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Addicted to What?

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

After twenty plus successful years as a hair salon owner, I began to be pulled in another direction. One Sunday my attention fell on those that came to the altar for prayer. I prayerfully looked at their familiar faces, thinking of how difficult it can become to remain inspired and motivated from one week to another. This wasn’t a time of judging, call it Divine Order, destiny, or whatever explains the moment when your purpose begins to unfold. From that day on, I found myself intrigued with the practice of faith. Scripture references and sermonic clichés began to scream for a greater explanation.

What I saw on the altar that day, were people who wanted to stop certain behaviors but felt they didn’t have the strength to do so. Week after week they kept coming back, some to massage a guilty conscious and others looking for an actual change. What we failed to grasp is that faith is an action word. Faith requires movement. Faith without action, without movement, or works is dead. It won’t accomplish anything. We are called to be participants in our healing if lasting change is going to occur.

It’s not the clinical description but Merriam Webster simplifies the term addiction as “a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly.” Gerald G. May, M.D, the author of Addiction and Grace believes everyone is addicted to something. Religion can easily be that something. Now faith is about believing even after you have all of the facts. If we use religion or anything to numb or block the facts, that thing then becomes a target for addiction. Bishop G. E. Patterson defined faith as “believing God in the face of the facts.” If change is going to ever happen, we must have that kind of faith, along with the strength and support to change the things we can and accept those we can’t. We must work in collaboration with our faith.

Addiction isn’t a bad word. We did or continue to do what we feel we have to, to fulfill a need. If I am hurting emotionally, eating comforts me. When memories haunt me, sleeping aids help self soothe. Spiritually I’m confused. I’ve been working to ignore thoughts of past trauma and generational ills, but at church I’m a super Christian. I’m on most committees and there every time the door opens. It helps me feel accomplished and worthy until I’m back home alone with my thoughts of how I really feel about myself. My self-esteem is at an all-time low, so I cover up by doing everything “over-the-top.” My parents died and my spouse left me, so my defense is to avoid all relationships and spend my time working extra hours, exercising excessively, or getting degree after certification after degree. These aren’t good or bad people, participating in “good or bad” behaviors.

Each of these scenarios are examples of instant gratification and how we respond to less favorable situations. We want to feel good instantly without going through the much-needed process. So, we miss out on the wisdom gained from experience and the knowledge that accompanies living through the various processes of life. If we use our faith in the same manner as a substance abuser would use Meth or Heroin then we avoid the process of feeling our emotions, experiencing our thoughts and finding the strength to go through and live successful lives.

Understand that collaboration with faith is what will bring success. Somewhere at the intersection of faith and science our change is sure to come. Moving forward in preparation for the new year, don’t just resolve to do a list of things, resolve to become aware of self-defeating thoughts, self-sabotaging behaviors and admit to those things that hinder and bind. Then commit to the process of change. Faith is important in this process and faith coupled with therapy will empower you to make those changes in a healthy manner that builds a platform for a fulfilling life. So start putting legs on your faith and reach out for that support right away. It maybe in a support group, sponsor, coach, or therapist. Whomever you choose, understand it's time for a change.

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Peter Bately
Peter Bately

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