​​4 Ways Addiction Creates Insanity in Our Lives

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Addiction and unhealthy attachments can be powerful drivers in our lives—drivers that put us on a course of destruction, pain, and insanity. Below are four ways that addiction and unhealthy attachments create insanity in our lives. 

A Repetitive Cycle of Suffering

We’ve likely heard the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. We somehow convince ourselves that, despite evidence to the contrary, this time it will be different. This time I’ll be able to stop after one beer. This time I won’t use my credit card when shopping. This time I won’t allow my loved one suffering from an addiction to take advantage of me. We can insert any addiction or unhealthy attachment and the result is the same when we’re caught in this repetitive cycle of suffering.

Addiction and its powerful pull bring insanity into our lives because it puts us on a path of repeated behavior that causes more and more destruction over time. We read in Scripture, “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Prv 26:11). It’s a sobering insight that also applies to addiction. When we are caught in the throes of addiction or unhealthy attachments we return again and again to a substance or behavior that brings us only suffering and destruction in the long term. However, when we realize there is a way forward through God’s mercy, we can begin the work of putting ourselves on a cycle of grace, healing, and sanity instead.

A Denial of Reality

When we refuse to believe that addiction is a disease we remain in denial. If we are not willing to admit that something is wrong then how can we ever expect to be healed? This is also at the root of the Lord’s invitation to repent and receive forgiveness when we participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we do not admit that we have sinned, then how can the Lord extend forgiveness, grace, and healing to us?

To not live in accordance with reality—even when that reality opposes our desires, wishes, or expectations—is to live in a type of insanity. Yet, when we admit what is going on in our lives and that our addiction and/or unhealthy attachment is bringing destruction and unhappiness to ourselves and those around us, then we can take that first step of living from a place of sanity.

Keeping Our “Built-in Forgetter” On

We can continue on the insane cycle of addiction because it’s easy to forget the harm it produces. In fact, we may know we have a problem. We may know it’s hurting us and others to black out or engage in lustful behaviors or overeat, acknowledging that we need to stop. But over time we can forget about the destruction—the hangover, the negative effect on our relationships, and the harm to our health. This is our “built-in forgetter” at work—we easily forget how destructive our addictive behaviors are to ourselves and others.

So, how do we turn this “built-in forgetter” off? We can surround ourselves with others in recovery who continue to remind us why we don’t want to fall back into our addictions and/or unhealthy attachments. This is one of the reasons why in 12-step groups we’re encouraged to share our own experience as well as listen to others—by “staying within the herd” we can help turn off—and keep off—that “built-in forgetter” that keeps us living with insanity. 

Euphoric Recall

This is similar to the previous point, though instead of forgetting all of the destruction and harm our addiction or unhealthy attachment causes we only remember the good feelings associated with it. This is “euphoric recall,” and it can keep us living with insanity by keeping our focus only on the positive emotions and the “good times” related to our substance use or behavior. 

But that’s only half of the story since those “good times” are followed by destruction, unhappiness, and pain that addiction and/or unhealthy attachments ultimately bring into our lives. By recalling that the euphoria is only short-lived—and that the cost doesn’t ever make up for it—we begin to realize our need for recovery and God’s healing grace.

When we remain living with insanity due to the above four reasons (or others) we allow our addiction and/or unhealthy attachments to run rampant and keep us from living a life of joy, peace, and freedom. In other words, we remain broken in our sinfulness. Yet, when we’re willing to enter into recovery with humility and turn to God through His sacraments—especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation—we realize that God desires to restore us to sanity and holiness.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can work the Twelve Steps from a Catholic perspective to find healing in your life?

Catholic in Recovery is excited to announce the launch of The Catholic in Recovery Workbook: A Guide to the Twelve Steps in the fall of 2022. The workbook offers a guide for working the Twelve Steps of recovery from a Catholic and sacramental perspective and is designed for those impacted by a variety of addictions, compulsions, and unhealthy attachments (alcoholism, drug addiction, lust addiction, etc.), loved ones of an addict, and anyone else desiring to surrender their life to God’s love and care. To stay informed about the workbook’s launch, discounts, and related content, please sign up for our CIR Newsletter.