The Likely Cause of Addiction: Disconnection – reflections on Johann Hari by Michael Peterson & Brad Jersak

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” 
– Johann Hari
In his Jan. 1015 article, entitled, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think,” Johann Hari (author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs) presents a strong case for believing that addictions are rooted, not in chemical hooks, but in disconnection or alienation. The best treatment, he proposes, is human connection. I.e. love.
Dr. C. Michael Peterson and Brad Jersak reflect on these findings. 
Michael Peterson
Two thoughts:
1) The author contrasts the traditional treatment approach of bio-behavioral therapies and cognitive interventions vs. a love-based approach. Her final sentence stated:

“For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.”

I found this intriguing from the standpoint of God’s grace and love–how this statement and general scientific study outcomes point to the potential power of God’s grace and love. It seems to me that the world was created and runs best when God’s love is reflected, demonstrated and implemented in addictions, healing, marriages … you name it. 

When we operate and function on a premise or approach other than that of God’s grace (generally speaking), we invariably end up in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing.  However, even if we end up in the wrong place (i.e. addiction), God’s love can bring us back, can heal us. It also reflects a problem within “religious institutions,” which tend towards similar approaches toward “sin” rather than grace and love. Rules, rituals and regulations (i.e. bio-behavioral approaches) executed by religion don’t heal, whereas God’s grace and unconditional love does.

2) We have tried to “prove” God’s existence through a variety of ways, but as mentioned above, might God’s existence better be confirmed via the application of Love? If God is Love, then His creation ought also to work best from a “grace-based, love-based approach.”

This article, in my mind, is like a scientific affirmation of God’s grace, but also a point of proof for God’s existence. An evolutionary naturalism approach makes no sense to the treatise of the author. Rather, a world designed by a God of Love to operate based on the implementation of his being/character makes more sense to me. Dysfunction at any level within the system (individual, family, community, nation, etc.) invariably leads to sin, death and negative outcomes. 
Just thinking of the current state of the US right now, we seem to see all of this in action. To heal a nation, family, community or individual, it is the operationalization and out-flowing of godly love that leads to better outcomes, lives and relationships. Maybe this is all self-evident to you… but I thought you might find the article of interest.

Brad, I would be interested in your perspective based on your experience in the church you pastored, which served the homeless, addicts, etc. Or as one politician said here in USA, “the deplorable.”

Brad Jersak

I very much agree with this line of thinking. Moreover, this has been my consistent experience of 12-step recovery, with which I’ve been regularly involved since 2008. 
The foundation of the program is our belief that condemnation, accusation and judgement do nothing for the addict. Addiction is a disease over which self-control and self-will is powerless. Nor can addiction be scorned or punished out of anyone. Addiction, like “sin” requires nothing less than the treatment of the Great Physician through real human connection. 
In any 12-step fellowship, we are taught that the character defect that lies at the root of every addiction problem is self-will (autonomy, just as you see it in the fall of Adam). So attempting to strive our way out only feeds and strengthens the addiction. 
Instead, the solution is a belief in a power greater than ourselves (normally referred to as “God”) who can free us from the bondage in which we’re hopelessly entangled. This God or “Higher Power is technically not identified with a particular creed or dogma (so that all are welcome), but is represented as loving, caring, forgiving and non-condemning (not too many gods fit that bill). 
Accepting oneself and surrendering to God’s grace through the other men and women in recovery is the active ingredient in our healing. I’ve seen remarkable transformation by the time we come to step 3: “We made a decision to turn our lives and wills over to the care [not the control] of God as we understand God.” “Care” here means love, grace, acceptance … what the article is talking about. Later, in step 11, we seek through prayer and meditation in increase our conscious contact–i.e. connection–with that God, who clarifies our understanding through God’s self-revelation as unfailing love and radical acceptance.  
I’ve been in 12-step recovery long enough to see different experiences and approaches that impact the transformation. 
1. If the addict cannot accept that they are powerless to save themselves, they will keep stumbling. An unwillingness to see that grace alone can save them leads to repeated relapses. It’s not that they don’t participate in the work of recovery, but they are participating through surrender to God’s love rather than attempting to dig themselves out of their own pit of self-will.
2. If the addict cannot believe that God loves them as they are today, warts and all, they will spurn grace and prolong their recovery. They may believe they are unworthy of God’s love. So what do they do? They try to make themselves worthy, which is a strange kind of pride that refuses to bottom out. 
3. As for groups, all fellowships are expected to embody God’s unconditional love. The only requirement for “membership” is a desire to be free. However, I know that some addicts can become fundamentalists in the program. This too is a sign of pride, so in their impatience with those who relapse, they may communicate shame and rejection. This is not a program glitch, it is a human one.
4. In some recovery programs, the addiction (and thus, subconsciously, the inner addict) is considered the enemy from which God must set us free. That makes sense. But in others, those in recovery reflect on their addiction as a blessing, because ultimately, it played a part in God’s redemption from the slavery of self-will into the care of a loving God. From what I’ve seen, the latter is more effective. I’ve explored some of these thoughts here:

Michael Peterson
When we take God’s love out of the picture, we invariably set ourselves up for failure. Moreover, when we accurately define God’s love for what it truly is–unconditional, grace-based, relentless, never-ending, all forgiving, all merciful, and all encompassing–and surrender to it, it is transformative. It is the power that heals, delivers and comforts. To see God for what God is, is truly a blessing. Occasionally even science can give us a glimpse of God’s love … if we are willing to see it. 
By allowing God to work His love through us, by yielding to Him, we as counselors, treatment deliverers, friends, or relatives can perhaps be an instrument that He uses to help, comfort, encourage and heal others.  If the world was created in love and for love, then it stands to reason that the more we yield to that love, the better off we all will be.
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