How We Quietly Trained a Nation of Addicts

Houston, We Have A Problem

Perhaps you’ve heard that we’ve got a nation of people addicted to many different things. Whether it’s a struggle with alcoholism, pornography, or the enduring drug problems of cocaine, meth, and marijuana.

We’re addicted to many things. Here’s a curveball question for you today; why are we surprised that so many people end up experiencing addictions?

I would postulate that we have systemically created this problem as a society. Yes, we are responsible for this reality we live in. We’ve been quietly training ourselves for decades to experience a society that seems in love with irrational behavior. Here’s some examples in society that showcase our addictions:

  • How about that little device in your hands that is buzzing constantly and making it hard to read this post for more than 7 seconds at a time?
  • How about a society where there seem to be as many alcohol stores as there are Walgreens or churches on street corners?
  • How about the coffee line at 6AM at Starbucks that is always excessively longer than I can possibly fathom?

It seems to me that we’ve done a lovely job at setting ourselves up to be addicts. We’ve failed at the most fundamental building blocks of society, yet we still attempt to act surprised when worse things that can’t be ignored show up. But we must analyze these smaller addictions if we really crave societal change.

I will say that I don’t actually believe society at large really wants to change, but that’s another article on another topic entirely.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume you’re reading this and actually want our world to change. What could we do? Well, I think we must realize that people have to start with small and seemingly innocent addictions before we can go after big and terrifying addictions. Why must we start small? Because of what is said in Luke 16:10:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Basically, if you really want to fight a big battle you better have your individual platoons deployed correctly. If you don’t, then the left side of your line is going to get breached time and time and time again, your troops will perish plugging the gap, and before you know it a losing battle turns into a lost war.

So what can we do? I won’t get exhaustive in this post, but I do have some ideas that I’ll put forth that will hopefully spark thoughts in your mind. Note that I’m primarily writing to Christians here, but I hope that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ you still find some wisdom in this as well!

Suggestion: Stop Being Sustained By Earthly Sustenance

Solution: Learn To Wake Up Without Coffee

Perhaps more than any one thing in our society, coffee habits embody our culture of casual addicts to me.

I know people who live on coffee. I’m not being hyperbolic. They live on coffee. They act like jerks until they get coffee. They don’t do anything meaningful until the caffeine kicks in. They need it as much as a meth addict needs a kick to feel complete.

So again, why are we surprised when these people find something else that seems to fill a gap and they plunge headfirst in?

I ask this question with all the love I possess for my Christian brothers and sisters. Perhaps you’re not a morning person because you’ve never bothered to learn what a joy it is to wake up each morning? Just consider the miracle of animation for a moment. Have you seen someone who is dead? They look fake. They’re a piece of taxidermy work, essentially. We can tell something is missing.

When you stretch and yawn in the morning, when you wiggle your toes, when you swing those legs out of bed, do you realize that you are a living, walking, breathing miracle? The breath of God is in you once more! Genesis 2:7 says:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

That is God’s breath in you when you awake. And you need coffee to feel alive? My goodness! That’s awful. What else do you need to feel energized besides that thought? How does that not wake you up?!

Let me rephrase it this way; most people feel more animated by coffee than they do God’s breath in them.

If you can’t read the word of God before you’ve had a cup of coffee, then you’re more reliant on caffeine to animate your activity than you are on the living and active words of the living and active God.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to eliminate coffee completely. Maybe some of you really like the taste! Fantastic! Maybe just don’t drink it every morning? Maybe let it be a special part of your weekly routine where you have it a few times a week and actually praise God for that taste in your mouth! 1 Timothy 4:4-5 says:

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Do you give thanks to God for your coffee? Let me rephrase this as well; do you consecrate your coffee with the word of God, or do you consecrate the word of God with your coffee?

If you do the latter, then once more I put the hypothesis before you; why are we surprised when people find pornography, alcohol, marijuana, and other substances and quickly fall under their sway?

Suggestion: Stop Craving Immediate Satisfaction

Solution: Reduce Time On Screens

Those devices in our pockets that buzz dozens of times per day are perfect for creating addicts. They can do it in multiple ways, but here are two specific things I feel I can talk about.

  1. Stop using phones as distractions during commutes and road trips.
  2. Leave the phone put away during meal times

Parents, do you give children phones to keep them from being annoyances in the backseat? Do you let them play games on an app? Do you realize that you’re training them to love dopamine? You may as well give your kid a roll of marijuana and tell them to take a hit of that. Deuteronomy 6:7 says:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We’re supposed to teach children while we “walk by the way,” which would translate well to our modern commutes and road trips.

What if, instead of desperately hoping your children just will be silent, you taught them to engage their minds with thoughts about the Lord? I doubt that they’re doing anything on those phones and tablets that teaches them much of Christ.

But what if you asked them questions about the Lord? What if you sang fun songs about the Lord with them and asked them if they understand the words? What if, instead of giving them a dopamine rush so they won’t bug you, you suffered a bit of annoyance and practiced some patience to teach them to love the Lord?

If you think I’m harping on something unimportant, then consider how many hours you might spend in a car with your child over the course of their ~18 years in your house and ask yourself how much of that is in a car together. Hint: It adds up quick.

When you find out your child is smoking marijuana behind the school, don’t act surprised that they did this when you’re the one who trained their mind to crave distractions from the world around them.

But also, and this is not just to parents, let’s all train our minds to not crave distraction and escape by putting our phones away at meals. This is in the vein of the “as you sit in your house” part of Deuteronomy 6:7. But also, when we’re with people we should be with them. John gets at this in 2 John 12 where he says:

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

So put the phones away. Because that breaking news can wait. Your Snapchats can wait. Your emails can wait.

Besides, that person you’re on Snapchat with? You can’t really look them in the eyes. You might see their eyes, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking this means we’ve made real eye contact. But those folks around the table with you, those are people you can have full and complete joy with! Just think of how much richness of life you’ve missed out on because you wouldn’t put your phone away.

Here’s some creative ideas to solve this that I’ve read about or heard that I think are excellent! When you’re out to dinner with friends, put your phones in the middle of the table. First person to check their phone pays for everyone’s dinner. If nobody checks their phone, then you all pay for your own meal.

If you’re at home with the family have a chore, say, doing the dishes, that the first person who checks their phone has to do after the meal. If nobody checks the phone the family can spend a bit more time together learning to clean up together. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?

You’ll quickly see your children, teenagers, and, dare I say it, maybe even the adults look up and start paying attention to those around them rather than being a self-absorbed, slowly withering Narcissus staring into the pool of desire that exists on their phone.

Suggestion: Learn How To Enjoy Things Appropriately

Solution: Change How And When We Drink Alcohol

We don’t know how or when to use positive substances in our lives. Our alcohol habits in this country reveal that. Most of the people in this world get drunk regularly, or at least had a phase of their life where they engaged in this pattern of life. First of all, that’s wrong. The Bible says this in 1 Peter 4:3 among dozens of other passages:

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

The Bible says that drunkenness is associated with being a Gentile. But being a Gentile is the curse Christians were saved away from! If you haven’t been saved from this, then realize there is a Gospel for the Gentiles and that you can be included in God’s people.

But even for Christians, we rarely know how to drink in appropriate situations. First, let’s list a few ways that are appropriate to drink just to set up the distinction well. Amos 9:13 can be helpful for this:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”

Let’s just be clear. Wine, or alcohol generically, is one of the things the Lord has that pictures the blessings included in Heaven. Heaven will be dripping with it and we’ll enjoy it and all the goodness of the land therein!

So a great time to drink alcohol responsibly is at a wedding. Because a wedding pictures Christ’s final union with his bride, the church, taking a drink can be a foretaste of the goodness of Heaven that will happen when Christ comes for his bride. That paints well a portrait of a Scriptural promise we can all look forward to.

Or, perhaps, you may be enjoying a community meal with other believers and just fellowshipping. Well, guess who you get to enjoy Heaven with! Those very people gathered around you. So maybe having a drink is a great way to, once more, remember the promise and feeling of what is yet to come in Heaven as we bask with one another in the presence of our Lord!

But there are some places that I do not think we should drink. For example, don’t drink at or after funerals. If weddings are a picture of the Gospel promise, funerals are a bitter reminder of why we need the Gospel. Romans 6:23 says:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

Death is not what should be. It’s not natural, even thought it’s something we all naturally experience. It’s a reminder of how far we fell and the fact that death reigned supreme over us and we need salvation and liberation from it. There’s a reason we might say that a funeral is a sober occasion. That’s actually intense language that reminds us that we are to be reflective of the bitterness of death! We’re not experiencing a foretaste of Heaven. We’re remembering these Earthly shackles that enslaved us. We may take heart that the Gospel was present in someone’s life, but it is a sober joy that we take in at that moment. If you drink, then you are likely seeking to escape from the reality of death. You’re detracting from truth, not heightening it like you may at a wedding.

But more regularly, don’t drink — or smoke tobacco — when you gather to study God’s word. I admit that I have done this a few times and have now come to find it unwise to continue doing this. God gives this command to Joshua in Joshua 1:8:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

When you consider God’s word, you’re supposed to be meditating. Meditation is not what most yoga studios want you to think it is. It’s not emptying your mind. It’s filling your mind. You’re supposed to be engaging your mind towards a noble task!

So if you’re coming to the task of meditating and you’re taking a mind-altering substance then you may be missing the point. You’re using things to restrain your mind at a point where it is supposed to be most engaged. You’re relaxing your mind at a time where you want to be committing things to memory, studying, and reflecting intensely.

Meditation and mind-altering substances seem irreconcilably at odds with one another.

What does this have to do with addictions? Well, perhaps I can tie it to pornography addictions in a way.  You see, we have a crazed sex society. We have most of our young men, and a growing number of women as well, getting addicted to these perverted images online. We also have movies about people who are nymphomaniacs — people so addicted to the act of sex they no longer even feel pleasure and arousal through it.

Just take a moment to realize the implications of living in a culture that not only can acknowledge this condition, but thinks it is worth making movies about.

If we don’t know when things are to be used appropriately, then people stop caring about the right context for the expression of things found in this world. So if we can’t even demonstrate proper use of a socially acceptable thing like alcohol, then why do we think that our very intricate, confusing sexual lives will be something we bother to learn to express in a healthy way?

I’m not saying that fixing one thing automatically fixes the other. I’m just wanting us to start seeing how we shouldn’t be surprised that so many young men and women are growing up without any idea of propriety and restraint. If I look at our culture, becoming an addict to something seems like a very likely outcome! 

The fact that we are shocked by addictions is the shocking thing here.

 

One Small Step For Man. One Giant Leap For Mankind.

Let’s stop with this indignant shock when we hear people are addicted to things in life. I’m shocked that we have people who aren’t addicted to things! That’s quite frankly a miracle to me.

If we won’t reexamine the more innocuous elements of our lives, then we certainly won’t reverse course. If we won’t be faithful with little, then the Bible makes clear that we won’t be faithful with much. But the Bible also offers promise! If we will examine ourselves and start thinking about these seemingly innocent habits we have, then perhaps all of the little steps we take as a society will be the cause of a colossal leap towards a healthier place where addicitions aren’t so necessary to find escape.

What about you? What are you addicted to that you find innocuous? Can you see how this might be training your mind to desire things of this world above the Lord your God?

What will we do? I suggest that there are things in all of our lives that we must stop consuming so rapidly, regularly, and religiously or else we will continue to find those very things consuming us.

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