“For the good that I want, I do not do. Instead I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. Who will save me from this body of death?” Romans 7:19, 24 NASB
“First the man takes the drink. Then the drink takes the drink. Then the drink takes the man.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
I have a dear friend who has spent the last five years of her life practicing nursing in a halfway house in Washington D.C. She has spent her days talking to, holding, and helping addicted men and women turn to the light of sobriety. She has told me more than once how she carries the grief of imagining what could have been for these people, for their lives and their families. “Rarely,” she says, “does a drug addict’s family get to be on the front lines of seeing their recovery. So often, the addict has been lost to the family. Lost, really, to him or herself. We get to be on the front lines of some of them coming back to life.”
How in the world are we to look at the bewildering darkness of addiction? How are we to look at the devastation with hope? Is the addicted one a disease victim or a choice-maker? Are addicts only a distorted, sometimes frightening version of themselves? Or, is their glory still in there somewhere?
We carry a pack, heavy with questions, up a steep terrain when we walk with an addicted person. Yet, there are real footholds on the steep path, some clear ways to think about addiction as believers; ways that can bring lighthearted acceptance.
We walk this side of the Garden with great pain and limitation. Pain that we don’t want to feel; limitation we don’t want to admit. When we are not willing to stop and feel the things we must, we numb in order to cope. To numb or engage? We make thousands of such choices every day, many below our awareness. We choose secondary shelters of safety, prop them around ourselves, and call them home. We slowly grow loyal to these things that bring relief, but then they wear off and we need more. Sometimes these shelters become prisons.
We walk this side of the Garden with bodies and brains that break down. Many of us can muddle along, living smaller lives than we would otherwise, stopping here and there to self-medicate. We “manage.” Others of us disappear. Maybe we disappear because we had no supportive frame growing up, or perhaps because our brains and bodies get easily hooked. We make choices, and then we begin to face a form of chosen powerlessness. We are victims to emotional, familial, and physical disease. And yet, we’re choice makers. We choose to participate in our illness, or to face it, asking for grace and run for help. This is true for an addict. This is true for me.
It seems like a web of death, yet Jesus has conquered death (of all kinds). There is no darkness that is not as day to Him. He swallowed that which threatens to swallow us. Addiction brings death in a host of forms. Death of dreams and relationships. Death of trust and safety. Sometimes physical death.
Yet Jesus’ life has more power than addiction’s death. His resurrection means that resurrection is possible, even this side of heaven. We put down the bottle and call a friend instead. Resurrection. We want to go home from work and numb in front of a screen, to images that fill and excite. Yet we drive to a meeting. Resurrection. We are tempted to cover what we really did yesterday, yet we take hold of enough courage to tell the truth. Resurrection. By grace, He brings us low. By grace, we see. By grace, we choose and slowly behave our way out of enslavement. Little by little He delivers. He resurrects glory.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. Meredith, her husband Jon, and daughter Charlotte live in Fort Mill, SC.