Every week, I saw them: Monday through Friday. They would walk into my office, and the story was always the same.
They have been robbed of friends, family, employment, and time. I hear them say a statement akin to “I have turned every bridge I had into ashes.” By the time I see them, they are tired, beaten, and often in legal trouble.
These are the people who are plagued by alcohol and substance abuse. Their use has wrecked their lives. As I sat, like so many times before, listening to the same narrative, the Lord gave me a refreshing cup of lemonade.
It’s an old cliché: making good of life is like turning bitter lemons into sweet lemonade. With lemonade, as is with life, it’s all what you add. For the drink, we add sugar and water. For life, however, sugar’s not enough. The sweetness comes from God and his truth.
Here are three truths I learned from working with those in addictions:
The simple truth is, individuals who struggle with addiction are created in the image of God and possess the same dignity and value everyone else does. Addiction leads people to make risky and irrational decisions. Some individuals are willing to do unflattering deeds in hopes of obtaining their desired drug.
But their choices do not nullify the image of God in them. It’s easy to define those who struggle with addiction by their actions and not by the image of God they possess. But when we perceive them as image-bearers, just like us, we begin to see them for who they really are.
"Heroin had me in a much worse prison than physical incarceration,” said a client while telling me his story. This client gave me such a vivid picture of sin. Sin puts us in chains far worse than any man-made restraints ever could. The example is not restricted to those who are trapped in addiction. If each of us gave into our own primary sin, we too would find ourselves in prison.
Greed could be the prison that keeps you craving more and more material possessions. Pride could incarcerate and give you a high when you are praised. Gluttony has the potential to restrain you and result in withdrawals if you don’t obtain your desired substance. It is the same for all of us. We are sinful. And with that, wehave the potential to be imprisoned by our sins.
“I need help” and “if I don’t get treatment I am going to die” are statements I hear on a weekly basis. These statements are dripping with desperation. And they come from people who have come to the end of themselves. They come from individuals who have tried to quit without help. In other words, they are the words of desperate people.
They possess a desperation that we often feel is void in our lives.
How often have I come to the end of myself and not trusted in the Lord? Or depleted my resources and then continued to attempt to mine something from my depravity? Or exerted my own strength without crying out for help? Or not grasped the full weight of my weakness and how I need help.
Help is not simply an option, accessory, or luxury. Not only am I (and you) not alone. But we need the help that comes from outside of ourselves. Simply put, we all need the saving and sustaining help Jesus offers.
After hearing story after story, I am convinced that those struggling with addictions are more like me than I knew. And they have taught me much.
May our soul craving the glory of God. May we go through withdrawals if we have not read the Word. May the Spirit give us power that confounds the minds of men. And may we not grow weary in loving our brothers and sisters constrained by addiction, because, after all, they are just like us.
DeARON WASHINGTON is a PhD student in Counseling at NOBTS and he currently works at Restoration Counseling.