This was the one question asked of me while I spoke to the high school students at the Granville Village School; my topic: Addiction Juxtaposed with a Christian World View.
Is addiction sin?
I believe the short answer to that is, “NO.” Addiction, in and of itself, is not sin because addiction is a chronic illness.
The longer answer involves a bad choice tried and then repeated, that can be triggered by emotional states & mental illness, which messes with natural dopamine levels, and can be exacerbated by genetic predisposition… all leading to chemical and /or emotional dependency. That’s my take on it all.
The truth is, we all make bad choices from time to time and they usually follow a similar pattern of pre-meditation.
I am young and I stayed up too late, I am wicked tired, and I have an early class…so I decide to start drinking coffee like my dad…or a Monster energy drink like my older sister. This week it is one caffeinated drink, next week it is three, and now I need one everyday to function. This is an addiction to caffeine. Lack of self-control, to get the sleep that is needed, is the sin.
I am overweight and I need to stick to my diet, but I had a really stressful day…so I reach for the bucket of ice cream and I eat the whole container. Today it is ice cream, tomorrow it is second helpings, and next week it will be a bag of chips. This is an addiction to foods as a comforter. Lack of self control, leading to moments of gluttony, is the sin.
I am super anxious and I need to calm down so I can focus…so I decide to drink a couple of beers and try smoking a joint that my friend offers me. Tonight that worked well, so I try it again the next night, and the next night, and most every night; in fact, I think chillin’ like this is the way to go for a good night sleep! This is an addiction to substances. Lack of trust in God*, to absorb the anxiety, is the sin.
Caffeine, sugar, alcohol … or whatever the substance used (especially those that fuel the current drug epidemic), once we take part and repeat the partaking, our brains are altered chemically and/or emotionally, and we set ourselves up for potential addiction. When people attempt to abstain consistently from these addictive substances – headaches pound and cravings of a beastly size will come at the minimum.
This is why America runs on Dunkin’ and people cannot stick to the number one New Year resolution… so, you can imagine how much harder it is to abstain, for the one who is addicted to stronger substances that skyrocket dopamine levels and cripple the body’s own production of it’s natural dopamine?
Most choices that feed our fleshly desires, rather than the Spirit desires, are sinful acts.
Everyone falls short. We all make bad choices sometimes. Temptations ensnare us like a trap that bites the rabbits leg.
One piece of advice from God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18. This warning against drunkenness implies abstaining from anything that will impair your physical being to cause you to act in ways that would harm your body, or cause more behavior that is displeasing to God. Surrender your life to Christ, die to self, and you will be enabled with the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations and live a fully free life.
Short answer take-away:
No, I do not believe Addiction is a sin.
Addiction is a chronic illness and people who suffer from addiction need loving care and help. The sin is the piggy-toe dipping, leading to a big step walking, in the ways that satisfy the flesh-desires we have instead of trusting that our God can take care of our every need.
*(My one disclaimer is that I believe that there are some levels of anxiety and depression, and other mental struggles, that do need medical & psychological intervention alongside a relationship with God, in order for there to be full healing).