How Will I Cope Without My Addiction?

Monkeys have been discovered wild in the jungle with their hands caught in hollow logs.

Why are the monkeys stuck?

Fruit has fallen through a hole in the log, and when the monkey puts his open hand in to get it, his clenched fist can’t fit back out. Determined to hang on to what he has, he’s still hanging on when discovered by humans, who must convince the monkey to let go of the fruit to free himself.

Crazy, right? Because he’s only trapped by an idea.

And when it comes to my attachments—my addiction, dysfunctional relationships, and other unwanted vices—I fiercely cling to what I know. “Objects of attachment then become preoccupations and obsessions; they come to rule our lives.”[1] I struggle to let go, even when this clinging to dysfunctional areas keeps me from changing.

Like the monkey, we’re trapped by an idea:

How will I cope without my addiction?

How will I live without this relationship?

How can I risk losing what’s keeping me alive?

Why should I let go of the fruit? It’s mine.

Christ encourages us throughout the Gospels to detach from the things of the world that capture our heart and keep us in bondage. And we know we need to let go, but it terrifies us at the thought of losing these things—even when these things are dysfunctional and destructive. 

In his book, A Place for You, Paul Tournier likens it to trapeze artists, swinging on their trapezes high up under the dome of the circus tent. He writes, “They must let go of one trapeze just at the right moment, to hover for a moment in the void before catching hold of the other trapeze.”[2] He calls this void the “anxiety of the middle way.”

Thinking of this void paralyzes us. And it can even feel like jumping to our death. So, we avoid the void. We hang on to destructive things, thinking we’re playing it safe.

Psychiatrist and theologian Gerald May writes, “To appreciate (detachment) with accuracy, we need to acknowledge both its beauty and its fierceness. It is beautiful because it is a homecoming, because it is a liberation from slavery, and because it enables love. But it is fierce because it entails relinquishment, letting go, risking, and enduring losses that are very real and very painful.”[3]

To move forward, you have to challenge the idea that you won’t survive without your attachments. You must trust the hand of the Father. He will be there to catch you when you let go. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

So detach.

Take your mind off the void.

Let go.

Experience the freedom found in the open hand.

The monkey did.

[1] Gerald May, Addictions and Grace, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 3.

[2] Paul Tournier, A Place for You, (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 162.

[3] Gerald May, Addictions and Grace, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 96.

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