Today's Insight from Chuck Swindoll

The problem of addiction goes beyond the abuse of alcohol or drugs. Addictions can develop out of virtually any substance or compulsive behavior. Very often people turn to certain behaviors because they find temporary relief from emotional pain. For example, a woman might soothe her troubled mind or cheer her depressed spirit with a shopping spree. The thrill of the deal and the enjoyment of having new things help her feel better . . . for a while. Studies have shown that compulsive behaviors actually trigger the release of chemicals that do bathe the brain in pleasant emotions. The effect is similar to that of an addictive substance, though less intense. Nevertheless, the experience sparked by these hormones and enzymes can become addictive and the withdrawal symptoms remarkably severe.

So the woman’s shopping spree can make her feel better for a short while . . . until, of course, the bills come due. Then the consequences hit, triggering more stress and depression. The feelings of guilt, shame, stress, and depression then trigger a craving for the compulsive behavior or addictive substances—including food—and the downward cycle continues. The substance or behavior can be called addictive when at least three of the following seven signs appear:

1. The person develops a tolerance to the substance or activity such that increased amounts are necessary to achieve the desired effect.

2. The person suffers symptoms of withdrawal.

3. The person indulges in the substance or behavior to a greater degree or over a longer period than intended.

4. The person experiences persistent craving for the substance or activity and feels powerless to curtail or quit.

5. The person spends a great deal of time pursuing, obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance or activity.

6. The person sacrifices important social, occupational, personal, or recreational activities in order to use the substance or engage in the compulsive activity.

7. The addictive or compulsive behavior continues despite the experience of repeated and ongoing negative consequences.

If three or more of these signs become evident in someone’s life, that person can experience a kind of mental transformation. Perceptions change. Defenses go up. Hypocrisy takes over. Note Solomon’s depiction:

Your eyes will see strange things
And your mind will utter perverse things.
And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea,
Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. (23:33–34)

In these verses, the wise man described the feeling of drunkenness, including the hallucinations, skewed perspective, foolish decisions, and nausea. In a much deeper sense, however, Solomon described the mind of an addict under the deluding control of addiction. The king continued by speaking in the voice of the addict.

They struck me, but I did not become ill;
They beat me, but I did not know it.
When shall I awake?
I will seek another drink. (23:35)

Such negative consequences have little impact on the addict’s decision about whether or not to continue destructive behavior. As soon as addicts are clear of the last round of difficulties—the last hangover, the last scrape with the law, the last blown relationship, the last job lost—they’re planning the next opportunity to indulge their craving.

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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