Addiction (Part 2)

Let’s begin this reflection with a promise given to us by God.

“For I am convinced . . . that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below, there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38.

That means the power of addiction will be overcome by God’s grace. Period. God does not want His children in bondage. So, we need to find a way to let the power of the love of God into this dark and scary place. How do we do that?

It’s probably best to turn to those who have experienced a release from their addiction. The first people that come to mind are our brothers and sisters in the 12 Step Program of Recovery. Over the years, they have discovered a certain path to victory over addiction to food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, etc. These 12 steps, if followed with docility and humility, will lead to freedom from ad-diction.
I want to focus on the first three steps, as I feel they hold the key to all that follows.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over (my addiction).

Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than our-selves (God/my Higher Power) could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Here, I think, is the genius of the 12 Steps. It comes by admitting we’ve lost the battle. The addiction is just too big and too strong to hold out against. Every time it’s me vs. my addiction . . . I lose. How do I know that? Because I’ve tried a 1000 times to NOT do that, and a 1000 times I failed.

So, the key to “sobriety”, as they say, is to admit I’ve lost. It’s a moment of terrible honesty with oneself when we admit, “I can’t control this. It controls me.” This takes real humility. Our enemy, the devil, sows seeds of protest in our mind. “No!”, we say. “I could stop if I really tried. I’m not a loser here.”

That’s a lie. Here’s the terrible truth . . . I’ve lost the battle. It’s over. I’ll never overcome this addiction. We have to give up trying to fix this by ourselves, because we can’t.

So . . . now what? Just give up and give in? Of course not! Something very positive has just happened. We’ve admitted the truth – “we can’t”. There is no shame in this. It’s just the way it is.

An image occurs to me here to help picture what this healthy surrender looks like. Imagine a boxing ring. Inside stands Mike Tyson (the famous heavy weight champ). He’s breathing fire, and motions for you to join him in the ring. You’ve gone toe to toe with him before. He knocks you out every time.

Would anyone on earth fault you for not going into the ring with this ferocious warrior? In fact, wouldn’t people question your sanity if you were dumb enough to get in that ring? What’s the smart thing to do? Why not tell old Mike, “I’m done fighting you, Big Guy. I always lose. I’m not getting in that ring anymore.” The power of surrender robs addiction of its power. It can’t conquer you anymore, because you’re just not going to play. Simple, right?

There’s also a positive side, something you can actually DO. Steps 2 & 3 point to a moment when “we came to believe that God will help”, and “we made a decision to turn our will and life over to the care of God.”

In short, it’s like saying, “I can’t God, but you can . . . if I get out of the way.” Then, the daily repetition of these steps begins (sometimes out loud to God in prayer). “I can’t, Lord. You can. I’m yours. Do what you want with me.” Daily . . . daily . . . we have to return to these steps: surrender, believe in that power beyond yours, and give God charge of your life.

Slowly, the compulsion to “get in the ring” weakens. The addiction doesn’t go without a fight, however. It uses many tricks and voices in your head to try to convince you how futile are your efforts. “You’ll never lick this. Think how boring and cold life will be without me to comfort you. You’ll never make it without me (your addiction).” All lies.

So much more to consider on this topic, but for now let’s focus on two things:

1. “I surrender . . . I’ve lost the battle.”

2. “I’m in your hands, Lord. I’ll be the clay; you be the potter.”

Do that and you will begin to see God’s freedom dawn on you.

Brrrrr . . .
Fr. Tim