When resignation comes and whispers the message, “This is all there is. There will never be anything more than this for you” – that is the moment we are most prone to flee into our addictions.
In Beauty and the Bitch: Finding Grace for the Worst in Me, we explore three major ways in which we shroud the beauty of an open heart : Control, Pride and Addiction. Here is an excerpt from the chapter on addiction:
"We kill desire by finding M&Ms and consuming forty of them without really tasting one. We shut down our hearts by downing an entire six pack of microbrew alone, rather than enjoying one or two bottles slowly, with a friend, over an honest conversation. We take flight into an obsessive relationship, believing that without the person’s presence or affirmation, we will die. We hoard a man’s compliments like a secret stash of manna. We appear free of addiction, but are steeped in it as we have a long conversation over lunch with a friend - the entire time discussing another woman’s marriage, ’out of concern’ for her – gossip addiction sanctified. We turn our face from our true desire and find a few solitary hours with porn – either actual websites, or three of the latest InStyle or Vogue – or even better, Men’sHealth - magazines. Rather than trying on a new outfit and purchasing but one piece of the ensemble - dreaming of the time we can complete the package –we max out the credit card and buy all the new styles of the season at once. We commit ourselves to three volunteer activities when we really only have a heart for one, and might not even have time for that. We watch The Bachelor, or read through a morning liturgy – mindlessly. Most women I know are too busy to even fantasize about having an affair, but the overextended calendar can serve a similar purpose. Goodness, often it is an affair – a tryst with adrenalin or work. Of course sometimes the drive to success is truly out of necessity to provide and sometimes a love of career - but sometimes we fight an enemy that isn’t even there. Often our successes come from a detached willingness to carry a weight far too big for our shoulders, especially when carried along with the management of a home and family. Same can be said for how often we dive in to too much church activity, to feel the strokes from a church culture which lauds overextended women.
Staying Alive to Desire
Madeleine L’Engle wrote, "When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable." Leaving our addictions means we will feel naked. It feels crazy to give up our addictive covers – especially those the bitch inside of us holds on to with bleeding fingernails. But our forays into anything that numbs or overindulges are attempts to mitigate our ache, to create for ourselves a space where there is no disappointment, loss or aloneness. We refuse to bend under the weight of the fall, and feel, along with Eve, “you will have an unmet aloneness in every arena ofgiving life, and you will have a fierce demand to be certain of your husband’s desire for you, and way with you, but you will be disappointed and as he is his own person (my paraphrase of Gen 3:14-16).” Oh, no – we will not suffer like Eve, we say. Our addictions are our attempt to rise above the fall; to answer the dilemma ourselves. Rather than admit our vulnerability in our loneliness and our lack ofcontrol - rather than allow the fall to draw our hearts to our true safety inthe heart of God - we refuse and create our own shield of defense.
Now, before this is misinterpreted as too complimentarian, conservative or old school – please know I could write a parallel paragraph about Adam – that he would do anything to avoid the futility of life, or the shame of exposure, so he grabs the fig leaf of competence or blame shifting. It isn’t that our heritage with Eve carries any more misaligned power than a man’s heritage with Adam. We both have to learn to bend, humble ourselves, and admit our need. Our needs just look different, that’s all –at least a smidgen - but that smidgen is significant. And therefore our addictions tend to have a male/female flavor to them. If you scan through your addictive tendencies, I am guessing they have a relational ache at their core. If a man does the same,there is likely a longing for impact at the core. For both men and women - our addictions create a world where we don’t have to ask, seek or knock; we don’t have to come with a child’s heart and desire; we don’t have to wait; we don’t have to suffer. Women tend to suffer just a bit more in the loneliness department; men tend to suffer a bit more as they feel the impact of futility and pressure. These are not static, rigid categories; but they are fluid realities which I have seen fleshed out in my work with people, across cultures. There is great power in casting off our respective fig leaves (sounds downright arousing, doesn’t it?). Actually, it is quite sensual ,because it us the allows us to receive God’s covering of our shame; and then the power to love, equally. I love how Sarah Bessey puts it, “We submit to each other and because we follow Him, we both practice playing second fiddle.” Vulnerability and mutual submission are great– albeit risky – aphrodisiacs.
By way of contrast, the world of addiction, we create reality as we want it. We are tempted to say that it doesn’t work, but the reality is, most addictions are effective – for a while. If you don’t want to feel the longing for motherhood when you’ve been trying to get pregnant for months, chronic TV watching will work for a while to get you out of the dilemma of desire. If you are weary of hoping for the job you really want, several fast food stops is a great help. If you are longing for a deeper relationship with your daughter and she is intractable, there are plenty of prescription drugs available through the internet to assuage the ache. But most importantly, if you don’t want the energy of real love to be stirred in you, choose your addiction du jour.. it is a sure passion killer."
We're getting excited about the release of the book, which will be available mid-July through all major book vendors. Stay tuned...