Overcoming Addiction

What comes to mind when one hears the word addiction? The word itself has little meaning, but one would be hard-pressed to find someone whose life had not been touched by an addict or by addiction. Unless one has been living on the polar icecaps, he or she probably has an understanding of what devastating consequences addiction can render. The fact is that one in every eight Americans suffers from some form of addiction.

Addiction is insidious; a fluid, patient, and cunning killer. It can assume almost any form or identity, including drugs and alcohol, food, gambling, work, sex & love, and all measure of mind and mood-altering substances and activities. An addict was once quoted as saying he was “addicted to anything that was really bad for him and anything that was really good for him.” Addiction does not discriminate; it knows nothing of gender, race, creed, religion, or preference. Those from all walks of life are subject to total destruction of their livelihood, their families, jobs, and anything they may put their hands upon.

In the 1960’s the American Medical Association began recognizing addiction as a disease because it shows prominent characteristics of other diseases; just like cancer or diabetes addiction is symptomatic, progressive, chronic, and can be fatal if untreated. One alarming aspect that separates addiction from other diseases is that the victims are willing participants; they voluntarily partake of their chosen habit without fully grasping the pain, misery, and powerlessness they will experience if they become addicted. At some point during the addict’s using, he may cross the point of no return. Once this occurs, he is beyond human aid. The question then becomes “If the addict is incapable of helping himself, if no other human power may relieve him, how will he overcome his illness?” The answer begins with surrender.
The addict must surrender to his disease, but more importantly he must surrender fully to God and to His will. There is no other way, the addiction is too powerful for him or her to battle alone, and it appears to be a losing battle even with the help of another human being. Without the spiritual defense that can only be provided by God, sooner or later the addict will again succumb to the desires of the flesh. As a result, the eternal soul may be in jeopardy if one is unable to get sober again.

This claim is confirmed by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 ESV, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Peter stresses the importance of preserving the soul in 1 Peter 2:11 ESV, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

And in Romans 13:14 ESV, Paul instructs the Romans “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The reality is that by the time the addict has reached this stage in his using, the disease and by extension the desires of the flesh, have completely taken over the spirit, mind, and body and have rendered the addict absolutely powerless. Even if he genuinely wants to cease the destructive behavior, he will discover that he is unable to do so without God’s help.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV states that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Bill Wilson (11/26, 1895 – 01/24, 1971), a widely-accepted expert in the treatment of addiction, said that if an addict was to be rescued from the grips of his addiction then a “vital spiritual experience” was essential. He also stated that an addict was not only “mentally and physically ill but spiritually sick” and if that individual was going to have any chance to recover it would have to be by creating a link between himself and God. This would enable him to abstain from his addiction one day at a time. This principle is referenced in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The facts do not change and they are undisputable. Addiction is among the leading killers in America; an issue infinitely grave when one considers that addiction does not enter people’s lives without invitation. The addict opens the door and invites addiction in, lets it sleep in her bed, eat her food, rent space in her head, body, and soul. The addict allows this to happen because his or her addiction delivers a promise: a promise of feeling good, escaping, or simply of just being numb for brief intervals. For whatever reason, the addict is oblivious to the fact that God offers that very same promise:

Romans 8:1-2 ESV “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Addiction offers the addict a quick fix and a temporary solution to a permanent problem. In contrast God offers an everlasting life of peace, joy, and freedom through an unwavering bond and reprieve that only he can offer. Although it is uncertain as to whether an addict is ever cured of his disease, the one thing that is unquestionable is that if an addict is to recover it is only possible through building and maintaining a relationship with God.

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