“Addiction” has almost become a cliché. “I’m addicted to strawberry yogurt. I’m addicted to Facebook. I’m addicted to him or her. I always have a beer or glass of wine at dinner.” Are our daily routines “addictions?”The expression “We are creatures of habit” is accurate. Routines are our customary or regular course of procedure. They are our commonplace tasks, chores, or duties we regularly enact. They are typical of our everyday activities. Moreover, they are usually unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, and rote. I rise on automatic pilot when I get up, boil water for coffee with my coveted cup, grind coffee beans (medium roast) and add sweetener, creamer, and whipped cream. I don’t want to think! I engage cruise control as I tilt the first sip. Effective routines enables us to be more effective, efficient, and expedient.I habitually brush my teeth after breakfast, but do not obsess about this as I rise from the bed. If I forget, I would not succumb to withdrawal later on. This is a habit.Does someone who always has a beer or glass of wine simply repeat a routine or, given alcohol’s psycho-active properties, placate an addiction? Probably not-unless the beer is a liter or the “glass” of wine is poured in quart-sized soda glass. Quantity matters!This illustration should assist in anyone discerning habit vs. addiction. There is a predictable sequence not only linear but tragically, cyclical:Trigger-stimulus → Desire, impulse, obsession, craving → Preparation-seeking ritual → Compulsive behavior and increasing tolerance → Negative consequences (work, family, legal, economic etc.) → guilt, regret, remorse, frustration, anger, relief (sometimes withdrawal after stopping) → Trigger-stimulus. “One won’t hurt.”
Around and around the cycle rotates, but better put, it is more of a spiral as the person’s life deteriorates and functioning is impaired. The key factors of addiction are obsession, ritual, compulsion and problems.I used to play hearts and spades in my computer. I liked the rush as I anticipated of playing, and I had to win-no matter how many games it took. When on a losing streak I’d blurt “F— it” and storm out of the room. No big deal, right? No, I never gambled on-line and lost my savings account. But I fit the addictive cycle: I obsessed when I would play, seeked and engaged the ritual each day, felt the rush as hearts and spades lit up and I vied against cyber opponents, and felt relief if I won. This may seem absurd to you, but I had some mild addictive elements. I decided through God’s influence to finally stop. Guess what? Deliverance. Or in AA’s phrase “restore us to sanity.”AA has it right when they call alcoholism insanity, which includes tobacco, other drugs or combinations ingested. Inevitably, health and medical problems shall emerge. Behavioral addictions can include work, exercise, sex, romance, co-dependency, gambling, Internet compulsions and whatever activity causes the addictive cycle described above.Addiction is hell on earth. Theologically, addiction is idolatry. The options are simple: stop and stay stopped. Permanently. If despite sincere desire and multiple attempts to stop, swallow your pride and get help ASAP. You deserve better.By the way, I shall ready my coffee ritual tomorrow morning.