Yep. You read that title correctly. The life of addiction is an easy one. It almost runs on autopilot. You need very little actual thinking to be an addict. You wake up with ONE main goal. You know what to do to get what you need. You know how to find the resources to acquire it. And you know what to do with it once you have it. Sobriety, on the other hand, is a very difficult lifestyle. There is A LOT of brain activity required for the life of sobriety. Please humor me long enough to allow me to lay my case before you.
Addiction. In this lifestyle, the main factor that makes it so much easier is that you don’t have to feel anything. That’s why addicts use. Whoops! I didn’t mean to let the big secret out of the bag, but there it is. Non-addicts always ask, “Why do you use? I don’t understand why you can’t just stop.”
Physical pain is NOT why we ABUSE substances
Let’s ignore the physical reasons why addicts can’t just stop. I want to look solely at the emotional and spiritual reasons. The bottom line is that we as addicts believed, and used, a spiritual lie to try and solve an emotional problem. Whether we had physical pain or not is irrelevant for this discussion (I have suffered from debilitating migraines my entire life, so I understand that component, but it is NOT the cause of addiction).
We abuse substances because of emotional pain
The reason we used is that we had emotional pain, even if we didn’t realize it. Some event or series of events caused a deep emotional scar within us, and it hurt! We may have been cognizant of it or maybe not, but it was there. And our brain was aware of the pain even if our conscious minds were not. We needed something to ease that pain. Maybe we used drugs, alcohol, sex, food, money, athletics, or any one of a number of things.
We believed the lie
Regardless of the method, we tried to use to remedy the hurt the outcome was the same. But it was a LIE! We were trading one pain for another. We just didn’t realize it yet. We didn’t realize that broken families, friendships, finances, jobs, reputations, and souls all waited on that path for us. If we had, we never would’ve walked it.
Moving out of a life of addiction
The problem with moving from a life of addiction to sobriety is that we as addicts have no experience in the real world. We don’t know how to process emotions or work our way through feelings or conflict. We’ve always numbed that stuff, so we didn’t actually have to deal with it—to FEEL it. So when we begin a life of sobriety, we have to start learning, on the fly, how to deal with all of those things while they hit us simultaneously.
It’s time to grow up and join the REAL world
We don’t now have the benefit of growing up and learning as we go. We need those skills NOW! Without them, the real world is simply overwhelming. Oh, I left out the fact that while we’re learning to function in the real world, we are also constantly being bombarded with the realizations of the damage we’ve done in addiction. We see the total cost both to ourselves and those we love. We are crippled by shame and regret. So, in essence, it is a double whammy (for those of you that remember the game show Press Your Luck, an 80’s reference) the real world hits us all at once (unprepared) AND the past as well. In our addiction, we would simply take another pill and float right on along, no worries.
As addicts in recovery, we constantly have to choose God’s way or ours. We know where our path leads, but at least we know how to function there. It may be fatal, but it is comfortable. God’s way, on the other hand, brings life, and abundant life at that. But Christ never promises that path would be an easy path. It is very difficult. Things that are worth having are usually difficult to obtain. Is it any wonder then that Jesus himself sweat drops of blood (a condition known as hematohidrosis, so you can impress your pastor) as He wrestled the flesh against the spirit? This condition is caused by a person under so much emotional stress that blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture and blood flows out of the pores of the skin.
I’m not saying that addicts face as much stress as Jesus did in the garden awaiting His trial and crucifixion, but it is similar. We want to make the right choices. We’re so afraid of going back to that lifestyle, but this new emotionally charged life is hard, and we are ill-equipped to handle it oftentimes.
Let me leave you with some HOPE
However, and I want to leave you with some hope, this walk is worth it my friends. Yes, it is the hardest thing any of us has ever done, but it is worth it. Will there be setbacks? Absolutely. Will there be failures and slip-ups? Maybe. But let us have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:12-14:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
The road is hard. The race is long. The trials are many. But I assure you it is worth it. We as addicts have settled for so much less than we deserve for SO LONG. Let us finally fix our eyes on the finish line at the race and persevere to the end. Because if you don’t hear anything else, I say, “You ARE worth it!’