The Addict In Us: Introduction

Theres-An-Addict-In-All-Of-Us-2No one plans to become an addict. A person doesn’t wake up one morning and just decide that they would like for heroin to control their life. Addiction is a process, a series of choices and steps made over time that progress a person towards enslavement to a substance. This process is something that we can all be prone to, capable of, or involved in at some level. While we might not all become full-blown substance abusers, we are nonetheless addicts at heart.

It’s important that we all wrestle with the reality of our addictive tendencies and potential. It’s important because it helps us to be proactive in fighting against the process of addiction in our own lives. The more aware I am of my temptations and weaknesses the more I can fight against them. It is also important to know about this potential in myself because it reminds me to be compassionate and careful in how I treat other addicts. When I recognize my own similarity to others I am inclined to be more gracious and long-suffering with them. When I realize that I too can become an addict I am less inclined to elevate myself over others, and condemn them for some moral weaknesses. None of us is superior to another, we are all sinners and all prone to temptation and failure, and even addiction. We should therefore think rightly about ourselves in relation to those “caught in sin,” as Paul says (Gal. 6:1). We need to be reminded that “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3).

There are several dominant characteristics that lead us down the trail towards addiction. Most of these characteristics can be found in all of us at some level. Impulsivity is common to all of us, especially when we are young. Many of us struggle with the false extremes that can accompany perfectionist tendencies. Grandiosity, self-reliance, and emotional extremes are common to us too. Likewise, we all struggle with a desire for power and control. These common features of sinful human nature can lead us down the path to addiction. Wrestling with them, their relationship to addiction, and their manifestation sin our own lives is important. It will expose us to the commonalities between ourselves and our struggle brothers and sisters. It will humble us to see how prone to this sin we might become. It will also be worthwhile to wrestle with these features of our personality as they may reveal ways in which we are already addicted to some things. While my interest is largely on substance abuse, addiction is a broad term that can apply to our dependence on any number of things (money, food, media, people, etc.).

Each characteristic demonstrates our own identification with and alongside the addict. Jonathan Benz and Kristina Robb-Dover helpfully note:

When you identify, compassion comes more naturally. Whereas you might have been inclined to contrast yourself to the drug addict – much like the Pharisee who thanks God that he is not a sinner like the tax collector – now you are positioned to recognize that the addict using heroin is suffering, and that the needle in her arm is not unlike your own misguided ways of dealing with pain. (The Recovery-Minded Church, 54)

If we want to move, as I desire Evangelicalism would, towards a Recovery Culture church model of ministry then we must be able to see our solidarity and identity with those who have addictions. We are them and they are us. We are all sinners with similar struggles and tendencies. Though you may not have developed a dependency on alcohol, you can relate to the temptations better than you realize.

We are all addicts at some level. The sooner and more deeply we realize this the better we will be at walking alongside one another in difficulties. There’s an addict in me and an addict in you. It’s time to wrestle with this potentiality for our good and the good of the church. Over the next several weeks I will be exploring each of the aforementioned characteristics and how they unite us all together.

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