The Importance Of ‘Addictions’

the-pathFor the past year or so, I’ve been obsessed with a certain online game. I find that as I start writing more, that the desire to fire up the game client grows less each day.

This is OK, and I expected as much. It fits a certain pattern I’ve noticed. Maybe you’ll relate.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been locked in a cycle of anxiety and the feeling that I’ve been going nowhere. Stuck in my career with nowhere to go. Everything noble I had tried to do had failed.

Everybody needs an outlet during those times. Video games often help me. Before this one, it was a different game. Listening to and reading a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and superhero-type novels also helped. Reading comic books also helped. 

It’s all about dulling the pain–the pain of having no purpose. Or at least the pain of feeling like you have no purpose.

I don’t know if this is a common human experience. I only know my experience. But for many years, I’ve always had to have some sort of outlet, some sort of obsession that wasn’t entirely unhealthy.

Trust me, it does get better.

We all need crutches when our legs are broken. If you’ve ever been profoundly broken, if your mind and emotions have been so messed up that it feels like you’re completely falling apart, it’s normal to need something or someone to lean on that won’t kill you. Turning to alcohol or cigarettes or drugs or bad relationships will probably kill you physically quicker than food addiction or pornography will, but all of it is unhealthy.

It’s OK to have a crutch. Maybe it’s video games for you. Playing something immersive dulls the pain. There’s nothing wrong with that.

As you’re spending time in the presence of God, things work out. Enjoying his presence is the only spiritual discipline that I can consistently maintain because it’s not entirely up to me. I forget God sometimes. He never forgets, and intrudes often right when I need him, when I’m caught up in a mental conundrum from which I can’t escape. He’s good like that.

At some point the pain will lessen. Then it becomes apparent that the crutch is no longer needed. You’re able to devote more of your life to living than distracting yourself.

Little by little, it becomes better. You get bored with the crutch. Pretty soon you don’t even want to play that video game any more. You’re able to focus better on your job because it’s not so painful. Or maybe you pick up a new hobby, or pick up an old one that you gave up on because it wasn’t dulling the pain enough.

The guilt comes: I’m addicted to this, I’m addicted to that, Lord, I want to be addicted to you!

We’re told that. But you can’t be addicted to a person in a healthy way. That’s called codependence. The thing is, God will not accept a broken relationship with mankind. He has already mended the relationship! The relationship has already been mended in Christ. Your old nature was crucified with him 2,000 years ago.

You died with him, you were buried with him, and you were raised with him, filled with the Spirit poured out on all flesh.

You might not know it yet, or feel it yet, but you’ll understand.

Our perceived relationship with Christ may seem tenuous, weird, strained, or even completely broken. But his relationship with us is always-on, always ready, always faithful, always true, and always completely pure, with no hidden motives. 1 Corinthians 13, 24/7/365.

God is not preserving you so he can ‘use you’. We’re told in the more ‘productive’ churches that ‘God’s gonna use you to do great things!’ Then they list everyone from Moses to David to Peter to Paul as examples of great men who did great things, completely ignoring the fact that every single one of them was a complete mess before God stepped into their lives. Complete failures who ran into Jesus Christ and were changed forever–but never ceased having hangups and making occasional mistakes that were just plain dumb–for the rest of their lives. But they got in touch with Christ, and that made all the difference. They didn’t become supermen. They got in touch with Christ inside, and that was what changed them for good.

Being one with Christ is changing you for good. Forever.

God doesn’t need you to serve him. If he were only looking for servants, he could have introduced a slave species, a drone class with their own built-in theocracy, to do whatever the hell he wanted.

But that’s not what Jesus does.

Jesus is all about the person. The relationship. You encounter him and his presence and things start to change. Your heart shifts. Something inside moves.

All of a sudden new possibilities come to mind. New hope comes. Prophecies come. Maybe there is another horizon after all. You get excited.

And then it falls apart.

You discover that the Christian life can actually be a pretty big bummer sometimes. You discover that people aren’t always nice–especially those who claim to be believers. You discover that dead-end jobs suck, that sometimes relationships don’t work, that cars break down and houses get lost and basically life all goes to hell.

And then you cry out to God, Lord, help!

And that little voice inside says, hey, it’s gonna be OK.

But it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be OK! My world is falling apart!

I’ve got ya. Forever. I haven’t lost you yet.

You learn to trust those prompts that come from Christ within. You learn to trust him when he’s speaking through the Bible and sometimes through other people.

Little by little, it gets better. One pain lessens, one issue is resolved, one human relationship is slowly put back together, the debt slowly gets paid off.

The addictions that outright kill you, you learn to give those up. One day you get the desire to kick cigarettes, and a few months later, the cravings are gone forever. You didn’t do it alone–suddenly a wild grace appeared!–and one by one, the ‘big’ addictions are resolved.

You become healthier in your body and your mind becomes clearer. Maybe you get treatment for mental illness like I did. I had debilitating depression that completely disappeared in a church revival, but an anxiety disorder that I still have that I have to take medicine for. I’m not ashamed of that. I’m still messed-up. But at least I have something to say now. Maybe some of it will do some good.

The addictions cycle. Maybe it’s sports now. Your favorite team or NASCAR driver. You get a little out of hand with it, needing to WATCH ALL THE GAMES! WATCH ALL THE RACES! Then, as you’re spending that time in the presence of God, the addiction lessens a little as you see that real life is still important–and hey, it doesn’t hurt as much now.

Maybe you get bored with sports. You turn to video games. There’s that one game – or two or three or four games–that you are completely obsessed with for a time. Then you start getting bored with it. And hey, God–hey, it doesn’t hurt as much now.

Little by little, life hurts less. The bones of the soul heal and we’re able to crawl, then hobble, then limp, then walk slowly, then eventually we learn to run.

Life becomes easier. Suddenly real life–not online life, not sports life, not book life–but your actual day-in-day-out job, your family, the actual things of life–doesn’t hurt any more. You love your loved ones more. You don’t hate your job as bad. You actually start eating a little better and walking more.

And life gets better.

The addictions slowly go away. But don’t feel ashamed for needing to rely on something in the meantime. Every broken soul needs its crutches.

Christ is the healer!

…but sometimes it takes a while.

That’s all right. He’s never given up on anyone yet, and he won’t give up on you. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And that means you. Always.

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