Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States


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I. Defining an Addiction

  • An addiction is an enslaving, destructive dependency.
  • Because a person can be physically predisposed to an addiction, addictions are often viewed as a disease.
  • But it would be a mistake, however, to think only in terms of the physical dimensions. Most addictions are also rooted in our spiritual needs.

  • What is most important is not whether we are predisposed to habit but whether we are willing to do whatever it takes to bring this habit under the control of reason and faith.
II. What Can Be Addictive...a partial list
  • Drugs and Alcohol.
    Mood-altering chemicals account for the most obvious addictions. They create physical, emotional, and social dependence on artificially induced feelings.
  • Food.

    The more we eat to feel better, the more our bodies work with our emotions to increase the demand. The cycle is addictive. Attempts to reverse the effects of overeating can also be addictive.
  • Sexual Pleasure.
    Addiction to sexual pleasure such as pornography.
  • Work.
    Workaholics are chronically absorbed in a continuous stream of tasks. Our sense of well-being is wrapped up in what we do.
  • Relationships.
    We can also develop an enslaving dependence on people. A form of idolatry occurs when we view another person as the source of our identity and well-being.
  • Gambling.
    By playing the lottery, gambling at casinos or racetracks.
III. The Symptoms of an Addiction
  • Absorbing Focus.
    All addictions consume time, thought, and energy. They are not mere pastimes. They are obsessions and preoccupations that demand more and more from us.
  • Increasing Tolerance.
    Drug addicts need more crack to get the same high. Alcoholics need more alcohol to maintain the "buzz" that came so easily at first.
  • Growing Denial.
    We convince ourselves that we can stop whenever we want. We learn to live in two worlds at the same time. We even believe our own stories.
  • Damaging Consequences.
    There is no such thing as a harmless addiction. All addictions are destructive to ourselves and those we love. Addictions are enslaving, destructive dependencies.

    They destroy our capacity for self-control and our ability to know and enjoy God who has made us for Himself.

IV. Why Do we Cling to Our Addictions

Addiction provides predictable relief and power in an unpredictable and painful world.

  • The Pursuit of Relief
    - We hate feeling guilty, disconnected, empty, and alone. We long for acceptance and love. Our addictions provide a temporary remedy that helps us to forget the pain.

    - Addictions often begin as a pursuit of pleasure to numb the discomfort of painful losses. But we soon discover that addictions multiply the pain. In time, it becomes worse than the pain we were trying to relieve. Now we find ourselves needing relief not only from our inescapable losses but also from the shame of our own foolishness.

  • The Pursuit of Power
    - Addictions also provide an illusion of control. Addictions provide us with predictable moments we can count on, while giving us the illusion of control. While people and circumstances are beyond our control, our addictions deliver on their promise of comfort, pleasure, power, control--now.

    - Addictions are attractive because they appear to provide predictable doses of relief and power in the midst of pain and helplessness.

    - But in reality they are a house of mirrors, promising us freedom and then trapping us with little hope of escape. The effect is always self-destructive bondage.

V. The Addictive Cycle

This cycle is played out again and again with deepening levels of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, despair, and enslavement.

VI. The Effects of Addiction
  • Psychologically
    The addiction affects the way we think and feel, and how we live our life. Psychologically the addict remains in denial, and will do just about anything to justify their behavior to others while under the control of their addiction.
  • Emotionally
    Emotionally the addiction makes the addict become overly defensive to anyone who tries to take away what he or she so desires. Addicts have a difficult time suppressing their negative emotions and may respond in an immature and childish fashion.

    Their low self-esteem keeps them very sensitive to how others feel about them. They are prone to finding faults in others to get any attention off of them.

  • Spiritually
    Spiritually the addict is at a loss. He is desensitized to the spiritual self within him. The addiction keeps the addict from becoming the whole and complete person that God intended him to be. True potential is crippled.
VII. Overcoming Addiction

Overcoming the addictive behavior requires the "will" of man to do so. More precisely it is a synergy between our "will" and the "grace" of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Below is a systematic approach to overcome addictive behavior.

  1. We must understand what the Holy Bible says about the nature of man -- including his soul (1 Pet 2:11), his spirit (Rom 8:16), his heart (Heb 4:12), his conscience (1 Pet 2:19), his mind (Rom 12:2), as well as his sin nature and its effects (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 4:18; Rom 1:18-3:20).

    An accurate understanding of man's nature is a prerequisite for prescribing the correct treatment for a particular behavioral problem.

    A thorough understanding of man's sin nature is especially important. We must understand that the whole "old" self is defective or depraved (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 4:18) and must go.

  2. We must have a good understanding of the threefold enemy of us Christians.
    - The world (including the things of the world, which are expressions of "the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does," 1 Jn 2:16).

    - The flesh and the sinful nature itself, which is bent on sexual immorality, impurity, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, and drunkenness (Gal 5:20-21).

    - Satan who seeks to tempt us (1 Cor 7:5), deceive us (2 Cor 11:14), afflict us (2 Cor 12:7), and hinder us (1 Thess 2:18).

    All three of these "enemies" have some bearing on human behavior.

  3. We must rely on the sufficiency of God's grace in the midst of trying circumstances (2 Cor 12:9-10). As St. Paul discovered, God's grace enables us to cope with difficulties that can be overwhelming when approached through human strength alone.
  4. We must be willing to filling the spiritual void with spiritual means. These are the means of grace. i.e. prayer, fasting, Holy Eucharist...

    - Repentance is replacing one desire with another.

    - St. Augustine said: "there is vacuum in all of us, and our hearts are not at rest until we find our rest in God."

    - If we are not worshiping God who loves us, then we will end up worshiping our own desires until they consume us. Addiction becomes an idol.

VIII. Illustration

Christ pictures Himself standing at a door knocking, and saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev 3:20).

At the sound of knocking, we panic and say "Oh no! He's here. The house is a mess. We can't let Him see us like this. If He gets in, He'll make us feel even worse about ourselves than we already feel."

We forget that He already sees us as clearly as if there were no door.
He sees every dirty dish, every messy room, every shame, and every addiction. He knows everything about us, what kind of shape we're in...Yet He continues to knock.

He is waiting for our invitation to say something like, "Lord, come in. I've made a mess of myself. Please come in, change me and have mercy on me."

At this crossroads of invitation, there is an opportunity to overcome our addictions.

It is an opportunity to:

  1. Admit our addiction and pain

  2. Accept responsibility for the damage we've done

  3. Ask for Christs mercy

  4. Allowing Him to enter into your door
IX. Conclusion

At this point, we need to ask ourselves some important questions:

- Is there anything in our lives that has become excessive, compulsive, or enslaving?

- Is there anything we feel we cannot let go of because it means too much to us?
If so, we need to be aware that we are ripe for a destructive dependency.

Our addictions are gods who have no empathy for us or those we love. It's time for us to hear the loving, pleading voice of God, who says in His Word:

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Gal 6:7-8).
Glory Be To God Forever.

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