To whom it may concern,
My name is Greg, and I celebrate recovery from addiction to pain pills. That doesn’t mean I consider myself to “have arrived.” That doesn’t mean that I have it all together. That doesn’t mean that I consider myself beyond temptation. That means that I didn’t use today. As I approach a year of sobriety (a feat I would never have believed possible before I entered the Home of Grace), I need to share a few things. In my Celebrate Recovery step study, we had a section on making amends. I guess this letter is partially an attempt to progress in that task.
Please know that I am, in reality, sorry. Those words rang hollow for a very long time. Even after graduating from the Home of Grace, those words had very little meaning for a while. That doesn’t change the fact that I AM, truly and genuinely, sorry for the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve done, and the pain I’ve caused. I know it doesn’t fix any of the damage I’ve caused, but hopefully, there is some part of your mind that can take some small amount of comfort in the fact that I didn’t want to do the things I did. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I hated losing this battle as much as you hated suffering from it.
Between 1989 and 1998 (almost a decade) The Prairie View A & M football team lost 80 consecutive football games. At no point during that streak did they desire not to win. But the losing continued. This was like my battle with addiction.
I can never begin to actually make amends for the money I stole, the pills I stole, the trust I betrayed, or all of the emotional and relational damage I left in the wake of my addiction. But I can help to heal the wounds and hopefully help draw others out.
To the addict
There is hope. I know you wake up every day (if you even go to sleep every day) and the battle for your mind begins. You watch yourself waste away, emotionally and physically, as you lose this battle time and time again. I know just how hard you fight, no matter what others who haven’t experienced addiction see or think. I’d like to share something with you that might seem discouraging at first glance. But hopefully, when you let it sink in, you will see it for the message of hope that it truly is. You cannot win this battle. All of my best efforts led me to 13 years of addiction and three months at the Home of Grace. My best efforts caused me to blackout twice from an overdose while driving — the first time I had two of my children in the car with me. I could have easily killed them, myself, or dozens of other people. My VERY BEST efforts led me to disappoint myself and everybody that ever knew me, more times than I could begin to count. My VERY BEST efforts led me to lose jobs, lose marriages, break relationships with family members, destroy a church, and ultimately beg God for death on a daily basis.
But I finally admitted I didn’t have the ability
Through kicking and screaming, I was finally backed into a corner and realized I could not defeat the enemy of addiction through sheer willpower alone. My strength was not enough to help me walk in victory. I needed help. When I reached out for help, that’s when I found freedom. The men and women with The Home of Grace helped me find the cure for addiction. The cure is Jesus Christ.
When you, as a struggling addict, finally realize and admit that you are not strong enough to defeat addiction alone and you ask for help, that is when you will find freedom. Do not let pride keep you in addiction. The reputation you are trying to protect has already been damaged or destroyed. Whether you realize it or not, the people around you already know about your addiction. The ones that truly care about you will not look down on you for admitting you have a problem and are seeking help. They will think more of you and rejoice that you care enough about yourself, and them, to seek the healing that will get you back to the person you were before addiction came to steal your soul. You will, very sadly, remain in the hell of addiction until you realize you don’t have the power to overcome it, admit to yourself (and others) you can’t do it, and seek help.
To those who love the addict
I know you’ve held on longer than you should have. I know addiction has taken as much, or more, from you as it has from me. I know you didn’t make the choice to walk down this road with me. Neither did i. At no point did I make the conscious choice to become an addict and destroy everything I love. Just know that this wasn’t my goal any more than it was your goal.
I would like to encourage you if you love an addict to make the hard choices, for us. I didn’t have the ability to stop doing what I was doing. I hated myself a little more every time I manipulated my family into giving me money. When I said hurtful things to those that mean the most to me, it broke my heart first. I was constantly in a life and death struggle with myself, and I lost almost every time.
The hard choices I’m begging you to make will go against your natural instincts, but they may very well be the only way to get me to the point that I can seek help. You have to stop enabling me. Do not give me money. Do not pay bills for me (rent, car payment, food, clothes, NOTHING). I know it seems like common sense to not give cash. But paying a bill, buying food, or giving me anything else of value, only catches me up for the money I spent on my addiction, or it frees up cash that was going to use to pay some obligation. I can assure you from my personal experience that winding up homeless under a bridge, without a car, or adequate clothing, food to eat, a friend in the world, or even in jail, is the absolute best thing in the world for me. It is best because it backs me into a corner where I am forced to make a choice to stay uncomfortable in my addiction or face the discomfort of getting help. As long as you contribute to keeping me comfortable in my addiction, I will not face the discomfort of getting free from addiction. I would even go so far as to say that you should change your phone number. If I have stolen from you, press charges. Then you can ask the judge to sentence me to The Home of Grace. Get a restraining order to keep me away if I won’t stay away on my own. The addiction will not allow me to stop calling you, or showing up all hours of the day and night to ask for money. So you have to do everything in your power to stop me. I can assure you that jail is better than this. At least in jail, you know I will be fed and clothed. You know I will not overdose. And there is at least the possibility I can receive some help.
This will be counter-intuitive to everything you feel like you should do for me because you love me. But I’m telling you that you have to take this hard stand BECAUSE you love me. You have to do this to help me, but more importantly, you have to do this to protect yourself. This is an unfair burden to place on you, but I’m begging you to make the hard decisions that I can’t make.
To everybody else
Maybe you’ve never felt the sting of addiction in your own personal life. Maybe you have never watched a loved one melt away before your eyes into to somebody or something you don’t recognize. Maybe you’re indifferent towards addicts and addiction. Maybe you look down on addicts with disdain and contempt. I don’t know who might be reading this letter or what your feelings are. So to you, I will say this. One out of every seven people is either struggling with addiction themselves or have an immediate family member that struggles with addiction. Statistics also tell us that, of those, 80% suffer in silence. If you know ten or more people, I can guarantee you that somebody you care about is struggling with addiction or is being directly affected (negatively) by somebody that struggles with addiction.
Stop being indifferent. Stop viewing us with contempt.
Every day, 90 people die in The United States from gun violence: 31 are murdered. 56 kill themselves.
We hear so many politicians and advocacy groups calling for more and more action on gun control. When the truth is that addiction claims more than double the amount of victims each day.
In the United States the numbers that die from addiction each day are as follows: about 31,000 due to alcohol, nearly 22,000 due to overdose from illicit (illegal) drugs, and close to 23,000 due to overdose from prescription pain relievers.
That works out to roughly 208 people per day. And yet too many are silent. Let’s bring addiction out of the shadows. Let’s remove the stigma and see it for what it is. We would not ignore a man (who seemingly had problems) to walk down the street with a loaded gun and not call somebody to check him out. We would not allow, even people we know and love, to walk into our homes (or jobs, or anywhere else we gather) and wave a loaded gun wildly, point it at us, our children, or our friends without trying to intervene. And yet every time we allow a loved one to continue in obvious addiction without being confronted (in a healthy way), or we ignore the junkie on the street, or we pretend the guy we work with doesn’t have a problem, that is exactly what we do. Because the addict, ultimately, doesn’t hurt only themselves. They take others with them.
Let’s fight this physical, emotion, and spiritual problem together, and help release those caught in the bondage of addiction. We are not nameless. We are not faceless. We are your neighbors, relatives, friends, children, coworkers, and people you interact with every single day. Thank you for taking the time to read!
God Bless, Greg Bufkin