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Addiction & Grace by Gerald G. May
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Addiction & Grace

by Gerald G. May

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The overused but still useful word “addiction” comes from the 16th century Latin noun addictio, which means “a giving over or surrender.” Not the good surrender, but the bad one, a giving over to something or someone that will then control me and eventually ruin me.

We think of addicts as being on the way to ruin. They might be very dangerous, and certainly not in control of themselves. They are … not us. We are not addicts; someone else is.

Some “addictions” seem good; can’t you be “addicted” to God? Can’t you feel compelled to do good works and bring blessing to the people in your life?

God loves us, but God hates our addictions. God loves me the sinner, but God hates the sin. And addiction is certainly sin.

Some of us, although certainly not me, have “addictive personalities.” They (not me, mind you) are weak and prone to that “giving over” to alcohol, or stress, or video games, or pornography, or gossip, or some other awful thing. We should watch out for them.

These questionable assertions about addiction are addressed by Dr. Gerald May in this bestselling book. It’s been republished with a new introduction and two short articles published a few years after the book was originally published in 1988. Gerald May was a distinguished psychiatrist who worked and taught and wrote as a faculty member of the Shalem School of Spiritual Direction for 30 plus years before he died of cancer in 2005.

Dr. May is a poet and a philosopher. He is a Christian and sometimes sounds like a mystic. At the same time he is precise in his understanding and description of the mental and physical nature of addiction. Although this book was written just as the river of new information about how the brain works began to really flow, it describes much more of the physical nature of attachment and addiction than most of us know, and in a way that is both detailed and non-technical.

Actually, most of us don’t have a clue about addiction, because we’ve heard so much on TV and read so many flash-in-the-pan stories of both truth and fiction. This kind of non-helpful “information” barrage makes us think we know, when we don’t.

Some of my best friends are addicts. But, Gerald May makes it clear, that’s not surprising. I’m an addict too. So is he. Early in the book May compiles a list of attraction addictions (what we want) and aversion addictions (what we avoid). He says in one of his many charming personal asides, “If it is any consolation, I am addicted to at least fourteen of the listed items, and I could add several others if I wanted to be completely candid. Which I do not.”

If you find time to read this book (as I did not … even as a Christian counselor, even as one who works regularly with folks in great pain because of their addictions, even though I had heard over and over for years how good a book this was … until I was assigned it as required reading for a class), you will discover the seamy side of yourself. Rather, you’ll have to acknowledge the seamy side of yourself that you probably already know all too well.

And, thank God, you will also discover the glorious and unconditioned nature of God’s grace for you. Seamy side and all.

Take it or leave it.
( )
  davesandel | Feb 26, 2014 |
May does a superb job of describing our addictive nature and issues the hard challenge of living in the spacious moments once we've stopped. ( )
  revslick | Jun 12, 2010 |
Though I was stretched by some Dr. May's theology, I learned a great deal about addiction from him. Truly knowledgeable in both areas of addiction and spirituality, May's writing has been a resource for many working with those in addiction or struggling with their own (however, I must say that May makes a strong case that we all struggle with addiction). ( )
  GwG | Nov 14, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060655372, Paperback)

Here is Gerald May's brilliant and now classic exploration of the psychology and physiology of addiction. It offers an inspiring and hope-filled vision for those who desire to explore the mystery of who and what they really are. May examines the "processes of attachment" that lead to addiction and describes the relationship between addiction and spiritual awareness. He also details the various addictions from which we can suffer, not only to substances like alcohol and drugs, but to work, sex, performance, responsibility, and intimacy.

Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist working with the chemically dependent, May emphasizes that addiction represents an attempt to assert complete control over our lives. Addiction and Grace is a compassionate and wise treatment of a topic of major concern in these most addictive of times, one that can provide a critical yet hopeful guide to a place of freedom based on contemplative spirituality.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:14 -0400)

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