Problem Solving and Addiction

I didn’t know it was going to start an argument.  I stated what I thought was a forgone conclusion.  Apparently my co-worker didn’t see it that way.  We had been talking about one of my clients who had made some choices that not only got him kicked out of the recovery program but also landed him in segregated housing, or what some call, “Solitary confinement.”  This is a very small room where the client will spend 23 hours a day.

I had told my co-worker that at the root of it all is poor problem solving skills.  My friend vehemently disagreed.  “Maybe years down the line he can begin working on problem solving skills but for now he has much bigger issues to work through.”  He went on to list things like the clients mindset that leads to the drug and criminal lifestyle, possible childhood issues, lying, manipulating, and of course his addictions.

I explained that my theory is that at the root of all these things is poor problem solving skills.  Have you ever been so upset with your child that you screamed at them?  Have you ever been so frustrated in traffic that you yelled at another driver?  Have you ever stolen something from work?  Have you ever cheated in big or small ways in order to get ahead?  Have you ever turned to drugs, alcohol, shopping, pornography, or eating to comfort yourself after a bad day?  Most of us have.

My guess is that 90% of the challenges we have with our children is due to their lack of problem solving skills.  Because they have trouble thinking through the challenges of life and come up with positive solutions they attempt to solve the problems in other ways, such as throwing a fit, manipulating, lying, and so on. When we get older our temper tantrums look a little different than they did when we were kids.  Still, at the root of it all is the fact we sometimes don’t know how to solve our problems in healthy ways.

My client has a problem.  The best solution he came to at the time was to get himself removed from the program.  Are we any different?  Instead of doing the hard work of reconciling broken relationships are we not quick to dispose of them?  Instead of fixing the broken car we rush to the new car lot to take out a loan on a new car that we really can’t afford.  Instead of practicing patience and humility we react with rage when things don’t go our way.  At the root of many of our own challenges is a lack of problem solving skills.

This leads to the question, “How does one obtain problem solving skills?”  The answer, I believe, is twofold. First we need the proper tools.  Second, we need to learn when, where, and how to use these tools.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney are credited for writing the song, “All you need is love.”  Although I’m uncertain whether love is ALL we need, but it sure is a good start.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth gave a short list of tools needed if we are going to master the challenges that life throws our way without turning to our addictive and compulsive behaviors.   Paul explained that, “Love,” is more than just a warm fuzzy feeling you get but it is something that you do.  As you read through the short passage from Paul’s letter note the tools (In bold print) needed to love.  These are same tools needed to problem solve our way through life.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails,” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a NIV).

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.  Do you believe at the root of many of our challenges in life lies poor problem solving skills?  What tools are needed for us to navigate the challenges of this life in healthy, prosocial ways?  Reply below.