Last night I attended a meeting about substance abuse. The meeting’s moderator/leader was energetic, excited, excitable, and, frankly, much like some preachers/Bible teachers I’ve sat under. He reminded me of a used car salesman. You know the ones…they have amateur commercials, screaming about how they’ve got the best deals in town. He did have the gift of gab and I found him very entertaining. In short, he probably could sell ice to an Eskimo.
Using a dry erase board, saying medical terms he probably wasn’t pronouncing correctly – nor spelling correctly, he listed the things that happen in the body of an addict, and why it’s a disease or an illness and not just a will power thing. Stuff I already knew, having done a ton of reading on the topic. Enzymes don’t break down drugs and alcohol in the body of an addict the same way they do a healthy person. He likened addiction to diabetes. I’m not sure if that’s true; it’s what he said.
Then he said something about faith in God and this is what I heard:
Good grief, Charlie Brown!
BUT then he asked a very pointed question. “Is there anything you’ve ever had an obsession about?” The other members of the group started spouting off things like food, shopping, men, etc. I was pretty quiet because I’m still trying to suss out this crowd. But my ears perked up when he said that part of the reason addiction is so hard to break is that they have some belief about the object of their obsession. Beliefs are what? A form of faith. What do we normally associate faith with? God.
The belief doesn’t have to be true; they just have to believe it. For example, ‘alcohol makes me smarter, or more witty, or more likeable’, or ‘food makes me feel better’, or ‘I’m saving money buying this on sale’ – even if it’s something you’ll never use. People who are addicted had a chemical reaction in their brain the first time they did any one of those things that told them it would always be true. It’s the same chemical that is our connection to God, he said.
At this point he had my attention.
He went on about how strong our beliefs are and how we stand on those beliefs. No matter what negative information we receive, no matter what we’re threatened with, no matter how our lives come off the wheels, we stand on our beliefs. We’ll say or do almost anything to defend them. That is why it is so hard for an addict to break the cycle of abuse because of their beliefs about whatever they are addicted to. Their belief in their substance or action has become a god.
The members of the group made a connection that addiction was a chemically induced connection with a substance that, only when the addict understands this, can they change their beliefs or start forming new beliefs about the substance. Only then can they start to combat the lies they’ve believed about the substance.
As with everything else, I guess, the devil is in the details. None of the group members, nor the group leader, recognized that their faith in God is also chemically induced and could possibly be based on erroneous beliefs. They heard it, but did they believe it? Thus their faith remains unexamined. I have previously written about being Addicted to God and what it’s like to break that addiction.
I’m not certain how scientifically sound any of what he said actually is. In a cursory Google search I came across this NPR piece that seems to support the idea that God is a chemical in our brains. Geez…why couldn’t I have believed in a cool god that has sacred herbs as sacraments?