I know before I even start to write this blog post that it may seem controversial to some folks, but I would ask you to really think about it before forming an opinion. Please don’t just rely on a gut feeling.
Admit there is a problem
One of the saddest parts of addiction is often the reality that everybody but the addict can see there is a problem. It is absolutely amazing what the brain can justify. I can remember very vividly the arguments I would make, to myself, as to why I didn’t have a problem. Like a slick lawyer, I laid out the reasons in my mind why I was not a drug addict. Yes, I abused prescription pain medication, but it was legitimate abuse. I could make the case here and now for you, but that’s not the point. In my own mind, I saw myself like Matlock, or Perry Mason (for those of you too young to remember those were lawyers on TV shows that always won their cases) laying out a defense that would undo every allegation. I saw myself (in my theoretical debates with others) making arguments that could not possibly be refuted. I saw myself swaying every doubter as to the legitimacy of my medication use (even though at the height of my addiction, I was taking 90 pills a day!!!!). In my mind, there was absolutely no question that I was okay.
Looking back from a SOBER point of view, it’s all lunacy. I simply cannot fathom how and why I believed I didn’t have a problem except to say that the sin of addiction had clouded my mind to such a point that truth could not enter it and set me free.
Admit I am powerless to solve my problem
Yes, I am aware that my post is starting to sound like a 12 step program, but I can assure you it isn’t’. There is truth in some of the 12 steps. This is a crucial step. There is a line in the movie “The Departed.” The cop is talking to the mob boss saying he is going to bust him. The mob boss responds, “If you coulda, you woulda.” This is the truth addicts need to realize. You can talk about getting clean all you want, but the truth is, if you had that power, you would’ve gotten clean already.
To decide you want to get sober is a fantastic step, but to be able to do it on your own strength is a totally different thing altogether. It would be like me deciding I wanted a baby, that I needed a baby and saying to myself that I had decided I was going to have baby, but failing to recognize and acknowledge that I don’t have the ability to accomplish that goal without some assistance from somebody else. As an addict, or somebody that loves an addict, it is crucial to understand that outside help will be needed to break the cycle of addiction. I heard the phrase, and now I use it frequently, “My very best efforts got me to the Home of Grace.” In essence, the very best I could do wound me up in rehab. Why on Earth would I continue to try and rely on my efforts? That, my friends, is insanity.
The truth is that we desperately need Jesus Christ
In John chapter 8 verse 32 Jesus utters this well-known phrase:
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This statement comes in the middle of Jesus’ teaching. The Jews He is talking to are asking questions but not understanding what He is telling them. His response is to tell them if they will listen to His teachings and live by them that they will know the truth, and the truth that they know will allow them to be free from the spiritual bondage they find themselves in. As you continue reading the story, they deny they even have a problem. When Jesus points out that they do in fact have a problem, they ask Him, “Aren’t you demon-possessed.” Doesn’t that sound like dealing with an addict? You point out they have a problem, they deny. You prove they do, and they attack you? You see, as we talked about in the last blog post, Is addiction a disease or a choice?, we saw that the problem is human brokenness. All sin comes back to the same root cause. We are all broken people. Without Jesus Christ coming in and changing our lives and healing us, we will never be whole. Once we hear that truth and accept it, then we can begin the path to true healing. What Jesus was telling the Jews was this, “You may not understand everything now, but you don’t have to. If you hold onto the truth, you do know then the truth will make you free.” It is the same with addiction and every other sin on the planet.
So, can you be free from addiction without Jesus?
Yes. And, no. Can you break the chains of addiction without Jesus and never use again? Yes, you can. You can work a program and white-knuckle your way through the rest of your life without ever abusing substances again. But that will not heal the hurt inside you that caused the addiction to take hold in the first place. So I guess this is my question, “Are you satisfied with simply managing the symptoms, or would you like to actually be healed?” This is the question I have for those trying to accomplish the goal of sobriety apart from Jesus Christ. If I suffered from terrible headaches related to an issue in my sinuses, I’d go to a doctor. If the doctor came to me and told me that could either, (a) take medications every day for the rest of my life to make sure the headaches didn’t come on but that there might be several different side-effects from the medication, or (b) i could have a very simple, outpatient procedure to correct the problem and it would never cause me any discomfort again, which would i choose?
Why on Earth would I want to manage symptoms for the rest of my life while dealing with various side-effects I don’t currently deal with? Would it not be smarter to choose the path that removed the cause for my problem, thus never having to deal with it again? It seems like a simple choice, but people in addiction choose to manage symptoms every day.
So why won’t people choose healing?
There are a great many possible answers to this question, but I’m going to share with you the two most prevalent. These are the ones I dealt with. (1)Choosing to trust Jesus Christ with all my issues, not knowing what He was going to change in me was a scary proposition. The fear of change prevented me from experiencing the joy of freedom. Until it is more uncomfortable to stay in addiction than to face the change, an addict will never choose change. That is why those that love an addict need to make tough choices in their relationships with addicts often times (like not bailing them out of jail, not giving them money for food or rent, etc.). They have to choose not to help make addiction comfortable. (2) There is also a pride that wells up making an addict unwilling to yield to anybody else, especially Jesus. The resolution to this is similar to the resolution to #1. We have to pray that God would bring our loved one to a place of such brokenness that they can clearly see they need a different choice. This is a very scary prayer to pray. It feels very much counter to our love and concern for the addict we care about. But understand this, we can set up such boundaries that they are uncomfortable enough to seek help with using, but I do not have the ability to make them uncomfortable enough to bring them to a place where they are willing to seek help for the spiritual brokenness. Only God can do that. And if I get them to a point where they stop using, but their spiritual problem is not resolved, then I am only managing symptoms, not dealing with the root cause of their addiction.
We have to bring them, and ourselves to the foot of the cross
The foot of the cross is a scary place. It is a place of sacrifice. It is a place of loss. It is a place of surrender. It does not appear, from the outside, to be a very happy or enjoyable place. But looks can be deceiving. If we can ever set aside our own preconceived notions, biases, and pride, long enough to kneel at the foot of the cross, give ourselves totally to Jesus and allow Him to do a transforming work in our lives, to truly heal us, we will look back at the life we lived before, the fight to stay as we were, justifying all that we did to ourselves, and we will think, “What lunacy!”
Will you come to the cross? Will you bring your addicted loved one to the cross? If you are an addict, will you bring your addiction to the cross? I can assure you if you do that Jesus will help you experience true and total healing!