Several years ago, I went on two exciting cruises with Richard Simmons, the health/exercise expert, and had a fabulous time! Richard used to facilitate what he called a ‘Cruise to Lose’ every year, and I had the privilege of being on his last cruise before he stopped doing them. I’ve always loved Richard, but meeting him and getting to know him endeared me to him that much more. His love and compassion for people with health issues runs deep and he takes it very seriously in that he does whatever he can to help others.
I was only a few pounds overweight, but like many people nowadays, I was addicted to sugar and chocolate. They’re my comfort foods and when I’m stressed, upset, or angry, they’re the first things I turn to.
In hindsight, being addicted to sugar and chocolate has been a blessing because it really helped me understand what it’s like for others whether it’s with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, soda, gambling, and so on. Because I was also on a serious spiritual journey, I learned not to judge anyone with addictions and I learned to have so much more love, compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others who are also struggling.
It’s so easy for us to sit back and judge those with addictions and say “All they have to do is stop.” Most people use various addictive substances to numb the pain of whatever it is they are feeling. For those with addictions we know that it’s not that easy no matter how negatively it is affecting our health or those around us. Some addictions, particularly if they are severe, not only destroy the lives of those with the addictions, but can destroy the lives of their loved ones and everyone around them.
I’ve seen many of my friends succumb to some horrible addictions. Many would say and do things they would not normally do if sober or in their right mind. No matter what the addiction, it affects our mind, body, and Spirit and puts people through literal hell on earth. And when people lose hope, they get lost in those addictions and may go into that deep, dark abyss of no return.
Some people believe that those who have serious addictions should be cast aside or we tend to demonize them, and many may end up in jail/prison when all they really need is to have access to rehabilitation. Many succeed and yet there are also many who go right back to their addiction because whatever substance they use has a very strong hold on them. Chris Prentiss stated, “At the bottom of every person’s dependency, there is always pain. Discovering the pain and healing is an essential step in ending dependency.” The key is to not treat just the addiction, but in finding the root cause that is causing the addiction in the first place.
Then there’s peer pressure where people, particularly our young, feel they have to participate in the substance abuses in order to feel accepted. Look at many of the college parties (or even high school age parties) and you’ll see the students out of control and abusing these substances to a great extent!
Part of the reason for addictions is that we do not love ourselves totally and unconditionally and we try to fill that void with something outside ourselves. When we do have that unconditional love for ourselves, we know we don’t need the substance. We know that everything we need is within. But not many of us have come to that point.
How do we in churches take care of our addicts? Do we judge them and throw them out of the church? Do we demonize them and make them feel worse than they already feel? Jesus and all the other great Spiritual Masters would never have treated anyone in these ways! Churches should be a refuge to receive love, acceptance, and maybe even some kind of assistance. We should love them just as they are and try to help them overcome their addictions!
If you have an addiction, please get help. Keep trying to succeed in overcoming. It’s not going to be easy, but when we take it one step and one day at a time, we can make progress. As T.S. Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” You are the most important person in your recovery and you are so loved! As Deepak Chopra stated, “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” I love you and I believe in you!