A Threefold Cord
When I came home from Sewanee last summer, I had a better understanding of intervention. While there, we watched popular movies depicting the lives of addicts and some of their journeys through treatment. I'd willingly sought my own help for my drinking, but many do not. When I came home I started watching the documentary series, Intervention. I was a wreck of emotions watching every episode. I empathized with the addict as I related to every word said, every cry for help. I pitied the families. Whether they responded to the addict with love and support or judgment and dismissal, they all were the same to me-they simply didn't know any better. But I burned with anger and frustration at the treatment centers, the specialists and even the producers of the show! The majority of the episodes ended with a statement about the addict relapsing. Very few moved on to restore their lives... and even fewer survived. I was angry because of the pattern. The plan of action never changed.
Why do we continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result? Why do we continue to try and fix a problem using a solution that has such a low success rate?
The first sober part of my alcoholic education (there are a lot of lessons learned while drunk!) involved reading the history of a famous 12 step program. I learned that despite my fears of being judged or shunned for being a drunk, I have a lot better chance of being supported than those who suffered 80, 90 years ago. Before we knew what we know now, men and women who couldn't control their drinking were locked up. There was an asylum or sanitarium in every major city. Families of, or even the alcoholics themselves, would seek help in a facility where they would be detoxed, heavily tranquilized and simply fed and watered. They were sick, but hopeless. There weren't treatment programs like we hear of today. Just a place to live out the rest of their life...kind of comfortably. Those who got out, who left willingly or believed they'd been cured after just a few weeks dry would return to the local pub or liquor store, racked again within 24 hours.
When alcoholism was wreaking havoc in the lives of so many families a hundred years ago, confinement was common. The alcoholic was exiled from their loved ones and left to feed their solitude with feelings of guilt, shame, regret and self-loathing...symptoms crafted by Satan. When the weak are alone, they're most vulnerable to lies and deception. They only hear what his forked tongue spews. But he's devious. As an extra precaution, he separates the stronger, loved ones from the weak to ensure an additional resistance of the disease.
Today in some 12 step meetings, you can hear an alcoholic share their story. We talk about our experiences while drinking, the strength we've discovered and the hope we have for our future and for others. Here are the most common statements heard in a "lead," when the speaker testifies about his or her introduction to the bottle...
"I never felt like I fit in."
"I was always in my own head."
"I wasn't comfortable in crowds. I had to drink to feel like I fit in."
"I didn't want anyone to know who I really was, what I thought or how I felt."
"I wanted to feel how everyone else looked."
Addiction of any kind is a lonely disease. Understandably so, the loved ones of the addict often distance themselves out of fear, confusion or even judgment. The addict always pulls away because of guilt, shame and fear.
The disease of addiction, and yes it is a d-i-s-e-a-s-e spelled out in both the medical and psychological fields, cannot be explained through the whys (reasons for using) or the whats (whatever drug of choice). It's not about the when (impressionable developmental milestones) or the where (nurture vs. nature). Addiction doesn't discriminate. We're all susceptible. Addiction is about the who. And not the whos accused above.
God has a plan for each of our lives. The enemy has a plan for each of our lives. We must be ready for both and wise enough to know the difference.
In the 1930s, God intervened on behalf of alcoholics on a grand scale. A group of men and women came together and realized that by working with each other and sharing a fellowship together in their common weakness, they could keep each other sober. Society caught on. They learned about alcoholism as a disease and started taking a different approach. Support groups were formed and step work was written to help the addict get to the root of their drinking. They were taught to depend on, and to serve others to fulfill the insatiable craving that they'd previously satisfied (temporarily) with a drink. Alcoholism is by no means cured. But it is better understood. There's more education and less judgment. There's more tolerance and less isolation. There's more support for, and less abandonment of the alcoholic.
This angers the enemy.
The isolation that grows in an addiction isn't self-inflicted by the user. It isn't a prescription administered by the support system. Isolation is a parasite of the enemy. It's the bacteria that breeds this terminal disease. And just like any bacteria...it mutates.
Where have you heard about the ----- epidemic? That's right, the heroine epidemic. People of all ages, races and social classes are getting hooked on heroine and dying.
We've all heard and maybe even talked about the growing tragedy that is the pornography industry. We hear of the billions of dollars made in the sales of videos, downloads and subscription services. There are countless articles about sex slavery and prostitution. Every major news source has produced at least one special documentary on the effects of heroin on a suburban community. It isn't just an alley drug for dumpster divers. There are social media posts about college recruits leaving behind high school sweethearts and grieving parents after overdosing from a syringe months after being treated for a torn ACL. You've heard, seen or read them yourself.
There has come to be a better (although not complete) understanding and level of acceptance towards alcoholism as a disease. People continue to be inflicted by it, but there are better chances of recovery as a result of years of support and accountability systems, education and awareness. But not many people are snuggling up to the rail thin single mom who has abandoned her two children to pay for her dope by selling her body. We aren't baking cookies for the neighbor next door who watches internet porn after his wife goes to bed at night. What they do, what they are doing is disgusting. It's deformed, obscene, and unthinkable.
Whatever the drug of choice, the addict is consumed with regret for starting, and again each and every time we drink or use. We're aware of the pain and suffering we're wreaking on those we love, yet we're unable to stop. We're tormented by feelings of guilt and shame about our weakness that drive us away...to be alone...as we recognize what is being lost, and begin to believe that we are selfish and unworthy. It is a constant piercing stab that can only be numbed with another drink or drug. Confusion surrounding why we continue to make self-destructive choices torments each and every one of us to the lowest pit of self-loathing. It's a vicious, violent inner conflict that few around us understand. Even we don't. That ignorance, that powerful confusion can dismember relationships and support systems with more force than death.
Why do I keep doing this?
It's not worth it.
Why do I take these chances? I have so much to lose?
They love me so much. I know I'm hurting them, why am I not strong enough to quit?
I know I'll die. Why can't I just stop?
"Those" addicts on Intervention are educated on their disease much like I was. They are given a tool set, and a series of coping skills to manage their cravings and desires. What they aren't always told is that their disease is never cured. It may be treated into dormancy, but it is always laying there in wait to aggravate again. The only way to keep it in remission is to get and stay connected to He who has overcome the world. (John 16:33) We must be 100% dependent on God for our survival. He is the only force strong enough to protect us from the lies the enemy tells that provoke us to drink and drug. Without Him out in front, beside and behind, we are a vulnerable target only minutes away from the next fall. Sure, those coping strategies are critical to fighting the tangible act of picking up the bottle or pill. But they won't save us forever. Our disease is always growing and changing....
When we fully and completely understand that addiction is never chosen and is always progressive, we will surround, support and love those tainted and tormented. Upon doing so, lies cannot penetrate. If the addict isn't isolated, if the addict has access to understanding, empathy and unconditional love, he or she grows strong enough for the healing found in grace and mercy.
And when the broken, sick and hopeless are taught about God and His almighty power, His overcoming the world, they'll get a glimpse of hope, of refuge, of redemption, of restoration. This disease is so much bigger than this world. I believe it to be the most manipulated and complex of Satan's crusades. Through it, he is destroying families, homes, churches and ultimately our society. How? By continually changing it to revolt the only thing that can ever confront it: People filled with the love of and hope in God.
We, the alcoholics, drug or sex addicts, and gamblers are infected. We have been infected by the devil's disease. This virus he has bred must be mutated continually in order to plague the world up to his expectations. The easiest and most efficient way to do so is to divide, separate and isolate. If the virus begins to respond to the antidote of love and compassion, the enemy will change it to make it worse. He'll make it uglier, more painful, more disturbing. The more uncomfortable the disease is to see and watch, the less likely the loved ones who hold the cure of prayer and love will embrace it. The only real chance at overcoming such an epidemic is to battle with the ONE armour that is invincible against such a sophisticated and complex war. The promises of God.