Friday, December 14, 2012

Addiction in Surprising Forms

Addiction [ah-dik´shun]

1. the state of being given up to some habit or compulsion.
2. strong physiological and psychological dependence on a drug or other agent; see alcoholism and drug dependence.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


Addiction (dik´shn),
n the state of being addicted. Although there is no universally accepted definition, addiction is generally considered a condition involving two factors: (1) a compulsive behavior pattern, and (2) an altered physiologic state that requires continued use of the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Mosby's Dental Dictionary, 2nd edition. © 2008 Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:1-3)

This week my blood work came back from an extensive allergy assessment I had done last month. I talked to my doctor on the phone, and besides still being moderately or highly allergic to 18 different outside sources (molds, horses, dust and pollens to name a few) it also turns out I have a high Candida count and have some sort of allergy to wheat, rye and yeast (aka gluten). The doctor promptly told me that if I want to make a significant difference in my health, I need to at least temporarily forgo all sugar and gluten. The best source to understand what my doctor thinks I have is this:

I don’t think I quite realized how extensively these foods were a part of my diet until I stopped eating them. Almost EVERYTHING I love to eat and indulge in contains gluten or sugar! I had a distinct reaction of: how am I going to live without these? And the problem is- I can go on to eat them all without serious reaction… but it is the build-up of eating gluten and sugar countless times a day that is the issue. For my overall health, for now, I need to cut them out.

Addiction has been a hot topic in my life recently- and I have had multiple conversations with people about either themselves or others in their lives dealing with serious addictions- typical and atypical. My uncle Glenn sent me a profound speech he wrote regarding Jonathan’s addiction and his experience around watching his son ultimately are consumed by it. I hope to post an online link to this article here in the future. One of my favorite quotes from Glenn’s article is this:

“We are all vulnerable to addiction. All of us are born with a tendency
towards an addiction to self. It is the desire to put ourselves first, to please
ourselves, even at the expense of others and even at the expense of hurting
our relationship with God. The bible calls this addiction to self, sin. These
addictions take different forms. Some are alcohol or drug addictions. Others
are addictions to money or sex or food or fame. I have this addiction. You
have this addiction. We are all vulnerable and all in need of healing.”

In my opinion, the inherent and biggest problem with addiction to something is the addict puts that thing in front of all others in their life. They try to balance their addiction with people, jobs, other priorities- but when push comes to shove that need comes first. And in the worst cases, the need for this thing (whether sex, food, drugs, alcohol or a whole other variety of items people get addicted to) overtakes their relationships, integrity, their relationship with God and ultimately their very self-value. This is why addiction kills- because a person can go so far as to put their craving above their own survival. And It is one of the bitterest of evils, because someones addiction renders those people in that person’s life powerless. How do you save someone from themselves… not to mention watch someone destroy their own lives when you love them and find their life worth saving?

 I was in a conversation with a friend who knew something about having a candida imbalance, she said “A good sign of having this is if you regularly crave sugar and grain products”. My reaction to this was- that seems so counterintuitive- Why would the body crave something that is causing it harm? I guess this is the nature of addiction isn’t it? To crave and yearn for something ultimately causing us harm.

What are you addicted to? What are the things you do not want to or do not think you can go without? Are some people addicted to complaining? Feeling sorry for themselves? What about being busy? I believe addiction can come in all sorts of forms we don’t expect. The tricky thing is- there is not something inherently wrong with the things we are addicted to (except arguably drugs). It is just when something like sex or money or whatever else becomes more important to us than other things.

Addiction has given me a new appreciation for the practice of Lent in the Lutheran Tradition. We were encouraged growing up to ‘give up’ something for the 40 days of lent. In college, I remember friends giving up chocolate, facebook and caffeine among other things. The idea as I understand it is to give up that thing in your life for a time to make room for God.

I believe God is the only answer for addiction. You look at statistics on treatment centers for drugs, alcohol and other recoveries and the success rate is so low. If you are to beat the odds of a self-fueled disease, you need something bigger than yourself to be living for and guiding you. And the practical application of putting God first is putting the people in your life first- choosing your relationships over your addiction. It makes sense to me why the 12 step program is the most successful treatment program for alcoholics to date. God is essential for us to be saved from ourselves.

Over the last weeks my experience has not only been colored by other’s experiences of addiction, but has have a taste of my own withdrawal. I do not (or at least hope) I am not heavily addicted to these food items. And maybe one day I will be able to eat sugar and gluten again without it harming my health. And maybe if my doctor by chance is wrong- at least I will have experienced for myself the disappointment of withdrawal from something and be able to relate to others better for it.

And to all of you out there who are dealing with addiction yourself or are supporting someone who is; I know to a small degree the darkness you face. And I wish for you to get to experience new life and freedom. And I pray no matter where you are on your faith journey- consider looking to God. He is your hope for a healthy life on this earth.


  1. amen, kelsie, addiction so very powerful and controlling, but God is more powerful. His light shines in our darkest times.

  2. Addiction occurs in the primitive, reptilian brain. It also affects the limbic area of the brain, messing with the reward system of the brain. It is REAL! It is a force of nature, a disease. People don't really understand this. Addiction causes illness in the physical, emotional, relational, psychological and spiritual parts of a person. In other words, it destroys every part of us that makes us human. It is sweeping and deadly. It requires a spiritual healing for lasting recovery, because its origin is in the spiritual realm. Looking for peace, happiness and meaning in life in a chemical or physical fix is doomed to fail. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience in this life. People need to embrace spiritual healing in order to remain in true recovery. They cannot beat it themselves; it is way too powerful. They can only defeat a habit by replacing it with another powerful habit. Just trying to deny themselves the "fix" they are craving will lead them back into that circle of craving and addiction, the one you have illustrated in the blog. Putting God and recovery at the center of your life, with great humility and willingness to ask for help every single day, is the path to healing. Some cannot find this, cannot find God, become lost in the vortex of pain, shame, and enslavement. Every recovery from addiction is a bit of a miracle, for many are sucked down into the whirlpool of destruction. We weep for those who are lost in this, like Jonathan, but we also know that many find the light again, regain their footing, can live spectacular lives that are transformed by their growth and recovery from the edge of the abyss. Eventually, many are grateful for their addiction, and express this by saying, "I am a grateful, recovering addict." This is because they have been transformed by the understandings, pain, sufferings, and growth that recovery has given them. They live to share this with others, and know they can give others valuable guidance on the pathway to life, as few are able to do unless they have walked this path themselves. So God can use addiction and recovery for his own healing purposes.