Disease or Decision. What is Addiction? A Somewhat Religious View

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   Nancy Virden (c)2013

photo-24774997-businessman-sleeping-on-his-laptopThere are so many complex reasons for addiction it does not matter why it happened.  Really, it doesn’t.  The present concern is that someone is losing their life because of it, and likely hurting many others in the process. So, addiction happened. Now what?

Joe had his first drink at age 10. By 17 he could not stop. Did a 10 year-old have a disease or were his problems caused by the unfortunate decision of an adult to grant him alcohol as a minor? 

Jane first went on a food binge when she was 12 years old. It was the only way to receive attention from her parents who had little to say until she gained weight.  By 32 she had given up on the battle and herself.

Was Joe born an alcoholic? Was Jane a  food addict before she could even speak?  I think we are tempted to explain everything that does not make sense. It is easier to blame the Joes and Janes of the world than to think addiction could happen by chance to any one of us.

This is how I understand it.  We can experience addiction by accident because our bodies react to a normal situation in an abnormal way. Many people will not have the same reaction to the exact choices an addict makes. For the addict there is a biological reaction and mental obsession that go hand-in-hand.  Of course, reckless choices can lead to addiction as well.

12 Step groups teach the adverse reaction theory. Emotions play a role too.  At the treatment center with dozens of women, there were many stories told with one consistent theme. Something happened to so-n-so that deeply affected her.  She turned to behaviors, substances, people, etc. to cope. 

If we are experiencing emotional pain and emptiness,  it makes sense to fill that pit with the one who the Psalms describe as “The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race… He made their hearts so he understands everything they do.”*

He wants to live there and fill us up with himself. This begins with a first step toward faith. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I’ve believed Jesus is the way for a long time and still battle food addiction.  It is not only believing, it is choosing God’s process and learning to depend on him for everything.  It’s been hard work and yet I am never alone. Regardless of the why addiction starts, complete recovery is founded on running TO God and not AWAY from life’s stressors. 

I’m still learning this. 


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA)


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

picture from Qulaitystockphotos.com

*Psalm 33   **John 14:27

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