by: Staci Stallings
I think one thing that has come as a surprise to me is how broad the category of addiction can run. For years I thought of addiction in the standard way I think most people think of it — drugs, smoking, and alcohol. But I am learning that addiction can grab an unsuspecting person on a lot of different levels.
In fact, I was telling a friend of mine that at one time alcohol was the “go-to” thing of choice for getting out of pain. Then as one generation turned into another, the new generation started seeing the ill-effects this form of escape brought with it. They saw out-of-control fathers. Mothers who neglected children, and families broken up because of alcohol addiction.
The kids, thinking they would skirt the problem, instead turned to drugs. But that addiction turned out to be worse than the first.
So what happened? Well, many people turned to food. Feeding themselves became a pleasurable way of getting out of the pain for a little while, so they mindlessly ate bags of potato chips on the couch. They hid candy in the basement and cookies in the hall closet. After all, addiction doesn’t look very pretty when you’re in the middle of it, and you don’t want anyone to think you have a problem.
Strangely though, people can get addicted to a lot of things… video games, the stock market, pornography, even achievement and success.
The easy way to tell when you’ve got the rusty chains of an addiction holding you down is to look at how you feel after you’ve “consumed” whatever it is. Do you feel better? Or worse? Do you feel free, or guilty? Do you freely tell people about what you’re doing, or do you hide it and hope no one finds out how bad it really is?
The biggest problem, ironically, to begin with when an addiction starts is not the addiction itself. The problem is the pain you’re in that you’re trying to fix. If you don’t find good coping mechanisms for pain, addiction is a real possibility.
Coping mechanisms like going for a walk or a run, working in the garden, playing an instrument, talking with a friend, reading a good book, listening to good music. All of these can help you refocus away from the pain.
Even better than coping, might it be possible to face the thing that’s causing the pain head-on and get the pain to actually stop?
For example, let’s say you’re in high school and you’re being called names for not trying a drink.
To get the pain of being called names to stop, you could take the drink… OR you could learn to walk away from the situation altogether. You could suggest other types of activities to your friends that don’t involve drinking. Or, in some cases, you could find new friends. (Yes, Holy Spirit friends really do exist. They might take some work to find, but I guarantee, they are out there!)
In any case, if you know certain things trigger your addictive behavior, work to face those problems and remove them from your life. If being alone triggers overeating, plan lots of activities with different friends. Join an exercise club or take a class.
If a hard day triggers the addictive behavior, try some “decompression” exercises on the way home–listen to calming music or get great books on tape.
But the best way to break those chains is to lay them at the foot of the Cross. Going to God and laying bare what’s really going on with you. Yes, the addiction but also the triggers. Ask Him to help you to find help, and let that help… help.
Addictions are challenging things, no doubt. But I think the biggest obstacle is being really honest about the triggers and working to find solutions to them. Jesus can show you how. Go to the well and be ready to leave it all behind when you do.