There are a lot of addicts in Monroe and, for that matter, in America. I am constantly involved in the lives of people who are struggling with addictions. I break these addicts down into four categories.
1 – Some of them are in denial as regards their problem, and I try to enter into their lives, gain trust, and help them see they are an addict and utter the words, “I am an addict and I need help.”
2 – Others acknowledge they are an addict, but feel they can get themselves out of their addiction by themselves, as if they are skilled in addiction treatment. This never works.
3 – Then there is the addict who escapes the prison cell of denial, gets help, to include a support system of accountability, and begins to break free. This usually takes a long time.
4 – Finally there is, as Gerald May says in his brilliant and helpful book Addiction and Grace, the addict who breaks free all of a sudden and for no good medical reason. That, says May, is the grace of God. (Note: I read May’s book years ago and it helped me very much. Also, I was pleased to see that John Eldridge recommends it in The Sacred Romance.)
Serious addictions are on the increase. For example, the availability of pornography is helping create a nation of porn addicts. And, the ease with which doctors hand out prescriptions for addictive medications without seeming concern for underlying systemic issues and their deep treatment is on the rise. From my own small world in my cultural context here in Monroe I have heard of this happening, and it greatly concerns me.
Greg Critser’s recent book Generation Rx confirms my fears. The book was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Here are a few quotes from the review, which can be read in full here.
““Generation Rx” contends that large drug companies have co-opted the federal government, seduced the medical establishment and mesmerized a temperamentally supine public into taking far more drugs than is strictly necessary, much less healthy. Worse, Americans have fallen victim to “polypharmacy”: using so many drugs for so many ailments that they have no idea how the various medications are interacting.
Nevertheless, this is not the work of a conspiracy theorist. The public, particularly “the Tribe of High-Performance Aging,” genuinely adores Viagra, Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, believing that they vastly improve one’s quality of life. As in his previous book, “Fat Land,” Critser says the public has been complicitous in its own seduction. Gleefully voting with their tongues, Americans use drugs to combat depression (Paxil, Prozac), reduce the ruckus from the kids (Ritalin), make bedtime more like a night in the seraglio (Viagra) and turn the workplace into a hearty party (Vicodin).”
Critser says that prescription drugs are being viewed as the “New Healers.” Instead of dependency on God, we have prescription drug dependency. Of course we can thank God for a variety of medications. The issue is not their existence but addiction to them. And addiction, if you have never seen it, is a Destroyer of the inner life, marriage and family, and whatever else stands in its way.
I have personally seen many people break free from a variety of addictions. I’ve seen it happen with a combination of appropriate medications, counseling, and prayer. I’ve also seen many people instantly go free, as Gerald May says, by the grace of God. I am one of those. Many years ago I was doing illegal drugs almost every day. Then, I made a decision to leave that stuff behind and follow Jesus. The drugs stopped and have never returned. I deserve no credit for this, and give all the credit to the power and love of God.
What does God think of addicts? The answer is: God loves them. God wants to help them and is able to do so. When the chains of addiction finally drop away the words of the Real Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 get experienced:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”