I have been thinking a lot about the concept of addiction lately. I have seen it consume the lives of people I love, read and heard stories of its effects worldwide, and witnessed its seductive pull. Addiction is a real issue that effects more lives than we can possibly imagine. Most commonly, addiction is used to describe abusive relationships with drugs and alcohol, but people can also become addicted to things like gambling, sex, and shopping – along with a whole slew of other things.
Today, I am not going to get into the nitty gritty details of what "defines" an addict, or the science, symptoms, or treatments behind it all. Instead, I want to talk about my own experience of what I have seen.
As I mentioned before, I have seen the grip of addiction at work. I have witnessed several close friends succumb to drug and alcohol's incredible force. And, although maybe I cannot fully understand, I certainly can relate. We live in a nasty, complicated world full of brokenness. It is hard to fit in; it is hard to find purpose; it is hard to feel adequate. At the core of our beings, I think every single one of us wants the same thing in life: to love and be loved. That is it. But, living in a society where bad things happen to good people, perfection is expected, perverted personas are glorified, and morals have been twisted and compromised, it becomes tough to live in a true-to-yourself manner.
Myself, I have experienced my fair share of hardships in my short life. These hardships have produced particular outcomes similar to the ones just listed – things like insecurity, lack of self-esteem, and outsides pressures to be perfect. In response to these matters, I have definitely felt a pull to use outside resources to compensate and help me cope. No, I have never ever touched drugs of any kind, but I do find myself turning to material things to help make me happy and portray a particular image to the rest of the world.
It all goes back to the same thing: searching for happiness, love, meaning, and acceptance. We find crutches – crutches like alcohol or drugs or sex or material things that "help" ease the pain, that act as a buffer, that make us or situations more comfortable, that numb us to the outside world, or that make us feel like we are somehow fixing a problem. But, no matter how hard we try, it does not help – at least not permanently. And, meanwhile, relationships, health, safety, and bank accounts suffer.
I was talking with one of my best friends a couple of weeks ago about these issues and my personal struggles. He had some enlightening words to say that I will share with you: "If you are using different things to help compensate and transform yourself into something else, do people really like you? Are they getting to know you? Or are you just feeding them a false perception of yourself?"
I have been chewing on those words for a while and I invite you to do the same. What are the addictions in your life – "big" or "small"? What things do you use as crutches? Do you really need them and are they really helping?