I caught up with Russell Brand’s (fast becoming one of my favourite people in the spotlight) show about addiction last night.
It was encouraging, discouraging, hopeful and despairing all in one drug fuelled (the topic of the show, I’m sure the producers were completely professional) BBC3 show. In fact that’s a lot like the emotions you go through when you’re addicted to something.
You’re up and then you’re down. You see light at the end of the tunnel and as Karen , one drug addict featured on the show commented, the next minute a train is coming towards you.
Watching the show made me realise how much different addictions have in common. There are huge differences too of course. You can’t say that crack addiction is the same as a shopping addiction or even a porn addiction but there are huge similarities.
Notably, why an addiction begins to spiral. Russell mentioned this when he talked about something missing inside him that needed filled. Talk to most addicts and they will agree. Talk to most people and they will agree.
The obvious similarity between addictions is the ‘morish’ factor. You know that what you are doing is not good, you hate the substance/activity/person that you are addicted to but still you can’t shake it off. You swear this is the last time and before you know it, you are right back at your computer clicking on links you never thought you would visit.
Then there’s the spiraling factor. What used to be a once a week hobby is turning into a 24 hour lifestyle. Nobody sets out to become an addict. You take a little and soon you want more and more and harder stuff until even that harder stuff doesn’t have an effect on you.
Add in the fact that you hate yourself and who you have become, losing your purpose and your talents, you have a disease that is taking over and is not going to let go easy.
And it is a disease.
I agree with Russell and his friends who believe in abstinence based recovery. That is what has worked for him and it has been what has worked for me. Adding drugs to a currently existing addiction is just exasperating the problem whilst refusing to deal with the underlying issues that led the addict to that place.
Only with support and recovery that deals with the why we became addicted will we ever be free.
As I watched I realized that there are people in the medical profession who are working tirelessly to help those who are addicted to drugs. They care and they are passionate about seeing people free. As the GP that Russell met on the show testifies. But Russell commented he was willing to listen to her on what she know s about and to ignore the stuff she doesn’t. I think this is good advice.
She was never a drug addict and until she is there is just something that she won’t completely understand. The solution? Talk to drug addicts. Find out how they feel about recovery. Discover what they think. They are the experts.
And the Church is no different when it comes to porn addiction. It may seem helpful as a Christian to tell someone who is addicted to porn that they just need to pray to God more, they need to read their Bible more and they need to just stop.
But is that helpful? No. Can that make it worse? Definitely.
Sometimes we are weary about leaving God on the sidelines when it comes to dealing with addiction. Maybe using the term sin is unhelpful. Perhaps that makes someone feel like they are a completely lost person who will never be free. And maybe we need to come with a different approach.
Phrases like ‘Only God can fill the hole that is in your heart’ can actually be more damaging than helpful. When you spend more time reading and praying than ever and still end up looking at porn you are going to end up feeling even more helpless. And God more and more like a distant, unapproachable, task master.
If adding drugs to a drug addict’s recovery program is just tapering over the problem, so telling a Christian porn addict to pray and read their Bible more is preventing them from dealing with their issues.
If we want to help those inside our churches addicted to porn we need to offer safe places where they can be open and honest about their feelings. Even if they are negative about God and the Church. We need to show them that they are loved and we need them to feel like they are important. We need to throw out unhelpful spiritual rhetoric and come up with new ways to talk about God. We need to stop pretending it’s not a problem. We need to start realizing that it’s ok for us to have stuff from our past that is contributing to our addictions. We don’t have to be happy all the time. To know we can truly be ourselves and still be accepted.
Isn’t that the Gospel message after all?
The first step for an addict on their road to recovery is admitting they have a problem.
Perhaps if the Church wants to help those addicted to porn we need to do the same.