“John, I don’t want to know about Jesus when you come to these therapy sessions. I don’t want you taking up group time talking about Jesus either. I know about Jesus. I want to know about you. I know about Jesus and his free will and how that affects His relationship with you. I want to know about your free will and how that effects your relationship with Him!”
These are familiar words I have spoken many times when I have a spiritual addict in my office. As a Christian, I find these words difficult to speak and even harder to hear myself saying. Seeing them on paper makes me sound like a hieratic. However, I do believe these are the words spiritual addicts need to hear and hear more than once. How can one have too much spirituality whether you are a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, or Hindu?
Men or women like John are more common than you might think. Their lives are a mess. They come to our office seeking help for sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia. They have usually seen several counselors, pastors, religious leaders, have prayed many deliverance prayers and attended deliverance sessions but are finding little, if any, freedom from lust, anger, blaming behaviors or being offended.
Just like any addiction (sex, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gaming, etc.), what makes an addiction an addiction is that it is used to escape or numb out. The person has tried to stop but hasn’t been able to. They need a larger amount of the substance. The substance is needed more often. The behavior is causing problems in any one of the following areas: career, health, legal status, finances or relationships.
Spiritual addiction is no different, just more socially acceptable, especially in a religious institute where you are expected to speak and act spiritual. So it is well hidden and accepted, which is the problem. The spiritual addict expects God is going to do all the work. They don’t have to look at themselves or change their behaviors. God will change them. The only problem is this thing called free will and the fact that God will not violate anyone’s free will and choices in life.
In the ocean of life, we’re all in a small boat. Praying ourselves to shore is not going to get us or the boat to shore. There are oars in the boat, and we better start rowing. It’s not pray OR row. It’s pray AND row. Spiritual addicts incorrectly believe that God is going to “zap” them to the shore line if they pray hard enough, fast enough, long enough, and attend enough religious events. They falsely believe that this is “rowing.” Regardless of their poor choices and behaviors, they see no correlation in the need to stop their poor choices and behaviors.
Spiritual addicts don’t like to be held accountable. They believe grace will cover all sins. It’s how you start the journey – not how you finish the race. They have their ticket to heaven by just believing. They have the get-out-of-hell card. Disobedient behavior can be forgotten by God when they pray. They live a contradiction of believing in God in public but having disobedient behavior in private. They believe they are not responsible for changing their own behavior, as they are victims of their poor choices which they cannot change. God will change it with His magic wand somehow. They are more interested in what God can do for them than what they are to be doing for God.
Many spiritual addicts also struggle with narcissism. Years ago, I remember reading a comparison between the personality profile of a car salesman and a pastor, which was very similar. Unfortunately, throughout human history, some of the great persecution has occurred in the name of religion and its leaders.
You might be a Spiritual Addict if you exhibit 5 or more of the following behaviors more often than not.
- They may have attachment, neglect, or abuse issues with their parents.
- They believes themselves to be spiritually “better than” others. Generally, this is one of the first things you want you to know about them.
- They may be busy attending religious or spiritual events, concerts, or services.
- They may experience chaos and instability in their financial, personal, professional, or sexual life.
- They may use spiritual gifts to hide and keep from being seen. They may be eager to share a word or vision God has for you and for others.
- They may frequently use the phrase “God told me _________.”
- They may blame the devil or evil for their poor choices. They have difficulty owning up to their behaviors that are in contradiction to their religious or spiritual beliefs.
- They may use prayer to escape negative feelings or as a substitute for recovery work and changing their behaviors.
- They may have a transient living history with work, communities, and religious institutions
- They may have a history of dysfunctional or broken personal and professional relationships.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.