Fill the Void

“When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse off than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.                                                                    Matthew 12:43-45 (The Message)

I was talking with a client the other day about her teenage daughter who admitted that she has an addiction to electronics- specifically her phone. First of all, I believe that such addictions are really a thing. Addiction to electronic media is insidious and clearly, addictive. There is a built-in reward in the brain when the proper stimulation is provided. Media devices can provide the perfect stimulation to start an addictive process. Easy access, immediate gratification, and the initial sense of it being a benign influence all set up addiction potential easily.

Typical of all addictions, there needs to be initial abstinence before recovery can take place. Abstinence itself is not sufficient to sustain recovery, but it is necessary for the recovery to begin. Also true with recovery, it is not a journey to undertake alone. The addicted individual needs the humility to ask for help. In this case, she has caring parents who are willing to help her in the journey of recovery.

Finally, I suggested to the parents that simple abstinence will not help, because if there is nothing substituted for the addictive behavior, relapse is much more likely. I suggested that she become involved in healthy groups, sports, a part-time job or volunteer work. All such activities involve the input and cooperation with others, breaking the isolation and self-interest that electronic media feeds. I reminded them of the parable that Jesus spoke as a remedy for demonic oppression. I take that parable (cited above) to be a powerful metaphor for healing- a good principle of mental health.

Simply voiding our mind of damaging thoughts is not sufficient. We need to “fill the void” with behaviors that are positive and productive. If we do not do that, we are apt to drift back to those same damaging behaviors that gave temporary relief or pleasure.  

That is why the 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is so powerful. If a person in recovery directs themselves to the care and healing of others, they ensure their own sobriety.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the recovery plans that Jesus set forth for us, Amen.

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