The Story of Addictus: musings on addiction and calling

The story of Addictus, or the Myth of Addictus, was about a slave whose master set him free, but the slave was so used to his chains and his pain that when his master allowed him to roam and be free, the slave wandered the land with his “chains” still intact.

All the time he wandered his chains were unlocked and he could have simply taken them off but being so used to and so in love with his chains and pains he chose to NOT take them off.

That is what it is like for those of who have lived our lives enslaved to drugs and alcohol, or to religious systems and other abusive environments.  We are shown a life of freedom, but until a spiritual transformation occurs, we surrender our voice, surrender our very selves to the bondage of addiction.

Addiction is about surrendering our voices and beings over to a master whose end is death.  Recovery is about surrendering to healing, community and inevitably to a master whose end is LIFE: surrendering to God (as we ‘experience’ God) in order to find our voice and our very selves.

I stumbled upon an article years ago written by a spirited writer and addictions specialists named Thomas Lavis.  I have been unable to find a link to the original article, and I have not been able to reach Mr. Lavin to ask permission, but for the sake of healing and recovery, I have taken the liberty of revising his work to tell the story of the meaning of Addiction.  The following is my revision – my Voiced Version – of Thomas Lavin’s article, Please enjoy (and thank you to Mr. Lavin, wherever you may be):

The word “addicted” comes from the Latin word addicere meaning “to give one’s voice over to [something or someone].”  So someone who is addicted has no voice.  A breakdown of the word is something like this: the word “Ad” means “to or toward” and the word “Dicere” means “to speak”.  So, in essence, addiction is when I give my voice over to (or toward) some person, place, thing, or even a process. As most of us who are in recovery know, addiction need not be limited to alcohol or drugs.

I can give myself over, and my inner voice over, to anything: drugs, sex, alcohol, spending, food, pain, exercise, a person, my job, even things like worrying and stress.

The original meaning of the word “addictus” was spiritual – it had to do with someone dedicated to the gods, one whose voice was given over to the Divine for the purpose of worshipping and serving the gods.

Thus, inherent in the meaning of addiction is the sense of dedication or bearing witness, to creative energies.

Among the Romans, addiction also signified the making over of goods to another by a legal sale. A slave was even known as an addictus, someone who had no voice, who was a slave to a master.  Addiction is the act of giving oneself over to something as one’s master.

Addiction is terrible, it is true, but addiction can be transformed. How can the addict get her or his voice back, so that they can respond [to what they have been called to]?

Within every addiction there is a vocation, a calling – vocation coming from the Latin word meaning to hear or listen and implying a response to what one is hearing .

Knowing this, knowing there is an inherent sacred nature to the word addiction reminds me of the hope of recovery – that addiction is far from the end of the line.

Like the biblical prophet Samuel did in the night when he kept hearing a Voice he thought was the voice of God calling him, we too can have our addictions (our slave-based loss of voice) transformed into holy and real moments.  And like Samuel (who was a prophet of Israel during the reign of King David), we can say “Here I am, God”, we can say YES to the Divine.

For saying yes is part of dealing with addiction. The spiritual part of addiction, the process of getting my voice back, us the power of being able to YES to all of life.  No regrets, no failures, only poor choices, remembering that no one, no thing, is excluded, precluded or left out in my recovery journey. For in getting my voice back, I can speak truth to the lies I have told myself, the lies and darkness I have far too often believed; and in speaking to them, I can silence their power and regain my own power.

In dealing with addiction, in order to find freedom, we must embrace all parts of our stories – the good, the bad and the ugly – and in doing that we slowly but surely gain back the voice we had once surrendered.

We get back our voices and learn to sing new songs and tell new stories – stories of healing, community, hope and, in the end, stories of Life – our Life.


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