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One Is Too Many (And a Thousand Is Never Enough)

  By Don Umphrey

(with scriptural citations from the NIV)

The first time I heard the saying, “One is too many and a thousand is never enough,” it was applied to alcoholism.  I didn’t need to hear it a second time, because I’d already learned from first-hand experience that it was true.  

After work I would go to a bar with the idea of having two beers and then going home.  When the bar closed hours later, I might bid farewell to a new best friend I’d met that night, stumble out the door, drive home drunk and fall into bed. 

I’d wake up the next morning with a dry mouth, headache and plenty of guilt.  

Trying to go about my business that next day, memories of things I’d said and done the previous night would pop into my head; for example, a series of $20 tips to a barmaid resulted in an empty wallet or there was a new abrasion on the door of my car after side-swiping a post in the parking lot.

“Never again,” I would tell myself and then do the same thing the next night. 

Applies to All Addictions

Now clean and sober for 48 years through the grace of God, I have talked to people who have been addicted to any number of things and have come to believe that “One is too many and a thousand is never enough,” applies to every addiction. 

A man who had excelled in his profession told me about his cocaine addiction.  After his initial use, he ruined his life and career in a vain attempt to re-experience the “high” he felt the first time he used it.

Ditto from a former heroin addict.Steve Steele edited a book that I published titled Sex Addiction in the Church: 12 Christian Men Share Their Stories of Recovery. One of the co-authors wrote that his life had become a merry-go-round of habitual masturbation, unrestrained web surfing, and illicit extramarital affairs, both cyber and real. 

He demonstrated the “one is too many…” adage when he wrote this: “…there was an incessant seeking for that elusive something more/something different that would —or so I felt certain—eventually provide me with that indefinable ‘it’ that would at long last satisfy the craving that burned within me. ‘It’ was just out of sight and over the next hill and sure to be found on the next website or within the next affair” (p. 73).

Doctor Defines Commonalities

“Is There a Common Basis for All Addictions?” is the title of an academic journal article written by Dr. Joseph A. Pursch.1  I quote from his article in the five paragraphs that follow: 

“You are a divorced, middle-aged homemaker. You don't drink or do drugs, but you have a ‘weight problem.’ Your daughter just phoned-collect-from college. She thinks she is pregnant, and she doesn't know who is the child's father.

“You are elated and humiliated. You feel your emotions are out of balance. You always wanted to be a grandmother but not like this. So you close the drapes, unplug the phone, turn on the soaps and stuff yourself with junk food. Within minutes you feel better or different. So you eat more until you feel high, numb or exhausted. You are a compulsive overeater.

“…clinical experience shows that if the above homemaker did not have an eating disorder, she might run to the mall and max out her credit cards because she is a “spendaholic.” She got high, not by using a brain drug but by a brain behavior. In other words, addicts can initiate and maintain the desired emotional high or problem-solving mental state by at least two methods: taking a drug of choice or initiating a behavior of choice.

“Addicts are people who have learned how to give themselves a quick chemical fix or achieve an emotional high when they either want to or have to change how they feel and when they want to ignore real-life problems. Most people do that, but the next morning, they feel sick or foolish. They don't do it again because it didn't work for them.  

 “What makes addicts different is that they are willing—or feel compelled—or do it again and again even though they "know" that doing so will get them into trouble…  For all addicts the goal is the same: As quickly as possible, do something that changes how you feel, and enables you to ignore reality. ‘Any drug in a storm,’ yo“Any Drug in a Storm”u might say.”

That helps to explain the physical  and mental aspects of addiction, but we are also spiritual beings. What is the spiritual cause of addictions?

C.S. Lewis hit that nail on the head in The Screwtape Letters. “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.  It is more certain; and it’s better style.  To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return–that’s what really gladdens Our Father’s heart.”

In the context of his book, “Our Father” refers to Satan. 

Lewis wrote the book as “Screwtape,” a mid-management-level demon giving advice to his nephew who was a beginning demon assigned to lead a young man to hell.”  

Jesus called Satan “A liar and the father of lies” is the way Jesus defined Satan in John 8:44. 

Satan’s Enticements

The initial lie is that the addictive substance or behavior seems to yield positive results.  You might think of it as the bait of Satan.  In my case, drinking beer and booze seemed to propel me from being a high school nerd to the wild party animal I wanted to be.

From there it is exactly as Lewis described it: “An increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.”  This is tied to the fact that addicted people are in denial as they go from believing a lie to lying to themselves about the worsening negative consequences in their lives. 

Negative effects for me included irrational fears, anxiety and depression while never blaming these problems on my alcohol consumption. 

Though I led a hellish life on a journey toward a bottomless pit, I kept looking toward the same “solution,” the very same as the sex, cocaine, and heroin addicts I described earlier.  With each of us, one is too many and a thousand would never be enough. 

Suicide beckoned.  This is exactly what the source of evil wanted for me. 

Gratefully, I was able to hang on and get some help.  It was then that I learned that alcohol wasn’t my best friend as I’d long thought.  Rather, alcohol was the tool of my worst enemy, and God was and is the solution. 

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 Check out my book that explains in biblical terms why people yield to Satan’s deception, describes the slippery slope toward spiritual blindness, and tells what it takes for people leave the downhill journey. The title is Deliver Us I: Recognizing the Influence of Evil on the Road to Redemption.  It is available here.

 Copyright 2022 by Don Umphrey

 Footnotes

 1. Joseph A. Pursch, MmD. Is There a Common Basis for All Addictions?  Psychiatric Times, Volume 15, Number 4, April 1 1998. 

 2. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Harper-Collins, San Francisco, 2001, 44-45.