Does the Addiction Ever Go Away?
If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13
I’m clearly biased by my personal experience, but I see drug addiction as a nearly perfect example of our universal struggle with our own nature. We don’t all struggle with drugs, but we all struggle with something and understanding addiction can help us understand our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
I didn’t choose an appetite for opioid pain medications. That was just the hand I was dealt. Likewise, we all have inherited or acquired tendencies towards those things which are destructive for us. Some of us find reward in our greed, lust, gluttony, pride, or our hunger for affirmation. We’re all broken in some way and those flaws are inherently attached to our bodies. Paul called this our flesh nature.
Personally, following my flawed appetite caused me immense pain and misery. This is the nature of the flesh. It wants instant gratification, which always costs us something. True joy is found in following God, but we continually follow ourselves.
In my destruction, I cried out for God to take my destructive appetite away. I read passages like today’s, which says I’m supposed to crucify the deeds of the body. So, I prayed, repeatedly insisting I was killing my addiction in my mind. Then, I thought my behavior would change. Most of us do this. Instead of acting differently, we ask God to force our will to change, and then we promise that we’ll change our behavior. When that didn’t happen for me, I was frustrated. Why don’t you take it away God? Will my addiction ever be gone? Why can’t I kill it?
I had it backwards of course. Paul said that if we desire authentic life, we must paradoxically crucify the flesh life. This doesn’t mean physically killing ourselves. It means that if we want to extinguish a sinful behavior, we must daily engage in behavior that is consistent with abandoning the old life and pursuing the new one. For me, that meant going to treatment, attending meetings, and changing my life – and then my appetite finally changed.
Is it gone? Yes and no. As we crucify the deeds of the flesh, God miraculously changes us so that we come to desire what he desires. Today, I don’t want to use drugs. However, as long as we live in these broken bodies, we’re still attached to its flaws, which can return if we let them. If I quit pursuing God and go back to doing everything my way, my addiction will soon return.
So, today, and every day, if we want authentic life, we must continually ask God what is in the way of our relationship with him. Then, we must daily kill that thing, or it will be killing us.