Sexual Addiction, a common topic on this blog, is really only a small facet of the bigger category of addiction. We are very clever (and very desperate) creatures and will utilize, whether consciously or not, anything to avoid our circumstances and feelings. We’re always looking for another way besides God’s way. When we try to let any of these guards down, something always seems to stealthily move into its place. We let go of overeating and suddenly we’re spending more. If we slow down our liquor intake and we may find that we’re sleeping 10 hours a day. We stop looking at porn and then realize we worked 70 hours that week.
Before we examine a larger list of general addictions, what exactly makes something an addiction? How do we know we are an addict? Webster’s definition of an addict is “to surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively-to cause to become physiologically dependent upon.” There are five universal characteristics generally thought to define when we’ve habitually become dependent on something or some behavior.
Compulsive addictive behavior always leaves a person longing for more. Tolerance needs an increase of the object or a more intense frequency of the behavior to reach the same level of satisfaction. One may start off as a social smoker and then wake up one day and realizing it has become a pack-a-day addiction.
When the addiction is suddenly taken away, there will usually be an equal negative reaction physically and psychologically. This can range from real physical symptoms to being emotionally irritable to full blown panic attacks.
“I can quit any time that I want,” is the commonly heard phrase when a person is confronted about an addiction. Of course it’s obvious that this usually isn’t reality, since addiction is all about the inability to quit. The mind will think of any excuse to keep the addiction alive and well.
Loss of Will Power
People have an ongoing love/hate relationship with their addictions, swinging back and forth between attempting to eradicate the behavior completely and going on an out of control binge. This ambivalence towards the behavior indicates that the behavior cannot be simply eliminated by sheer force of will and that one is in slavery to the addiction. Any good 12-step group will begin plainly with admitting “we are powerless over our compulsive behavior, our lives have become unmanageable”.
Addictions can consume large quantities of time. Thinking about, preparing for, engaging in and dealing with the consequences of certain behaviors can leave little time for life and relationships. In good old-fashioned Christian terms, this is labeled as “idolatry”—frequently focusing on and pursuing something, outside of God, to give us life.
The List Goes On and On
Basically we can be addicted to anything and everything. Any object, substance or behavior that we use to shield us from pain, gain a sense of life, control or safety can be addictive. The possibilities are endless. The following list of potential addictions, though not exhaustive, is a start to begin stirring the pot and get you thinking. Can you think of more?
Eating, Not Eating
If this sounds like you or someone you know, there is help available to you. Seek out a support group, a trusted pastor or a trained counselor that can help you work through these issues.
* These concepts were drawn from many resources that address addiction issues. See Dr. Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows and Dr. Gerald May, Addiction and Grace, for example.
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