It was 1970 and I was 8 years old. I was returning from Italy on a large ocean liner. I had been in Italy for a couple of months and hadn’t eaten any junk food. In those days, American-style junk food was unavailable in southern Italy. Now, I was craving potato chips. My dad asked the ship’s steward if he could get me some. He got the cook to fry some thinly sliced potatoes. It wasn’t even close to the real thing and just worsened my cravings. I was literally dreaming about hot dogs and french fries. A few days later, we arrived in New York harbor and met my mom. We headed to the train station and sat at a lunch counter. I ordered a wonderful vanilla milkshake, and all was well with the world once again!
Years later, I spent some time in Belgium, repairing a church. After the first week, I got a Big Mac attack. I was told there was no McDonald’s in the area. After two weeks, we traveled to Paris. My first stop wasn’t the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. “Ou est le McDonald’s?” I asked someone on the street. I followed his directions and soon was cramming my mouth with heavenly satisfaction.
Okay, I’ve got a problem. But I’m not obese and I regularly exercise, so I’m not too worried. What if I was addicted to cocaine, or heroin, or gambling? People who don’t understand the nature of addictions will often say, “Why can’t they just stop?” If they could “just stop,” they wouldn’t be addicted. I’m not making excuses for addicts. It is possible to stop, but it ain’t easy!
You will often hear that the best way to deal with potential addiction is to never try a highly addictive, dangerous substance. I agree 100 percent with that advice. You simply don’t know how you will be affected after that first cigarette, first shot of heroin or first snort of cocaine. A coke addict once told me, “I got addicted to cocaine because I tried it.” A crack addict said, “When I took my first hit of crack, it was like a switch in my brain was turned on. I can’t turn it off.”
When you are not an addict, you simply don’t understand the potential power of an addiction. It can literally take over your life. You can lose everything, including your soul. What’s the solution?
For me, the ultimate solution is God. A close relationship with God will help us keep from forming a harmful addiction in the first place. It will also help us stop a destructive, compulsive behavior or, at least, get it under control. We may need professional help or we may need to join a support group. You will notice that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous emphasize the importance of a “higher power” to overcome an addiction.
An addiction can ruin our health, rob us of our innocence, dignity and self-respect and harm us in many other ways. Even when we overcome an addiction, it can leave scars and wounds that never quite heal. Often, the cravings never completely go away. An addiction can be a lot stronger than we are, but God is stronger than our addiction.