A Religious Sister, writing in the Kyeongyang Magazine, recounts observing at Mass one morning a Catholic who was obviously drunk and yet wanted to receive communion. He was prevented from approaching the altar by others who escorted him outside, she said. They did not believe he was in the right frame of mind to receive communion, but she asked herself: What would Jesus have done? She believes it's a question not easily answered. We know that addiction takes many forms: the constant use of smart phones, internet searches, pornography, gambling, to name just a few. When these less obviously addicted persons come to Mass, she says we have no idea of their addiction.
We find it much easier to censure those who abuse tobacco and alcohol, but can we say there is no problem with the abuse of the smart phone and the internet? When there is drug abuse, we consider it a disease and usually recommend that the victim seek help. However, there are many who are addicted without any outward signs of their addiction, often without knowing they are addicted. Is addiction to alcohol and gambling less harmful than the addictions to pornography and watching videos nonstop? she asks.
When spirits are low and we are dealing with painful emotions, we can be tempted to abuse alcohol and drugs. Similarly, when bored and lonely, we can have recourse to smart phones, pornography and videos to escape the boredom. When this occurs, aren't we also, she asks, during harm to ourselves, to our bodies and our minds?
The dictionary describes addiction, she says, as the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with, or involved in, something. It is like descending a hill in a car without the breaks working. Living in a troubled society, we are all exposed to addiction, she believes; none of us is safe from being infected.
Can we say that substance abuse is any different from addiction to the smart phone, internet surfing, and many other common addictions we hardly are conscious of? Studies have shown that not only substance abuse but all addictive activities show the same affect on the brain--principally, the loss of self restraint, with an excessive release of dopamine. Using brain scanning equipment, researchers have established that all addictions can be traced to dopamine-induced expectations.
Addictions become more serious, she believes, when indulged in secretly, usually because of embarrassment. For instance, she says that while eating too much is sometimes the normal occurrence during a family get-together, eating secretly to excess is a sickness, as are all addictions that are secretly indulged in.
Watching a drama with the family or watching pornography with some friends is one thing but staying up all night and watching something on the computer or smart phone is something else, she says. But when it's done and someone comes in and you cover over what you're doing, this is a sign of a possible addiction, and if it continues, there will be lies and more effort to hide what is being done. As a result, the relationship with the family is hurt, as well as our relationship with others. Overall, our interior life becomes weakened, confused and miserable.
When we do continually what is embarrassing and shameful we are lying in our hearts, and darkness grows. We have to break this to return to health. Addiction starts from escape from uncomfortableness and pain. We have to have the courage to fight against these feelings.