What is addiction? There are myriad responses to this query. However you define it, most experts—and addicts themselves—agree: the addicts’ need for their drug of choice is greater than their ability to abstain.
The term “drug of choice” can fit any number of behaviors and actions, including drugs, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling, shopping, eating, computer games, etc.
What does an addict look like? They look just like you and me. You see them every day at school, work, at the store, and in church.
A Security Blanket
It may be cliché to say, “An alcoholic doesn’t drink to get drunk—an alcoholic drinks to forget,” but any addict or professional addiction therapist knows just how true that statement is.
In a sense, an individual’s addiction becomes his security blanket. An addict’s drug of choice becomes his coping mechanism. Life can, and will be, very challenging from time to time. When life becomes too stressful for the addict, he self-medicates with his drug of choice. He gives into the false logic that his addiction makes no demands of him, i.e. “This bottle doesn’t care how mean my boss is. It only wants to help me forget my boss for a while.”
One of the problems with addiction is it is progressive and degenerative. Soon, one drink won’t be enough to forget. It will take more drinks to cover the painful emotions the addict is feeling.
Too late the addict realizes that with each drink, shopping binge, pornographic magazine, etc. he is becoming more and more enslaved to his particular vice.
The Cycle of Addiction
Addictive behavior is cyclical in nature. It goes something like this:
Step 1. The addict thinks, “Today was very stressful and I hurt emotionally. I don’t want to give in to my addiction, but I don’t want to hurt either. Maybe if I just give in to my bad habit (most addicts don’t admit to being addicted) just a little, I will feel better.”
Step 2. The addict acts out in his destructive behavior and while doing so forgets the problems he is trying to get away from…temporarily. While acting out, the brain is probably producing dopamine, which provides a short-lived feeling of euphoria.
Step 3. Just like day follows night, the addict feels intense guilt for having acted out after the euphoria wears off. “How could I be so weak?”
Step 1. This brings us back to the beginning of the cycle—“I hurt emotionally. I don’t want to give in to my addiction, but I don’t want to hurt, either.”
Escape from Addiction is Possible
For over two years, I volunteered in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Addiction Recovery Program. I can assure you that the vicious cycle of addiction can be broken.
I remember sitting in an addiction recovery meeting next to a woman whose teenage son had driven her to the meeting, and good thing—I could smell the alcohol on her breath. I was glad she was there, but somewhat pained that her teenage son had to be the adult.
I have listened to women cry about how their lives are affected by their husbands’ addiction to pornography. I have yearned to dry their tears and let them know that none of it was their fault. Most of the addicts I met were enslaved in their early teens—some earlier than that.
I have seen many men and women conquer their own personal Goliaths of addiction. I have seen broken lives and broken hearts mended through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have witnessed hope and faith restored and families reunited through repentance and addiction recovery programs.
The Twelve-Step Program
The first three steps of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ twelve-step program are:
Step 1. Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.
Step 2. Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
Step 3. Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
In summary, these steps are:
- I can’t.
- He can.
- I will let Him.
Where Can You Find Help?
If you or someone you know is trapped by addictive behavior, there is hope. Click here to read The Church’s addiction recovery guide. Click here if you’re interested in finding an addiction recovery meeting in your area. Or you can go here if you just want to learn a little more on-line about the Church’s addiction recovery program.
Without any hyperbole, I can honestly say that I have met few people more humble than addicts who are willing to confront their addiction and have become willing to submit their will to that of their higher power.
A Loving God Yearns to Help You
Despite what you may have believed your whole life, you are not alone. You are the son or daughter of a loving Father in Heaven. His strengths are greater than your weaknesses. By turning over to Him the crushing burden of addiction, you can be made whole. I pray that you can feel my love for you, and that you can find the strength and courage to turn your will over to Him and find the peace you have desperately searched for.
More about “What is Addiction?”
“What is Addiction?” was written by Dan Olsen. The subject “What is Addiction?” is important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links: