Life gets overwhelming sometimes.  We start feeling too much, thinking too much.  We sometimes feel like we don’t have the strength for the pain of this life.  We just want the hurting to stop, if only for a minute.  So we retreat to our old comforts, habits, self-medication in order to deal with the hurts.  We develop addictions.  And once we realize we have an addiction, we can get caught up in our struggle with it, allowing that one area to define us and our focus of growth to the exclusion of everything else.  We’re told that if we’re strong enough or believe hard enough, we can beat it.  So you do all the things you’re supposed to: worked the programs, read the Bible, pray really hard, but nothing helps.  Such that when we have setbacks, when our addictions get the better of us, we feel so totally defeated that we just want to give up on everything, including faith, because it let you down too.

It can be difficult walking through the addictions of others.  It can be difficult being the one with the addictions, not wanting to foist your issues on another in a noble attempt to spare others from the burden of being in relationship with you.  That’s part of the trickiness of addictions:  they are not simple and easily understood, but rather there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.  And in our misunderstanding of addictions/addictive behaviors, we can inadvertently heap burning coals on the heads of those we wish to help.

Because at the core of addiction there is a nest of lies, there is often a lot of truth that has to be poured into the addict’s life.  An addict already dealing with issues of shame and feeling stuck.  They are already buried in lies to themselves much less how they have lied to others, so part of moving to a place of honesty and transparency involves overcoming the lies in their head.  “My emotions are too much for other people” or “My problems are too much for other people” or “People will just leave me if they knew the real me.”

A lot of our need for self-protection involves relational pain.  First off we have to deal with the idolatrous perspective that we’re supposed to go through things alone.  Let me break it down as simply as possible for you:  independence is bad; interdependence is good.  We weren’t meant to be alone.  If you don’t have people to share things with, to help carry some of the burdens of the hurts of this life, that pain (and the need to treat it somehow) will go somewhere.

People tend to have many fantasies built up about romance.  As if you have to be “fixed” or baggage free in order to enter into a relationship.  If that were the case, no one would ever be with anyone in any sort of relationship, from friendship on up.  We all have issues, so it’s best to be honest about them in a relationship.  No one relationship is going to be the entire support.  It’s best to have an outside support system, a network of friends, so that no one person feels the full weight of things.  But if you are truly in relationship with someone, if you’re real and can communicate, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  Sharing one another’s burdens and muddling through this life together.

In our battle with our respective “thorns in our flesh”, our focus shouldn’t be on the addiction or behavior otherwise you miss out on what you really need to overcome it.  Addiction is symptomatic of a heart issue.  As we work through issues of the heart, peeling back layer after lay, we try to discover when the behavior started, what is the motivation behind it, and what is it a comfort mechanism from.  We’re never completely free from our bodies and their biochemical attachments, but we can learn how to comfort ourselves in a good way.

The attitude of being lone wolves and independence is glorified in American culture and runs contrary to us being relational beings.  Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness.  Addictions start with our self-reliance and our obsessive cultural need/belief system that we’re to handle things on our own.  So we pull away from others when we should be finding the strength to seek out support and encouragement.  And be able to vent whatever we feel to friends who can handle it.  On the flip side, it’s incumbent on the others in our lives to not just let the addict, the person in pain, sit alone.  We’re supposed to be about comforting others.

We get so tired.  Tired of fighting, tired of struggling, tired of being.  Tired of hurting.  We want to disappear, to hide, and in the still corners of our soul we wonder can/does God still love us when we screw up?  It’s so difficult to find our own way back home when the love we’ve been taught/experienced has often been so conditional.  So while we still have questions and still experience pain, we still have to walk and feel in healthy ways.  We love ourselves and want to spare ourselves the hurt, but we have to figure out other ways to deal with the pain of this life because our self-medications wear off.  Relationships are scary, two-way, propositions.  We have to learn how to confront each other in a good way, learn how to be loving in a good way, learn how to be humble in a good way.  In the same way, we want people who will fight for us, push into our lives; people who love recklessly, fearlessly, and boldly and point us to Christ.

I’m not going to add to the pile of lies and tell you that you will beat your addiction.  You might.  You might not.  But the struggle to not be a slave to it is worthwhile in and of itself.  And it’s a battle you don’t and shouldn’t have to do alone.  And that might be the ultimate point.