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Where Do Addictions Come From?

Addictions can come in a variety of ways, but if I could narrow their sources down to just two categories, they would be from avoidance and from chemical dependency. The latter of the two is the less common, and so I’ll start with that one, and then we’ll get into a little deeper discussion about avoidance when we’re done.

Chemical dependencies on drugs or alcohol may actually start from a good, or at least a neutral place that got out of hand over time. For example, you go out and have a few drinks with your buddies once a week, never getting drunk, but just enjoying the taste and the fellowship. But through lack of self-control, a few drinks turn into many and once a week turns into a daily activity. Now you can’t quit and wonder how this ever happened to begin with.

How about another example? You’re in a car accident, and you injure your neck in such a way that leaves you with terrible headaches. The doctor prescribes a powerful, but addictive, anesthetic which takes care of the pain while you heal, but leaves you with a chemical dependency to the drug.

Or perhaps you needed an antidepressant for a while, and you took it just a bit too long, or you got hooked on sleeping pills, just trying to get a decent night’s rest. This type of dependency could also come from severe cases of abuse, where drugs were administered to you against your will. We’ll talk about how to deal with this kind of dependency in just a bit, but first let’s explore the other main source of addiction: avoidance.

The vast majority of our addictions and dependencies start with a choice. In order to avoid some sort of pain or negative feeling, or in order to fill some sort of void in our lives, we turn to substances or actions to distract us, numb us, and make us feel “full.” The problem is, none of those things work, at least not for long, and we find ourselves returning time and time again, trying to get another quick fix to distract us from reality.

Some of the reasons we keep returning to these old patterns is that we’re feeling lonely, or worried, or stressed, or inadequate, or insecure, or afraid, and we simply don’t want to deal with those emotions. We don’t like discomfort, and there’s nothing wrong with that dislike, but in turning to false gods to provide what only the true God can give us, we will never be satisfied.

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ ” (John 4:13-14)

When we keep going to the wells of our addictions to find companionship, validation, peace, confidence, or whatever it is we’re really thirsting after, we are missing out on the greatest opportunity we’ve ever been offered—to have the abundant life of God springing up inside of us, giving us completion and fullness, and once and for all quenching the thirst we have for anything else.

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