Finding A Way Through Addiction

March 31, 2021 Holy Week
Alissa Gunning, Certified Spiritual Director

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We suffer a variety of addictions

When we talk about addiction, we often automatically think, “drugs” or “alcohol”. But addiction covers many things: anger, manipulation, food, gambling, shopping, control, social media, etc. etc. etc. If drugs or alcohol is not an issue for you, do you have an addiction? Does someone you love have an addiction? If yes, use the word that best describes the addiction as you read the rest of this article.

Addiction is a disease. An awful, awful disease. From simple.wikipedia.org, “A disease or medical condition is an unhealthy state where something bad happens to the body or mind. Diseases can cause pain, parts of the body to stop working the right way, or death.” Addiction can also ruin relationships, families, and jobs. Addiction is not living the life God wants for you.

So, what do you do if you, or someone you love, have the disease of addiction? 

A first response to addiction is to seek help

You seek treatment. Let’s think about it this way. Let’s say that you have Alzheimer’s disease. Like addiction, Alzheimer’s is a disease that medical experts cannot cure, prevent, or slow down. If you or your loved one had Alzheimer’s, wouldn’t you take them to a doctor anyway? The thing about addiction is that only you, the person who has the addiction, can do anything about it. No one can cause an addiction. No one can control an addiction. And no one can cure an addiction. These are known as the “three C’s”.  Only you, the person who has the addiction, can do anything about it.

Like Alzheimer’s, addiction covers up and changes who we are. Unlike Alzheimer’s, people who suffer from addiction can reverse the effects of their disease and go on to live healthy lives. 

How do you start to treat yourself for addiction? Name the addiction you have. Talk to God about it. Then, decide to do something about it. Next, do something about it. Start here – 

“Feelings are meant for feeling…….When we stop hurting ourselves, we begin to heal.” Glennon Doyle from her book, Untamed.

“LAYERING A JUDGMENT ON TOP OF A FEELING DOES NOT CHANGE THE FEELING,” GLENNON DOYLE SAYS IN HER BOOK UNTAMED. THOSE ARE WISE WORDS FROM A SELF-ADMITTED ADDICT. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU STOPPED JUDGING YOUR FEELINGS AND JUST FELT THEM?

ALISSA GUNNING, CERTIFIED SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR

Addictions stifle our possibilities for living fully

Addictions are often used to shut ourselves off from feelings and experiences. Truthfully, they shut us off from living life; the life we dream of for ourselves. I don’t think anyone wants to be an addict, at least I’ve never heard a child say, “I want to be an addict when I grow up”, yet it happens all the time. So, how does it happen? How does a person become an addict?

At Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) in Lincoln, we have a Faith-to-Face Partners team. This is a group of people seeking to make addiction a “casserole disease”. Our goal is to lessen, or take away, the stigma of addiction; you know, like if your loved one was being treated for Alzheimer’s, a church member might bring a casserole to your home, talk with you, and support you. We believe addiction is a spiritual matter. Maybe the addict has lost their connection to God. Or maybe the addict just misses God so much that they can’t bear to live the life they were born to live. Or maybe the addict learned that’s how a person handles life. Or maybe there was trauma, loss, illness, betrayal…the list of reasons goes on and on. 

There is no simple solution, and it’s not something that can be overcome alone. In fact, hiding your addiction, or thinking you can fix it yourself, sets you up to fail. Just like you need a doctor to help treat Alzheimer’s, an addict needs support and help. There’s no shame in needing help.

Getting help can be really difficult. And really important.

Getting help for an addiction can be tricky. You cannot force yourself, or an addict, into giving up the addiction; you have to come to that decision on your own. It’s not uncommon for an addict to say, “I’m not going to (enter name of addiction here) anymore! I’ve given it up for good!” and then you take drugs, or manipulate, or buy stuff, or eat too much, or do whatever it is you swore you weren’t going to do anymore. And then shame can set in, “I’m just too weak”, “I have no will power”, “I’m an awful person”, “What is wrong with me?”, or whatever words you use to beat yourself up with. 

Layering a judgment on top of a feeling does not change the feeling,” Glennon Doyle says in her book Untamed. Those are wise words from a self-admitted addict. What would happen if you stopped judging your feelings and just felt them? I think when an addict “fails”, or “falls off the wagon”, that’s an opportunity to ask yourself, “Hmmmm, what is this about?” If you find yourself getting angry, Doyle says to ask yourself, “What is my anger telling me about me?” 

The only person you can control is yourself. If you need help, ask for it. There will always be someone there to help you. And if you find there isn’t a human there to help, God will ALWAYS be there for you. But you have to ask.

“Courage says the fact that I cannot do everything doesn’t keep me from doing what I can.” Glennon Doyle.

Inner self-reflection will help you resist addiction’s power

Whatever your addiction is, chances are it’s a struggle for you. That struggle is real. Invite God into that struggle with you. As the Contemplative Outreach booklet, “Discernment: Practicing the Holy Spirit states for Day 11, “Just Begin”. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to try, just begin. Decide. 

To help with that, I want to offer up two resources. The first is the Serenity Prayer: 

God, grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and 
Wisdom to know the difference.

The keys are the lines about Acceptance. Courage. Wisdom. While it is true that only you can do the work, God is always available to help you. Ask God to help with Acceptance. Ask God to help with Courage. Ask God to help with Wisdom.

Secondly, in her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle talks about suffering from anxiety, depression, and addictions. She says this:

“Addiction is my superpower. [The] sensitivity that led me to addiction is also what makes me a really good artist…

What is that sensitivity about? What about the world bothers you?” 

Seeking your Truth will also give you life.

To help her navigate this, she offers up this idea. Take a piece of paper and fold it into two columns. At the top of one column write, “Easy Buttons” and the other column write “Reset Buttons”. For the Easy Button column, write down all the things [you] do to abandon [yourself]. In the Reset Button column, write down all the things [you] can do to make staying with [yourself] a little more possible.

See the attached example. There is extra space for you to label your Easy and Reset buttons. One column does not equal the other. Just make a list.

Easy ButtonThings I do to abandon myselfReset ButtonThings I can do to make staying present with myself a little more possible
ComparingAccept what is
GossipingWAIT – Why Am I Talking?
Feeding my addictionSay the Serenity Prayer
Say mean thingsTalk a Walk
ProcrastinateSpend time in, or looking at, nature
Eat too much or too littleTalk to a trusted friend
Stop taking necessary medicationRead a good book
Take a nap
Put this someplace where you can see it every day. If you find yourself using the “Easy Button” choose to use your “Reset Button” instead.

“Let it be whatever it will be. Give up trying to manipulate. This is freedom.” Mooji

We’re all in this together

So, whatever your addiction is – whatever label you give it – know that you are never alone and it’s not yours to solve alone. Invite yourself, invite God, and invite others into your disease that all might help support you as you recover, or discover, the life you are meant to live; the life God intends for you, for us all.

Alissa Gunning | Certified Spiritual Director | Director of Social Ministries | March 2021

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