By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Bellevue Christian Counseling
References “The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not Enough” by Sharon A. Hersh, M.A., L.P.C.
Addiction is a prison. The inmate has the option to set herself free, but the jailers chemical dependency and shame make freedom seem unattainable. This is why being caught in addiction can be a blessing. It is someone knocking at the prison door and asking, “Would you like me to help you open this?”
The Shame of Addiction
No one knows better than addicts the stigma associated with addiction. Society sees substance abuse as a moral failing rather than a physiological problem. This is why addicts work so hard to keep it a secret. They do not want to admit they are powerless to stop using. They also fear the judgment and condemnation that might come from telling others about their addiction. “We are afraid that if people really knew us, they couldn’t handle the truth, so we hide.” (37)
They even hide from themselves. The brain is a powerful tool of self-deception. Addicts make excuses for why their drinking is justified (It’s really not that much; I’m upset, I deserve it; and I should be allowed to do what I want), so they do not have to acknowledge how bad it has become. Who would want to feel the shame of admitting they are an addict?
Look at the lengths King David went to hide his indiscretion with Bathsheba. He was so determined to conceal that he took advantage of her; he arranged the murder of her husband. He probably assuaged his guilty conscience by defending his privilege as sovereign to do as he pleased. He might have even tried to convince himself that Uriah would have died in battle anyway.
The Addiction gets Out of Control
No matter how well you try to hide your addiction, it will inevitably draw attention to itself. Your friends may start asking you about the rambling voice messages you leave on their phones at 2 a.m. Your children or employer may get upset with you for flaking on your obligations. And the empties start piling up in the garbage.
What makes hiding an addiction so hard is that you are not in control. It controls you. You start cutting corners and compromising to satiate your cravings. Everything else in your life takes a backseat to the addiction. Look at David. There is not enough evidence to prove whether he was a sex addict. However, his actions and subsequent cover-up provide a lurid example of someone powerless to ignore their desire.
You may even want to get caught. Secrets are burdensome. They create a barrier between you and your loved ones. They are so much work to hide. Kersh says being caught in your addiction can be a blessing. She calls it an opportunity to be known, forgiven, and still wanted. Many addicts are terrified of how their loved ones will respond to their admission of addiction. They fear condemnation and rejection.
But admitting your struggle to a loved one may be just the encounter they have been hoping for. If you feel comfortable enough with someone to go to them for help, odds are you will only be confirming their suspicions. And while there are no guarantees, if they truly care about you, they will want to help you find a solution, not stretch you on the rack.
Kersh draws on the example of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees meant to stone her, but Jesus rebuked their self-righteousness. What human being has not fallen into a sinful habit? Jesus was not condoning her actions, rather condemning the crowd’s hypocrisy. What relief the woman must have felt to have her secret shame met with compassion and hope of recovery.
Christian Counseling for Addiction
As the saying goes, the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. They will be able to help you understand why you drink, and help you discern the best course of treatment. A professional Christian counselor is not there to judge you. Their goal is to use therapeutic techniques and Christ’s model of compassion to help you confront your problems.
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