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The Mystery Of Addiction

Whenever possible I like to make things as simple as possible - "black and white" so to speak. Some people struggle with that, since for them things can never be that simple. But the way I see the world, and me in it, it looks something like this:

As a human being I am constantly wooed and pulled by two powers, the Spirit of God on one side who wants to keep me in the presence and fellowship of my loving Father, and the enemy of my soul (aka Satan) who wants to keep that from happening by luring me over to his side with clever lies and tempting offers. Of course I have my own will and desires, but they are constantly influenced and shaped by how much I give in to either side.

Too simplistic for you? Oh, I can make it even simpler than that: We are either being ruled by fear, or by love. When I am in God’s presence, love fills my heart and it feels “full”. But whenever I listen to the lies of the enemy I am opening myself to fear. As a result I feel “empty” which makes me look for things to fill that void. And that is where addictions come on the scene. By that I do not only mean the classic addictions to drugs, alcohol, power and sex, but basically any fleshly desire that is so strong that I cannot resist. The Bible calls it "becoming a slave to sin”. (read 2 Peter 2:19)

In Spiritual Direction we try to help people understand the reality that the presence of God is always with us, even when we do not feel it. Once that reality sinks in it becomes so much easier to deal with the feeling of emptiness which in itself is a lie from the enemy. No one can separate us from the love of God which casts out all fear - get it?

I read something very interesting in regard to addictions that adds another perspective to the mix.

Scientists and doctors have forever tried to find out the mechanisms behind our addictions. One classic experiment was to put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time they ran this experiment, the rat would become obsessed with the drugged water, and kept coming back for more and more, until it killed itself.

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling. The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life.

What was it that ultimately saved the rats’ lives? Some would say it was the good and pleasant environment, but we all know that all the riches and luxuries in this world cannot fill the emptiness in our hearts. No - it was the community with other healthy rats that shut down the need for drugs and healed them of their addiction.

You and I are not rats, but I believe reality has proven this experiment to be true in humanity. Society tells us we need to be individualistic, and master our lives in isolation, but that is a lie and the culprit to so many of our problems and addictions. Community, on the other hand serves as a healer of our lonely hearts and allows us to deal with our unhealthy cravings.

You were not meant to be alone out there - so let us walk with you for a while!

#spiritualdirection #spiritualformation #addictions #community

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