Like many of you, earlier this week I was shocked to open up my Facebook app and see a picture of a little four year old boy sitting in a car with his parents, who were passed out in the front seat from a drug overdose. Honestly, I almost threw up. That's exactly what Kevin looked like when I found him the day he died, except Kevin was draped over his desk rather than in a car.
Since seeing that image I have struggled with a response. I've been through pretty much every emotion; anger, bitterness, fear, rage, sadness, deep sorrow, and everything in between. I haven't said much about it because words seem so small. And they wouldn't come anyway. Driving home from my parent's house tonight I finally know what it is I feel--heartbroken. I am heartbroken for that little boy who needs parents who don't just love him, but have the ability to truly take care of him. Right now, he doesn't have that. As much as they probably love him, they just can't care for him right now. I am heartbroken for these parents, held hostage by addiction. They may not even realize it has a hold of them. They may know and feel helpless because they've attempted to get help before and those helping either really didn't know what they were doing or really didn't care about their well-being and they feel hopeless and helpless to change. Heartbroken the many families across the world who are kidnapped by this disease and have had their lives completely turned upside down by it. I am heartbroken for all the police officers and first responders who have, all too often, had to rush to save someone from the grips of an overdose, but there's just nothing they can do. They have seen these deaths far too often. They have had to remove children from these homes far too often.
This issue is so explosive and divisive because it's so personal, complicated, and misunderstood. Very few people remain untouched by this disease. It really feels overwhelming and without a cure. I have been sick to my stomach watching people be hateful and mean to each other because of this picture. As if merely talking about it or posting it will solve any problem.
Can I just ask us all to do one thing? Just one, tiny, little thing? Let's be real and admit what is the truth for most of us: We don't get it. We don't understand it. We don't know why two people can be on the same prescription medicine and one gets addicted and one doesn't. We don't understand why someone would choose to start using a drug that they know will become an addiction before they even start. We don't understand what drugs do to our brain and how everything in our bodies are affected by them. WE JUST DON'T KNOW! And it's OK to admit we don't know. That doesn't mean we don't fight. That doesn't mean we don't work to see every addict freed from the chains and families restored.
Every addict's story is different, which makes addiction all the more difficult to understand. Believe me, in the last year or two I've spent a lot of time researching, reading, and living with addiction and I still don't get it. Many times I have wanted to call it a lack of self-control and walk away. But that's not what it is at all and we must keep fighting. It's all so complicated, yet, to some extent, so simple. After this last year here is all I can conclude; we have an enemy who is here to steal, kill, and destroy all that is good and lovely and that God has created. He is the father of lies and deceit and addiction is a disease of lies and deceit. It's a disease where your body lies to your brain and your brain lies to your body and you and everyone around you is held hostage. I have no doubt this disease was created by Satan to keep unbelievers from ever seeing God and to keep believers from experiencing the full life God has for them. And the only answer is Christ.
But how do we make Christ real to the addict? The addict's family? The believer who is trapped in addiction? I don't know. I honestly don't know. But, as I was driving this one answer kept coming to me over and over: pray and obey. Pray and obey. Pray and obey.
The first step is to pray. Storm the gates of Heaven on behalf of those stuck in this horrible, hellish bondage. Be fervent and consistent. Our God is the God of redemption and resurrection. He is the God of making all things new. He is the God of making blind eyes see and deaf ears hear. Plead with God to open the eyes of addicts to the truth of their addiction, to make them desperate to seek help, and to connect them with those who truly want to help and have the knowledge and skill to do so. Ask God to provide more people with the skill and knowledge needed to help those trapped in addiction to recover. Ask God to provide support and encouragement to those in recovery. Ask God to bind Satan from destroying more lives through the use of this disease.
Next, ask God to show you where He would have you serve Him to help in this area. For some, He may call you to be foster parents to the children of addicts. Or even to be the adoptive parent of a baby born addicted to whatever drug their mother was using. It will be hard. It will stretch you in every way. Some days, it will suck the life clean out of you. It will also show you the hand of God everyday. You'll see His grace in the big and little. If you feel called to either of these, please, let me know. I know at least three ladies who would love to help you start the journey of fostering. The need is so great!
For some of you, He may call you to reach out to a recovering addict and start a discipling/accountability relationship. He may want you to dig in deep and live life with someone trying desperately to get out of this horrid lifestyle. It will hurt. It will cost lots of time and energy. You will want to quit because they will want to quit. KEEP FIGHTING! Dig into the word and walk beside them, getting them into the word, too. One of the hardest things for addicts is that, if they truly want to change, many of them have to completely change friends and sometimes even stop spending time with family. They need someone who will love them, pour God's word all over them, and help them start a whole new life. I know several people who can help you start this process if this is what God asks of you.
One other way God might ask you to obey is to suck it up, get honest, and admit you, too, are a recovering addict. Share your story of grace and redemption. Teach those of us who have no experience with what it really feels like what addicts are thinking. What they need. Show us how to love them well. Show us how to walk beside them. Fight beside them. Most of us aren't trying to be stupid, we just don't get it. When we don't get it, then we just don't know how to help. Experience is the best teacher, so you are invaluable to the rest of us.
I'll close with precious words from my Kevin. He wrote these words to me after a few weeks in rehab last year. I wish I could say that he never again struggled with wanting that drug. I wish I could say he was now sharing his story of redemption and victory with all he meets. Sadly, the struggle didn't end the day he went to rehab. Though he knew it was possible to live without that drug, the fear of never really being able to do it was just too much. I hope these words give you just a little glimpse into the mind of the addict:
So many things I have learned this week have opened my eyes in new ways. Deeper understanding of how my addiction has affected you and hurt you, the frustration you have felt with me, how my body and mind have changed, and more. I want to say again-I am so sorry for what this has put you through. I know that this whole time has felt like my poor decision, but the brutal truth is that after a short while the decision was made for me. I COULD NOT STOP ON MY OWN. Like air or water, this wicked drug became a physical necessity in my life. Living without it was more painful than holding your hand on a hot stove burner. Besides ever starting this drug, my biggest mistake was not listening to you when you said I needed to ask for help. I should have turned first to the men in our church to surround me and help me with this heavy ball and chain. But as I've learned this week, ISOLATION is a huge result of this. I have pushed everyone else out when you told me to let them in. I didn't think anyone-no doctor, no church member-had the answers. There was so much physical pain from stopping, I didn't think it could ever be over. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you sooner.
Oh, Heavenly Father, I want to see the end of addiction here on earth! I know that won't happen until Christ returns, so while we wait for that, please show Your children how to love and help those struggling with addiction. Show us how to love and help their family members and friends. Lord, fill us with grace, love, compassion, and courage as we stand up against this killer. Lord, move!