In his book Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There, Len Sweet wrote:
Every addiction is an honest attempt to fill the emptiness we feel when we deny Christ. Every addiction is self-medication… Desire is God ordained to encourage us to seek the divine and Christ's provision, but a self-focused response is to stuff the desire with whatever will quell the discomfort.
I have found the closer I am to Christ the less my addictions control me. It's not enough to say, "Jesus is the answer" and offer no help with the addiction. Addicts have real physical, chemical, or emotional stuff to deal with before spiritual disciplines will matter to them. The affects of addiction provide reasons or excuses to not follow Jesus.
I'm not diminishing following Jesus - he is the answer. A friend reminds me that sometimes you have to convince a lost person they are lost before you can help them know Jesus as Savior. The point is that obstacles between a person and Jesus must be dealt with as we point them to Christ.
If an atheist refuses to follow Christ because…well, he doesn't believe God exists, then the believer has an obstacle to overcome. If an alcoholic refuses to turn to Jesus it may be that he's not thinking clearly because his mind is controlled by the addiction.
I baptized a man on September 10, 2006. He calls me every year on September 10 to remind me and celebrate. He mentions his baptism and his sobriety. This year his message said it had been 9 years since his baptism and 11 years sober. He turned to Jesus during AA counseling. The help he received with alcoholism led to his salvation. Now he's been sober and happy and following Jesus for all these years because of Jesus. Jesus is the answer.
For some reason the addict begins by trying to feed an emptiness. He finds he must have more and more but still feels empty after the initial thrill.
Chase what you will but only Jesus satisfies the longing. Because the longing is caused by the absence of Jesus. Fill up with anything other than Jesus and you'll still be empty.
Len Sweet also wrote this:
Not too long ago it hit me that I had never preached on Jesus telling a ghost story about a haunted house. Jesus told this story to warn his followers that we must be careful what we replace ghosts and addictions with, because more unholy ghosts than what were banished can refill the house to rule and reign. If we clean up our lives without replacing them with the true Spirit, the house is left empty and vulnerable for new evil spirits and worse dependencies to come back and take over. One of my Facebook friends, Isaac Arten, puts it like this: "I'm not interested in self-improvement but self-replacement." It is the difference between cleaning the house and turning the house over to Christ, letting him live there and leaving no room for malign spirits.
We must deal with the addictions and replace the "false fillers" with Jesus. Jesus has miraculous power to help anyone overcome any addiction. And Jesus has the presence to fill you with purpose and hope. Jesus is the answer.