Last evening I watched the students of Notre Dame Regional School perform the musical Guys and Dolls. For elementary school students, they did a magnificent job!
If you are not familiar with the story, Sarah Brown, the leader of the local Save-A-Soul Mission, attempts to turn sinners away from drinking, lying and especially gambling. She encounters Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler, and the plot thickens as a romance with him eventually begins to blossom.
The performance reminded me of an all too common issue in our society: addiction.
The restlessness and flaws in the human person, when not dealt with properly, can lead to problems with gambling, alcohol, smoking and drugs, to eating disorders, sexual addictions and various obsessions or compulsions, to sin and ultimately to death.
While I am not a professional psychiatrist or psychologist, I have experienced far too much in my life as a priest not to see and know enough about addiction.
Let me remind you of something from St. Augustine (in his Confessions) on which I base my spiritual analysis of this problem: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
As human beings we are continually searching for something. A child begins to ask why almost from the time when he or she can start to speak. The mind seeks knowledge, while the heart—the human spirit and will—seeks happiness and ultimately love. And exactly where do we find complete knowledge and unending love—only in an all-knowing, unconditionally loving God.
In the mean time, the glamour of evil and sin inevitably get in the way. We choose what appears to be good for us at the time, something or someone that will bring happiness or fulfillment. Too often we are deceived. Anything that falls short of the happiness that God brings, will wind up not satisfying in the long run.
And so we fill up our time and waste our energy seeking out that which we think can stop the restlessness and pain. We crave that which can give us a thrill or gets the adrenaline (dopamine) flowing—a quick fix that can make us something more than what we currently are.
Addiction is all too common. Serious addiction inevitably needs professional help. Everybody is certainly different and that which can take hold of us varies from person to person in type and intensity. The bottom line is this: whenever we choose whatever is less that the satisfaction that God gives us (in prayer, in the sacraments, in healthy, chaste relationships, in productive activities, etc.) we usually wind up seeking more, wanting a better thrill, often taking a step further into some self-destructive behavior.
I know that at some level this message will hit home with most people.
You can keep running, keep searching, keep getting disappointed, and ultimately pay the price.
Or you can surrender daily to God.
It’s not necessarily easy to do so. However, there is nothing more satisfying.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
PS. If you have a serious problem, please seek professional help immediately. Priests are available for spiritual guidance.