The ministry of addiction and recovery is not for the faint of heart. It is also not for those who have made a choice to bury their heads in the sand, nor those who have preconceived notions about those who suffer with this horrible bondage. Is addiction a disease? Is addiction a choice? These are questions that will probably never be fully answered. Each side of the argument is full of passion, statistics, research and worst of all, opinions…mine included.
In recent days, we have encountered several individuals who, to put it quite nicely, lack wisdom. We have been denied access to housing, slandered on social media, and talked about throughout the community. We have listened to comments like, “those addicts”, “people like that”, “once an addict always an addict”, “not in my neighborhood”, and the list goes on. With that said, there are many ways we could approach each of these situations. We could take legal action. We could also argue with those who refuse to expand their minds and their hearts, or we could take another approach. We choose to look at this situation through the lens of Scripture and examine the facts.
Our philosophy is quite different than most treatment centers. We do not adhere to the fact of “once an addict, always an addict”. This is simply not true. Are people predisposed to addiction? Yes! Can people choose another path, or if bound by addiction choose the redemptive power of Christ? Absolutely! Addiction on many levels is a choice. Throughout my time as a minister and a clinical therapist, I have seen countless lives destroyed by addiction. And for those who are wondering, I have my own stories as well. Yes, I understand. I and my family have suffered both personally and through the loss of family members. It is an epidemic that knows no boundaries. It is no respecter of persons, class, race, or gender. The good news is that there is hope! Through the Word of God and proper treatment, we believe that lives can be transformed. The Bible tells us that when we take off the old man and put on Christ, we become new; the old things pass away and a new person emerges. Both addiction and redemption through Christ are choices, personal choices. Neither are forced, but the latter is made only when the individual is truly ready. It is then that we can step in and guide them down the path of healing.
Is it easy to love someone who is in active addiction? No, just as it isn’t easy to love anyone else who is struggling with the results of their choices. There is no difference between one sin and another. Our job is to love like Christ and reach out to help those in need, not kick them while they are down. To show hate, judgment, or disdain for an individual that sins differently than we do is simply unacceptable. Jesus died once and for all. There are no exceptions. Most individuals who pass judgment on “those addicts”do so because, they do a much better job of hiding their own sin. I often ask the question, “Which is worse, addiction or judging the addict?” Who truly has the greatest problem? Each issue originates from the heart, and the Bible tells us that the heart is the most deceitful of all.
The Bible tells us that people perish because they do not possess knowledge. In other words, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is extremely dangerous and one of the greatest obstacles that we face when trying to help those who are bound by this vicious “disease”. Educating the community, families, and those who choose to turn a blind eye to the issue, is one of our most daunting tasks. What most people choose to see is the sin, not the person. They refuse to allow room in their hearts to hear the story that caused the addiction. Gaining wisdom and educating ourselves about addiction and recovery is not only a Christian duty but a moral duty to our fellow man. What we strive for at Loaves and Fishes, and what we strive to help others understand is that we are dealing with life and death…eternity. We are not dealing with felons, thieves, convicts, or addicts. We are given the opportunity each day to shape, mold, and influence someone’s life eternally. How we interact, react, love, and embrace the person is one of the most influential factors in their recovery. Once the choice is made to lay down their burden, we must step up by their side and help them walk through their weakness. These are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. They are souls for whom Jesus sacrificed His own life so that they may live free, abundant lives. If we truly want to make a difference, then education is key. We must start asking the hard questions. We have to be willing to walk and talk with those who are suffering and those who have come out on the other side.
As always, we at Loaves and Fishes invite you to come and tour our facilities, ask questions, and learn more about addiction and recovery. We welcome you to join us in the fight against the epidemic and change lives one person at at time.