I grew up with someone addicted to alcohol. Thus, my attitude toward addiction will always be ruled by disdain and horror. Addiction is one of the ugliest dimensions of the human experience. Eventually, it steals the soul, literally.
It's a tragedy--but a preventable one.
I keep in mind that not everyone who drinks is addicted, and that the Bible doesn't prohibit drinking--only drunkenness. So when Christians talk about drinking or drink in front of me, I have to monitor my facial expressions and attitudes as my upbringing comes into play. It's a fight to act normal.
Naturally, my attitudes about introducing addictive things into a Christian home will be strong ones, so keep that in mind as you read. My perspective is likely different from yours.
In today's society addiction takes many forms, and we have to be vigilant in keeping our hearts and lives pure--recognizing that we are no longer slaves to sin or self, but to Christ.
Addictions to consider:
- Alcohol (now, a full third of Americans display problem drinking)
- Street drugs, prescribed drugs
- Nicotine, caffeine
- The checking of social stats, texts, email - We get a brain high when someone connects with us positively, and a brain slump when someone doesn't. The checking of stats dictates our moods if we're not careful to monitor it. This is why 60% of people are said to be addicted to their smart phones. Our identity isn't meant to be tied up in what people think of us. This is the main reason it's hard to be a teen; the temptation to evaluate oneself based upon peers is so strong. Parents have to keep their kids talking, and make sure family is more important than peers.
- Attention - This is somewhat connected to checking stats, above. Younger people especially are addicted to attention. They get it with their outrageously risque clothes (the barely-there red carpet dress, their daring or dangerous feats, their social media accounts). When their clothes no longer bring the desired attention, they make confessions to get attention. We're raising and witnessing a whole generation of people who lack humility--which is a proper sense of their position before God and their fellow man.
- Video gaming
- Internet Use (either pornography, or just sitting there wasting time)
- Excessive eating/binge eating
Causes of Addiction
While there are certain conditions that predispose a person to addiction, such as impulse-control disorders or mood disorders, there are also social factors associated with addiction. Human beings require healthy connection to God first, and to others, second. The greatest commandment lays this out pretty simply:
When this is absent, addiction becomes a possibility. Good, loving people aren't enough--our souls need the Lord first and foremost. Human beings will always disappoint, and ideally, we minister to them without expecting something in return. We don't love to get love. Rather, we love because he first loved us, to overflowing. Our love toward others is an outpouring of what God has poured into us.
Our initial connection with the concept of love comes from our family life growing up. Our ability to believe how much God loves us is primed by having been loved wholly by our parents.
Children who grew up in addicted or dysfunctional homes received too little love, and what they did receive wasn't a healthy, but rather a manipulative-type love. It goes like this: You play along with my addiction--that there's nothing wrong with me--and I will reward you with acceptance and love. If you don't play along, I will withhold my love from you.
High percentages of these children grow up to be addicted themselves, due to a lack of healthy connection. They had no model of what a healthy relationship looks like; they choose relationships that mirror the patterns they grew up with.
Consider that cocaine is considered to be the most addictive substance around, and yet when offered to rats in isolation, they became addicted strongly, and when offered to rats in groups, addiction rates were lower. The lonely rats still became addicted, but not the more social ones. And further, when addicted rats were taken out of isolation and put in a "rat park", they got over their addiction relatively quickly, with just some withdrawal symptoms.
Humans are not rats, but let's assume from this that our ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships insulates us from addiction.
Therefore, what is happening to us as we spend hours on the Internet, or on games, or on phones or tablets? We're spending less time with God. We're practicing our social skills less. We're making fewer new connections with people. We're bonding less with our family members, who are all into their own screens.
As a result, when a crisis comes, we're less able to handle it, and we run to our default substance or behavior even more. We're starting with a weakened support system.
It seems, then, that it isn't so much the substance, the behavior, or the device that's the problem in terms of understanding addiction. It's the strength of our connection to others.
This is a strong message to all of us parents. We are responsible for building strong relationships with our children and spouse. We can't let our own use of substances, or technology, or shopping, etc. get in the way of this.
Engage. That's the operative word here. Instead of escape, engage. Yes, it's messy sometimes, especially if we've let resentments build. Embrace the messy to experience the fruit of healthy connection.
I'll close with this information on symptoms of video game addiction in teens, found here.
Symptoms of Video Game Addiction in Teens
Although it hasn't been given an "official" diagnosis, addiction-like behaviors with computer, video, and Internet gaming have noticeably increased among both teenagers and adults. Like any addictive behavior, there are signs to look for if you suspect your teen might have a gaming addiction. Your teen need only exhibit two or three of these symptoms for his behavior to be considered "addictive."
Someone who is addicted to computer, video, or Internet gaming often exhibits an unusual preoccupation with the game or computer when he is away from it. The teen could seem distracted, irritable, or disinterested and may talk about the game almost constantly.
- Downplaying Computer Use
It's common for someone with addictive, computer-related behaviors to downplay the amount of time she spends in front of the TV or computer. The person may make excuses, saying she "needs" to be online, or may outright lie.
- Lack of Control
A person who is addicted, or at risk of becoming addicted to gaming, is unable to control the amount of time she spends on the computer. She may go online with the intent to spend 15 or 20 minutes, but will keep extending the time until several hours have passed.
- Loss of Time
Along the same lines, a person may sit down at his computer, again with the intent to spend only a few minutes, but completely lose track of time and suddenly find that several hours have passed. It is not unusual for someone with a gaming addiction to play through the night and only realize how much time has passed when the sun begins to rise.
- Negative Impact on Other Areas of Life
Because the person spends so much time on the computer or video game console, other areas of life are neglected. He may grow distant from friends and family who had previously been close. Homework may go unfinished, causing grades to slip. In more extreme cases, the teen may even neglect personal hygiene, choosing to play video games rather than taking a shower.
- Hiding From Negative or Uncomfortable Feelings or Situations
Some people become addicted to gaming because they use it to self-medicate. When confronted with situations or feelings that are uncomfortable (feeling sad, arguing with a friend, or getting a bad grade), the person may "hide" in the game as a method of avoidance.
When confronted or asked about his time spent gaming, a person may become defensive. Denial is often an indication that something is wrong, especially if the person seems unconcerned that friends and family feel neglected or left out of his life.
- Misuse of Money
Someone who is addicted to video, computer, or Internet gaming will spend a disproportionate amount of money on computer-related items. The person will seem to be continually upgrading hardware, software packages, and accessories. This becomes an even greater problem if the person spends money that should be used for bills, groceries, and other necessities.
- Mixed Feelings
As with any addiction, use of the "substance" – in this case, the video game – initially causes euphoric feelings, but that euphoria is quickly followed by guilt. Guilt may be felt either over what the person is doing while online or simply the amount of time he is spending at the computer.