Yesterday in part one of this blog I began by telling the story of the roots of my heroin addiction and how God suddenly intercepted my life. In part two of my story I want to share my personal view of addiction from the vantage point of being a new creation in Christ for over forty-four years now…
After listening to Louie Correa’s story of how Jesus changed his life I agreed to check Teen Challenge out. During the interview I was told something that revolutionized my life. My interviewer looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mike, you don’t have a drug problem, you have a sin problem.”
I wanted to laugh in his face but I held it in. In order to survive every drug addict becomes something of an expert on his or her own addiction. I had a disease, an addictive personality, a social disorder. I grew up in a messed up family. I was sick, damaged goods. Now this guy is talking about sin? He had to be joking?
But he wasn’t. He said, “You have a sickness all right and your addiction is just a symptom of it. You’re an addict because you’re a sinner, an idolater. You have a worship disorder. You’ve made heroin your god. Sure you need to kick and get your mind straight. Before you can really be free you need spiritual healing. The Bible calls this salvation. You have a spiritual disease – sin-sickness, and there’s only on cure, repenting of your sins and turning your life over to Jesus Christ.”
I entered in the program, and soon after, at Friday night chapel service, I surrendered my life, including my addiction, to Christ. I gave up my false god, heroin for Jesus and accepted him as my Savior and Lord and asked him to change my life.
There was no lightening bolts or voice from heaven but he heard my prayer and that night I started a new life with a new way of dealing with my struggles and pain. I learned to trust Christ and his love to give me a whole new identity and self-concept. Gradually I began to change. God’s love started to crowd-out insecurity and inferiority, anger and fear and hopelessness out of life. And as that began to happen drugs lost their power over me and I was set free.
It’s been over four decades now! I don’t consider myself an ex-addict that has to watch his every move, worried that at any moment I might slip and fall back into addiction. I’m a different person – I’m a non-addict. A new creation in Christ!
“For if a person belongs to Christ, they are a new person. The old life is gone. New life has begun. (2Cor. 5:17)
So here’s what I’ve learned about addiction… It’s a worship disorder. Instead of worshiping Jesus as king, addicts worship idols that temporarily satisfy physical and emotional desire. From a biblical perspective something has gone wrong with the addict’s desires and needs. They’ve been hijacked and taken hostage. What begins as a friendship with sin becomes infatuation, then a love affair and eventually the addict is captive to a fatal attraction. Jesus knew this when he said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 89:34)
Addiction is far more commonplace than we think. Addiction isn’t limited to just those with chemical dependencies. It’s not just the alcoholic or the drug addict who struggles with addiction. Addiction is more pervasive and destructive. It infects our daily routines and sabotages our ability to love God and love others. We can become addicted to professional success, to feeling loved, to getting praise from others, the comforts of TV, being thin, to sex, or to power and status to name just a few. Some of these addictions are obviously more serious than others, but if we are forced to go without them, we will become depressed, irritable, angry, or manipulative…
Spiritually, addiction is a deep-seated form of idolatry. The objects of our addictions become our gods. These are what we worship, what we attend to, where we give our time and energy. Our addictions become intertwined with our deepest desires and even our identity. They replace God as our source of hope, desire and love with life-draining patterns of behavior. Our addictions fill up the spaces within us, spaces where God’s loving presence might flow. One writer called it, “a counterfeit of religious presence.” And just like sin and idolatry can only be overcome by God’s grace…
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.[a] He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph. 2:1-9)
An addict can only experience real healing through an encounter with grace. There is no way we can rid ourselves of idols and addictions by effort alone. We’re set free only as we experience the unconditional love of God. Other therapies can offer sobriety and recovery, but only Jesus is powerful enough to liberate the soul and offer transformation. In my opinion, God’s grace is our only hope for dealing with addiction; the only power that can truly defeat its destructiveness.