I’m not an addict!

Of course you’re not…. What self-respecting person would have that “issue?” Or are you?

(Didn’t that priest write about addictions in the LAST issue of Connections? Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did – thank you for noticing!)

RevRN: Reflections on clergy health

Why am I writing about it again? Because I would hedge a bet (and I am not addicted to gambling) that everyone is addicted to something. In the 2011 article “Is Everyone Addicted to Something?” from the Huffington Post, and realizing that the numbers are much higher now than then, the article reveals staggering statistics. Look up current statistics and it will blow your mind!

Just what is addiction, anyway? Well, according to Funk and Wagnalls, addiction is:

noun: addiction; plural noun: addictions

the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. “he committed the theft to finance his drug addiction

synonyms: dependency, dependence, habit, problem “his heroin addiction”

devotion to, dedication to, obsession with, infatuation with, passion for, love of, mania for, enslavement to “a slavish addiction to fashion

For those of us who are more academically minded when it comes to the workings of the addicted brain, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

So now do you think you don’t have an addiction? Perhaps it is time for all of us to do some introspection as to what we do on a consistent basis, which drives us to reward or relief, which leads to dysfunction in the living of life? (Addictions come in many packages – sex, overeating, under-eating, tobacco, gambling, workaholics, shopaholics, alcohol and drugs, cleaning, hoarding, x,y,z – you fill in the blank.)

Know anyone with a peanut/nut allergy? How about shellfish, strawberries, bee stings? I find it interesting that we become hyper-vigilant when we are in the presence of individuals who have adverse reactions to these substances. We don’t diss them, denigrate them, or lump them in a pejorative category. Why then, do we have the compulsion to do so with those who are addicts?

There is a stigma attached to addiction, no denying it. However, the more we know about the workings of addiction – that it is a brain disease, not some sort of moral failure from which you can pull yourself up by your boot straps and get over it, the more compassion we can have for those who outwardly manifest addictive behavior, as well as compassion for ourselves and others who keep addictions under lock and key in a closet of their own design. It also invites us to seek treatment for ourselves and those we love. We would do it if we had a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure, hypertension – why not addiction? It may do us, and others, a world of good to remember what Matthew (7.3) had to say:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (New International Version)

Here’s looking at ya – but looking at myself first!

The Rev. Ruth Paulus is a priest and registered nurse. She serves as rector of St. Christopher’s, Fairborn. Contact Ruth at revrn05@gmail.com.