’t trust God. They can’t believe their pain is temporary.
All of us are recovering addicts. We want to control the immediate discomfort. We can become weary of waiting for the eternal solution to become reality.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9 NIV
So what is a person to do? First, if you’re struggling with some form of addiction, you can become aware of what you are trying to control. Write it down. Tell someone about it. What pain does your behavior cover-up?
If you’re eating or drinking too much, that’s a superficial problem. Controlling your consumption, all by itself, doesn’t address the core problem. Forcing yourself to diet might help you lose weight. You might even look and feel better.
There could be a missed opportunity if you never explore the underlying reason why you chose dysfunctional eating habits in the first place. The opposite of control is to release or surrender.
What are you trying to control, that is creating addictive behavior, that instead, you could surrender to God?
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.