“I am an addict.” There, I said it. By God’s grace, it isn’t to a substance but to a behavior(s). I am addicted to behaviors in ways that give me a sense of controlling my life. I can’t let them go. And they are extreme.
For most of my life, I have avoided acknowledging the extreme parts of me. I thought, as we all do, that I had to be the standard for what is “normal.” I measure what is proper and appropriate in the world by what I consider proper and appropriate in me. But as I have gotten older, I see more clearly the addictive parts of me.
My son recently shared a story of walking around the food court in a mall collecting free samples of food while waiting for a friend. “Dad, you would have been proud of me. I almost got a full meal.” I quickly inserted that my father would be proud of him, too. To that he responded, “Yes, but I got it from you!” I winced.
What I am suggesting is that all of us have ways of managing and controlling life, and those ways end up controlling us. We gravitate to these ways in order to give us a sense of control. For example, I would call myself frugal. Others might call me “tight.” I watch pennies, pick up each item at the grocery store and look at the cost per unit. I hate buying a hot dog at a ballgame for the price I would pay for the whole pack at the grocery store. You see what I mean.
But that’s not an addiction, you say. That is just a wise habit or good discipline. You, Palmer, are exercising control, taking responsibility for you and your family, being a wise steward. And that is true… until it gets in the way of love.
The dark side reveals itself, for example, when we go on vacation. We have money set aside for family fun, but I just wince spending it. My kids feel it. We are supposed to be having fun renting that jet ski, but I am half-smiling, haunted by the astronomical price I am paying. “$50 for 15 minutes. That is just ridiculous!” They can see it on my face. It is controlling me, not the reverse. My parsimony owns my heart. I am addicted.
I see it most clearly in the moments when it hurts people I love, and I still can’t seem to let it go. I want to be freer with my money but find myself bound or controlled by my “frugality.” Somewhere inside I believe that being this tight with my money will give me control of my life. And it does to a point. But when it becomes too important it ends up controlling me.
I want to be able to spend freely when it comes to loving others and even myself. I am a repenting addict, a repenting tightwad. My son and I laughed about his free meal. I laughed inside about how I wanted to put it off on my dad. But my son learned it from me.
What is it for you? What promises you a sense of control in life but ends up controlling you? It doesn’t have to be a substance. It doesn’t even have to be something that is “bad.” It could be something that is very “good.” But when it hurts others and you still can’t let it go there is a problem.
All of us are extreme. All of us are addicted. All of us have ways that we seek to control life, to bring a sense of order. And all of us, in some ways, end up being controlled by those addictions. They become our hope for managing and dealing with life. God should be our hope. God should be my hope. And He is slowly pointing me there.
If. If this topic has piqued your interest we’re offering a seminar in September
called “Unlocking Addiction.” Simply click here for more information.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.