Thoughts as we head into Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection) Sunday

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:21-27)

 It was a dark day in Martha’s life. Her beloved brother, Lazarus, had died and had now been in the grave for over three days, four to be exact. To add to her anxiety and pain, Jesus, in whom she had placed much hope, had been absent for her brother’s death and had not been there to console her. He had come after the fact. He had healed so many, but now there was no healing her brother. Lazarus was dead. Lazarus had died and after four days would remain dead according to the Jewish understanding of death Four days in a tomb under the hot Judean sun would only hasten his decay and erode what hope she held out. There could be no healing now.

 Finally, Jesus returns. And in her tearful words, one almost detects a word of criticism, “… if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus’ reply seems religious and spiritual (“Your brother will rise again…”) but impractical. Assuming Jesus spoke of the final resurrection of the dead at the end of time, Martha affirmed His observation. Sounding spiritual, herself, she says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha thought Jesus was speaking of the resurrection referred to in the book of Daniel. But Jesus had other plans. Maybe in her moment of grief, she lost sight of Jesus and who she knew Him to be. We do this all the time during times of hardship and pain. We sense God is far off and things are out of control. The truth is, the Lord is always near; moreover, He is always in control. As fragile human beings, we do not see the proverbial forest for the trees. If we listen and pay attention, God will remind us. He will remind us by and through His Spirit, His Word, or His actions (providential or miraculous) that He is God, He is sovereign, He is here, and He is near. We must always cling to what is true. We must never forget, even if we cannot see it at the moment, that all things truly, truly work together for good to those who love God, those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28) and those who have faith---who have placed their hope---in Jesus Christ. His is a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5: 5). Mary was about to experience this first hand. Jesus’ words are telling and what He ultimately does, exceeds her wildest expectations. The resurrection of Lazarus foreshadows the glory of what is to come.

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

 Jesus reminds her of what is real. That He is the resurrection and the life.  Thinking more clearly, she affirms her belief, faith, and trust in her affirmation or confession of faith: “She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world (John 11:27).” In short order she experiences the fruit of a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-45).

 What’s this got to do with Easter?  This event in her life foreshadowed the greatest even in history. Often, the confirmation of our faith precedes the trying of it. In short order He is arrested, brutally tortured, and murdered, leading some to comment “He saved others but did not save Himself.” His disciples are scattered, crushed, confounded and disappointed. Jesus, as part of His Father’s larger redemptive plan, is crucified, dead, and buried. His disciples are scattered and in hiding, some wondering if their hope in Him was unwarranted. That’s “Good Friday.” Some would consider it “Bad Friday.” Calling it Good Friday is counterintuitive, yes---but apt. Why? Because He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. What? The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. We know all of us have sinned. Like sheep, we went astray, and God laid on Him to penalty, the punishment of us all. That’s why He’s called Savior. Just as their hope would not be disappointed, neither is ours. Jesus rose from the grave on Easter Sunday demonstrating His power to deliver. He demonstrated His power to deliver on His promises. He demonstrated His power to deliver us from sin, death, and hell—if we trust in Him. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this (John 11:25-26)?”

 Sometimes hope seems crushed. Often things are darkest right before the dawn. Hope in Jesus, trusting in Christ, is a hope that will not disappoint. I’m sure when Jesus died on the cross Martha was once again devastated by a sense of hopelessness. And upon encountering the resurrected Christ was able to trust Jesus in a wider sense than she could have conceived of. This Easter weekend, starting with Good Friday, we celebrate not only the passion of the Christ but the certainty of a hope that does not disappoint—indicated by the fact of His ressurection.

 As sure as He was crucified, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those who trust in Him. This life is short and eternity is long. And our joy involves seeing beyond this life and into the next. Jesus has done for us what we could not (and would not) do for ourselves. He’spaid the debt we couldn’t pay, stood in the breach we created between His Father and us, and offered us a home with Him for all eternity. One day, He will wipe away every tear. All we have to do is trust in Him. His message to us and to Martha (and Mary) is that one day all this will make sense, viewed through the lens of eternity, through the lens of the Gospel, and a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. One day…

 I don’t know what hardships you are facing. I don’t know what suffering you’re having to endure. But Jesus offers hope, healing, and redemption as a gift. Take it. And in Him and through Him you will be able to make sense of it all as His first disciples did and like all His true disciples do now. One day. Come to worship with us this weekend to understand why things are the ways things are and how wonderful things will be, one day. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). This Easter Weekend, find the answers to all your questions, find hope, help, and healing for your soul through salvation in Christ. Experience a peace that surpasses human comprehension, as you turn to the Savior, as you surrender your past, your present, and your future---your rights to Jesus Christ and look forward to an eternity with Him, in heaven, ONE DAY.

Keith Crosby
The End of Addiction

Where does addiction end (lead)? How does it end? Before moving on, you may want to read my first two posts on addiction. The first post was The Morality of Addiction. The second post The Physiology and Psychology of Addiction.

Addiction often ends in depression, delusion, and death. As we discussed in The Physiology and Psychology of Addiction,  there are mental and physical consequences to drug abuse. One of them is depression. However, the depression diagnosis is often made in error. Can drug abuse and drug addiction lead to sadness, loss, and a sense of hopelessness? It can. Do these equate to clinical depression? Not necessarily. Often not at all. In 21st century American culture we tend to get sloppy with our speech and blur distinctions between our feelings in a given moment or stretch of time and bonafide conditions. For example, someone may say “Ow! I’ve got a migraine!” when all they have is a sinus headache. We’ve all heard those we know (and love) complain of the flu when they have a bad cold. People take antibiotics for viruses. It’s not that people aren’t feeling terrible. It’s just that they may overgeneralize, embellish, or exaggerate. The pain is real enough to them. They’ve simply confused feeling badly for something else and misapplied a label that may make treatment difficult.  Recent studies show an overdiagnosis of depression among all age groups. Something over 60% of those diagnosed with depression do not meet the criteria.

There is a pronounced tendency toward  overdiagnosis when it comes to depression. As a result, powerful medications are mis-prescribed, often compounding the problem and possibly the addiction. This phenomenon is not new. We are in an opiate crisis in part due to the over prescribing of powerful painkilling drugs. Much of this comes through sloppy diagnosis and prescription. Studies indicate the same is true of the diagnosis of depression. Again, studies show that a little over 60% of those diagnosed or labeled as depressive do not meet the criteria. There is a difference between a diagnosis of clinical depression and many less structured diagnoses of depression. Being sad, feeling hopeless, and lacking energy due to the punishment to which one subjects one’s body (and mind) doesn’t equate with depression. Many times, individuals (wanting acceptance, love, etc.) feel sad and turn to drugs for a high or to get acceptance from others. This is not mental illness (i.e. depression) this is poor choice making. It does not excuse either drug abuse or bad behavior. As we discussed in our first article, it’s a moral choice that often ends in addiction. Some argue they are the exception. Maybe so… but the exception proves the rule. Those arguing they are the exception, or their addict is the exception, prove the rule and often are looking for absolution of some kind. This kind of thinking brings us to delusion.

Addiction leads to delusion. There are two kinds of delusion. There is the delusion of the addict and there is the delusion of the enablers. Both are desperate and unfortunate, often deadly, behaviors. To review what we noted in the first article, the addict seeks to blame others for her choices. It seems to them that in the final analysis, “it’s not my fault.” Enables tend to affirm this self-deception for a variety of reasons we will not go into here. The behaviors described above, the “I have a migraine effect” are applied to the everyday headaches of life and the enablers are only too inclined to affirm this. Consequently, the normal pressures, pains, and disappointments of life are recalibrated and re-labeled as unbearable… driving the addict to do what they do. Sadness (or dissatisfaction) becomes depression, embarrassment becomes humiliation, disagreements become bullying, and they find good cause to purchase and abuse everything from alcohol to sniffing paint, to prescription drugs, and or, finally, illicit drugs. They have reason (or at least some excuse) to do what they do—at least in their minds and the minds of their enablers.

Along the way the addict’s enablers become delusional. Convinced of their addict’s exceptionalism, they begin deluding themselves. Enablers and addicts begin to rationalize and accept all kinds of excuses and behaviors. They engage in something like an historical and behavioral revisionism, rewriting the past often through some dystopian or utopian lens. Be careful. Attempting to convince them or persuade them to think or do differently often leads to anger, resentment, and can even result in your getting sucked into this maelstrom. You begin to think you can help him. You begin to delude yourself into believing you can rescue them. You’ve joined them in the quicksand. Or at least you are in danger of becoming just as stuck as they are. There’s only one Savior and you’re not Him. It’s confounding. It’s heartbreaking. Ultimately, both the addict and the enabler must hit rock bottom before either can be helped. Humanly speaking, there’s little to be done… but wait. Enablers can snap out of it just as the addict can snap out of his delusion. Either one or the other can run out of opportunities or resources… or time. This brings us closer to the end of addiction.

Addiction often leads to death. It’s an ugly and frightening progression. Your addict (and their enabler) can waste away like a cancer patient when all radiation and chemotherapy treatments have failed.  They age at an accelerated rate. Youth gives way to weariness… vitality to lethargy… attractiveness to decrepitness. A bright future devolves into a hopeless one (by choice). And yes, depression and mental illness may result from the self-abuse. More often than not they are symptomatic rather than causative. Addiction seldom comes through insanity but through willful, moral choice. Then there’s the debate, which came first… the addiction or the depression. While addiction is often blamed on depression, it is more often the case such diagnoses are anecdotal. Once again, the exception proves the rule.

How does death come? Death often comes through illness. Self-abuse has its consequences. Conditions develop ranging from cirrhosis of the liver (alcoholism and other drugs), AIDs or Hepatitis (promiscuity or sharing needles), fatality through accidents (DWI / OWI), death by violence (robbery or assault by others like them, or predators), or suicide. Often an addict will fake a suicide attempt to gain the attention she lost from enablers or to manipulate others. Make no mistake addicts have the means to take their own lives. In fact, their behavior is tantamount to slow motion suicide. Often though not always, an unsuccessful suicide attempt is both a cry for help and an attempt at manipulation. Many addicts serious about suicide simply choose overdose via their drug of choice and, at least in their minds, ‘drift off to sleep.’ They trust their drug of choice to make it painless.

It’s time for a little self-disclosure. There have been addicts of various stripes and ages in my family, mostly alcoholics. I suppose every family has them. None in my family have had a medical or psychiatric diagnosis of depression. They made choices. As a pastor and a counselor, I’ve had the occasion to work with a number of people from alcoholics to Meth addicts to Crack addicts, etc.  What’s my point? The point is that I’ve had not insignificant experience with addicts. I know addicts who ‘beat the addiction.’ All but two who ‘beat’ the addiction did so through a relationship with Jesus Christ. By a relationship with Jesus Christ, I don’t mean being a church-goer and or a churched person engaging in occasional “God talk” and then living as if God doesn’t exist. I’m not referring to those who pray but don’t listen to God through His word. I’m not talking about those who compartmentalize their lives, relegating God to one corner. And I’m not talking about those who “pray for stuff” or treat Him like a bellman at a hotel (“give me this and give me that”). Most addicts are very spiritual people, as are the enablers. When I refer to a relationship with Jesus Christ, I’m talking about a God-follower who has surrendered his will, his rights, his past, present, and his future to Christ. You know a tree, as Jesus said, by the fruit it bears. Even the devil and his demons believe in God (and shudder). Let’s be clear, I’m not talking part-time-job Christianity. That type of Christianity is the worst delusion of them all. Being all-in for Christ, as your God not your crutch is the better way. The addicts I know, who ‘made it’ gave themselves to Christ. As much as I respect A.A., a vague “higher power” of one’s own imagination sounds romantic but is mostly useless.

It is possible top beat addiction, humanly speaking without Christ. I know one addict who did it through sheer will-power. He was a self-described deist. What’s a deist? A deist believes God made the world, winding it up like a clock, and walked away—remaining a distant, if not a remote, and uninvolved observer. Essentially, a deist is a functional atheist. This deist did it by sheer determination. He made no excuses. He owned his behavior. He wanted to change. It also helped that he had a significant emotional event (S.E.E.). Coming out of a drug-induced haze he found himself on the floor of a men’s room in a bus station as a predator was about to molest him. Escaping, he asked himself the question, “Where will I be in a year from now?” He chose a different path. He asked his parents to commit him to a residential treatment program and cooperated every way he could. Did he struggle? Yes, he did. Did he make excuses? No, he did not. Did he suffer the physical and emotional agonies of withdrawal? Yes, he did. Did he succeed? He did. Beating the habit (just like acquiring the habit) is a matter of personal choice. One must choose wisely and not make excuses.

Where does addiction end? Ultimately, addiction ends in death. And this is not an ‘if’ question but a ‘when’ question. Drug abuse, in all its forms, tends to damage and devastate the body (and the mind).  The addict poisons herself to death. Drug addiction is a recipe for disaster. Having said this, someone once said to me, “Life is terminal.” That’s true. It is. However, addiction speeds up death and morbidity. There’s an old saying, from the Bible, “The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).” Secularized, this means destructive choices have deadly consequences.  And we are all going to die. The addict will die sooner than later.

Even addicts who ‘beat the habit’ typically die sooner. Their livers, kidneys, or other vital organs suffer additional (unnecessary) wear and tear. They may also succumb to dementia or Alzheimer’s because they did damage to their brains, resulting in ‘premature’ death. The end of addiction (the end of the road) also leads to incarceration or institutionalization or homelessness. We like to believe (and society seems inclined to believe) most homelessness is due to good people falling into bad situations beyond their control. This sentiment, no matter how well-intended, is just plain false. Granted there is a small percentage who are homeless through no fault of their own. But many are drug abusers. Many of those folks wandering the streets mumbling, acting odd, and begging are addicts who have no interest in receiving real help. That said, there’s always hope.

What should you hope for? You should hope for two things. The first thing you should hope for is the ability to exercise your own will and intellect, avoiding the trap of becoming an enabler. Hope the addict will hit rock bottom and hope they do so quickly. The sooner they do, the sooner they recover, if they recover. Sometimes, but not always, hitting rock bottom brings them a moment of clarity. I already mentioned my deist friend. That was his significant emotional event (S.E.E.).

Rehab fails because people enter before hitting rock bottom. They enter rehab. They hate the accountability. They want their freedom, never stopping to think they are enslaved already. They don’t like all the rules because their pride has not been sufficiently put to death by hitting rock bottom. They leave, escape; quit. That’s why the average success rate of rehab programs, regardless of size, trappings, and length of stay (in-patient or out-patient), hovers at  17 to 21%. If money, surroundings,  and price really mattered, why would all the celebrities one reads about (with all their wealth and connections) fail to beat the habit? It’s not so much the facility. It’s about the person and hitting rock bottom. Think about it. Wealthy celebrities can afford almost any facility. It’s not about price. It’s not about a desert breeze—it’s about hitting rock bottom and the death of pride. When pride dies, when they hit rock bottom, they come to their senses (at least for a while). Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about. It’s not a perfect fit. It’s found in the Gospel of Luke. It’s the story of the prodigal son or lost son (who hits rock bottom). Here’s the key excerpt:

 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)

Notice his mindset after he hit rock bottom. He ‘came to his senses.’ Notice how he now sees himself: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” Now there’s hope. He’s ready to do whatever is necessary. This brings us back to our discussion of God.

The addict and god. Addicts tend to be very spiritual people. They tend to be faithful in their worship. The problem is that they worship an idol. Drugs are their gods. I have to admit, I’ve had my fill of “Christian Addicts.” You can’t worship God and the things of this world. No one can serve two masters. You will invariably love one and hate the Other. I didn’t say that. Jesus did. Jesus said God and money, or in the old King James Version, God and mammon. Do you really think Jesus would allow you to serve God and drugs just not God and money? What He’s doing, essentially, is restating the first and second commandments about having other gods before Him, or making something in your life an idol., Drugs are a substitute for God.

There’s a lot of confusion about spirituality and Christianity. In Alcoholics Anonymous there’s verbiage about a higher power that the drunk chooses to call god. I’m sure they are well intended but we don’t get to determine what or who God is, He does. Never mistake spirituality and idolatry for Christianity. Aztecs were spiritual and they sacrificed children on various altars to various gods. Addicts are spiritual and they sacrifice everything and everyone on the altar of their drug of choice.

One can’t worship two gods simultaneously. And if you are able to sacrifice your relationship with Jesus Christ, you never had a relationship with Him to begin with. The wages of sin (addiction) is death but the free gift of God is salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). If you’re really ready for change, Jesus is willing to change you. But you have to trust Him. You can’t negotiate with God. He knows your thoughts from afar. He knows a word before it is on your tongue. He does not see as men see. He (really) looks at the heart. For the addict there’s always hope. Your choices have physical and emotional consequences, yes. Addiction never leaves a person the way it found them. Fortunately, neither does Jesus. You may still struggle with your addiction. All people after conversion still wrestle with sin. But your eternal home will be secure, and He will empower (rather than enable) you. He will empower you to do in the power of the Holy Spirit what you could not do on your own. He will slowly change you from the inside out. What you were once unwilling and unable to do He will give you an appetite to do. But don’t try and kid yourself (or Him). He’s not a politician seeking your vote, He’s a king seeking your total surrender. He accepts no substitutes. Neither should you.

Keith Crosby
The Physiology (and Psychology) of Addiction

Regardless of the expense, location, duration and method…rehab success rates hover between 17% and 21% over five years. Don’t believe me? Click here. Which leads to our next question.

How does an addict lose her way (or her mind)? In other words, how is it possible that a drunk or a person addicted to illicit or prescription drugs reaches the point where they will effectively kill themselves and all their relational connections? How does an addict reach the point, cognitively, where they value being high more than family, friends, children, sex, or food, water, and shelter? How is it that they so lose their way and make the choice of remaining on the same destructive path? As a counselor, I’ve worked with a number of addicts over the years. Some ‘beat the habit’ some do not. My previous church was a large church of several thousand people in an urban kind of setting. It had/has its share of recovering addicts (somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 or so). Those who became my friend told a similar story. The needle, the pipe, the bottle, or the pill becomes your very best friend, your closest confidant… like family but better. At times it’s almost a spiritual feeling or experience. How is that possible? How is it that people will forgo shelter, warmth, water, and caring (rather than exploitive) companionship until they waste away and die (by violence, disease, or organ failure due to a host of co-morbidities)?

Why (how?) do they stay on the path to ruin? Let’s try and keep this simple and non-technical. When people are high (or stoned) they feel better, at least they think they do. Then the drug wears off. This requires another dose. With the next dose that good, euphoric (or numb) feeling returns. Life seems better… tolerable… manageable even… less painful. Pain may take many forms, from physical to emotional. What we have here is an attempt to self-medicate. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone self-medicates. Some people become addicts because a person acts like a the chemical tourist who seeks the thrill of seeing the sights through the lens of narcotics. Depending on the drug, repeated trials and tries starts to habituate both body and mind to an altered state that seems desirable. The addiction becomes emotional and physical.

Complicating or intensifying this problem are physiology and biochemical issues. As a person enters into these altered, pleasurable states the body’s glandular system secretes hormones (i.e. like dopamine) that reinforces the body’s desire for this drug and the altered state it brings or induces. Now the mind wants more and the body wants more. We do well to remember the connection between the mind and the body. Like an angry two-year-old throwing a tantrum as the body’s desire for this drug, intensified by the secretion of this hormone from the endocrine system, adds to the withdrawal symptoms (sweats, nausea, anxiety, tremors, etc.). The only way to satisfy the body’s rage is more drugs, resulting in more hormonal secretion, and more mental and physical dependence.

Here’s the tragic catch-22. The more drugs the body gets the more drugs the body wants and requires to recreate the desired effects. The more drugs the body gets the more hormones it secretes. The continues progressively until the body wants more and more quantities of drugs, stimulation, pleasure, and highs. By the way, the same hormonal reaction applies to gamers, tech junkies, etc. Try and get people to put their phones down. It’s not easy. In a different arena people get runner’s high from running. It’s the same type of mechanism. But with drugs, you have the double whammy of the introduction of habit-forming chemicals and the hormones that reinforce stimulation, pleasure, etc. As time passes and addictive forces progress, the conscious mind grows to fear the absence of drugs and their effects. The addict becomes anxious and less stable. The addict’s body becomes crampy, sweaty; nauseous. Like a wild animal on a quest for food, or a person in a desert wasteland on the verge of dying of thirst, the addict begins a determined quest for satisfaction, satisfaction at all costs.

Ever try to reason with a starving lion? Ever try to convince a hungry cougar in the mountains or foothills of California to leave the neighborhood pets alone? Not likely. They are too hungry and that hunger drives them to relentlessly invade residential spaces until they are captured (imprisoned) or killed. That ‘hunger’ must be satisfied for survival, or in the case of an addict, perceived survival. Just like a starving animal, addicts won’t listen, even before their mind is irreparably damaged to the point they can’t. Their appetite for their drug of choice must be satisfied at all costs. It’s as if some primal survival instinct has been triggered. The addict becomes more and more a creature driven by impulse and instincts rather than a thinking, rational, and reasoning being. Human beings, created in the image of God, have an ability lacking in other creatures; namely, will, reason, and the combination of both--wisdom. Drug abuse impairs and eventually destroys both.

Drug abuse damages the will. The addict’s ability and desire to reason, to think; to change are eroded and gradually destroyed. That’s why they will lie, cheat, steal, and kill to get what they want. That’s why they will affirm their need to ‘get better’ and even tell you what they think you want to hear and then do the polar opposite. Addiction, as it progresses, trumps reason. The conscience becomes seared. No amount of reason, persuasion, bribery, enabling, or love will change their behavior. Getting between an addict and their quest for drugs is not unlike getting between a mother-bear and her cubs.  Depending on how far they are down the continuum of addiction, forget about reasoning with them. Your chances are better reasoning with a bear robbed of her cubs.

 What about 12 step programs and rehab? Inpatient, outpatient, and various forms of residency ‘treatments’ last between 21 and 270 days. Regardless of the expense, location, duration and method…rehab success rates hover between 17% and 21% over five years. Don’t believe me? Click here. Twelve Step Programs have similar success and failure rates. People will not change until they surrender their pride. Once they do this, they begin (begin, having not yet arrived) to see things with a tad more clarity. Once pride has been put to death, they need to jettison every person, place, or thing that contributes or has contributed to their drug use in any way shape of form. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says this:

 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:7-9).

 This is about ‘detach and discard.’ Whatever, whoever, causes the addict to drift anywhere near the old way has to go. There are some places he can’t be. Some people he can’t see. But that comes after putting pride to death—not before. Often addicts will ‘relocate,’ forgetting that problems are portable. The addict is the problem and everywhere he or she goes the problem goes, too. I suppose that’s why some commit suicide, ultimately making a bad situation worse (Hebrews 9:27). So, where’s the hope? How does one ‘recover?’

So, where’s the hope? Where’s the upside? How is it that we do in fact hear ‘success stories?’ Success stories are the exception as opposed to the rule. For every seemingly miraculous rehab and recovery there are at least 5 to 10 fails. Why is that? In a word, choices. Most people don’t see rehab through to the end. There are many reasons. First, and foremost, you don’t break a bad habit (that’s what addiction is at its root) in a month. It takes six weeks to form a habit. Most of the habits most people form are not intensified by drugs and further complicated by body (and or brain) chemistry. Another reason for the high failure rates is ‘friends.’ People seldom if ever abuse drugs in a vacuum. There is a drug crowd that is only too happy to affirm, sponge off of, manipulate, and otherwise aid and abet addicts. This includes their new ‘sober friends’ they make in rehab. Hopefully, they never see them again. Why? Because most of them will return to addiction and drag the addict with them. Let’s not forget the enablers who for various reasons keep bailing them out of trouble delaying any chance of the addict hitting rock bottom. There’s almost always a family member too inclined to believe the line “I really want to change this time…” or believes the addict is a good soul who’s just making (or made) a few bad decisions. It’s a sad thing. But the enabler continues to bail the addict out providing money, goods, shelter, and an endless supply of second chances that delays hitting bottom. The addict must hit rock bottom if there is to be, humanly speaking, any hope of turning things around.

The main impediment to hope and recovery is the addicts own pride. Pride can be more lethal than any drug. Every addict thinks he’s in control or can handle it. Failure is never their fault. They never get what they deserve. Someone, something, made them what they are. They are not at fault. Also, there is a tendency in some circles to refer to this as issues of low self-esteem. This is also a deadly idea. Invariably, addicts esteem themselves too highly, bringing us back to ‘pride.’ If you haven’t read the previous article do so here. Until the addict hits rock bottom, pride will prevent rescue and redemption. The sooner they hit rock bottom the better. The self-esteem excuse is an enabling one that delays ‘rock bottom.’ Think about it. If a person is truly self-loathing, with low self-esteem, how does her or she elevate himself or herself above the law, to godhood, granting themselves the right to break the law, steal from others, rob others (acts of violence), or insist that others tolerate their aberrant behavior.

Back to hope. Hope requires a changing in thinking and a change in direction. Of the 17-21% that make it (that’s less than one in five) there is what some call a ‘significant emotional event (“S.E.E.”).’ They have a moment where they do the proverbial ‘hitting rock bottom.’ They come to the end of themselves. They see that they are the problem. Hitting rock bottom, they get so low that there is no way to look but up. A small selection of the 1 in 5 exercise sheer willpower and stop repeating the insanity. In AA many of these folks end up as “dry drunks.” What’s this mean? It means that they control their outward behavior but the root problem still remains and they are often irritable folks who feel like they are perpetually getting over a hangover but have not had a drop to drink in days, weeks, or years (‘dry’ drunks). This is one reason that the failure rate is so high. The dry drunk type is more likely to ‘relapse.’ The biblical analogy for the dry drunk is putting a fresh coat of paint on a tomb full of dead man’s bones. The outside appears nice but inside it’s still filled with dead man’s bones (the junk that bent their thinking in the first place, to appropriate a metaphor). The change is outward, not inner. As long as he or she stays in AA they may stay sober. The other S.E.E.’s are religious is nature. For some that’s ironic. Many drug addicts go from atheist to person of faith. Why is that?  When you think about it, you never really hear anyone say, “Hey, I became an atheist today and it changed my life, I overcame my addictions from the inner strength provided me through atheism.” Atheism devalues human life, reducing it to the level of animals and insects. Faith is another matter. There’s more than just your being here by accident. Every human has a purpose… and a hope.

From my vantage, not just any religious experience will do. There are many religions in this world but all religions fall into one of two categories. The most popular category is the religion of human achievement. That’s where humans bribe, appease, or manipulate their gods by doing something for them to get a pay out of some kind. It’s a give to get thing. These acts range from human sacrifice (Aztecs, Incas, etc.) to some ritual or another. People trick or manipulate god into doing their bidding. They change god and curry his favor. Considering the success 17%-21% success rates of rehab and addiction programs, it doesn’t seem likely that human achievement is the way. The religion of human achievement includes many denominations. Islam requires you to please Allah by performing the 5 pillars of Islam. Hinduism requires you to achieve Nirvana by doing good deeds and changing your cosmic station in life through reincarnation. You keep doing good to you evolve out of your miserable state. Buddhism involves some form of self-perfection. Self-perfection? Know any perfect people (17%-21% of recovering addicts were never perfect). When you really think about it, how could anyone be good enough, perfect enough, wise enough, or manipulative enough (or rich enough) to bribe god, manipulating the one who created them. How many mantras do you have to chant? How much penance to you have to do? Can any human go a day, a week, a month or a year without acting selfishly? So much for the religion of human achievement. Then there’s the religion of divine achievement, where God does something for you that you cannot do for yourself—particularly since you don’t deserve it (i.e. human achievement). That’s Christianity. You know:

16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-18)

 God sent His Son, Jesus, to die in your place for your wrong-doing and rescue you. Through Him, God offers hope, healing, and restoration—salvation… redemption. You don’t earn His mercy. You don’t earn His forgiveness (it’s a gift). Basically, you put your trust in God not in you. You believe He can save you and you surrender your will, your rights, to Him. He does the heavy lifting. Sure, you cooperate but He’s done the hard work already. You enter into a life changing relationship with God. He knows your thoughts so you can’t manipulate Him. He knows your needs before you ask.

 The religion of divine achievement is simple in truth but hard to believer. He offers every single human being, no matter who they are or what they’ve done forgiveness as a gift. But… and here’s the problem… He only grants forgiveness and life change to those who will be humble enough to accept it on His terms. So much for pride. You recognize you don’t deserve anything but hell on earth and hell in the life to come and ask Him for the gift (like a beggar). He promises to give you eternal life and real and lasting change. He doesn’t change you all at once but little by little as you learn to trust Him more and more.

Embrace the religion of divine achievement and let God change you. You don’t work to receive forgiveness. But afterwards you respond by working to honor it. It’s counter intuitive, yes. But we know what doesn’t work, right? All the previous failures point to what doesn’t work. Maybe your addicted friend is struggling to grasp this. Maybe you are. Maybe it sounds unbelievable. But you already know what doesn’t work, right? After all, maybe you’ve tried everything but this?

How do you do this? Where do you start? Start here (invest 5 minutes).  what have you got to lose? Are you an audible learner? Try here. It’s the same story, expressed differently. Basically, it comes down to this. You’ve got to want God more than air—more than drugs and be willing to go where He would and will take you. There’s no half surrender. Just as a half-truth is a whole lie, a half surrender is no surrender at all.

Like an enemy combatant or terrorist, you’ve got to lay down your arms and trust God. Then you learn to walk and grow as a Christian in baby steps because you will have embraced the truth and the truth will set you free. Once you enter into a relationship with God in Christ (by faith… trust…) your world will begin to change—your eternal destination already has. God will provide you new ability, empowering change.

Some will say, “but I’ve done the Jesus thing before…” Have you? Have you really? What was your motive? Often people get emotionally and want escape more than they want God. That’s not the same thing as surrender to Christ. It’s just another form of (attempted) manipulation.

Believing in God isn’t enough. The Bible says even the devils believe in God (James 2:19). Knowing you are thirsty and actually drinking the water are two different things. Wanting Him is different. There’s no negotiating, only surrender. There’s no half surrender. Think about it. By now many will have tried meditation (emptying your mind), yoga, diets, positive confession, etc. Did it work? You tell me. Could it be that not all religions are created equal?

 Real change is supernaturally empowered. When you have really, humbly done business with God things change (2 Corinthians 5:17). If an addict could change or if you could change an addict—wouldn’t it have happened by now? Without God lasting change is impossible because our problem is, as the Bible indicates, habituated. Humanly speaking, once addiction occurs the cards are stacked against ‘recovery’ physiologically, psychologically, and even sociologically (wrong friends and surroundings). With a failure rates of near 80% in terms of rehab and such, I’d bet on God rather than man. Think about it. What do you have to lose? Really, what does anyone have to lose by trusting God, particularly when life hurts? Next time, the final posting on addiction.

 

 

Keith Crosby