Understanding Chemical Addiction

Some people “linger over wine” (Prov. 23:30), because they want to get rid of their inhibitions so they can party. Others turn to alcohol and drugs as a means of coping. Some rely on chemicals to give them some relief from their physical and emotional pain. You feel pain, so you reach for the pills. You feel down, so you do something to pick yourself up. You feel stressed out, so you do something to calm yourself down. It worked before, so it will work again. You have trained yourself to depend upon chemicals to pick yourself up, to stop the pain, to soothe the nerves, and to feel good. Chemical users feel the rush of the onset reaction and mellow out. However, the resulting euphoric experience doesn’t last. When the effects wear off, the guilt, fear, and shame become more and more pronounced with each successive use. Occasional use of chemicals soon becomes a habit; a means of coping.

Feeling guilty about their behavior may cause some to drink surreptitiously. Because of shame, they leave their familiar surroundings to drink or use where no one knows them. It takes more and more alcohol, or a greater fix to reach the original high. With the habit comes a greater tolerance for the drug of choice. Greater consumption will never get them back to their first euphoric experience. The lows keep getting lower and lower when the effects of the drug wear off. Their loss of control robs them of their ability to live responsible lives. Financial problems develop as they struggle to support their habit.

The downward spiral of addiction leads to greater immorality and their sense of worth plummets. They perceive themselves as disgusting. Their eating and grooming habits deteriorate, as does their health. The vast majority of chemical abusers are also sexually addicted. They withdraw socially, not wanting their weaknesses to be seen. They fear being publicly humiliated or exposed. They become paranoid about people looking at them or talking about them. They have no mental peace. Condemning thoughts haunt them day and night. Their minds imagine confusing things (Prov. 23:33). The only way to silence the voices is to continue drinking. Solomon describes the numbness of those who hit the bottom. “’They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink’” (vs. 35)?

Admitting you have a problem is the first step in overcoming any addiction. Those who think they can stop drinking or using can only prove it to themselves by doing so. If you find that you can’t stop, then you know you need a power greater than yourself. In Christ we have power over sin and He alone has the capacity to meet all our needs.

Dr. Neil

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