Addiction means continuing to use a substance or activity in spite of its consequences being harmful. There is a wide range of behaviour to which a person can become addicted – not only substances like alcohol or drugs, but also activities. Almost anything that produces feelings of pleasure or relief can become addictive – shopping, work, gambling, food, pornography, computer games, even watching television.

Addictive behaviour can start as a pursuit of pleasure or a short-term way of coping with or blotting out issues. But when the desire to repeat the feelings produced by the activity becomes overwhelming, the danger signs are often denied. A person can slide into dependence. The truth will out. The real character of the addiction eventually surfaces and there can be disastrous consequences for the health of the person, and also for his or her family, friends and colleagues.

The Bible says that the human heart is ‘deceitful above all things’. Every man and woman knows that to be true – it is so easy to lie to ourselves about our situations and emotions.

Addiction treatment and recovery programmes cannot start to be effective until a person is willing to admit the truth of their situation. This often involves going back to examine the original difficulties and feelings that have been avoided. Almost all recovery programmes include counselling – a safe, supported place to deal truthfully with past, present and future. Christians find that the best counselling relationship is with God in prayer – pouring out feelings honestly before God.

Alcoholics Anonymous has developed a twelve-step programme, of which the first step is honesty. The final step is forgiveness, because recovery needs to involve the whole person – physical, emotional and spiritual. Part of the Alcoholics Anonymous approach to recovery involves acknowledging the need for the help of a ‘Higher Power’ to defend a person against returning to addictive behaviour.

John, one of the first followers of Jesus, reported that Jesus said, ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free … If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ Understanding the truth of the situation is the first step to putting things right. This is especially true when it refers to becoming free from the power of addiction.

Practical suggestions

Information, advice and support for both those with addictions and their carers is readily available from your doctor, or start by finding out what is available for you at:

What the Bible says about it

An extract from the Bible:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Where to find it:
1 John 1:8-9

About these words:
John wrote this in a letter to the first generation of Christians, to encourage them to live up to their beliefs. It is a reminder that receiving God’s love and forgiveness can restore a person’s sense of self-worth, hope and confidence. A new start is always possible.

And they said…

Alice Cooper, musician, after giving up alcohol:
Before, you’re always self-centered.  Everything is always for you; yourself is God.  Humans make lousy gods.  We have to let God be God and us be what we are.

Drew Barrymore, actress and film director:
Life is very interesting … In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.

Clarissa Dickson Wright, cook and television presenter:
Until my drinking took hold, a lot of people tipped me as ‘Woman most likely to succeed’  …  I was cleaning burned jam off the floor.  I was on my knees.  I hadn’t been for a long time (because I thought, what if you ask and nothing happens?).  I just thought, ‘Dear God, if you are up there please help me.’  And that began a series of events … which took me inexorably into recovery.  When I was going up the drive to the treatment centre I asked: Is there anything I can do for myself?  I was morally, spiritually, physically, economically bankrupt.  So I thought, well I could try telling the truth.

Hubert Selby Jnr, North American writer and novelist, 1928 – 2004:
We choose to live the dream instead of choosing to live the life.

Marguerite Duras, novelist, 1914 – 1996:
Alcohol doesn’t console. It doesn’t fill up anyone’s psychological gaps. All it replaces is the lack of God. It’s a slur on the divine in our nature.