Before you begin, please read this disclaimer…and feel free to imagine the appropriate theme song:
Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
My understanding of addiction changed in the span of about 15 minutes on a warm, late spring night in 2000. I was living in Muskogee, OK with my wife of about one year, Shannon. We were sitting in the living room watching TV when the doorbell rang. I went to the door and saw my friend Billy Bob standing on the porch. I opened the door, stepped outside, and Billy Bob broke into tears telling me about our friend Jimmy Don, who had checked himself into rehab for painkiller addiction. Needless to say I was shocked. The pertinent facts of the story Billy Bob told are these:
1. Jimmy Don had been taking an increasing amount of painkiller ever since a bike wreck almost 2 years previous.
2. Billy Bob had been one of the only people aware of the situation, and Jimmy Don had sworn him to secrecy, which led to the raw emotions from Billy Bob.
3. Jimmy Don had been caught obtaining drugs in a less than honest way, and the person told him, “I’m calling the police or rehab, your choice.” The person’s tough love changed Jimmy Don’s life forever.
I remember sitting on my porch that night dumb-founded, shell-shocked, bamboozled at the idea that a person I knew very well…a person of deep Christian faith…a person who served in the church…a person in an honorable and respectable profession, did not have the will power to quit taking pain-killers. Somewhere near the end of the LONG night on the porch I came to this conclusion:
I don’t know everything about addiction, but there has to be more to being an addict than not having the will power to quit.
That night I started a journey of seeking to understand addiction, and the addicts it enslaves. Over the coming years I watched documentaries, talked with addicts (including Jimmy Don), and read as much as I could to understand addiction. What I came to discover/believe is that addiction is a sickness, no different from cancer. And just like cancer patients, addicts, when caught early and treated accordingly, can become healthy again. They will be the first to tell you they are never cured…but perhaps remission is a good word to use.
When I started this blog I made a list of topics I wanted to address, and now I have checked this one off the list. If you have someone in your life struggling with addiction, please know a healthy future is possible for them. But also know it is a sickness…and sick people do not act like healthy people…and addicts especially need some tough love at times. If you know a family struggling with an addict, pray for them.
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom championed by the 12-step community is the serenity prayer. I close this post with it:
God grant me the serenity to accept the thing I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.