Several years ago I found out that someone close to me had been doing drugs. The reality is you probably know someone who is doing drugs right now, if not several people. You might not be aware someone is abusing drugs, but someone you know is probably using substances of some kind.
When I found out about my friend’s drug use, I was shocked that not only had he been using, but was addicted for years. I knew very little about drugs. I pictured somebody in the bad part of New York City in a back alley. In reality, the face of the average drug user has changed. I have several theories why this is, but will save that for another time.
Because of my lack of knowledge, I had little understanding of how to help someone in this situation. But I did know God could help, so I sought His help, prayed for guidance and did some reading and studying. Several people from my church and I helped this person confidentially.. We talked, prayed, counseled, and helped keep him accountable.
To this day every couple months I ask this person if they are using. While at this time he would like to be anonymous, I think the perspective of the user is important. This is just one story, it is not all inclusive. But I hope that it will help at least one person. I hope this is a help to both users and people who are helping users.
This anonymous interview is just one person’s story. I am not a professional drug addiction counselor. Your story may be different and you may need a different kind of help than my friend. However, I hope this one case might shed light on a very dark crisis rattling our communities.
- Can you give us a general reason of how you began using drugs?
First starting using back in 2007-2008. Without any motive to start using, I actually stumbled upon some medications that were going to be thrown out so I thought, what the heck I will just take them. And then all of sudden, I had no problems in life when the medication “kicked in.” Now keep in mind I have taken narcotics for legitimate reasons in the past without abuse. But this time was different. I was battling a 30-year self-hatred related to a two-week span when I was young from being sexually abused by a family friend. When I used (drugs), the self-hatred vanished. So this was my fix. I tried to reach out to several people for help but either they didn’t know how to help or they could not understand how I could still be battling this after 30+ years.
- For years you hid this even from people very close to you. Why did you hide it?
Most people may not understand this, but why wouldn’t I hide it from people closest to me? I was giving, what I thought at the time, the people closest to me the best part of me. I was not depressed. I seemed happy when I used so it was win-win for everyone – so I thought. Now please know this, I did eventually tell my spouse about my using.
- Speaking in the past, instead of hiding your problem what do you wish you might have done differently?
Obviously, to never have started using in the first place would be at the top of my list. I was in a dark place when I started using and felt hopeless to change any of it; and the drugs made me not feel dark. I wish I would have sought the help I desperately needed.
- How did your addiction affect the people around you?
In the beginning it really didn’t affect anyone. It wasn’t until I became addicted that things started unraveling. I was absent mentally from my family. I was either working or sleeping. I was sick a lot whenever I couldn’t get the drugs that I needed to stop the withdrawals. Toward the end, my spouse always thought that when I left the house it would be the last time she would ever see me.
- What do you wish more Christians knew about drug addiction?
That more times than not there is a bigger issue buried beneath the addiction. Also, Christians need to stop judging the addiction in a vacuum. I have been told that it was a selfish thing that I did and, “How could he do that to his family?” Christians tend to be hands-off with certain sins and drug addiction is definitely one of them. Churches really needs to rethink how it approaches this problem. There should be training even if it’s just to better understand how addiction works. Maybe someday I could be that person to do some training.
- What were lies Satan was telling you during your addiction?
I can quit tomorrow. Also, as long as I felt good then life was good. And, no one truly understands what I was going through.
- What theological truths helped you battle your drug addiction?
That God was willing and able to forgive me. That God was able to help me forgive my abuser. That true joy and happiness will only come from God. The verse that comes to mind is John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
- How did Christians at church help you with your drug addiction?
After I got clean, a few men from church would encourage me and keep me accountable. Asking me if I was staying clean. Also, I stopped isolating myself and surrounded myself with godly people.
- How does being clean feel?
It feels great. Spending time my family and friends and being functional is nothing I ever want to throw away again. I don’t wake up anymore dreading what the day will bring. I don’t go to bed anymore not caring if I don’t wake up.
- Do you still struggle with returning to your addiction and if so, how do you keep on the right path?
I don’t know if “struggle” is the right word. “Temptation” is probably a more accurate word. And yes, there is still temptation that may or may never go away, which is fine. I no longer work in a field where I have easy access to certain medications and this is intentional. I will on occasion go on YouTube and watch videos of people videotaping themselves going through withdrawal and this really helps to bring to the front just how bad things were and that I never want to go back to that life again. Also, I know that my spouse can drug test me at anytime.
- What are two things you would say to somebody who is trying to help someone else with drug addiction?
First, early on in helping an addict, don’t trust anything that they say. Drug addicts are pros at manipulation. Secondly, you need to get to the heart of the addiction. Is that individual covering up a bigger problem.
- What’s one thing that you would say to someone who is struggling with drug addiction?
You will not likely beat the addiction on your own. You will need the help of people that love you as well as professional help. Until you cut off the supply of drugs it will be tough to beat. I entered rehab just to get away from being able to use. And then after I got out of rehab I made the big mistake of going back into an environment where it was easy to get the drugs. The decisions will be tough if you are truly wanting to get clean.
- Any last thoughts?
People need to have a better understanding that drug addiction is not just simply using drugs to get high. Once the addiction takes hold it is very difficult to stop. It gets to a point where the drugs are consumed to stave off the withdrawals and not about getting high. It is a hopeless feeling.
TIM: Well, I appreciate your time and your sincerity. I hope that we can work together again to help people defeat these demons.