Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “root” ? Most people wouldn’t because they know the answer. The title of this blog sent me to find the definition and I was amazed at how this one word is used in our language. It’s a noun with multiple meanings and a verb with multiple meanings. The root is the most important part of a plant. The health of a root determines how well a plant grows. And so I think with addiction. The root of the issue is deep. It requires light to be shed on it so the issue is revealed. If the roots rot then the plant or flowers die. And so it is with us. If the root of the addiction goes unacknowledged then nothing ever gets resolved and it infects every part of your being. The addiction to substance is just a signal that you have underlying issues. Much like a plant turns brown or wilts. We can see what is happening on the outside but we don’t know how to deal with whats on the inside.
And there’s one simple reason: It goes down deep…like into the soul, deep.
For some, the thought of digging the past up is not appealing. They buried it a long time ago and are content to let it stay buried. But if we bury our shame, guilt, hurt, and pain does it go away? No. It still exists. It’s rooted remember? The problem with addiction is that we have reduced it to a substance problem. The death of Robin Williams triggered this because he had said in a recent article that he was going back to rehab because he had never dealt with the root of the issue. He was sober for 20 years and the root was never dealt with. I read an article recently written by the the editor of the Good News website. In it he references the book Out of the Shadows (2001) by Dr. Patrick Carnes who identified 4 underlying issues in addiction. These are:
• I am, at the core, an unworthy person.
• Nobody could ever love me if they truly knew who I am.
• No one will ever be able to meet my needs; therefore, I must meet my own needs.
• The addictive agent is my greatest need.
The first issue is often caused by childhood trauma in a dysfunctional family and includes either emotional or physical abuse. The child can either be a witness to the abuse between the parents or become the victim themselves. The child can identify themselves with shame and unworthiness.
The second issue is feelings of rejection and part of the fall out of the first issue. They begin to feel like no one can love them if their own parents can’t and this feeds the behavior and anticipation of rejection. And the substance unconsciously masks the rejection that no one can love them if they new who they really were or how bad the addiction really is.
The third follows with no one ever being able to meet their needs. The first two have created a void in their life so the third naturally follows. “Relying on self prevents seeking help.” This also affects their view of a need for God and they remain trapped in their belief that they don’t need anyone…especially not God.
And then comes the most devastating issue. The addictive agent. It comes as a relief because it is identified with the greatest moments of pleasure and distraction. And just like a vacuum waiting to be filled by something…ANYthing, a person will find a substance to fill that void. It doesn’t matter if it’s dangerous. As it calls it in the article, “the agent” will be identified at an early age. Some try alcohol and then progress to harder drugs because the void isn’t filled. And some are just fine with alcohol because it numbs what needs to be numbed and then it becomes the obligatory crutch.
So you see what I mean when I say deep. Layers and layers. It starts somewhere. It doesn’t just happen. It has a root. Addiction is a band aid. It masks. It hides. It….buries.
20 years of sobriety and then it rears its head. I don’t know Robin Williams story. I don’t know what lead to issues with depression. I don’t know what his root was. But even he knew he had one. Something made him lose hope. This void that can’t be filled? It’s God. Simple right? What addiction and depression point to is our need to be saved from ourselves. That we cannot do this life by our own willpower. A lot of people have tried. There are even people who have created a successful life but without God what is the point of that? You are successful and live well and are nice to people and do good…but then what? God has created us for a purpose. When our identity is created by the world then we can’t get mad at God for the path we have chosen. For the addict, the challenge is to unravel this identity. They have to learn how to lean into God. To rely on Him again. To feel safe in giving up our strongholds. To trust again. To go back to that childhood moment. To see that child you were…sitting there as a victim or witness and instead, now you see Jesus wrap his mighty arms around this child and say, “It is over. I am here and have been since the beginning.”