Substance abuse is a phenomenon that plagues every corner of society, with no regard for demographic. People are drawn to overusing or harmfully using substances for a variety of reasons, even to the point of requiring treatment or rehabilitation, but many similarities can be drawn between individual cases of substance abuse. And though substance abuse and addiction share many attributes, the differences between them are quantifiable.
First of all, there is more than one kind of addiction. There are physical addictions, where the body and its chemical processes have become dependent on the substance to function. This form of addiction creates withdrawal symptoms such as sweating and shaking when the substance is not ingested, and creates a tolerance within the body against the pleasurable affects of the substance, requiring an increasingly higher dosage of it with every use. The second type of addiction is a psychological one, which makes the addict feel and believe that they cannot function without the drug despite having no chemical dependence on it.
Addiction may form due to the method the substance is being administered. For example, drugs that enter the system through needle injection, such as meth and heroin, are more addictive than drugs that enter the system slowly, such as marijuana smoked from a pipe into the lungs or cocaine snorted onto the nasal membranes. Dependence and tolerance set in simultaneously to addiction, making the method of ingestion a critical determining factor in the transition from substance abuse to addiction.
The individual’s personality and chemical make up play a major part in how quickly they may become addicted to a substance. The term “addictive personality” is used to describe this type of individual, but in truth it is an array of things, chemical, environmental and behavioral, that can make a person more predisposed to addiction than others. For some, an addiction may come on slowly and progressively. For others, it can feel like it set in over night.
For Christians and other people who believe in God, addiction can shake a person’s faith to their core. Addiction does not seem to belong in the same world as one a perfect God created, and our minds balk at how separate the two concepts are. It is true that addiction does not belong in the presence of God, but despite the pain and ugliness of addiction, God is very much real through out it and wants addicts to turn to him for recovery.
It is common for addicts to reason that God cannot be real because a loving god would not allow for something as devastating as addiction. This is a common misconception about the nature of God. People assume that because God is all powerful, he is responsible for everything we experience. This stance negates all responsibility we have over our own lives. God, in his perfection, does not encroach upon our free will. He restrains himself from taking our freedom from us. We misuse our freedom because we were created to depend on God, which is the reason that addiction exists.
Another misconception is that addiction is more real than God. In the midst of addiction, this can feel very much like the truth because addicts are far from God and consumed by addiction. Addicts struggle to feel God’s presence because essentially they are living to serve their addiction rather than serve God. Whatever we choose to serve becomes our reality and the center of our lives. The choices we make to worship false idols rather than worship God, our creator, are the very thing that drives us from his presence.
The bottom line is, whatever we choose to surround ourselves with and immerse ourselves in will consume us. Giving God control of our lives will surround us with his goodness, grace and love, while giving addiction control of our lives will surround us with despair, heartbreak and regret.
Having faith in God’s goodness and perfect plan can be very difficult in the midst of addiction. Many struggling addicts find themselves asking questions like, “Where is God in all of this?” and “Why would a perfect God create me to be so flawed?” These are natural thoughts when one is caught up in the despair of addiction because addiction is not from God. Addiction entered humanity when we declared our independence from God, giving the enemy a foothold into our lives. This is why we experience feelings of brokenness and shame over addiction, and constantly wish there was a way out of it.
The feeling of brokenness one goes through during addiction can be devastating. There are few other conditions that inspire such profound despair within a person. This is because it is very difficult to find your way out of addiction once you are in its clutches. The longer you entertain it, the harder it is to break away from. No two cases of addiction are the same. Some addicts are surprisingly functional, holding jobs, raising children and staying active, while others are consumed by it and may become homeless and isolated. In both situations, there are people who consciously decide they cannot defeat their addiction and surrender all hope of recovery. This always comes with feelings of shame, which the addict chooses to live with.
Even addicts who yield their lives to their addiction want a way out of it. Even if it is more subconscious than conscious after many years of struggle, an addict never stops wishing for recovery. This is because addiction is a prison sentence – a cruel and controlling master – and it is natural to crave freedom from it. It is also natural to wonder why God does not do something about addiction, but the same person must also ask themselves if they have given God control of their life so that he can make change happen within it. God will work miracles in a person’s life, but a person’s life is still their own to mislead if they have not surrendered it to God.
Understanding where God fits in to addiction can be confusing for many people. It is the nature of addiction to replace God in importance in the addict’s life, or to elevate their addiction to a god-like status. When their addiction fails them and proves detrimental to their life, some people hold God responsible for the pain addiction caused them. Clearly, the role God plays in addiction is widely misinterpreted.
The truth about God and addiction is the same truth found in every painful life circumstance: God will not do away with it because that would be inhibiting our free will. God’s careful design of our human condition includes the necessity of our free will, either to obey him or to obey our own desires. God commands us through his holy word to obey his direction, not for his benefit, but for ours. We do not have the foresight, scope, strength or wisdom to control our lives. We were created to submit control to our creator. Those who succeed in this lead lives of incredible peace and reward. Those who do not lead lives of frustration and despair. It does not matter if our good fortune is rich or poor; it matters that we are in accordance with God’s will, because it is mankind’s intended form of existence.
Having a church family to lean on while recovering from addiction can greatly influence the way a person perceives God, thus influencing their addiction recovery as well. Many people who have experienced success in their recovery from addiction have a strong relationship with God and with a church community. This has proven to be an incredibly positive influence.
Canadians who are struggling with addiction and need a church family to surround them and pray for them in the midst of their trials can find churches in Edmonton, Toronto, Mississauga, Vancouver and virtually every sanctioned Canadian city.