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The Death of an Addict

This post has been on my mind for over a week. It has been somewhere in the back of my mind all day every day. I don’t really know why I’m writing it if I’m honest. I’ve avoided writing it. I keep putting it off. Maybe I’m procrastinating because I know it will be painful. Maybe I’m afraid of this level of vulnerability. I don’t know. Maybe I need it for my own healing or something. I really don’t know. I just know that I need to write it. I hope that it is meaningful to somebody.

People have varying responses

I have discovered that there are a wide variety of responses to the news that a struggling addict has lost his battle to addiction. In my opinion, the reactions are directly related to 3 factors: The length of time they have known the addict, the degree to which they knew the addict, and the circumstances under which they have known the addict. These 3 factors directly impact how they respond.

There is a 4th factor that affects their opinion

The factor that probably affects the opinion people have of addicts most is this 4th factor. The 4th factor is whether or not the person thinking about the addict is in recovery themselves. My name is Greg Bufkin and I celebrate recovery from an addiction to prescription pain medication. I recently lost a friend to addiction. I have a perspective of addicts that includes walking a path that is very similar to theirs. I may not have walked in their particular shoes, but I understand the struggle. I understand the thoughts, feelings, and tendencies. I can most definitely empathize with their struggle. I can even fathom the possibility of being the one that overdosed and died. I overdosed twice, and by the grace of God, I survived.

An addict is not defined by their addiction

Any person, from any social status, from any background, has the potential to develop an addiction. No addict starts out trying drugs (or being prescribed drugs) with the thought that they will wind up where we all end up. We never plan on hurting everybody we love, breaking ourselves (and our family) financially and emotionally. We certainly never anticipate legal problems, DHS problems, or any other of the myriad of problems we cause ourselves, and those we love, by the addiction we develop.

Our addiction may be the only thing people know or remember about us, but that is not who we are. We are somebody’s son or daughter. We are somebody’s brother or sister. We are somebody’s father or mother. We are somebody’s friend. We have made people laugh. We have loved people. We have been a friend and confidant. We are a human being with all of the same positive potential that anybody else has. We are SOMEBODY’S SOMEONE!

Please know that we simply lost our way

Along this path of addiction that we never intended to be on, we lost our way in a maze that we cannot get out of. This maze is a vicious cycle. Once we’re addicted we use so we don’t feel the pain. When we start to sober up we feel the original pain plus shame and regret for who we have become, so we use to keep those feelings from coming back. It continues that pattern in a downward spiral until we get clean (in jail or rehab) or we die. And if we get clean we only stay clean by getting to the cause of our emotional pain and healing whatever that wound may be.

This song is a reminder to me that we are not, at our core, the person that people see us as in addiction.

You’re somebody’s brother, somebody’s son, somebody’s mother father, somebody’s someone. Somebody’s missing you where ever you came from, where ever you go, I hope you know, you’re somebody’s someone. You’re somebody’s someone.

Finding our way back is very difficult

It’s very simple. An addict will not change until staying in addiction is more painful than going through whatever it takes to beat the addiction. I frequently have people who have relapsed that contact me wanting to go BACK to the Home of Grace. I’m all in favor of that. Usually, however, they need help getting the money together to pay. I don’t have the ability to help with that. I do however know several programs that are free. I also know other people who know many other free programs. Now I certainly do believe with all that I am that The Home of Grace is the best program out there. But if an addict says that they want help but they will only go to one specific place then they aren’t really ready to change. When an addict reaches rock bottom, they will accept any help from any source as long as it offers them a chance. The problem is they may actually want recovery, but they want it on their terms. You typically do not achieve lasting recovery by dictating terms. You accomplish lasting recovery by submitting your life to Jesus Christ, doing whatever it is He calls you to and leaving that old life in the past. As long as we insist on our way (we need to be reminded that our way got us to the point of needing rehab in the first place) the odds of successfully beating addiction are relatively small. Our way should not be trusted.

Picking up the phone who is it gonna be this time? It’s the sound of your voice but it ain’t really you on the line. When you gonna come out on the other side? Well it’s only you cause you know no matter what we do there’s nothing we can do no matter how hard we try. Oooo oooo oooo Can’t make you drink that water.

We are broken people in desperate need of healing

Addiction is no different than any other sin. All sin is a symptom of brokenness. We all have a hurt inside that needs to be healed. We have a soul that has been stained with sin, causing a broken relationship with our God who loves us. We all absolutely need Jesus to come into our lives and heal our hearts, making us whole again, so that our relationship with God can be restored. Without that we all find some outlet to pour ourselves into to make us temporarily feel better. We might work out a lot, we might get all the money we can, we might have as many sexual conquests as possible, we might become drug addicts or a host of other things.

The death of an addict is always a tragedy and a waste

I’ve heard people talk about the death of an addict like it is some kind of relief. I’ve heard them talk about it with disdain. I’ve heard people joke about it. I’ve heard all types of reactions. I’d like to share mine. I’ve never known, personally, a single addict that died, whose death didn’t negatively affect somebody. Somebody’s heart was broken. Somebody’s world was a permanently darker place. Somebody was less than before. It was ultimately a waste, if for no other reason than the fact that Jesus Christ suffered horrifically, and died on a cross so that addict might be free from the bondage of addiction to live a happy, fulfilling, and productive life. It is a waste because who knows what amazing things they would’ve accomplished had they not lost their battle, for whatever reason. It is a waste because they didn’t have the proper support system around them doing everything they could’ve (or should’ve done) to enable them to make the right choices so they could remain sober.

This is exactly why we should double and triple our efforts to fight addiction

Make no mistake, addiction is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) threat that our country faces. Drug dealers are targeting our children through illicit drugs and pharmaceutical companies as well. All drugs, both street and prescription, are getting more and more potent. They are even beginning to mix the illicit drugs with prescription drugs. They are lacing actual candy with narcotics and passing them out in elementary and junior high schools to hook our kids younger and younger. The bible says that satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and make no mistake that he is attempting to do just that through addiction. We in recovery, and everybody else, need to stand arm in arm and confront this epidemic because we can and because we know that through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we cannot fail. Losing even one more is one too many. I will not lose another single addict without knowing that I have done everything in my power to combat this scourge. Will you join me?

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  1. Dear Greg,
    Our son Sean Kivlahan lost his battle on 5/17/17. He was a Home of Grace alumni as well. Your comments could not be more true and we appreciate that you shared them. We pray for strength for all of you in recovery and we will join in the battle to fight addiction.

    • Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, Paula. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know that is a wound that never really heals. I pray that God will bring you the peace that passes all understanding, and that He will equip you to help combat this scourge of addiction in others.

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