The Definition of Insanity . . . and Addiction
And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.” Genesis 30:19
How did I become addicted? It’s not something I planned on, of course. I simply followed my appetite. Once I discovered that opioids felt good, I wanted more. As I repeated the behavior, I became physically dependent on the drug and soon, I developed withdrawal whenever I couldn’t use. At that point, I needed the drug just not to feel sick. This isn’t fun anymore. My addiction made me miserable, but the drug had hijacked my brain. The only relief I understood was the next high, which soon faded into misery again. From the outside, you’d have been astounded at my stupidity. Why do you keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different outcome? But that’s addiction – repeating a self-destructive behavior, despite experiencing painful consequences. That’s insanity.
In today’s passage, Leah exhibited this same kind of insanity, illustrating that addictive, self-destructive behavior doesn’t just involve drugs or alcohol. In the story, Jacob married two sisters, loving Rachel, while scorning Leah. This conflict produced a competition between the sisters to see who could provide more offspring to Jacob. With every son she delivered, Leah hoped her husband would finally love her. Now, on her sixth son, Leah once again told herself –This time he’ll love me. Her first five sons didn’t get her the results she wanted, but that didn’t keep her from trying again. She had no reason to believe in her plan. It had never worked. Still, she repeated the same behavior, hoping for different results. Insanity.
In recovery, I’ve had to realize that even though my now-appetite provided some immediate gratification, the high quickly faded into misery. If I truly wanted to know life, joy, and peace, then I was never going to find it in pursuing my appetite. Repeatedly attempting to find joy in my stomach was insane. I had to realize that contentment was found, paradoxically, in sacrificing my today-appetite to do that which was healthy tomorrow. If I wanted authentic joy, I had to follow something far beyond myself.
We often think that happiness is found in doing whatever we want right now. When we discover the futility of this, we should abandon it. Instead, however, we repeat the behavior and then wonder why we’re still miserable. Insanity. If we desire to escape the insanity, we must accept that our way is misery and that God’s way is life. Then, daily, we must do what it takes to abandon self to follow him. Only in doing so, do we find authentic life . . . and sanity.