The devastating whirlwind of drug abuse has no mercy. The casualties come from all walks of life, and the common cry is for freedom from its deadly clutches. We would not deceive anyone by suggesting that there is a sure road back to the sober lifestyle that will guarantee complete recovery and erase all painful memories. Neither would we suggest that the road to recovery is easy or comfortable. Indeed, for most addicts, it is, at best, a long, hard road back. It certainly has been for both of us. Fortunately there is hope.
The most effective course of treatment will vary, depending on the extent to which the individual's drug involvement has become a lifestyle, and the degree of the addiction. However, three critical elements are common to all effective methods of treatment: admission of the problem, the willpower to become and to remain drug-free, and a healthy measure of hope.
Admission Of The Problem
The afflicted person is usually the last one to recognize his ugly condition. The further he has traveled down the road of misery, the more clouded his mind has become. He may reason that his job is still intact, that he is just a social user like most of society, and that what he is doing has not resulted in legal problems.
His loved ones tell different stories, however. They remember daily struggles to get him to work on time. His social habit has grown to overwhelming proportions, and he seems unable to live without his daily fix. His verbal and physical abuse of family members and friends is intolerable at times.
Yet no one still shackled by substance abuse wishes to acknowledge the problem. A truthful admission might require a change in direction, and that huge step might require effort and pain. Of course, this revelation also might prove quite embarrassing. Certainly no one would honestly desire to face such difficulty and embarrassment.
So the terrible secret often remains hidden. But the tragedy continues until the truth wins out. The greatest tragedy exists where loved ones close their eyes to what is going on until it is too late to render effective assistance.
A young lady shared the following story after a speaking engagement in 1996.
"My brother has a serious cocaine problem. I'm worried to death about him. I love the members of our church, but I don't dare mention his drug problem to them."
Wiping back tears, she said, "The people in our church don't want to hear about drug addictions or any other unhappy situations. They play a game of 'let's pretend' ... let's pretend there are no problems, let's pretend there is no pain, and let's pretend everyone is okay.
"But they're wrong," she lamented. "My brother does have a problem. And he and our whole family are hurting. Everyone is not okay!"
Those revealing experiences lead us to ask each church, "What kind of church is your church?"
When the drug-troubled individual, the pained loved ones, and the Christian church put an end to harmful denial, the healing process can begin in earnest.
The Will To Be Well
All too often those who sample the initial fares of slow recovery eventually throw up their hands in surrender! While miraculous overnight cures do occur, they are rare. For most who walk down that dark road, the return trip is slow and torturous. Many do not make it to the finish line of recovery, preferring to remain mired in their own vehicles of destruction.
When one descends into a pit of drug abuse-filled despair, hope appears illusive. The obstacles are many: continuing temptations to get "high," lack of trust by family and friends, lingering physical and mental difficulties from drug exposure, difficulty in finding employment, and countless other bitter consequences. The will to be free from addiction may be difficult to maintain in the early days, but as a new lifestyle is born and nurtured, personal willpower becomes continually stronger in the committed person.
It is true that some recovering addicts occasionally fall. However, if these relapses become steppingstones to eventual recovery, then they can be counted as rare blessings. They should never be allowed to become excuses for other falls.
While relapses have ominous potential as deterrents to recovery, we must never permit them to diminish the will to be well. Just as we must teach the crippled to walk without the aid of needless crutches, loved ones must teach hurting addicts to move beyond relapses to chemical freedom. The person with the drug-related difficulty, in most cases, made the choice to walk down that dark path. He must also make the choice to come back. No matter how much we wish our loved ones to be free, they must eventually will that freedom from the tantalizing substances that imprisoned them. They must allow God's guidance and strength to permeate their lives.
A Healthy Measure Of Hope
Both of us are living proof that addicts do not have to carry unpleasant nametags the rest of their days on this earth, and we have purposed in our ministry to deliver this message of hope. The drug abuser can get well. He is not doomed to be an outcast for the remainder of his life; he can be a part of healthy society again. He will not be required to stand up in a public gathering twenty years after his recovery and proclaim, "I am Joe Jones, and I am an alcoholic." For the drug abuser, permanent recovery is possible through the substitution of something stronger than the addiction. For us, and countless others who have made it back to a better lifestyle, that substitution has been a deep and abiding trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives.
This is also a message of encouragement for the families and friends of the addict. God still works miracles, often through us when we are willing and prepared. Search for the truth about how you may best help your loved one to a rewarding lifestyle, which will in turn lead to an improved lifestyle for you. Recovery of your loved one will require special doses of love, patience, and rational decisions that may prove temporarily painful to you and unpleasant to the addicted individual. There is someone who can successfully help the hurting one to part the cloudy veil of drug abuse. Perhaps it will be you, or a friend, or even a stranger. Please don't end the search until the person who is able and willing to fill those shoes of loving service is found.
As we seek God's loving restoration for drug-users everywhere, we celebrate daily the words of Revelation 21:7: He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. What greater hope could we claim?
Practical Steps Toward Recovery
1 Intervention. A caring family member or friend whom the substance abuser trusts must make this strong statement of urgent concern. The encounter should be a wakeup call to the person with the drug-related problem. The intervener must be equipped to offer rational suggestions about the initial course of action.
2 Cursory self-examination. This important step can be accomplished by reading a common sense publication such as The Drug Tragedy — Hope For The One Who Hurts. Hopefully, if the reader needs assistance, he will begin to acknowledge his dilemma and will turn to the intervener for immediate help.
3 Locate an appropriate local counselor who can provide a deeper assessment of the situation and provide direction for treatment. This person should possess an extensive knowledge of the subject of drug abuse and should be aware of effective treatment options. Aptitude of the counselor for the task cannot be measured by academic degrees alone. If the individual does not have a true concern for the welfare of the hurting one, he will be ineffective in seeking a permanent cure for the client. Care should be given that the counselor is not mired down in the concept that drug abuse is chiefly a medical problem. The person chosen should be prepared to recommend a course of treatment.
4 Christ-centered treatment works best, offering an opportunity for permanent recovery. Syndicated columnist William Raspberry of the Washington Post addressed this crucial issue this way: "All the national surveys show that if you wish to change a person's life, faith-based services work best." The secular approach usually provides only temporary relief with its message of doom. Christ-centered programs offer hope for complete healing — physically, mentally, and spiritually.
5 If the person is addicted to a serious depressant such as alcohol or heroin, he may require a period of drying out at a detoxification unit.
6 There are a few hurting individuals who may find sufficient help from an excellent counselor over a period of weeks or months.
7 Most serious drug abusers will require in-house treatment at a facility with a program of at least twenty-eight days. The hurting one and his significant others should carefully weigh the quality and effectiveness of the program offered, based on the recommendations of those who have personal experience with the specific facility. If a twelve-step program is utilized, make certain that it is a Christian twelve-step agenda. Many successful Christian programs center their efforts on Bible study as the basis for development of a worthy lifestyle.
8 Completion of in-house treatment does not mark the end of the recovery effort. Follow up may involve personal counseling, attendance at church-oriented or other community support groups, and the usage of a Christian sponsor.
9 Many of those recovering from addictions profit greatly from a six-month stay at a Christian halfway house for those recovering from drug-related problems. Here they continue to gain a sense of personal responsibility for their actions and the consequences. The residents work at jobs during the day and attend group sessions at night. They attend and become active in neighboring churches and participate in other worthwhile events. Their decisions to live new lifestyles of sobriety and self-control are reinforced. Huge benefits are derived from sponsor and mentoring programs. These recovering persons gradually move toward the day when they can proudly claim, "I am no longer a drug addict. I am recovered forever by the grace of God!"
For further information on steps to recovery, please see chapter five in The Drug Tragedy — Hope For The One Who Cares.