Monday, September 7, 2015

Late Night Thoughts On Addiciton

My church put together a series of videos based on the 12 steps. I have long loved the 12 steps of AA, and love the church's spin on them just as much (honestly the differences are negligible). And as I'm trying to sleep tonight I can't get these thoughts to stop spinning around in my head. Usually I just get out a pen and write in my journal. Tonight, however, I can't help but to think this message needs to be shared.

Addiction is a deadly disease. It is claiming the lives of thousands. And I believe this is largely because of shame. The moment an addict brings their problem to light, hope floods in. But the shame and stigma associated with addiction often causes the addict to continue to hide. I am certain my brother died because he was too ashamed of himself to get help. He didn't want to be where he was in life. He wasn't just loving living life, with no cares about who he hurt, as some may wrongfully believe of addicts.

Addicts live with more pain than we could ever realize.

I grew up with an alcoholic father. I am so grateful that my mom put me in Alateen when she did. Learning the 12 steps as a teenager absolutely changed my life. Especially Step 4. If you're unfamiliar, watch this video... or if you can't... it's, "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (The church adds the word "written") I did this when I was about 15. I started by just writing my priorities. My list looked something like this...

My Priorities
1. My boyfriend
2. My friends
3. My job
4. School
5. Basketball
6. My Family

Pretty messed up, huh! And as I made that list it dawned on me how messed up it was. For one thing my family was at the very bottom of my list, and more importantly God wasn't even on it. I remember deciding right then to rewrite that list. With God at the top. And that single decision has directed the rest of my life.

These 12 Steps are life changing. For everyone. They are the Atonement in action. They are inspired. Please, if you are struggling with any kind of addiction, or know anyone who is, encourage them to forget this false sense of shame and get to a meeting. 

Now these thoughts are floating around with some other thoughts from a Max Lucado book I'm reading, Facing Your Giants. There is a chapter about the Brook of Besor. This is a lesser known David story from the Bible. I think everyone is familiar with how he slew Goliath, but then what happened? Well after he went through a lot of stuff, he finds himself with an Army of 600. And then he and that army are raided by some bad guys. They take the women and children. The Army turns their anger on David who should have protected them. David could easily just give up at this point. This is like the millionth time he is finding himself in a situation where people want to kill him. It would have been easy to just give up. And that would have been the end of David.

But he doesn't give up. He turns to God, and he is directed and listens! He directs his army's anger at the true enemy and they faithfully go out and search for their families. This isn't easy. They have no clue where the enemy could be. But they have faith. And eventually they are led to the enemy's camp. However, right before they find out where their families are, 200 of them give up. They decide not to go on. They are just too tired. They're worn out. They lack faith. But I think more than anything they are tired of fighting, what seems like a hopeless battle. I imagine this is how addicts feel. That hunger is always there. That justification that it's okay this just one time, that always gets out of hand, is always playing over and over in their minds. And sometimes, they just can't fight it anymore, and they give up. They let the world go on without them, and they check out.

Eventually David and the 400 who went with him find their women and children, and score a bunch of loot. As they head back, they find the other 200 still there. Initially the 400 do not want to share the spoils of their victory with those who chose to stay behind. In fact, just read the words straight from the source... (1st Samuel 30)

And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them22Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. 23Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. 24For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part isthat goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. 25And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.

The first thing that I noticed is that David saluted them. And then he rebukes these people who felt like these losers didn't deserve anything. I imagine the men who stayed behind probably agreed with them. I am sure they felt so ashamed of themselves. Those were their families they let down, because they were too tired to go on. I imagine they spent a lot of that time beating themselves up. I imagine a few probably tried to follow a few days later, greatly regretting their decision to stay. But soon lost hope and turned back. (If I'm not being too obvious in my analogy, forgive me for over explaining, but in my mind, this is like those addicts who try to stop on their own. Who maybe go days, weeks, even years without slipping up in their addiction. But then they fall back into the grasp of addiction.)

David's reaction is a great example of how we can treat addicts in our lives. He gave them their dignity back. He treated them like humans, who were equal to those who didn't need to rest. They didn't get just some of the spoil, but "they shall partake alike". They were treated as equals. They were saluted. 

How would you feel if you were one of the 400 who fought, and went on, even though you were pretty darn tired yourself? Angry? Resentful? Jealous? How do you feel about people who struggle with addiction? Perhaps you've had the fleeting thought that a heroin user deserved to die. "One less junkie in the world." Or you've thought, "Man, I'd like to just check out of life for a while like that, but too bad I care too much about my family, that I could never do that!" We need to change this attitude, and realize that yes these people did make a decision to stay at Besor (or start using a numbing mechanism of their choice) but once they made that poor decision once, they were stuck! You can say a heroin addict chose to do heroin, and you would be correct. That first time, they were absolutely in control, and made a horrible mistake. I am sure there are few heroin users in the world who wouldn't do anything to be able to go back to that moment and undo it. And I'm using heroin as an example for a few reasons. Obviously one, because of my brother's particular addiction. But also, because I believe there is more of a stigma associated with that word, and I'm trying to end that. I think the more I use it, maybe it will help. I know even in my own family we have a hard time saying the word. We would say, "that stuff" or "crap" or whatever... no one wanted to use the word heroin. And we still don't. But that's a whole other post! My point here is, yes, those who chose to stay at Besor made one bad decision. Do they deserve to be judged for the rest of their lives, and never get any kind of love or respect ever again because of that one poor decision?

Addiction knows no boundaries these days. There is no shame in having a problem bigger than you. There is so much help available. Start with these amazing videos. Find a meeting. Break your silence a reach out to someone. The moment you let go of your shame, you are back in the fight. 

I know it's too late for my brother. I wish so much I could share these videos with him. But I can do it in his honor, and live the rest of my life trying to speak out against the way addicts are treated. I can try to help whoever crosses my path. Hopefully some day on a grander scale. But it's my prayer this blog post reaches someone who needed to see it. 


  1. I don't want to minimize your loss, but don't give up on him yet. He is still working to get past the burdens of this earth and has Not lost the chance to overcome his addiction and apply the atonement. I am often reminded that we don't know the incapacities another child of God starts with. If we have triumphed over some trial or other, perhaps we had more ability or help. The Lord is the only one who can see into another's heart and soul. He will do any judging necessary. We just love them and do our best to help as we can....where it is possible.

  2. Jeanne I am Lauren's mom and I am trying to understand what you mean about don't give up on him? Are you talking about my son Jesse? I for one never gave up on him not for a second. But I lost the fight to help my son. I believe with my whole heart he is no longer suffering and is in heaven and at peace. It is us who suffer after such a tragic loss and try to go on without our loved ones especially when it is your child.

  3. Jeanne I am Lauren's mom and I am trying to understand what you mean about don't give up on him? Are you talking about my son Jesse? I for one never gave up on him not for a second. But I lost the fight to help my son. I believe with my whole heart he is no longer suffering and is in heaven and at peace. It is us who suffer after such a tragic loss and try to go on without our loved ones especially when it is your child.