In my time in the Navy, I was taught that problems needed to be named in such a way that the name pointed toward the solution. For example, when someone did not know how to do their job, it was called a “training” problem. If they did not have the tools or parts they needed to fix something, it was a “supply” problem. When we did not have enough people to do the job, it was a “personnel” problem. If someone misbehaved, it was a “discipline” problem. Yes, when morale was down, it was a “leadership” problem.
So, when we say that something is “addictive”, we are blaming the substance and not looking at the real solution to the problem.
So what is the problem?
Just as a headache may be a symptom of a deeper problem, it’s not best to always just apply painkillers hoping that the headache will go away. If the headache keeps coming back doctors will tell you that something else is wrong, that it’s time to look deeper.
We have a long list of traditional “addictive” things: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, etc. In today’s society, we can easily add “video games, social media, bullying, (including emotional and physical), racial (and even political) prejudice and self-righteousness. So many professionals and pseudo-professionals have made the list of “addictive substances” longer and longer without ever looking at the root cause of addiction.! Others, like the 12-step and other recovery groups, focus on helping people to cope with their “addiction”, and some say it is a life-long struggle. I have a lot of respect for recovery groups and efforts as they have helped thousands if not millions of people over the decades.
What I want to address, is what is it that makes it so easy for us to get addicted to something in the first place. Let’s look at the source of the problem as I see it.
Dependence, Independence, Interdependence
This quest started back when I was working as a rehabilitation counselor helping blind or vision impaired people enter or re-enter the workforce. When I joined the agency, their focus was on helping people who were “dependent” to become “independent”. I thought that goal was too low and started discussions about how the goal could well be higher, it could be “interdependence”. What’s the difference between them?
- Dependent: Must have something or someone to lean on. Must have the help to accomplish a goal. Someone who must take. Some people are in this category because of a physical or mental condition. Or, they are tasked to get something done that they cannot do without help. This can be a short-term dependence or long-term dependence.
- Independent: Able to do something without help from others. Someone who doesn’t need to take, nor do they necessarily give. Independence is a fine goal for someone who is dependent. Often it is best to achieve this level before thinking about getting further.
- Interdependent: Able to do tasks on their own, while also helping others do their tasks. Both a given and a taker in the eyes of others. Leaders are an example of someone in this category, as are many functioning adults.
So the natural consequence of this kind of thinking is that dependent people are childish or broken. Independent people are great, however, it is also true that they don’t really need society or others. They could be solo survivors, alone on a desert island. It is easy for them to become arrogant and self-righteous. What about the interdependent? No one talks about them, it is too high a goal for a society that wants to blame our circumstances instead of the person in the mirror. Sad, isn’t it.
The Root Cause
I think the view to take, is to remember what I said in the first paragraph, in that we name the issue based on where the solution exists. To say that an item or behavior is “addictive” seems to be saying that the fault is in the item or behavior. I don’t support that. I believe that it is much, much more accurate to say “that person is “addicted” or “dependent” to that item or behavior. This puts the focus on the individual, and I believe that’s where the solution lies.
Let’s remember, that God designed and created us to be “dependent” … on God. God never planned for us to be “independent” from Him, or from others. I firmly believe that it is very easy to choose something other than God to be our “fortress”, or place of comfort when in need. No one person is to blame more than any other. Let’s remember that when Moses took “too long” on the mountain, the people wanted to go back to the gods they knew, and the Golden Calf “popped” out of the fire. They only did what we so often do today as individuals, go back to what worked before, even though it was only temporary and unfulfilling.
Going back to “other gods” is an ancient way of saying going back to “old habits”. We remember what we thought worked for us, and want to go back. Using coping skills from our childhood, instead of learning better ones. When will we become sick of this self-inflicted pain? Will we surrender in time to the Truth? When will YOU stand up for yourself? Life has its difficult moments, and we were NEVER designed to be independent of other people or independent of God. We all need unconditional love to prosper as people.
God designed us to be dependent. To be dependent on Him (Love). Remember that 1st commandment? He is our creator and we hurt ourselves, our growth, and our loved ones when we choose to depend on something else.
The problem isn’t the substance or the behavior. It’s the refusal to accept a design issue. Start depending on what you were designed to be dependent on. Him! We all share this problem, this challenge. We are in this struggle together, even if different things are pulling each one of us out of the best in life and into a personal … hell.
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!