The life of an addict

July 21, 2006

Some people scoff when others self-identify as addicts.  They feel it is self-defeating.  If you think of yourself that way, it is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You are going to lose.

Of course, you could point to the thousands (probably millions) of alcoholics who attend weekly meetings, stand up, and declare themselves alcoholics who haven’t drunk a drop for years.

What is an addict anyway?  Well, I haven’t looked it up.  I gave you a version with the Indiana Jones example yesterday.  I suppose I should try to be more formal today.

An addict is someone with a bad habit that they can’t, under any reasonable amount of coercion, willpower, practice, or danger, willingly give up.  It has to be a bad habit because addictions, by definition, have to bad.  For instance, we can’t really willingly give up breathing, but it would stretch the term addiction into uselessness to use it so.  It has to be a habit, because there is an element of compulsion in it.  You have to want to do it, even when you don’t want to do it.  So, if you drink every weekend, except when you have important reasons not to, you probably aren’t an addict.  If you drink every weekend and hope nobody notices when you have important reasons not to, you should probably check out a 12 program near you.  You can find a list of LDS ones here.

So then if after pondering that you have decided you are an addict (I’ll post a link to a more ‘scientific’ test on Monday), what does that mean?  Primarily, it means that you really like doing something that you shouldn’t do excessively (or, in some cases, at all).  That is the grand sum.  It means nothing else on its own.  You need to remember that.  It will help.

You see, the thing is that nobody is just an addict.  In order to become an addict, you have to pick up a host of other bad traits.  You don’t become an addict overnight (usually) and, in order to become or remain one, you need to become an expert in lying, half-truths, false sincerities, betraying, and other deceptions of all kinds.  Every addict is an excellent con, who knows how to play those around him or her.  All one’s focus is on getting the next fix and, therefore, one is capable of using everything and everyone around them for it.  You quickly lose friends, alienate family, and wall yourself up in a hell of your own making.  Pretty bleak, eh.

The first thing you need to understand is that there is hope.  The founders of AA were hopeless drunks, people to whom you couldn’t give a dollar because they would drink it away before it got to their starving children.  They would justify it, too, to themselves and anyone who asked.  They were hopeless and God saved them.

We are blessed in the church to believe in one irredeemable sin.  By definition, all other sins are redeemable.  By definition, you cannot get yourself so lost that God cannot find you.  If you go to a 12 step meeting, just look around you.  Look at all of the people whom God has found, whom he has redeemed, is redeeming, and will redeem.  If you don’t think that you are someone special, just note that neither are any of those people.  God is no respecter of individuals; He seems to like all of us.

Remember, the blessing and the curse of the addict is that God doesn’t really ask any more of you than he does anyone else.  In the LDS context, he doesn’t want anyone to drink, smoke, do drugs, look at pn, eat too much, gamble, control, etc.  So, we just need to do what anybody needs to do.  Of course, the reality is more complicated than that.  We have to mean it.

The wonderful thing about addiction is that you suddenly cannot procrastinate.  When you are addicted and really believe that you are addicted, you know that it will only get worse if you put off repentance.  Addiction, through shame, guilt, embarassment, or criminal procedures, puts your life in sharp contrast and gives an urgency to your desire for salvation.  What’s more, when an addict, you cannot simply repent, whatever that might mean.  You must become repentant.

In other words, I repented all the time before I started the 12 step program.  I would talk to bishops or my wife (sometimes both) and explain my situation and that I was genuinely sorry.  And I was; I honestly felt horrible about what I had done and had no intention of repeating it or doing something similar.  So when I found myself doing it again, I would often wonder why.

The answer is that I never changed.  I never let the Atonement change me.  I got to a point where I felt the Spirit again and figured I was home free.  It never occurred to me that I had felt the Spirit before I started in on all of this.  What addicts must do is change their natures.  Only God can do that.  My testimony is that He will if we will let Him.

Is it depressing to be an addict?  Not necessarily.  You are compelled daily to seek God’s loving grace (even if you haven’t acted out in your addiction; especially if you haven’t acted out).  You are actively trying to change so that you are in the image of God.  You are seeking to do God’s will in all things.  So, apparently, being an addict means that you have the same responsibilities as any other member of the church.  Good luck to you!


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