#GetOutoftheField: Substance Abuse

The Google Dictionary (the very best dictionary, haha) defines substance abuse as “the overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol and drugs.” (Emphasis mine so we understand exactly what we’re talking about – this is NOT about the self- and Spirit-controlled person taking part in legal substances as his or her conscience allows. This IS about being controlled by something that ultimately brings harm. You’ve got to know which one you are and act accordingly. Okay? Okay.)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports,”According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older).” They go on to say that “there were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems.” Substance abuse costs the United States $700 billion a year, and in 2009, a study found, “1 in 3 drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs. Of those tested).” 

In the majority of cases, over-indulgence leads to dependence. That holds true for pretty much everything.

I understand substance abuse and addiction.

I’ve already briefly discussed my own history with over-the-counter drug abuse, as it pertains to my journey from self-destruction to worth. Here’s what I said about that dark season: “[I] started taking medicine to get to sleep and away.” Later, as a young adult I began to use alcohol as a means to numb myself as well, but at that time I was part of a community that spoke into it, and helped me out of it. For me, drugs have always been a means of escape, but others use them to heighten their senses.

It doesn’t really matter what the appeal of drugs are for any given person: in any case, we expect to feel better. And, in any case, we are gravely deceived.

There is a reason why at a certain limit we are considered “under the influence.” It’s because we cease to be who we are, and something else takes over. (Which is not to say we are absolved of the consequences of letting it get to that point). For example, I’m a reserved person by nature, but when I’ve been drinking I get really talkative. I have a loved one who doesn’t often express feelings, but becomes uncharacteristically affectionate when drinking. Another loved one shuts down completely.

The overindulgence and dependence impairs our judgment, and leads to death, be it the gradual decay of our own or a life that crosses our path at the wrong time. We will do anything to get our fix, again and again, even when it means abandoning and deceiving our loved ones. Given enough time, we will have given everything we have to make sure this substance stays in our lives.

Because we want something other than our reality, sometimes for good reason. Life is excruciating sometimes, and we turn to a substance to take that away.

But we are looking for healing in a place that can only destroy us.

My favorite of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha. It literally means, “I AM Healer.” Jesus proclaims Himself the Great Physician. He doesn’t deny our history, our pain – He simply says, “Come. I will give you rest.”

It’s not easy, because when Jesus heals, He’s not interested in slapping a bandaid on our ailments. He wants to cleanse them from the inside out. He wants to get to those wounds that we’ve been avoiding through substance abuse, and if we truly want to be healed, we have to walk with Him into some profoundly painful places. We will have to confront past abuse, or rejection, or abandonment, or broken relationships. We won’t be able to escape.

But He’ll be so patient and so gentle. He’ll hold our hands every step of the way. Because He loves us, and His thoughts toward us are a future and a hope. His thoughts toward us are abundant life.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus doesn’t want us to live lives where we’re slowly losing ourselves and everything of value in our lives to a substance. He has life – where we feel what we feel and are still fully satisfied – for us.

We don’t have to stay in the Field.

If you struggle with substance abuse and addiction, please don’t struggle alone. Please seek the help of a substance abuse counselor and treatment center and a Jesus-following community who can speak into your life, build you up, and just love on you. Rest assured, you are loved – by God, by me, and by your loved ones.

For more #getoutofthefield posts, click here.