“What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”
Romans 7:15-20 The Message
“We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.”
We admitted we were powerless over our addiction,
that our life had become unmanageable.
Addictions destroy people. They are a kind of self assault, a personalized form of self execution. Some addiction experts have called it “suicide on the installment plan.” Inevitably, we hurt ourselves with our addictions, usually without even realizing it. We bring destruction to our bodies, our relationships, our careers and we harm ourselves in unseen ways via the emotional and psychological self-wounding which come from repeatedly doing the things that we know are not right to do. Perhaps the greatest harm done is the spiritual damage we suffer when we violate our own standards and ethics of conduct and morality.
Without help, addictions always progress as demonstrated by the ways we have increasingly violated our own sense of right and wrong. And, without help, we can lose to our addictions our own sense of identity—that is, a realistic view of who we are and how our lives are being lived out. Even our own ability to make healthy choices can be stolen from us by our addictions. It’s not like we don’t know the difference between right and wrong, it’s just that addiction overwhelms us, robbing us of the power to consistently live well. It works out like this: We know what is right and we want to do right, but in the end we find that we have done the wrong thing and we usually have no reasonable explanation as to why we did the wrong thing and not the right thing, which is what we really wanted and intended to do. Looking back we’ve always known in our heart what was right and we never wanted to do what was wrong. Moreover we certainly never meant to become addicted to anything. However, in the light of honesty we will also remember how we’ve made repeated promises to ourselves, and others, only to break our promises many times over.
The Apostle Paul, who some call the greatest Christian who ever lived, offers us an insightful perspective that can be used as a sort of universal detection device for addictions. In Romans 7:15 Paul says, “What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” What the Apostle Paul tells us in Scripture can help us to understand that it is possible for anyone to suffer from an addiction and even the greatest among us, like the Apostle Paul, will only escape their powerlessness if they are willing to recognize it and admit it.
Amidst this difficult reality there is a bright spot. Admitting our powerlessness over our addiction is the end of our aloneness and the beginning of our recovery journey. But, unless we admit that we need help and we become willing to receive the help that is available to us, things will only get worse, they will never get better. Without help, our addictions will always get worse, never better.
Copyright, David Zailer 2011