The worst thing about #addiction is not a wasted life, nor the collateral damage inflicted upon those around addicts. To be sure, those things are absolutely horrible but they are not the worst. No, the worst thing about addiction is the inability to process a right relationship with God and pass on a chance to go from abandoned by family to belonging in His family.
Addiction of any kind messes with brain function. Since that is the case, no addiction is harmless.
I can remember a conversation with a friend of mine back when my children were very small. I was talking about the things that take time away from our children… necessary time they need from their parents. Her response cut through the noise in my brain to shock me into alternate thinking.
“Christine”, she said, “It can be loosing yourself in a book too.”
Somehow I had become addicted to reading.
Yes. Books can be addictive, page turning, time consuming, relationship robbers.
Abandoning my children? …for a book? That was just not gonna happen. I wouldn’t let it.
For a while I tried to manage my reading time to fill evening hours when the kids were in bed. What I found was that my body needed that sleep time too and a sleep deprived mommy is not a happy, loving mommy.
Coffee was no longer an apt solution either because it too was addictive and draining the net result of which was the softening of my baby’s tooth formation in utero, a leaching of calcium into my blood that was not rightly allocated and serious adrenal crash. Out of necessity, my book reading pretty much stopped even though my love of story still lived…somewhere…deep in my subconscious buried under mountains of laundry.
The pleasure of reading and the savor of caffeine were forced to take a back seat. This is how I fought for my children and expressed love to them though they had no idea what battles waged within my soul.
Here is an excerpt or two from an article in Harvard’s help guide that explains how the brain processes pleasure and what that means in terms of addictive issues. Take special notice of references to reward.
The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.
All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.
Even taking the same drug through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking a drug or injecting it intravenously, as opposed to swallowing it as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to drug misuse.
Brain’s Reward Center
Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. This happens as the brain goes through a series of changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behavior.
Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The hippocampus lays down memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli.
According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning.
Having landed on this page because of a new interest in brain mapping and the effect of stroke on the elderly, my thoughts went in an entirely different direction. Conviction. I am pretty well convinced that addiction plays a role in childhood abandonment and that I had carried this evil into the parenting of my own children. Silently at times as it operated in my day-to-day choices but also overtly as I tried to teach them the values of things and train them through various reward systems.
God spoke passages of Scripture into my mind that I had not previously associated with addiction.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually.
6 And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. Genesis 6:5-6 (AMPC)
This talks about addiction because the intention of human thought was only evil continually. Addiction is defined as – a habitual craving despite adverse effects. Consider that addiction used to be associated with alcohol and hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Now, it is associated with much more:
- too much food
- too little food
- self concept
- video gaming
- bet oriented gaming
- accumulation of resources
- gaining power
- _______________ insert your own habitual craving here
In the Genesis account, sex, violence, and self governance were the addictions of the day. Today, money, success and power seem to be the addictions of choice. To which God says,
13 No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or[a]anything in which you trust and on which you rely). Luke 16:13 (AMPC)
It appears that you cannot serve God and be devoted to an addictive substance, thing or behavior.
Here in Romans and Thessalonians, Paul describes the “series of changes” associated with addiction based living as well as its source.
28 And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,
29 Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,
30 Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.
31 [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.
32 Though they are fully aware of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 (AMPC)
11 Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false,
12 In order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe in [who refused to adhere to, trust in, and rely on] the Truth, but [instead] took pleasure in unrighteousness.
13 But we, brethren beloved by the Lord, ought and are obligated [as those who are in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, because God chose you from the beginning [a]as His firstfruits (first converts) for salvation through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit and [your] belief in (adherence to, trust in, and reliance on) the Truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-13 (AMPC)
Addictions hijack the the brain’s reward process as it was made to function and deceives humanity into thinking that they have rebuilt the rewards system to their own best interests. Hidden within the man-made construct is the voracious, destructive power of addiction. What we accepted as good morphs into the most vile of evils and the person we knew ourselves to be disappears. It is a heartless way to live.
Addictions can render similar damage to brain tissues that strokes do in the areas of memory, motivation, and the reward process. While strokes silently kill brain tissue by cutting off blood supply overtly or covertly, addictions kill off brain function by the loud or silent choices we make based on the rewards we desire and the dopamine we get from them.
Rewards are important. They are useful in parenting successfully so we want our children to establish a good understanding of cause and effect; a love for effort and reward. The reward concept is also pivotal in our relationship to God.
5 Because of faith Enoch was caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found, because God had translated him. For even before he was taken to heaven, he received testimony [still on record] that he had pleased and been satisfactory to God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]. Hebrews 11:5-6 (AMPC)
Listen, Friends. YOU MUST believe that God is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. Proper functioning of the reward center in our brains is essential to living the life Jesus died and conquered death to give us … a life full of joy in God’s presence.
Harvard says recovery from addiction is possible. So does God. Let’s take a look at what each has to say.
“It is not enough to “just say no”—as the 1980s slogan suggested. Instead, you can protect (and heal) yourself from addiction by saying “yes” to other things. Cultivate diverse interests that provide meaning to your life. Understand that your problems usually are transient, and perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that life is not always supposed to be pleasurable.”
Adapted with permission from the Harvard Mental Health Letter and Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward recovery, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications.
And God says…
1. Cultivate diverse interests:
3 Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].
4 Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.
5 Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Philippians 2:3-5 (AMPC)
11 Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, yes, even [divide it] to eight, for you know not what evil may come upon the earth. //6 In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:1-2,6(AMPC)
2.Understand that your problems are usually transient
16 Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.
17 For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],
18 Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (AMPC)
3. Acknowledge that life is not always supposed to be pleasurable
37 He who loves [and [a]takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; Matthew 10:37(AMPC)
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the pleasure and delight and glamour and deceitfulness of riches choke and suffocate the Word, and it yields no fruit. Matthew 13:22 (AMPC)
10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[a]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [b]in divine strength). 2 Corinthians 12:10 (AMPC)
So let’s consider the rewards of the LORD and fight for better brain function. Here is one that addresses the issue of being abandoned:
6 God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell; He leads the prisoners out to prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. Psalm 68:6(AMPC)
I am forever grateful that my family’s addictions and the resulting abandonment that invaded my life and that of my own children’s lives is not the end of our story. Recovery IS possible.
God makes addiction recovery possible.
The best thing about addiction recovery is the ability to process a right relationship with God and the joy that sprouts from belonging to His family.