The Love Cure for Addiction

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As I researched infant bonding for my latest book, a far-reaching reality slowly dawned on me: God created us for a peace found only in love. Here’s that reality in neurological terms: A baby’s brain has only two modes, based on two entirely dependent variables (meaning that either both variables are present or neither are). The variables are security and attachment, or put in the negative, anxiety and detachment. Picture baby skin to skin with mommy, cooing contentedly, then baby pulled away from mommy, flaccid little arms flailing, immediately emitting the gurglely squawk of tiny newborn vocal cords. Babies can’t have peace outside of relationship, and neither can big babies like you and me.

Amazing things keep popping up to validate this. For starters check out this video in which man named Johann Hart studies addiction and concludes that we’ve got it wrong. He cites a fascinating study where researchers put two water bottles in a rat’s cage, one with plain water and the other heroin-laced. The rats quickly drink themselves into junkies. Then the researchers ask if perhaps the stark, lonely cage itself contributes to the rats’ addictive tendencies, and create instead a rat playground, complete with bits of cheese, colored balls, and lots of other rats. This time around the rats almost never drink the heroin water. One observer says that maybe we shouldn’t call it addiction, but rather bonding. It just so happens that in the absence of healthy bonds, we bond with inanimate things that mimic the brain chemistry of relationships. Therefore the best preventative for addiction to drugs is “addiction” to healthy, godly, happy love.

Reading this type of thing can increase the despair of already-lonely people, who, according to John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, are multiplying by the day. Cacioppo says loneliness has increased from 20 percent in the 80s to 40 percent today.

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Dr. John Cacioppo, University of Chicago

A generation after social media took over, the research about its use correlating with loneliness has begun to pour in, validating the strange phenomenon that the most technologically-connected generation is also the least actually-connected. I recently shared a talk about loneliness with a group of older folks and they really resonated with these findings. They remember the days when people sat around the dinner table and talked.

Let me speak into the despairing cycle into which many of us have tumbled. We know we need to love and be loved. We feel the absence of it in our lives. But the sheer momentum of broken relationships and failure to bond causes us to wonder if we were the ones Thoreau spoke of when he said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The hippies called for peace and love but achieved neither. Humanists believe that we can generate these goodnesses, but, try as we might, we come up empty. It would have been cruel of God to create us with this yawning chasm of need and then allow us to tumble into a fallen, loveless world to scratch out our existence in futility if—and if is a big word here—He hadn’t met the emergency with Himself. When horizontal relationships fail, and they will, we can still go vertical. “He reached down from heaven and took hold of me,” Ps. 18:16. God reached down in sending Jesus to re-bond heaven and earth. He reached down in inspiring His Word, His love letter to all people. God reaches down moment by moment through His Spirit to re-bond with you. When human relationships fail, there is still love. “Every soul is as fully known to Jesus as if he were the only one for whom the Savior died. The distress of every one touches His heart. The cry for aid reaches His ear. He came to draw all men unto Himself. He bids them, ‘Follow Me,’ and His Spirit moves upon their hearts to draw them to come to Him.” Desire of Ages, 480.

You don’t have to spend your life in anxious detachment, the infant within wailing for a warm embrace. No matter what, where, and who you are, because of Him, you can love and be loved.

How has God revealed His love to you lately?

12 thoughts on “The Love Cure for Addiction

  1. Fred Bischoff

    Jacob’s ladder (Gen. 28:12; John 1:51) shows that Jesus is our bond to the heavenly realm. The gospel is the good news of that reality, what it cost Him, and all that is intended to flow from that. “The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.” {SC 100.1} From the security that relation brings, all other relations can be what they are intended to be in this broken world. Thanks for your addressing the importance of these bonds.

  2. A. Leroy Moore

    Jennifer, you have made a number of very important points here, that affirm what I have found in working with people. The ten commandments are amazing. Our greatest single need is a love relationship with Him Who is the fountain of love. Only then can we keep the second table of the law in relating to our fellow men. Without both of these needs met (the second dependent upon the first) there is an emotional emptiness that drives us to various addictions–to which we bond.

    We are generally not aware of it, but these addictions are substitues for intimate love relationships with God which provide the love with which to form true, intimate relationships with our fellow men.

    Thanks for your vital insights,

    Pastor A. Leroy Moore

  3. Keith A Johnson

    Great article, a fellow veteran who was my classmate in graduate school, was orphaned as a baby, sexually abused at five while in foster care. He grew up in East Los Angeles and served in Vietnam. He had P.T.S.D. on top of P.T.S.D. Knowing his past while we were driving to Galt, California for a weekend session with many of the State’s prison educators, while five of us were driving up together, we were having a discussion about Agape Love. Everytime I said the word love, my fellow veteran would let out a nervous giggle. Finally, I turned to him and told him why he giggles every time I say the word, Love. I informed him that talking Love in front of him was like trying to explain colors to a person born blind; there is no point of reference. When I mention the word Love, to you, you think it is a myth, only it hurts. He hated to be touched, so I added, that touch > intimacy > vulnerability > abuse > betrayal > abandonment; where touch should mean: touch > intimacy > vulnerability > trust > security > compatibility; leading to emotional and spiritual stability. Our close friendship would allow him to listen and then allow the information to process. His V.A. psychiatrist kept asking him, who he was talking too, as he would share our discussions. Abandoning the frontal lobes along with apathy makes for a disconnected brokenness that numbs the pain, while refusing to heal or deal with the trauma.

    Have a blessed day, we serve a great God, Who will speak through His saints to set the captives free. Thirty-four years of prison ministry has introduced me to many who have suffered extreme abuse and turned to drugs or alcohol to cope, while trying to numb the pain. Jesus is the only answer.

    Keith

  4. Clyde Thomas

    This very principle, “security and attachment” or “peace and bonding” are the very principle that Christianity is responding to. As Christians meet the needs of others by loving helpfulness, both find peace in there bond — or attachment. Thank you for sharing this principle.

  5. Ed Gutierrez

    Spot on!

    Only Jesus can fill that need for love. Not even a parent’s love will suffice. And Jesus cannotjust be a historical figure we learn about. It is an encounter that begins at Calvary. I’ll never forget the day that the cross of Christ became a living reality. My burden indeed was lifted at Calvary.

    Keep up the good work Jennifer!

  6. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer

    Wow, Jane. Water in my eyes. You’re a great Grandmother and maybe Lily stay with you forever.

  7. Linda Beavert

    Jennifer, I don’t expect you to remember me, but I attended your presentations at the Arbuckle View SDA Church in Sulphur, OK. I enjoyed your presentations very much.
    I really enjoyed this article, too, because my husband and I adopted two deaf children, 8-1/2 and 3 years old (not brothers) (who are now in their 40s) and I have seen how not having bonding from birth can influence people–especially my older son, since he lived with abuse for more years than the younger one did.
    I am also involved in the Celebrate Recovery program. This program is for people with hurts, habits and hang-ups, not only for people with alcohol and drug problems. I have been a Christian for many years (since I was 14 and will be 70 this year) and thought that some of the hang-ups I had were just normal in life and I just had to work around them because “no one’s perfect” and “everyone has problems.” I have just realized that what I always called being a “frustrated perfectionist” is, in reality, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and am working through the steps in the CR program to help me be aware and change the OCD way I used to respond.
    I spanked too often when the boys were younger and I see now that they didn’t meet my high expectations. The boys not doing things right caused me to have anger with them. In my mid 30s, I received Jesus as Lord (I had received Him as Savior at 14 and didn’t understand about Lord at that time) and He just took care of the anger issue. I think the first time I noticed was probably when my older son did something that I would have exploded about and I didn’t, then I noticed my husband’s face filled with surprise.
    I also wouldn’t delegate work when I could have used the help because my co-workers’ work was not up to my expectations for myself. Now, as I look back with the knowledge of OCD, I believe that I started trying to do everything perfect as a child because there were so many things out-of-control in my life and I could control how I did things. (Sounds like articles I have read from young people who cut themselves or eat and purge!) My biological father chose not to be part of my life and my mother married four more men after their divorce. We moved often–every year while I was in high school, thus not establishing long friendships and being pretty much a loner.
    I also read an article in Guideposts a few years ago about Depression and cried. I identified so much with the lady who wrote the article. I had felt the same way growing up and just thought it was normal for me. Since starting with CR five years ago, I have worked through depression, recognize the things that make me want to curl up in a cocoon, and don’t go there.
    So I have now been made aware of the same kind of things in my life and in my sons’ lives that started when we were infants/young children. This is such important information! Thank you for writing this article!

  8. Voni Radlinger

    Finally got around to reading this. Beautiful post and so true. Thank you Jennifer Jill. Am wiping a tear after watching the clip with the new born clinging to mom. 🙂 Thank you for letting yourself be used by God. 🙂

  9. Elaine Hilliker

    How has God revealed His love to me lately?
    Well, my six-year old grandson had a very delicate brain surgery one week ago. For the 10 days prior to the surgery we were terrified of this trial our family was going through. Hundreds of people were praying for him, for our family, and for the surgeon. Of course we were praying for the very best outcome, but at the same time we had to prepare our hearts for the possibility that God’s will was not the same as ours. The surgeon was honest with us about the potential consequences of this surgery which was, in his own words, “not for the faint of heart.”

    The night before the surgery we called the elders to anoint him. There were fervent prayers, singing, and I had fasted all that day. Fourteen of us were at the hospital the next day praying throughout the 12.5 hour surgery. After each update we received we prayed and thanked God for His goodness and mercy.

    It turns out that God’s will was to have Steven come through the surgery in the most amazing way possible. After being under the anesthesia for 15 hours (2 and 1/2 hours prior to the actual surgery they were prepping, mapping and positioning), he wanted to know where his sister was! He breathed on his own the entire time, there was no excessive swelling, no infection has set in, and the surgeon found him to be in excellent condition for what he had been through. It’s exactly what we prayed for. I can’t begin to describe how I felt to see the relief in my daughter and son-in-law’s eyes. None of the potential problems that the surgeon described to us took place. None.

    Steven will remain in the hospital until next Friday. He is now receiving intensive physical and occupational therapy in order to correct the deficit that his brain lesion created. We have no reason to believe that he will not be completely healed. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

    That’s how God has shown His love to me lately 🙂

  10. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer Post author

    Wow. Just wow. Thank you for sharing!

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