Addiction at its core is trying to find happiness and fulfillment outside of God. It’s a false sense of security in things that will not last. It’s a band-aid to an infected wound. It’s a manifestation of a hurt, not a cure.
When many of us think of addictions, we usually conjure up thoughts of drug addicts on sidewalks or alcoholics at the corner bar. We rarely think of an epidemic of an addiction to people. Other names for an addiction to people are people pleaser, co-dependent, and approval addicts.
No one wants to admit they are addicted to people as much as an alcoholic doesn’t want to admit he has a severe drinking problem. Why? Because we feel it stigmatizes how we will be seen and perceived by others. We feel it makes us look like we are weak and needy and hence, we will be rejected. Also, it rips off the comfort of the band-aid we have put on it and forces us to deal with the infection underneath; the truth.
Today, I want to help those who may be struggling with this to identify the signs and help with suggestions to overcome the addiction.
What are some signs/symptoms?
Swinging/shifting moods according to another person’s moods. Loss of emotional freedom, as everything a person does or doesn’t do affects your feelings. Yes, granted when you are close to someone their feelings may affect you to some degree, but they should not dictate or control you and your moods.
Relying on others for approval, validation or constant reassurance.
Inability to function or think straight or rationally.
Fear and anxiety. A constant fear that you will lose a person or be rejected by them.
"'Fear' in the biblical sense…includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people.”
-Edward T. Welch
The affects and harm of being addicted to people:
They become a false idol, functional saviors or counterfeit Gods. According to Tim Keller’s book, “Counterfeit Gods,” an idol and/or functional savior is,
“Anything more important than you and God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend the most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.”
So, what is the fix or cure?
Stepping out of denial and admitting that you have an addiction to people.
Surrendering to God
Finding an accountability partner to help you stay accountable for your thoughts and behavior. They are able to see patterns often times before you can and also can pray for you.
A willingness to change. Even when you don’t know how to change, power comes from God through surrender.
Recognize your triggers and make a plan on how you will deal with them before they happen.
How will you plan to react when______?
When I am beginning to feel______, I will_____?
Disengage. Sometimes you may need to disengage from a relationship completely or for an amount of time. Disengaging when you feel a trigger setting in can help you to take the time to be alone, pray and think clearly.
Make sure you are continuing to do your own things (hobbies, interests and regular activities). When you stop doing these things it should be a red flag to you.
Pursue positive distractions. Pray, spend daily time with God, try something new and get out with friends or even by yourself. When I say find positive distractions, I am not implying that you try to avoid your feelings, but that you actually re-focus your attention.
Some verses to meditate on:
“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13).
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out,” (Romans 7:18).