Much Of What Plagues Us In Life Comes From Imbalance And 'Spirit' Of Addiction
by Michael H. Brown
We hear a lot about addictions like alcoholism, smoking, and drug abuse, but there are hundreds of bad habits, and they are part of the trials of life. They tempt everyone. Take overeating. This is currently an "addiction" that affects the majority of modern adults. There are addictions to sugar, to chocolate, to butter. There are addictions to coffee, to salt. Anything taken in excessive quantity and in a way that is demanded as part of our routine is an "habitual inclination," and that's the literal definition of addiction. A bad habit can involve the way we dress, act, think, shop, talk, relate to people -- in general, the way we live.
At its essence an addiction is an imbalance and as such is spiritually rooted. When we don't have our spiritual grounding, when we are in sin, when we're slothful in any way, and especially when we don't pray enough, we fall prey to many kinds of excess. We open the door and let addiction, often hidden addictions, in. Our Lord is a God of abundance -- but not of excess. If you look at your lives, you'll find excess behind many of your problems.
You'll also find bad habits -- the spirit of addiction -- behind your sins. Note how excess and bad habits lead to wrongdoing, especially the capital sins of anger, envy, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, and covetousness. When there is an addiction to food it can become gluttony and habitually lustful thoughts can turn into adultery and then there are the addictions to people or circumstances or entertainments like television (and the internet). Anything that controls us, that operates out of our domain -- that forces us into behavior or seems to force us into behavior -- is of a negative source. It's like a spirit hooks into our sin and spreads through our weakness.
That's why I call it the "spirit of addiction." Notice how when you eat something that's overly spiced (when there is an excess of salt), the next day you'll crave spiced food more than ever. Now take it the next step: it's often the craving for salt -- for this spice you took in excess -- that propels a lot of your overeating. This seems like a minor example, but it's a metaphor. A bad habit grows like the fastest weed and can become a chain reaction if we don't nip it in the bud. There's a vicious circle, and the enemy is often in the middle of it. He loves to feed off our weakness; he loves a lack of discipline. It's a chink in our armor. And the result can be a veritable whirlwind -- as we see with those who so quickly become ensnared by pornography. The enemy tries to infuse this spirit because he wants the exact opposite of what God does; he wants us attached to the world and especially to its sensual pleasures. He wants us attached to bad habits that inhibit us spiritually.
How do we handle that? How do we halt what seem like uncontrollable urges?
I remember when I smoked cigarettes. No matter what I tried -- special gum, cold turkey, nicotine patches -- I couldn't kick it. For many years, I could not go a single day without a cigarette. I prayed to Jesus and finally, one night, I felt an infusion of grace. I was able to go a whole day without a cigarette. A miracle! But when it came time for me to do my part -- to resist the greatly diminished temptation -- I gave in. I felt I now had such control that I could sneak a cigarette here and there. And of course I could not. I was immediately "re-addicted." I lost the grace. It was only when I prayed yet more fervently and this time for a much longer time that the grace returned and this time I held onto it. I resisted the diminished temptation and kicked that vicious habit.
How do we get the ball rolling? By praying to His Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your bad habits -- your hidden addictions (if they're not apparent) -- and you may be surprised at what pops up. You may be surprised at the problems they have caused. Then ask the Lord to root them out. Ask Him to lift the hold. If you have a stubborn habit, give up food once a week. Fast. It may seem hard at first, but the self-control that quickly comes from fasting will lead to astonishing control over other aspects of your life.
Drugs? Alcohol? Smoking? He can even help here. He does it all the time. Be tenacious. And be specific. Pray every day. Ask God to cast away anything that needs casting out -- to specifically cast off the "spirit of addiction." The very process of prayer is a discipline. The more we pray, the more we gain control.
And what a freedom that is! Through prayer we obtain the spirit of self-control and when we have self-control -- when we are disciplined -- joy knows no bounds; the possibilities are endless.
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