The Judas Addiction

“…‘Judas, betrayest… with a kiss?’” Luke 22:48

Judas evokes betrayal. And, it wasn’t too long before I saw addiction itself within this Judas figure. Scripture tells us a great deal about the infamous man and his downfall. Who knows exactly what motivated him? Greed? Fear? Misguided intentions? Regardless of what it was, he seemed to be driven to follow this addictive mindset.

So, perhaps, the cycle of addiction is not too far removed from Judas.

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve…” Luke 22:3

.There has been debate as to whether or not he was demonically possessed. But Luke 22:3, nevertheless, speaks to a powerful force which overtakes his humanity. And I see similarities as we struggle with our own “demons.”

Addiction is all-consuming. It inhabits the soul of its host: the mind, the will and the emotion. It includes…

• Frustration and internal pain that leads to anxiety and a demand for relief of these symptoms
• Fantasizing about using alcohol and drugs or behaviors to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms
• Obsessing about using drugs and alcohol and how his or her life will be after the use of substances ( Cycle of Addiction)

Like Judas, we fantasize, obsess and create unrealistic expectations of solution and perfect lives, often tied to that addiction as the answer.

• Engaging in the addictive activity, such as using substances to gain relief (acting out)
• Losing control over the behavior ( Cycle of Addiction)

So, the next behaviors, employed to attain those results, aren’t too surprising.

“And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money.” Luke 22:4-5

Judas, as supposedly one of the beloved disciples, seems to act out of character toward his much-loved friend.

“He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.” Luke 22:6

He is compelled to arrange for and execute a questionable plan. And, it comes to a head under cover of night in the garden of Gethsemane.

“While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them…” Luke 22: 47.

What follows is the infamous betrayal kiss…

“…He approached Jesus to kiss him.” Luke 22: 47.

And the disturbing, famous response TO it…

“…‘Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?’” Luke 22:48

We aren’t privy to Judas’ immediate reaction to that question. But we do see some disturbed responses recorded later.

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned… for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So, Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:3-10

“Seized with remorse?” Much like the addict in addiction…

• Developing feelings of remorse, guilt and shame, which lead to feelings of dissatisfaction ( Cycle of Addiction)

Check out Acts 1:18-19 if you want even more gruesome details. Judas displays the guilt and shame he feels by his attempts to return the money and “undo” the betrayal. But, it was useless; the damage was done. And, further contributing to the ugliness, the addict and Judas also have this in common: desperate broken promises which contribute to more self-destruction.

• Making a promise or resolve to oneself to stop the behavior or substance use ( Cycle of Addiction)

“‘I have sinned… for I have betrayed innocent blood…’ So, Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:4-5

“I have sinned” is the addict equivalent to saying, “I’m sorry” or, in recovery language, to “make amends.” It may be a well-intentioned gesture. Still, while making it, there is no guarantee it will be accepted and all negative consequences reversed. The damage, to some extent, has been done. Here is a critical juncture we see in both Judas and the addict: desperate actions, fueled by hopelessness- even including that of a death wish mentality.

No, not every addict commits suicide. Nevertheless, the self-destructive mindset can be difficult for the individual to eradicate. For many, there has existed a desire for obliteration, to passively commit suicide by “giving up,” by his/her resignation to despair and apathy. The death wish, one can argue, is automatically built into the addiction. Brain chemistry, perhaps, plays its own strong, ever-risky, part in that state of mind.

“…Individuals with naturally low levels of dopamine are susceptible to substance abuse because (they)… cause an abnormally large surge in dopamine levels, activating the pleasure response… the brain will become exhausted by the surges of dopamine and begin producing less and less of its own as a result. This chemical response… produces physical dependency… to the now exacerbated dopamine deficiency…” Cycle of Addiction

The phrase, “vicious cycle” springs to mind. Would Judas have chosen life over suicide, only later to have eventually fallen back into self-destructive choices? There is no way of knowing for sure. And, similarly, for the addict, there is no way of predicting how someone will handle future decisions, including recovery.

It is a gamble. After all, for many of us, “relapse is part of recovery.” Yet, realistically embracing this fragility can be its own helpful tool. And this is, perhaps, the lesson we can learn, a lesson Judas did not choose to accept: forgiveness- even, of oneself.

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

It’s not a license to flounder in disease; it is grace applied to its complex reality. Each of us has that vulnerability, one which compels us to use, exploit, betray or destroy. We have all been our own worst Judas. And we have extended that betrayer outside of ourselves as well. Addiction is a spiritual issue, beyond religion. It is a persistent, multi-faceted challenge, calling to our attention the deeper issues of life, health and faith. And betrayal of spirit, mind and body is a possibility in these issues.

The old adage proclaims, “The application of knowledge is power.” This may not be the kind of knowledge we wish to learn or apply. But this sobriety, this Judas awareness, all the same, needs to be in conjunction with our recovery programs. For we addicts know, all too well, just how we can betray with our addict kiss.