Four Main Reasons for Addictions

Many Fall Victim to Addiction

Did you know addiction is the #1 public health crisis in the United States, costing 500 billion dollars each year? That's a lot of money. Think of all the good things that could happen if our society had 500 billion dollars to invest in schools, health care, and helping the poor. But it's blown every year on addictions. That's bad enough, but what hurts more is what it does to you and me.

When I talk to teenagers and young adults on my radio show, Dawson McAllister Live, I hear so many sad stories from people whose lives are being ruined by addictions. After all, 60%-70% of Americans have some kind of addiction. Why do so many people fall victim to an addiction? I've thought about and researched addictions for quite some time, and I believe there are four main reasons for addictions.

So what is an addiction again? I turned to you for help in coming up with a great definition of an addiction. I found two that stood out:

An addiction is an activity or a substance a person uses to avoid dealing with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings that need to be faced - Joe. 

An addiction is something a person turns to when they cannot handle the cards they are being dealt with - Amanda 

What factors contribute to substance abuse and addictions?

Isolation, abandonment, and being the victim of previous abuse can all contribute to substance abuse and other addictions. But substance abuse can affect anyone, even if they don’t “seem like” the type to struggle with an addiction. If you feel like you can’t control your use of drugs and alcohol, it's time to seek help.

Nobody gets involved in an addictive lifestyle just to ruin their lives. No, they turn to their false feel good to feel good. It's the false part that ruins them. Here are four main reasons for addictions:

1. We turn to addictions to fill the hole in our soul caused by the hurt in our lives.

When we get involved in addictions, we are attempting to trade a high to replace a low. The high comes from chemicals or some repetitive behavior that gives us pleasure, and the low comes from the emotional and spiritual pain in our lives. Some people call this spiritual and emotional pain a hole in our soul. Those headed for a cruel addiction ask themselves a good question: "Why not fill the hole in my soul with a high? That will surely do the trick. What could be wrong with that?"

It makes a lot of sense at first. The high helps heal us from our pain (the hole in our soul) and gives us the much-needed distraction from the heartaches of life. Let's face it. It's very difficult to handle the cards that are being dealt to us. At some point, the pain becomes so great we begin to crave for some kind of relief, any kind of relief.

Everyone who has an addiction is trying to escape. No one ever imagines that it will turn into an addiction, but the pain continues, and the distraction is needed. It's survival for so many people. - Amanada

2. We turn to addictions to check out of life.

There are those who feel they cannot handle the responsibilities of life. Let's face it. Life is hard, with all kinds of issues to face daily. There are no guarantees life will always be easy. There was a man in the Bible who suffered horribly. His name was Job. He lost his wife and family and all he had. In his depression, he said, We're all adrift in the same boat: too few days, too many troubles. So how do we handle life's many troubles?

I have known people who have gone on drug and alcohol induced binges for months and months trying to forget the conflicts and hurts they face every day. They barely function.

Life has a way of showing up no matter how hard we try to escape it. You look into their eyes, and there's no one at home. The high that first worked for them has turned to numbness. Not only do they feel no pain, but they have no life either.

Sometimes people have addictions because that is the only way to forget the past. Sometimes reality is not easy to face. - Beth

You can make a choice. Are you going to turn to God and others to help remove the deep emotional pain within, or will you turn to some temporary relief - a calm euphoria or an amazing high?  No one points a gun at our head and says, "I will force you to be an addict."  You can choose. If you choose the temporary relief, chances are you will soon be locked up in an addiction, and in the end, things will be worse than whatever you were trying to escape.

At first, my addiction was a choice that I made. Growing up, I wasn't given the privilege of making choices for myself. I've suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse all of my life. To be given the choice to drink or have sex brought me comfort. I could receive comfort and relief at any moment in the day. It was something that I could control. Now that I've stated, it is too painful to stop. It's no longer a choice, but something that I can't control. I feel ashamed but i have nowhere to go. I am lost. - Sarah

3. Some people get into addictions because of peer pressure

I know there’s nothing new here. It seems we’ve heard about peer pressure since the day we were born. But no matter how much we talk about it, people give in to peer pressure every day.

Usually, when somebody falls into the trap of negative peer pressure, they usually have abandoned people who give positive peer pressure and replaced them with all the wrong crowd. We are only as safe as our closest friends.

When i was 18 i stopped going to church, lost connections and stated hanging out with the wrong people. One thing leads to another and before i knew it i was getting high all day every day. Seriously as soon as i woke up i got high, i got high every opportunity i could throughout the day and before i went to bed. - Kimberly

There’s a saying that goes like this: “To break your addiction, you will have to find new playmates, new playgrounds, and new playthings.” No one ever broke an addiction hanging out with the wrong crowd but hanging out on the wrong playground with negative playmates and playing with dangerous things is a set up for addiction, disaster, and death.

4. People get into addictions because they are fooled by the "just once" lie.

Everyone who has an addiction was totally clean once. Every addict had his or her first-time experience with what caused his or her addiction. They could have said no, and never known the highs or the cruel lows of their addiction. But instead, they rationalized and said to themselves, I’ll experiment just once. For many, “just once” was all they needed to begin the dance with the devil of death. Let’s take drugs and alcohol for example. Studies tell us 10% of all Americans are predisposed to becoming addicted to drugs because of their genetics. People who fall into this predisposed category have better than a 50% chance of becoming addicted to something.  While their friends may be able to take 1 or 2 drinks and walk away, these people cannot. The just once lie ends up being the beginning of disaster.

I think people start getting addicted to many things by accident. Maybe their friends told them something was cool. They try what their friends were doing thinking they will only do it once. Then they really get into it and doing it over and over again, which becomes an addiction. - Beth

Beth is absolutely right. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in the "just once" trap. There are some drugs that with the first use, you become instantly addicted (i.e. coke, crack, ice, crank, special K, etc.

There is a way out and there is HOPE!

You may be asking yourself, “Is there any way out? Can I overcome the addiction in my life?” The answer is a thousand times yes! But it will take a true spiritual transformation.

Put another way, only a deep, meaningful relationship with God can truly set us free. That’s why just about every recovery group for an addiction uses the same proven 12 step program and only adapts it slightly for each addiction. Six of the twelve steps talk directly about God. Rather than working on a deeper relationship with God, we make the addiction our god. God created you and me to know and love Him. All addictions make a lousy god. Is it any wonder then most people who have an addiction are eventually miserable? Here the good news: the same God who never wanted you addicted to begin with will give you the strength to recover. It’s a matter of trusting Him to heal you and committing your life to let God help you turn your entire life around.

We also need each other to get through the hard times. Some of you encourage one another in your blog comments and some of you share your story of hope. Don't face your issues alone. We know it's tough out there.

Also, download TheHopeLine's eBook with information on signs and symptoms of substance abuse and how to overcome.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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