From my front row seat

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why is HEAL a four-letter word?

Have you ever noticed how addiction tends to be a sensitive topic?  It seems everyone has strong convictions about how to fix the problem and many experts believe they are holding the key to the vault.  But the debate for a cure seems to have many still scratching their heads.

I don't claim to be an expert on addiction.  In fact, after nearly fourteen years of dealing with addiction up close and personal on a daily basis, I am still quite puzzled by it.

I've often tried to get in the head of an addict and imagine how it must feel to have absolutely no willpower to resist a temptation of some kind, even when it has devastating consequences.  Honestly, with the exception of eating an entire pan of Christmas fudge until my eyes swelled shut, or justifying every single biscuit until I'd eaten an entire batch in one sitting - I really can't relate to what addiction feels like.  I wasn't willing to choose fudge or biscuits over my child and I never went out purposefully looking for them, either.

So I'm no expert on the subject.  But, I am an expert on what I have personally observed day in and day out as we deal with women struggling with addiction. Through this powerful experience I have established some pretty strong opinions of my own and I'm going to share a few of them with you today.  I realize some folks will adamantly disagree with me, and others will wholeheartedly agree, but hey - this is what I've seen with my own two eyes.

There are so many theories floating around about addiction:  "It's a disease that can never be cured."  "Once you're an addict, you're always an addict."  "Some people are just genetically wired to be addicts and can't help it."

Sometimes people struggling with addiction are told these things for so long, they label themselves as addicts for life.  This not only removes all hope for a cure, but what we've seen at Blue Monarch, is that it sometimes gives them an excuse for their behavior.  "Well, I can't help it.  I'm an addict and that's what addicts do."

We believe there is a difference between sobriety - and freedom.  We can easily provide sobriety.  It's the freedom we're interested in.

We see women who began using drugs for a laundry list of reasons.  Here are only a few:
  • My mother and grandmother taught me to use drugs.
  • My stepfather (or even biological father) sexually abused me and drugs numbed me from the pain.
  • I had surgery and the doctor prescribed me painkillers.  Then I couldn't live without them.
  • I tried drugs one time out of curiosity and I've been chasing that first high ever since.
This list could go on and on.  But see what it tells you?  There isn't a cookie-cutter addict out there.  They begin using drugs for all kinds of reasons.  So how can you treat each one the same?

That's why I'm so grateful for our program and the flexibility it provides as a privately funded non-profit.  When we see that something works, we can implement it that same day.  We can have a good idea at a 10:00 a.m. staff meeting, and by that afternoon, we're doing it.  We're constantly improving what we do to meet the individual needs of each and every woman we serve.

Therefore, we address addiction in a variety of ways because we are treating a cluster of issues.  We look at the core reasons for why she starting using drugs in the first place.  This is discovered through counseling and the recovery curriculum we use that focuses on thinking errors and criminal behavior.  We look at the wounds that possibly led to drugs and then work on forgiveness and self-esteem.  We study relationships and how to avoid unhealthy ones in the future.  When our own family members are not good for our recovery, we work on how to establish healthy boundaries.

But this is what we believe truly brings freedom:  We believe you can be healed from addiction.  Yes, I said it.  Healed. 

I've always thought it made absolutely no sense that God would scratch his head and say, "I can heal all kinds of diseases, but that addiction thing really has me stumped."  In fact, in Matthew 9:35, the Bible tells of how Jesus went all over "healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness."  Can you imagine if Jesus had said, "All you addicts, I'm sorry.  I can't help you.  The rest of you, over here."

Psalms 103:2-5 says:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Just to be sure, I asked some experts recently if they felt they had truly been healed of their drug addictions.  They just happened to be three incredible women on our amazing staff.

Each one described how she had been healed through her personal relationship with Jesus Christ - and each one described how she no longer had any cravings whatsoever for drugs.  One had even been unexpectedly exposed to her drug of choice, and just the idea of it sickened her.  Wouldn't that be the definition of healing - when the addiction is completely gone?  Not just managed - but gone!  This picture is what true freedom looks like and we want that for every woman we serve.

So is addiction a disease?  Do some people have a defective gene that makes them an addict no matter what?  Truth is, it really doesn't matter.  We can stop people from using drugs in lots and lots of ways.  That's been proven.  But the true cure has been right before our very eyes this whole time... 

"...for I, the Lord, am your healer."  Exodus 15:26

Thank you, Lord, for a place where women discover that's it's possible to heal, not only from emotional wounds and traumas, but even addiction.  Thank you for the true freedom that is only found in you.