Some Thoughts On Addiction

How do we deal with addictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife goes to Celebrate Recovery and seeing as she can’t drive, I’m her ride. The meetings are held at our church and they are a blessing to go to. I am finding it easier and easier to communicate with the men that I’m in group with. Everyone who come to the group has a major struggle. I generally talk for me about wanting to be a better husband. Each meeting has early on an account of someone giving their story and there is one running theme.

Addiction.

I am sure I have my own addictions, but I honestly can’t place them. As I thought about this, I’m sure we all do, because it could easily be the case that all sin is something like this. It has been said that for the devil, the sin he did was that he saw all the glory of YHWH in Heaven and thought of nothing but his own prestige. Note something if that is accurate. There is nothing wrong with your own well-being, but there is a problem with putting that first.

Something you need to know about addictions is that everyone who is addicted is addicted to a good thing. Some of you might balk at that. Surely it is not good. In some cases, the actions are not good, but the person really wants not the actions, but the good that comes with the actions.

Consider if we talk about sexual addictions. Sex is a good thing, yet if you meet a man who struggles with sexual addiction, he does not want the sex for the sake of sex. No. He wants sex because of certain things sex gives him. He delights in seeing a woman naked. He enjoys the feeling of sexual release. He desires to be wanted and wants to be passionate with a woman. It could be any of those things. It could be all of them.

None of those are bad things. A man should enjoy seeing a woman naked. He should enjoy sexual release. He should want to be wanted and want to be passionate with a woman. These are not bad things.

The sin is not the desire itself. The sin is putting that desire over something else. In this case, the man is using the woman’s body often as an object and caring nothing about the woman herself and is not willing to make a commitment to her. If he is married and his wife doesn’t give, well okay. That’s rough, but just hop on the computer and look at some porn. If the wife can’t be used, use another woman.

How about cutting? If you see my wife’s Facebook, you know she has struggled with this and is about to go four months without. Why does someone want to cut? It’s not because they really enjoy the act itself. It’s because of what results from the act. It makes them feel better about emotional pain. Nothing wrong with that part. All of us want to diminish emotional pain. It’s just how we do it that’s wrong.

Many times with addiction, a strange place seems to be reached. It is the position of saying that we cannot be happy without X, whatever it is. Not only that, we are willing to risk what anyone else could tell us would be greater goods in order to get this lesser good.

C.S. Lewis years ago compared us to children who are offered a day at the beach but instead keep wanting to make mudpies in a sandbox. We are offered so much and we settle for so little. Lewis said our desires are not too strong, but they are too weak. We settle. We are far too easily pleased.

When we get like this, two words come to mind to describe this. Both of them start with an S. I’m going to be blunt so be prepared.

The first word is stupid.

If you were offered a day at the beach and yet insisted on mudpies in a sandbox, unless there is some factor about the beach we don’t know about, that’s just stupid. It is. It is not the result of sound thinking.

The other word is the one we don’t like to use, but it needs to be used. In fact, I think until we come to realize that unless this word is seen as the real culprit, the problem will never be dealt with.

That word is sin.

You see, the problem isn’t that we love some little thing too much. It’s that we love some greater thing too little. A man with a porn addiction hopefully loves his wife, but sadly, in that moment, he is loving his addiction more.

Lewis had something to say about this as well. He said that when we want forgiveness of sins, we usually want excusing of sin. “Yes, Lord. I did look at pornography, but my wife was really frigid today and I had such a raging desire and I figured it was better to deal with it than to live in stress and anxiety over it.”

Excusing is just stupid. For one thing, God knows all the excuses we could give. He knows the mitigating factors that lead to a sin. He takes them into account and judges us fairly. Yet no matter what it is, in every single action, there is still something that was done wrong. That is the sin. It cannot be excused. There is no excusing sin. It must be confessed and forgiven.

For addiction, repentance doesn’t need to become a one-time deal. It must be a lifetime. It must be our constant repenting. What is that repenting? For the time being, we put something else on the throne of God. We put something else as essential to our happiness save God Himself.

1 Tim. 6:17 does say God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment. He gave us food, sex, money, fame, and all of these properly understood are good things. What is the problem is that we make these good things the main gods of our lives when addiction comes up.

I think also some of this could be that well, our churches aren’t doing a good job. Most churches give us just simple platitudes. Christianity is not about submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s about learning how to be a good person. There’s nothing wrong with being a good person, but the church has to give us something unique. Jesus can’t be just a way to be a good person. He has to be a way to God. Jesus did not come to just give us morality. He came to give us God.

We also have an emphasis on heaven in our churches, and yet there is no excitement about heaven. People will say they want to go to heaven when they die, but they don’t think about it. I have to say I’m guilty of that as well, and if we went by the description of heaven in most churches, who could blame anyone for not being excited? Heaven is often depicted as a neverending church service, yet how many of us can be looking at our watches wondering if the preacher will be quiet soon after ten minutes and yet we’re supposed to enjoy an eternity of this?

I really think we need to get in some good look at Heaven. Consider a book like Peter Kreeft’s Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing. To go back to Lewis, Lewis spoke of how we can not picture happiness sometimes because we’re so fixated on one thing. For a little boy, chocolate can be the greatest good. His older brother says lovemaking is far greater. The little boy wonders if the couple has chocolate in it. (To be fair, they can, but it’s not essential.) The little boy does not realize that the couple has something going on that is far better so much so that chocolate pales in comparison. Picture if what we have in lovemaking that is so good cannot compare to what awaits us in eternity.

One reason we also don’t get excited about Heaven is that we’re not excited about God, and again, why should we be? God is often depicted in these static terms. He forgives us and He loves us and that’s about it. Nothing is said about His glory and majesty. Nothing is said to excite us to His nature. We worship Him, but do we really know why we do? Many of us worship God I think out of familiarity and because you go to church on Sunday and that’s just what you do.

Picture it. We’re really saying there is a being out there who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, loves us all, will give us all that is essential to our happiness, has acted in the world through great events like the Exodus and the sending of His Son Jesus, still does miracles today, will give us all everlasting joy in Heaven, but at the same time prior will be our judge and we will give an account of everything we do to Him.

Oh. That’s nice. What’s on TV tonight?

It really is how we approach the topic.

It’s also shown that we do that because we don’t take sin seriously. Much of our psychology and such is about dealing with our feelings. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s rarely about dealing with our behaviors. We want to feel good. We just don’t often want to be good.

Have you ever considered that every act of sin, no matter how small, is an act of divine treason? In some way, you are denying one or more of God’s attributes.

You are denying that God has the power to judge you when you sin. He says He will, but you don’t fear that. You will do it anyway.

You are denying that He knows what is best for you. He says He will provide your joy and happiness if you trust Him. Nope. You have to find your own way.

You are denying His omnipresence. God won’t see it. He isn’t there. He won’t notice it.

You are denying His love. God is holding out on you. If God really wanted your happiness, He would provide immediately this thing that you want for your happiness.

We could go on, but the point is you are denying God. You are then trying to take His throne. Every sin is setting ourselves up as the real god of the universe.

So let’s look. We don’t take sin seriously. We don’t take God seriously. We don’t take Heaven seriously.

About the only thing we seem to take seriously is ourselves.

Yet as I say that last part, a caveat comes up. Many times, it can be a popular saying to say “I am my problem.” You’re not. The problem is not you. Why? Because sin is not your identity. You are not an addiction. You have an addiction. The problem is your sin. Get rid of your sin and everything about you is wonderful at that point. Really. Not a joke. Everything about you will be wonderful if you get rid of sin. The same for me.

We must realize our enemy is not ourselves. It is our sin, and we have to have zero-tolerance for it. Paul would write in places like Romans about how we were set free from sin. How can we let it be master over us again? If we submit to sin, we are not submitting to King Jesus. If we are not submitting to Him, we are saying something else is master besides Him.

Now some good news. God forgives us even in our sin. God is willing to work with us. He knows that we are dust. He knows our struggles. We do need to turn to Him and I think we need to turn to Him in an informed way. We really need to think about God.

You see, the reality is that we will pursue what it is that we really desire. We have to ask ourselves if we desire the object of our addiction more of if we desire God more. Every time we give in, we know which one we really desire more at that moment. It’s also again, pretty stupid and sinful. What we desire here is often momentary and doesn’t last long.

Consider a man who has a good marriage and great kids. What happens? He gets tempted by a girl at the office and before too long, he’s meeting her in a hotel and is throwing away years of a good marriage and being a good example to his kids just so he can have a tryst with another woman that won’t last that long. The act of sex is not an all-day thing in itself. (You can spend all day preparing for it, but you won’t spend all day doing it.)

Most of us would realize that’s stupid indeed, but the man when he’s caught in the action does not see that. All he sees is the sex that he wants. That’s it. That’s why we need to listen to others. Is what we really want, a moment of pleasure, worth sin against a holy God? Is it really worth putting ourselves and our loved ones through pain? Is it?

Again, I’m saying this as someone writing more on the outside and seeing the pain of addiction, which for me is when my wife chooses it in some way. One of the great sadnesses is realizing all the good that is being missed out on when the lesser good is desired. It’s quite amazing isn’t it? One can follow the path knowing the lesser good will end in pain every single time, and yet each time that time is thought to be the exception. This time when we follow the addiction, we will get the happiness that we want!

Our ultimate happiness is only found in God. He has given us several other things to make us happy here in this world and we should enjoy them, but we must never make idols out of them. Use them for the glory of God, but don’t think they are the glory of God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Kshos23

    You mentioned Kreeft’s books about Heaven, which leads me to ask: Have you read Randy Alcorn’s books on Heaven? If so, what are your thoughts on them?

    You also say how caring for your well-being is fine, as long as it is not first in importance. But how exactly does that work in cases where, say, one is thirsty to the point of death and is with another person in the same situation and only one of you can drink the last remaining water? Do such cases allow for some primacy in personal survival?

    Furthermore, in cases where every good is properly taken care of, does that mean then that one’s desires can finally be freely pursued as much as one wants, as long as it is done orderly and everything else is taken care of? I guess the answer to that is yes, right?

    • For the situation you mentioned, it could depend on the situation. It’s one of those ethical dilemmas.

      I have not read Alcorn.