Those of you who have been reading this blog for a few years recall this chart I've developed to explain how fear gives birth to the passions:
The passions on the left are what we can call the 'Passions of Abuse.' Once Pride gives us the 'green light' to abuse other people and things for our own selfish needs, we fall into the general category of Lust.
Lust is more than sexual thoughts, but rather the objectification of another person and use of this person without regard for the other's humanity and will. Through Lust, we come to lie, cheat, and steal... from other people and ourselves. Lust is about manipulation to make sure we always get our way.
Gluttony is the abuse of things. We consume things regardless of how those things were created to be used. It may be alcohol or drugs, but the effect, and the thinking behind it, is much the same. The substance abuser will also engage in almost all of the same behavior as, let's say, a sex addict. The only real difference is the means to the high.
I think, as we see the proliferation of different types of addictions (food, gambling, internet pornography, etc.) that we understand how they really share many similarities. I believe this has already been born witness to by the many 12 Steps groups to emerge from AA to deal with these problems.
There are some 'nay-sayers' who think that the increasing numbers of people who identify as addicts is part of a passing fad. I would say that for a tiny minority, you have the 'Fight Club' effect of people going to meetings to get attention or identifying as an addict to get out of having to do something uncomfortable.
Most folks don't want to go to meetings unless they have to, and most people don't want to identify as an addict unless they are compelled by some extraordinary reason. It is, for most, an embarrassment. Sure, there will always be a few poor souls along the way who will abuse terminology and resources, but they are far from the rule.
The reason there are so many 12 Step groups has little to do with people making excuses for bad behavior and wanting to ride on the coat-tails of alcoholism recovery, but rather because there are a lot more problems these days that share the same origin. Addiction is exploding.
Compared with human society 200 years ago, man has countless more opportunities to perpetuate an addiction. A farmer two centuries ago would have a hard time getting hooked on internet porn... or any kind of porn for that matter. Wood block prints simply don't have the effect on the human mind that streaming HD videos do.
There also weren't credit cards to run up with gambling binges. Once you lost the farm, that was it. Random, anonymous sex was also harder to come by. Most of our addictions come from the relative ease of modern life as well as the sheer numbers of people we have. It is easy to get lost in this world, and it is in the shadows of anonymity that our secrets can grow and fester.
Man has always abused his neighbor, that is not new. But, there is a line that men can now cross more easily, because our society is large enough and stable enough to bare the weight of many more debilitated people that it could in the previous millenniums. Traditional societies enforced personal responsibility through customs and taboos. Those are disappearing, and so the guard rails of human life are gone. We are free to plunge into new depths.
The depths were always there, and we have always known that man can do horrible things. So, we have always had some form of morality to keep us from abusing one another and the things around us. Culture is always about keep man from falling into the prison of the broken will, where he is compelled to do what he wants. That is addiction.
Going back to the chart, the cure for abuse is not in the exercise of the self-will, but rather in the introduction of God into the awareness of man. Once God is there, man loses the fears and the attendant passions. We lose the need to abuse people and things.
On the other hand, without God, man must cope with his problems on his own. Modern society is pretty good about convincing us that we can do it all. And, thus, we bear the high cost of addiction: we abuse others, and we abuse ourselves.