Hands speak volumes. The Russian author Tolstoy describes in a stirring language how a visitor observes the hands of the players in a casino. They express so many things. There are the completely relaxed ones, because they don’t care whether they win or not. Perhaps the one who owns the hands can still afford to lose. The other’s fingers clench, they twitch, they’re wet. It’s all or nothing. It’s whether they can lift up their head leaving the place, or get away beaten, destroyed, deprived of dignity, without a future, with a lot of gambling debts.
The non-material addictions, as they are called, are not limited to gambling addiction. Addiction to work can also distract us from our real purpose in life. The list below is not complete, but shows us that almost all activities can lead to addiction: addiction to shopping, internet addiction, computer game addiction, television addiction, cell phone addiction, sex addiction, craving for recognition, binge eating, obesity, anorexia, sleep addiction, exercise addiction…
Relaxation and Pleasure
The activities listed above are not inherently bad. We can all use them in a positive way. We work in order to be able to live our lives, in order to fulfill our desires, in order to be able to help others. Sex is a pleasant thing when it is connected to a relationship of genuine love. When we sleep we can rest and relax. Playing brings us socializing and relaxation. The children learn to follow rules and lose without anger. Eating gives us moments of pleasure, helps us to socialize and can be very satisfying.
When do normal activities become a problem? When they have to be done over and over again under compulsion. The desire to pursue the dominant activity is so great that it occupies me all the time. Work is often neglected, partners and family members are hardly noticed. Your own well-being and health are being neglected. A power stronger than myself has taken hold of me.
When someone can no longer cope with the demands of everyday life, an outlet is sought. One often slips into daydreams. You create your own world. In this world you are invulnerable. At first you feel comfortable, secure, no demands are made. It is only over time that such daydreams turns into problems again.
Also, one reason many become addicted is because of the ease of access to accessories. TVs, computers are in almost every home, even in the bedrooms. Slot machines for gambling can be found in many inns and are an additional source of income. Finding a casino is already taking some effort, but who is addicted to gambling will find its way.
When Things Go Bad
Initially, satisfaction is really found in the act of addiction. One can escape the pressure from outside. An own world, in which one feels comfortable, is created. But if the compulsion to keep immersing in this self-created world becomes too great, problems begin. Eventually everything gets neglected, including oneself. The essence of addiction is that you can’t get out of it by your own willpower. You cannot rely on your own willpower. An addict cannot be freed from his addiction against his own will either. Any attempt to help him will fail until he makes up his own mind to get out of his illness, which is in fact an addiction. But what can be managed is for the addict to recognize that they need help. However, this requires a basis of trust for many joint discussions.
How Can You Help?
No accusations should be made. The addict usually makes them himself. In all situations one must remain firm but cordial. Withdrawing support often helps. If, for example, the gambling addict who gambles for money and loses it, or the alcoholic realizes that people are always helping him out with money, he is not feeling the psychological strain of his actions. When you solve the problems for an addict and try to keep his life under control, you support him to carry on as before. If you withdraw the help, he gets into a big crisis, but it can force him to reorganize his life.
Relatives must not allow themselves to be abused or extorted. You can’t do anything for the addict or without his presence, everything must be done with their participation. This usually requires professional help. Advice centers for all kinds of assistance have been set up in all larger cities. Visiting a self-help group is a great help for those affected. There, in a relaxed atmosphere, he hears about the problems of others and how they are re-mastering their lives. He can exchange thoughts, take encouragement and have fun together. Many self-help groups use the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program.
Liberation is a Process and Spiritual Growth
Addicts need to realize that they cannot rely on their own willpower. It is not necessary to find out why one is addicted in order to have something to blame. Many addicts have been neglected in their childhood. They have never known real security. They find it difficult to confide in anyone. But they have to realize that only a greater power than they have in themself can help. And that power is sure to be found in God, our Creator and Sustainer. This is why the AA serenity prayer is so important and should be part of any therapy.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change things that I can change; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
Sticking to certain principles is a great help. The Twelve Step Alcoholics Anonymous program is a spiritual program that leads to healing and spiritual growth and is helpful with virtually any addiction. Instead of alcohol, simply substitute the addiction in question. Everyone can face their problem without fear and learn that there is liberation, also for them. However, getting rid of addiction is a process that you have to work on for the rest of your life. But it’s worth it. God wants us to break the chains of slavery, and He promises victory when we enlist His help.
Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Source: Alcoholics Anonymous
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Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.