Addictions steal people’s lives, and they steal family’s hearts.
Whether it’s substance abuse, pornography, gambling, or whatever, addictions are silent killers. This week tragedy struck someone close to the To Love, Honor and Vacuum community, and to process what she was feeling she asked if she could write about it. I found her words touching and profound, even if sad.
Today a family friend of mine died.
He was doing well, had worked hard to get his life back, when his drug addiction relapsed and, given his lessened tolerance, he overdosed and died.
I want to protect his privacy, so I’m just going to call him Jack. Jack was a few years older than me, but I remember him as a kind older kid who I thought was really cool. I recall the close bond he had with his dad and how much fun he and my younger brother had when we went on vacation together. The boy with his father’s twinkle in his eye is gone and the world is less because of it.
The tragedy of opioid overdose, which so often claims its victims after they recover in a brief moment of weakness, is so overwhelming to me today.
How much of life is like that? We are in the midst of healing, doing the hard work of breaking cycles and getting better, and one wrong move puts us back before square one.
Jack is dead. That cannot be undone. I want to give him a second chance, find a redo button. I can’t. It seems so unbelievably cruel to me that a guy who had done so much to get better, so much to put himself right, had a moment of weakness and lost his life.
In the hours after my parents called, having just left his family, I’ve been thinking about this: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is at the center of the garden. Earlier today, on my daily walk with my daughter, I had been listening to the Bible Project Podcast. They were discussing the wisdom of God, in preparation for a video about the writings of Solomon, and how it is connected with Genesis 3. Here’s a summary:
When God created the world, he saw that it was good. He saw what was bad – the man being alone – and so he created Eve. Adam and Eve had to trust that their creator had their good in mind, to follow his definition of good and bad.
And there, in the middle of the garden, was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It’s there, in the center of the garden. Wherever you went, the option to define good and evil by your own terms and do what you thought to be wise stood in front of you, available. You couldn’t walk from one side of the garden to the other without passing it. And it’s the same with us: we are all one bad choice away from ruining our lives.
I’ve been struck that Jack just made one wrong choice.
He had, we presume, myriad opportunities to make a poor choice since becoming sober. He resisted, each time. He worked to pull his life together. He was, for the first time in a long time, doing well. He had walked past the forbidden tree many, many times.
But something about today was different and the temptation was too much. His addiction, his disease, got the better of him.
I don’t blame him, I just see the courage that it took for him, every day, to say no, to choose to be well. I see the immense moral fiber and energy that was required for him to get his life back. And he had. It all slipped away, seemingly in an instant, and I can’t stand in judgement over his choice. I’m just crushed and sad. I’m thinking of his parents and sisters, whom he left behind. I’m especially thinking of his nieces and nephews who loved him and don’t get to have him in their lives anymore. As someone who lost a lot of people as a small child, I’m sad to welcome those kids into that inauspicious club.
The problem with addiction, especially to opioids, is that when people have not been using for awhile – often because they are in recovery – their bodies becomes desensitized to the drugs.
When they use again, the same dose that only gave them a high before is now too potent and can be deadly. The opioid crisis is a public health emergency. For Jack’s friends and family, life will never be the same. Life is precious and fragile.
We are all, at every moment, walking past the tree in the middle of the garden. It’s easy to make a choice that sets us back, that sends us into a spiral, that ends life as we know it. While sometimes, one choice causes a tsunami of effects, for many of us, the road to that momentous choice is paved with small decisions. Maybe we ignore our conscience and put off installing a program like covenant eyes to protect us–and our kids–from pornography.
Find freedom from porn!
Maybe we capitulate and ignore our moral compass. Maybe we’re just lazy. I don’t know.
And look, in saying this, in generalizing the experience of temptation, I want to be really clear that I don’t stand in judgement over those who have addiction issues.
I’ve never been there and the clear, resounding witness from those who have is that recovery is a difficult and perilous road, often with many setbacks. I also don’t want to make my friend’s death into some saccharine morality tale. It isn’t. It’s a tragedy. But I guess I believe we can all use the reminder that we don’t know the end from the beginning and that Jesus calls us to what Professor Moody would’ve termed “constant vigilance”.
And to those of you who read the blog who are dealing with addiction or supporting someone who is, I just want to say that I honor your fight and tenacity. You are in an immense battle with a terrible foe and I believe you can do it. I pray you continue to find the courage to face tomorrow. May God be with you.
Let’s pray for those who are battling today. I know on this blog, so many battle with pornography. But whatever the addiction is, it’s dangerous. And overcoming requires not just one big choice, but constant choices, everyday. God is bigger, but sometimes the temptation is very big, too. May we yield to the Holy Spirit, may He give us strength, and may we yearn for a life that is full without all these poisons.
Have you walked through addiction with someone you loved? Any thoughts for us today?