Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: EPIXIMAGES
One can be addicted to pills, pornography, gambling, high risk activities, video games, friendships, sex, praise, work, or, as in the case of one our family members, church mission trips (which might not be the worst thing to be addicted to).

A few days ago in my church we had a discussion on addiction. With a little help from Google, we came up with a definition. One, addiction involves a substance or an activity. Two, it results in repetitive or compulsive behaviour. Three, it frequently brings on negative consequences. Four, interruption of the behaviour can result in severe, even traumatic effects.

This definition allows for the recognition of a range of addictions. One can be addicted to pills, pornography, gambling, high risk activities, video games, friendships, sex, praise, work, or, as in the case of one our family members, church mission trips (which might not be the worst thing to be addicted to). What can be done to prevent addiction? I’m going to suggest four things that may help.

Relationships with nurturing adults

A person shown reading a book. Text states exam time can feel overwhelming. Let us help you succeed.

Gabor Maté, a psychologist and author, helps us to see that one reason many of us do not become addicts to opioids and other substances is that we have a good network of relationships.

Many of us, including me, have been sedated for waking surgery. In my case, I was given an opioid. I would have to say that it was among the happiest 90 minutes of my life. However, I did not leave the hospital craving the services of an illegal opioid dealer. Maté and others would say that this is, in part, because I have a good network of relationships.

Among the most important are healthy relationships with nurturing adults. This goes contrary to some of the assumptions we may have. According to certain preconceptions, the main key to good mental health is for you and me to exercise our individual choices and to choose friends who will nurture us.

Friendships are not by any means unimportant. But having adults who love us and share their wisdom with us is absolutely key – especially when we are young, and, I would say, during every stage of life.

This puts the spotlight decidedly on parents. But other adult family members, and friends to a lesser degree, also have their roles to play.

Knowing yourself

Know your sins, your weaknesses, your strengths.

About sins: Knowing yourself will help you address the sins you need to get rid of and be forgiven for. Some people believe that our church communities spend too much energy imposing guilt on people. I have no doubt that that does happen. In my encounters with people, it is not unusual to meet those who have reacted against their church’s tendency to make them feel guilty.

But I think I meet even more people who deny guilt for past wrongs. We can do much to run from such self-knowledge, or cover it up. This is where addictions come in. Addictive behaviour can seemingly fill the darkness created by our wrongs.

I think the best way to deal with the guilt over past wrongs is to admit the words we should not have spoken and actions that we should not have committed. First, to our own selves, then to God, and, if possible, to the person(s) we hurt, and (cautiously) to others.

About weaknesses: Some years ago I was asked about my personal weaknesses. Being younger, or perhaps more accurately, being a bit arrogant, I could not think of any. Sometimes it takes experience to realize that we are not as strong as we would like to be. We find ourselves plagued by lack of courage, ignorance, or hostility towards people I feel have wronged me.

When we are victims of our weaknesses, we are more susceptible to addiction. But when these are dealt with to the best of the ability God gives us, we find ourselves less vulnerable to addictive behaviour.

About strengths: Each of us has many. If we were nurtured by caring adults, they will have pointed them out to us and helped us to develop them. But even if we were not, there are many opportunities each day for us to recognize our strengths and to develop them. Again, knowing and exercising the character strengths and abilities God has given makes it more likely that we will live an addiction- free life.

Live a meaningful life

We must not embrace stupidity, immorality, and carelessness. These things can make our lives a meaningless puff of smoke.

Related to this: we should not chase happiness. This is one of the things I learned growing up in a Christian community. Chase meaning. Embrace the responsibilities God has set before you to the best of your ability. If you do, happiness is likely to come on its own.

There is a book in the Bible called Proverbs. Its main message is this: In the way that God has constructed the social, ethical, and economic realms, if you do bad, more bad is very likely to happen (this should not be confused with what is called Karma, though there is some surface resemblance). Do not act foolishly or speak deceptively. If you do, almost for sure meaninglessness will cloud your life, and maybe overwhelm you.

On the other hand, if you do good, almost for sure more good will happen. Do what is wise and almost certainly when you get to the end of your life, you will be more prosperous than if you had not. You will be more able to draw satisfaction from your family or friends, and from your education and attempts to stay healthy. And, again, likely, addictions will have left you alone, or at least, wreaked much less damage than if you had chosen a different path.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.