Addictions: Part 1 – Understanding Addiction

Life

chains

By: Mark Roberts

“I must have another…” Proverbs 23:35b

“Just One More”

Derrick was back again. He didn’t feel good about it but he just couldn’t resist. He had to have it. Glancing over his shoulder making sure he remained unseen, Derrick turned the block and approached the back door of a grim house on Malcolm X Blvd. After a few taps on the busted screen door, he was welcomed inside. 

Derrick took another hit and leaned back into the couch closing his eyes. Crack-cocaine felt so good; the warming and numbing effect it gave him…he loved it. But that day something happened that he would never forget.

A man who was inside the house erupted in a rage and for no apparent reason, he locked eyes with Derrick. With no time to process what was happening, the man pulled a 9mm pistol and pointed it at Derrick. The man’s eyes madly glared down the barrel as he stood over him screaming “Open your mouth! Do it now!” Derrick froze. “Open your mouth…now…” Derrick slowly opened his month and the steel barrel tore its way in splitting his upper lip.

The earth slowed to a stop. In that moment, as death stood behind the gun, Derrick had one thought flash in his mind, “I’m going to hell…” A tear escaped, running down Derrick’s cheek. Everything was still and silent. Then, the man put his gun away and walked out of the room. Derrick stood up, wiped the tear off his face and left. Less than 24hours later, Derrick was back again. At the same place, on the same couch with only one thought…“Just one more.”

The Medical Lens

Over the years, the medical field has labored tirelessly to address the struggle that many people like Derrick face everyday. Through study and research, they have determined that millions who battle substance abuse incur real physiological and psychological damage. According to physicians, along with mental-heath workers, psychiatrists and psychologists, this damaging effect is referred to as physiological and psychological dependence.

This is the combination of physiological/psychological tolerance and withdrawal. Meaning, the body and mind build tolerance to the substance causing the individual to need more of it to experience the same physical, mental and emotional effect. When the substance is withdrawn, the physical, mental and emotional state have reactions e.g., hallucinations, sweating, tremors, migraines, sickness, dry heaving, paranoia, hysteria, sadness, anger, social isolation, anxiety, etc.

These physiological and psychological effects are enlightening and helpful, yet they still don’t fully explain addiction. Without a biblical framework and lens on this matter, the medical field is left answering the questions of addiction with their focus on the body, mind and the substance, resulting in the rise of the disease modelThe disease model has become the worldview and scope in medical departments across the world. It has taken the helm and assumed command on how all substance abuse is now understood and explained. It holds the view that addictions are not like a disease but, rather, claims they are a disease with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental sources of origin.

We as Christians should accept the reality and importance of the physiological and psychological ramifications of substance abuse. A person’s body and mental state definitely play a role. Even someone’s environment can be a considerable factor. However, these aspects by themselves don’t completely address the essence of the problem. The disease model of addiction tells how people can feel controlled by something other than their own will. Yet scripture tells a different story. The bible states that the bondage Derrick and others experience in addiction is a voluntary slavery caused by sin.

The Biblical Lens

Through the biblical lens we can see that addiction to cocaine or any other thing is not merely biological, physiological and psychological but also spiritual. Addiction reveals the tendency that humans have to worship and serve creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). According to the bible, addicts are just sinners in need of grace. They are those who are held fast in the cords of sin and slaves to the one in whom they obey (see Prov. 5:22 & Rom. 6:16). Yet, interestingly, addicts like Derrick are placed in a different category from the rest.

Its true that many of us are not addicted to crack-cocaine, however, we are more like Derrick than we would like to admit. The only difference between Derrick and others is that his sin has bound him in different cords and enslaved him to a different master.

All addictions are caused by the habitual repetitions of indulging sin. This is something we all fall into on a daily basis, on one level or another. We are creatures of pleasure and we love it. We seek pleasure and relish it. The same is true for Derrick. Therefore if it were not for the grace of God in each of us, our propensity for indulging sin for self-gratification could easily land us on the couch next to Derrick. Make no mistake; we all have an addict lurking within our sinful flesh. 

Whether it’s cooked coke in a spoon or carbonated coke in a can, all addictions, no matter how severe or subtle, are a form of bondage and slavery. It is the obsession and indulgence of a material thing in efforts to gain and have immediate pleasure caused by the sinful desire to ultimately love and serve self. In essence, it is false worship: exulting creation above Creator.

One of the best examples of this is the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. Dorian worshipped his own beauty, thus exulting himself above the Creator. As a result of this self-love, he endlessly pursued pleasure and ecstasy until spiraling completely out of control in addiction. God presented many opportunities for forgiveness and repentance through the pleas of his friend, but Dorian chose to murder him.

His love for delicacies, parties, sex, alcohol, and opium were deeply rooted in a worship disease, not merely a biological one. This eventually drove him to self-hatred and madness before tragically claiming his own life. As a matter a fact, Dorian had gone so mad that his attempt to kill himself was done in desperation to save his own life. But we still want to ask people like Derrick and Dorian, “Why?” We must remember that sin is not rational. Sin doesn’t care about consequences. It doesn’t care about the cost or the loss. It only wants more. All it knows and thinks is, “I must have another…”   

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