I have for many years recognized that I am addicted to sugar. It’s a more socially acceptable addiction than many others—but it can be just as destructive to my personal health and well-being. While I have been able to keep my weight under control, far too many times I have used sweet foods and snacks to fill that “God-shaped hole” within myself that I’ve mentioned before. Sometime within the past year I started referring to myself as a sugarholic—and at this point I know it’s true, even if our society would not recognize it as such, and might belittle it as “not really an addiction.”
However, if we dig deeply enough, and are honest enough with ourselves, we all are addicted to something. Richard Rohr, in Breathing Under Water, states that societies even unconsciously agree upon “acceptable” addictions; he says America’s are oil, war and empire. I believe sugar is one of those, perhaps because it gives us a short-term energy burst, which so many Americans feel we need in order to get through the overly-busy days that our culture demands of us.
Other socially acceptable addictions that I see, on a smaller scale than war and empire, include the addiction to junk food—to the ease with which we can obtain and consume it, without respect for its effect on our bodies or the cost to our society when a lifetime of consumption lands us in the hospital—and to power and control, which are actually encouraged in our society’s leaders. There are also addictions to possessions, which lead to hoarding issues that are only recently being recognized as a problem.
All of these addictions have some things in common. They are something we consume, or think we control, in our attempt to feel whole and complete. In reality, however, we need to admit our powerlessness (as the first of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says) in the face of our innate human tendency to grasp hold of these attachments, and “turn it over” to God.
I had an “aha” moment this past week. Yes, I’ve been trying to deny or avoid my addiction, and my powerlessness. I’ve also not been recognizing my innate, God-created wholeness. As I was praying/talking/struggling before God with all this, I suddenly realized that the answer has been hidden in my name all of my life. You see, Shirin means “sweet”!
And so I found myself saying, over and over, “I’m Shirin, and I’m sweet enough without sugar.” It’s a long way from where I am now to any kind of complete healing and wholeness, but it’s a start. To quote AA yet again, “one day at a time.”
Lent begins in 11 days. I invite you to consider praying for awareness of an addiction that you might wish—or, more likely, need—to address during this upcoming season of discipline and denial. What might it be like to give up junk food, or purchasing anything that you didn’t have an immediate, concrete use for? Could you walk through an entire day at work without attempting to control what happens around you, and the people with whom you work? How else might you need to confront an addiction in your life, and your need for God, during this Lenten season?