By Cathleen Leitch
“How do I know if I’m addicted? Where should I turn for advice?” Addictions: A Christian Perspective, an event hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Wednesday night, sought to answer these questions often running through an addict’s mind.
Robin Downs, a private practice Biblical Counselor, shed light on a common issue through spiritual means and biblical references that can apply to any college student.
“I’m really happy with the angle that the speaker took,” said junior Katie Green, InterVarsity’s large group coordinator. “Christians don’t only talk about spiritual things; they also talk about real things that everyone needs to hear.”
Downs explained that the biggest target of our addictions is idolatry, in whatever form, and people use these idols fill holes in one’s self image, fit in with others, manage emotions, cure self-consciousness and timidity, avoid loneliness and finally, to prove that we can do what we want. The night had a question and answer motif, some questions asked by the counselor and some by anonymous students.
Q: How do I address my own heart’s idolatries and addictions?
A: The first thing we do is get rid of excuses and rationalizations that it doesn’t affect us and that we have control over it. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I can stop whenever I want to?’ Do they ever stop though? Second, confess your sins and look to Jesus as the one who gives grace and mercy. Then, grow in trust and knowledge of God by the study of scripture. Don’t rely on yourself, but partner with and be accountable to wise people. There’s a Christian’s Alternative Meeting right here on campus.
Realize that addiction, like all sin, doesn’t impose itself on us unless we are willing to entertain the seeds of it in our imagination. Change must be deeper than mere outward behavioral change. You can make a decision that says, ‘I’m never going to walk into a bar again,’ but internally there needs to be a change of the heart.
Q: Why should someone look at Christianity when fighting addiction?
A: The world might have all kinds of answers as to why we want things that aren’t good for us, but the Bible gives us an answer. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” (Romans 7:15). This very accurately describes the feeling of an addict, the desire to get out and the powerlessness that comes as a result of feeling you’re in an addiction. I think it’s important to say that scripture describes that; scripture understands that.
Q: What if the person refuses help?
A: Now it all depends on who you are talking about. There are consequences that you can have in friendship and dating relationships where you can say to a person ‘I’m not okay with the way you’re living and I need to pull back in my relationship with you.’ What you’re doing is trying to rescue that person; you’re not trying to act like everything’s fine.
Q: How do I help a friend or family member suffering from addiction?
A: Do you ever wonder why there are people who are 600 pounds who are confined to their homes? Well, the answer is that there are people in most addicts’ lives that are enabling them. Realize that addiction and deception go hand in hand; there is no addict that isn’t also a liar. Recognize your own needs. Some of the people in my practice who are the hardest people to counsel are people who are children of, or a spouse of someone who’s addicted to something. Even though it’s the other person who needs help, you’re a victim of their issues. Do whatever it takes to get that person’s attention again and again and again. Let them know that your goal is love and to persevere with that person until you see change.