I read something that shocked me the other day. According to a study published in The New York Times, some 62,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year! The article said that’s like 171 people in America dying from Ebola each day. Or if every month there were eight 747 airline crashes. Or being hit by 21 terror attacks on the scale of 9/11 every single year! That seems impossible to imagine. Yet according to this article that’s the size of the opiate addiction crisis we’re facing in our country today with no let up in sight!
As a former heroine addict who’s lost countless friends directly or indirectly to drug addiction and as a follower of Jesus, clean and free for over forty-seven years now, I know there is a solution to this epidemic. But tragically our post-Christian society is like the patient who refuses the cure because she doesn’t like the taste of the medicine.
Here’s an edited version of a message I shared with a Celebrate Recovery group not too long ago. If you, a loved one, or a friend is struggling with drug addiction or battling to stay clean, read on…
“Proverbs says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (4:23), or as someone else put it, “What you believe to be true will control you whether it is true or not…” There are some politically correct myths about addiction that need a clear-headed reassessment…
“Take for instance, the saying that is taken as gospel, “Once an addict always an addict.” Is it true that a recovering addict is just one misstep away from relapse and ruin; that he or she will have to be exhaustively hyper-vigilant forever, scrupulously watching their every move? Do they have to cope with their addiction the way a diabetic learns to manage his or her disease or someone with Parkinson’s has to learn to live with their disease? I know people can have a predisposition to addiction but they can decide not to use drugs or alcohol. They can’t decide not to get Parkinson’s. So is it possible to be totally free? …’Yes, absolutely!’
“I’m not knocking 12-step recovery programs, they’ve saved a lot of lives. It’s just that the 12 steps alone don’t go far enough. Being clean and sober is great but it isn’t enough. Abstinence is not the same as freedom. I’m talking about a thirteenth step to freedom.
“I know that if I stood up at an AA meeting and announced, “Once an addict NOT always an addict!” I’d be unceremoniously shown the door. But I’m living proof that with Christ an addict or an alcoholic can be set totally free! I’ve been clean forty-seven years now. That’s because Christ is in the business of resurrecting the dead. The apostle Paul wrote that God is, ‘the God who brings the dead back to life and who brings into existence what didn’t exist before’ (Romans 4:17). He also wrote that anybody who places their trust in Christ, ‘becomes a new person… they are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!’ (2Corinthians 5:17)
“The good news of the gospel is that Jesus didn’t come to reform the reformable or to improve the improvable, he came to raise the dead. He came to give life to those who have no life. He came to help those who have come to the end of the line; those that can’t help themselves; the hopeless; the losers; the failures including the hopelessly addicted. The only qualification for this gift of freedom is to be dead.
“You don’t have to be smart… You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to be anything… You don’t have to do anything… You don’t even have to feel anything… You just have to be dead. Dead to playing all those lying, denial, alibi, cop-out, blaming, scheming, and excuse games… Dead, that’s it. Because grace only works on the dead!
“You don’t have to muster-up some great, heroic effort to save yourself. All you have to do is be dead enough to come to the end of all your efforts to save yourself from addiction and trust Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. He’s already done everything else. That’s how grace works…
“This is a mysterious stuff because God works in mysterious ways. Jesus made his death the only ticket anyone will ever need to have life… The gospel is the invitation to enter into his death out of which we will rise in his resurrection and out of drug addiction.
“I’m living proof that once an addict not always an addict – not forever an addict if you’re willing to surrender and drop dead and trust him by handing over the leadership of your life to him. I’m proof that there’s a thirteenth step that leads to relief from the anxious and exhausting struggle of staying clean and sober on my own; proof that you can be set totally free… The Bible calls this thirteenth step new creation. It’s not so much a “step” as it is a stage in an on-going process of resurrection at work in my life; a new reality working in me.
“It wasn’t like I just woke up one day and had crossed from addiction to freedom. It was a gradual awareness over time that Christ had broken the spell; that my addiction was no longer the all powerful god it once was; it was no longer an obsession; the things that once triggered my craving didn’t anymore. It was a gradual realization that I was a changed person – free! Free to face my problems differently; free to live a different way…
“Some 12-Step Recovery gurus will tell you this is a recipe for failure. They’ll tell you, ‘God only helps those who help themselves’. That’s another myth! God’s answer to addiction is Jesus and the full satisfying life only he offers as a free gift of grace from start to finish. The thing is, grace only works on the dead. All we can do is cooperate and trust enough to accept a gift we didn’t work for, deserve or earn… a gift that can only be enjoyed.
“Jesus said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, (drop dead) and follow me.’ (Mark 8:34)
“What do you believe about yourself… your recovery? Once an addict always an addict? That doesn’t have to be true of you. Not with Jesus, ‘the resurrection and the life’. There’s a thirteenth step – new creation and freedom!
“Is staying clean and sober exhausting you… stressing you out? Are you constantly in fear of a relapse? Jesus is inviting you to some better, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens of trying to stay clean and sober on your own, and I will give you rest. Stop trying to save yourself, drop dead and take my yoke upon you. Let me resurrect you and teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)’”
Please pass this post on to anyone you know that might find it helpful…