I am in my informal brain education era. Lol. Podcasts. Books. YouTube.
I have watched a lot, read a lot, listened to a LOT about the brain. I have a new definition of trauma, much more patience and grace for people’s behaviors (all behavior has a really clarifying back story) (including my own), and a new perspective about addiction.
I used to think addiction was for bad people. I’m learning that’s not true at all. What is true is that every single one of us is experiencing some amount of pain and pressure. Addiction is our compulsive over consumption of anything for the sake of just feeling some relief.
It’s why I can’t cook dinner in my kitchen without Friends on in the background. It’s why I can’t go for a run or drive in my car without a podcast to listen to. It’s why I can’t wait in line at the store without checking to see if I have a notification on my phone. Because I’m just not cozy in my own reality. Give me the option to escape it, and 9 times out of 10 I’m going to take it. Anyone else with me?
Every one of us now has endless options to numb, medicate, and distract. Some addictions are more socially acceptable, some more taboo. Some are very harmful, some are neutral.
Alcohol. TikTok. Video games. A pill bottle. Control. Food. Perfectionism. Relationships. One of the 200+ streaming services. Resentment. Shopping. Church. Exercise. Another person. Success.
But I’m going to flip the script with this. I heard this recently:
The question shouldn’t be: ‘What is your drug of choice and how can you work harder to quit?’
The question should be: ‘What is your drug of choice hiding from you?’
Control can medicate the pain of disappointment. Ambition can medicate the pain of insecurity. Church can medicate the pain of guilt and regret. Food can medicate the pain of discomfort. Sex can medicate the pain of loneliness. Drugs and alcohol can medicate the memories of trauma. Resentment can medicate the pain of forgiving someone you don’t feel like deserves it. All to avoid the discomfort of pain, shame, secrets, scars, trauma, and open wounds.
Just like taking ibuprofen for a headache, our medications work until they wear off. They work and then they wear off. They work and then they wear off. I numb the symptoms with my drug of choice but I never really heal.
This isn’t a “bad person” thing. This is a human thing. In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus was in Gethsemane with his disciples just hours away from death by way of nails through his hands and feet and suffocation on the cross. Beginning to feel the spiritual weight of ALL sin and being forsaken by the Father – the deepest darkness a spirit can feel. Verses 38 and 39 of The Message version say,
“Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this.”
Humanity. Even Jesus was tempted to escape the pressure. Fully God. Fully man. Hebrews 4 is the most freeing reminder for me: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”
All this to say – we have a God who is interested in healing the wounds that are causing you to medicate in the first place. I believe freedom is on the other side of some version of feeling and PROCESSING pain.
Maybe a bold and controversial statement, but I don’t think God wants you to live in a reality that you constantly want to escape from and just “try really hard” to not medicate. I don’t think that’s the good news of the Gospel. That you can white knuckle for the rest of your life so you can say you are free but not really feel free.
He wants to heal. Galatians 5:1 is a reminder that Christ has set us free FROM something AND TO something.
You can go shopping now and not use it to medicate but rather just enjoy it. You can pursue success now but it’s not medicating the pain of insecurity, you’re using your gifts and talents to build the kingdom. People and food – you can now enjoy them as gifts because you’re no longer using them as drugs.
Freedom feels like freedom.