With all the talk, Facebook banter, and inappropriate jokes, rumors, and speculation surrounding the recent death of yet another celebrity struggling with addiction, I felt compelled to put my thoughts into writing and share them.
Whether you have or haven’t battled it, have or haven’t suffered while a family member, friend, or loved one battles it, or whether it is an issue you care or don’t care about, addiction is a horrible, frustrating, and tragic disease that kills all those who are unable to break free from it. In a world where independence and pulling yourself up from your own bootstraps are often valued over admitting powerlessness and seeking help, perhaps it is confusing or even a little scary, to people who have not had any direct or indirect exposure to this disease, why the addict just can’t seem to stop on their own.
Many, many years ago, I didn’t understand the seriousness or the dangers of this disease. I was writing letters to the editor on teenage alcohol use, speaking to elementary school students with my high school’s peer leadership program, swearing that I would not be a drinker like a close family member. It’s cunning and baffling how the disease of addiction works. The disease didn’t care what I was doing to take a stand against it. It didn’t care that I wanted to prevent it from harming others. And it certainly didn’t care that I did not want to turn out to have the problems my family member had. Addiction, and I am including alcoholism in the use of this word, does not discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, what you do for a living, what your childhood was like, or how much money you have or don’t have. This disease lies to its victim by telling he/she they don’t have the disease. People with the disease of addiction are laughed at, shamed, and yelled at for having the disease. To add to the disgrace of having this disease, many of its victims are the center of jokes after dying from the disease.
Again, addiction didn’t care about my determination not to have it. By the age of 14, I had started drinking. By the age of 17, my addiction had started and it took hold of me for the next 10 years of my life. It didn’t discriminate because I was in college or getting my master’s degree. In fact, those things were used by my addiction to rationalize why I couldn’t possibly have a problem. It was by the sheer grace, love and mercy of the all-loving, almighty Father God that I was rescued from the pit the disease had dug for me and thrown me into. God wanted me back and I was willing to cooperate so that He could pull me up, dust me off, and heal me up.
Unfortunately, many do not make it out alive. I have lost friends to this disease. I have seen them battle and battle and battle, only to lose. I don’t know why some of us make it and some of us don’t. What I do know is what is discussed in 12 step recovery programs: we have a spiritual malady that can only be remedied with a spiritual solution. The solution is our relationship with God. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Many of us discuss the general concept of disease being from the enemy and this can also be applied to the disease of addiction. It is another stronghold, a trap, a prison in the form of sickness that the enemy uses to keep people from truly knowing God and walking in their callings and destinies.
Tonight, I was watching a TV program where a family was chronicling their 21-year-old son’s battle with heroin addiction. Sadly, the son lost his battle to the disease just 9 days after his 21st birthday. As the parents discussed the son’s repeatedly-stated desire to get sober, they quoted their son as saying that the heroin was “like satan in [his] veins and [he] was a slave to it”. This a pretty clear picture of the nature of addiction and it really spoke to the point that the only way out of the pit is being lifted up by God. As I heard these parents quote their son, I immediately thought of Colossians 2:19 in the Message which states that Christ puts us together in one piece and his breath and blood flow through us. When we come to know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, believe that we have been crucified and raised with him, and can walk in that the truth that we are new creations, knowing our freedom is the result. “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). I am free from addiction because the Spirit of the Lord is in me and the very breath and blood of Jesus are flowing through me, as I belong to him.
However, it can be quite difficult to walk in this truth by ourselves, especially because, as stated earlier, addiction is a disease that tells the addict they don’t have it. This is where other believers, especially those who have also been set free, can assist in speaking God’s truth over and over again to the person struggling. More important, is ensuring that the person struggling has heard the gospel of good news and has opportunities to say yes to the One who will save them both in this life and eternally. Sharing Jesus with others, shining our light into darkness, proclaiming that he has come to set the captives free, providing love, encouragement and community to others is what a hurting a broken world needs. I didn’t need to hear that I was garbage when I was drinking and using. I knew that already. What I needed to hear was that there was hope and I thank my Father in Heaven that I did. What a hurting family needs to hear is the hope of Jesus, that he is the comfort in their grief, and that he will bind up their broken hearts not the jokes and bashing that have followed deaths of people with this issue.
Imagine what could be if those struggling with addiction met Jesus and were able to walk into their destiny, instead of being met with stigma and criticism. Imagine if the media focused on the gold in celebrities instead of their dirt. Imagine a world where we, as believers, filled up the enemy-dug pits with gold so full that there was no room at the bottom for people...they would be forced to rise to the top!!!
I am so grateful to have been rescued from this horrible stronghold. I am grateful that people spoke God's gold into my pit so that I could be lifted out of it. My prayer is that I would improve in my ability to share and demonstrate the love, mercy, and healing that Jesus has so freely given to me that I may be able to fill other people's pits with gold.