Recognizing Our Addictions

When we hear the word addiction, we tend to think of substance abuse. Addicts are people who are hooked on drugs or alcohol. And for most of us, that means someone other than us.

Richard Rohr invites us to think about addiction differently. In Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, he writes:

We are all addicts. Human beings are addictive by nature. Addiction is a modern name and description for what the biblical tradition calls “sin” and the medieval Christians called “passions” or “attachments.”…

Substance additions are merely the most visible form of addiction, but actually we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing anything, our own defenses, and most especially our patterned way of thinking, or how we process our reality. By definition you can never see or handle what you are addicted to. It is always “hidden” and disguised as something else. As Jesus did with the demon at Gerasa, someone must say, “What is your name?” (Luke 8:30). You cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge.

Rohr is right, I think, as to both the importance of overcoming our addictions and the difficulty in recognizing them in ourselves. And that means we often need the help of others in dealing with this.

I mean that in two fashions. First, as someone commented during our retreat this past weekend, it is always instructive to see what behaviors or traits in others we react strongly negatively to. Often, we find that what we are reacting to in them is something in us (although the trait or characteristic many not manifest in us exactly as it manifests in the other).

Second, just as addicts often benefit form an “intervention” by their friends and families, those closest to us can be helpful in pointing out to us our defenses and habitual ways. May we be grateful for the help of those who are willing to help us see those things we need to change in ourselves…and may we (with love) do the same for them.

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