Rev. Doug Meyer shares his understanding of addictive thinking and how we can overcome it.
Addiction is life altering, in both good and bad ways. Almost every family I know has been impacted directly or indirectly because someone they love is battling addiction, has battled addiction, or has lost their physical lives due to addiction!
Addiction does not pick and choose. Where it invades, it overwhelms all people: rich and poor, all colors and ethnicities, all religions, all educations. It shows no mercy or selectivity! In the midst of this national nightmare we are making a way to embrace and encourage families - it is called ReNew.
ReNew is a weekly meeting offering community, care, acceptance, and accountability to individuals fighting addiction. Many of our friends in ReNew can testify that their lives, and in many cases lives of family members, were eventually improved because of the insights they learned in addiction recovery.
In a recent ReNew meeting the group explored Step 1 from the 12-Step way of recovery.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or drugs, sex, gambling, eating, shopping, etc.) – that our lives had become unmanageable.
The New Testament writer Paul captured the thinking of most addicts in Romans 7:14 –
"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
Seems so simple, yet is such a difficult first step for many! This acknowledgment is especially frustrating to family members and loved ones of addicts. A frequent refrain heard from family members is, "Why can't they just admit they have a problem and get on with getting better?"
Seems so simple, right?
Let's unpack the word "admit." Webster’s dictionary defines admit: "to concede as true or valid."
What it does not expand on is the emotional weight just under the surface of that acknowledgement.
In an addict's way of thinking to admit these truths, real or imagined, is to say:
- I am an less than.
- I have a problem.
- I am weak, a loser, and defeated.
- I am not what I thought I was.
- I am not what I pretended to be.
- I am surrendering to something, over which I thought I had power.
- The identity I had was an illusion.
To do so feels like a punch in the face over and over and over again. Iit goes to our core identity, our sense of worth and value, and our relevance. To make a such an admission challenges all the stories we tell ourselves every day as we try to find our way and worth.
Our crazy addict way of thinking has this script in our minds:
"If I admit to this situation, if I surrender, you will think less of me. I am defeated. I am a loser. If the lie I have been telling is revealed, I will lose my job, my gig, my family, my standing in the community. If this is gone, I am nothing. I am defined by who I am, what I do, where I live, and what I own. If I am nothing, I have no value."
This thought thread reveals the broken thinking of addicts. One of the goals of ReNew is to remind addicts and their families our value is NOT determined by what we do or don't do. Our value is defined by this truth: we are beloved children of God and God is right by our side – all the time!
Romans 8: 38
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.