Two events collided and provoked this post.
One is the heart-breaking story of guy who has battled drug addiction for the past 20 years or so. In the past few months, after being released from prison, he seemed to finally be willing to experience a change in his life. As a church family, many have stepped in with love, time, financial and practical support. It was an overwhelming display of affection and generosity.
He had been in this place before and then, just as things started changing, he bailed out and returned to his safety net – his addiction. At the back of my mind there was that niggling thought. Yet, when it comes to transformation, I believe with all my heart that before God there is always another chance and it is never too late. He was doing really well, got a place to live, a job, reduced his methadone intake. His drug counselors were really pleased.
Sadly, in the past few weeks, he regressed (is that even the right term?). I am genuinely ‘gutted’… There will be plenty of those who perhaps will view this episode with cynicism and frustration. The reactions to Amy Winehouse’s death proved that. And, to be fair, they are perfectly entitled to their feelings. Particularly if they have someone who is/has battled addictions in their family and is/has wrecked their own lives and others around them.
I realized once again how powerful addiction is. It enslaves. It mocks. It humiliates. And ultimately, it destroys lives, families and even communities. Please continue to pray for my friend – he needs people who never give up on him.
The other colliding thought was a brilliant chapter in the book ‘The Pursuit of Holiness’ by Jerry Bridges, entitled ‘Habits of Holiness’. I remember reading recently about neurological studies that point to the fact that often addictions form ‘paths’ in our brains that make it harder and harder to escape them. Pardon my lack of technical nous in the area, but you get the gist: the more we ‘use’ (whatever the addiction), the more we need. I guess subconsciously we all knew that. The addict lives with the mantra (and this was said by a money addict: ‘How much is enough? More.’
In this chapter, Jerry makes several helpful suggestions regarding sin/addiction and holiness:
- Negative frequent repetition must be counteracted with positive habits frequently repeated
- Never let an exception occur – don’t say ‘just this once’
- Diligence in all areas is necessary to insure success in one area
- Don’t be discouraged by failure
- I would add my own – don’t try to do this alone. You need God’s help and the support of those around you
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ HEBREWS 12:1-3