*Editor’s Note: Because addiction can disrupt our ability to submit to God and to love ourselves and others well, followers of Jesus do well to understand the subtle causes of addiction. The following is an excerpt from Renew.org resource Untangling Addiction, by Dr. Marcus De Carvalho, M.D.
Do you just accept the fate of your addiction, then?
Absolutely not! There is hope for the hopeless. Many people who struggle with addiction, in my experience, learn how to become sober and maintain their sobriety over time, but they must work at it. The point I am trying to accentuate here is that if you have had an addiction at some point in your life, you will always be vulnerable or susceptible (on some level) to fall back into that addiction.
I feel a strong sense of sadness when people come to me and say that they do not want to go to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery, even though they are early in their recovery process and still need help. They feel that they have fully recovered, and they want to put that chapter behind them. They eschew the thought of looking back on that “dark place” in their life.
I know now when I hear this, after many years of experience, that relapse is right around the corner for people like this.
If an addict is not vulnerable to the fact that their recovery is something they’ve got to work on every single day, it will come back and overtake their life.
Why? Neuroplasticity has created neural pathways that remember your addictive habits, and these will never go away. Neuroplasticity is that powerful.
So where’s the redemption in all this? It’s a battle, just like anything else, but in Christ, we have what we need. For a good place to start studying Scripture for a better understanding of addictions, I suggest studying what Paul says about his “thorn in the flesh.” In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul says,
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was a given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul understood that his vulnerability—his thorn in his side—needed to be there for the power of Jesus to shine in his life. We don’t know what this “thorn in the flesh” was, but we know that it caused him to be dependent on God.
Continuing to realize one’s dependence on God is how lasting recovery happens. For, as Paul explained, when we are weak, we are strong.
(Excerpted from Untangling Addiction, which is available for download here.)