"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." (2 Peter 2:19, NIV)Naturally, the first thought is to think of addiction ... the "typical" type ... alcohol and drugs, sex, gambling, etc. My immediate thought was of how addiction was the cause of my marriage ending in divorce, as is sadly the case in so many relationships. When my ex-husband's "harmless" marijuana addiction morphed into one of sex, for the sake of my own mental and physical health, I had to draw the line.
But, I also began to reflect on other, more non-traditional forms of "addiction" that seem so prevalent today, especially found in my profession of education and the interaction with children and their families that is endemic. Perhaps my mind was quick to consider other types of addiction due to several current sad cases in bad parenting I am dealing with as a teacher. These parents seem "addicted" to a victimology that excuses their children's behavior and, in their mind, removes them from parental obligations. I see parents using a flimsy medical "condition" to get their kids out of academic requirements ... one case in particular is so odd that I can't help but wonder if the mother doesn't have some form of Münchausen syndrome by proxy. She seems to obsessively wrap herself in her son's medical problem, piling upon the district a list of doctors and medical diagnoses, and unreasonably demanding that special concessions be made for her child. She spins like the Tazmanian Devil during a meeting while her husband sits idly by, occasionally adding to the conversation. (I hope the district pushes back and insists on a clear, authenticated medical diagnosis that connects all the loose strands.)
I have worked with some persons that seem to be addicted to attention, being very dramatic individuals that pounce on any opportunity to relay their current crisis (or "crises"), whipping themselves into a frenzied performance of pity, martyrdom, and a shout of "Look at me! Look at me!" (My friend calls such people "LAMs.") Work problems, generic health issues, "life is unfair", etc. are the typical ingredients in their Soup O' Sorrow. These are the people I wish to remind that "How are you?" is usually meant solely as a greeting and does not imply that I am extending an invitation for a complete medical history before the doctor comes in the room for the examination. I have found over the years that the people who truly suffer from debilitating and serious illnesses rarely complain about their discomfort, pain, or predicament. These are the ones I extend the special invitation of "No. I really want to know how you are doing." Only then do those who truly suffer oblige me with details ... and I am honored that they do.
Other people are addicted to shirking responsibility, whether it be for their health, child rearing, how much they themselves contribute to marital strife, and so on. This is the cliché "Peter Pan Syndrome." They seem to always find someone or some circumstance that is responsible for their plight. Addicts take this to the extreme, but even fairly even-keel folks can get wrapped up in this. "Gee, maybe your speeding through a construction zone and getting a big ol' ticket was not the cop's fault. Yes, I know they make those pesky traffic signs and cones are small and hard to see. They must do that on purpose to bring in more revenue for the county." This reminds me of years back when I worked in a gym. A woman was buying a membership and, when filling out the credit application, she explained that she did not have a driver's license -- she only had a receipt for it. Her license had been taken by the police when she got pulled over for a DUI. She had the nerve to complain about the inconvenience of not having her license.
I had a colleague who seemed to enjoy being her own worst enemy. She frequently put herself down, deriding herself for just about everything -- weight, appearance, health habits, various "inabilities", etc. Her posture was one of shame and "don't look at me," with a dreary wardrobe that reflected what she felt inside. Addicted to self-loathing, perhaps? Life is pretty tough as it is. Why be your own worst enemy? I remember going through a phase of this .... I believe it's called "adolescence." But, when I started college I knew that, outside of my family, no one would be in my corner but me. I had better learn to be good to myself. I'm all I've got. Yes, improvements can always be made, but why knock yourself out before even stepping into the ring?
Then, there are those that are so competitive ... something I would call addicted to "One-Upmanship." These are the folks that brag about themselves, having to always better someone else when the other person is perhaps relaying a success or failure, for that matter.
None of us can escape addiction. We all have some behavior that we exhibit for various reasons. I am hardly innocent. I have my own, which after I've indulged in them, I am forever embarrassed. "Ooooh! Why did I have to make that conversation way too much about me!" "Why am I shoving all this food in my face? What's got me so upset?"
And, of course, I know full well that my impatience with and judging of "addicts" is wrong ... another addiction of mine. Oooops!
I thirst after .... what? We all thirst .... after many different pursuits and distractions.
"but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
Lord, quench my thirsts. May you well from within me, bubbling your Spirit through to the top. And help me to be a drink of cool water to those I meet in this hot, parched desert of Life.