Just one more ooey-gooey sugar-glazed donut! One last episode of Downton Abbey tonight (errr…this morning). One more time checking Facebook, just to make sure I don’t miss anything important. We know overdoing these things is not healthy, but it seems so hard to stop! For those of us thinking the word “addiction” has nothing to do with us, let’s try staying away from sugar or caffeine or TV or social media for a month.
Of course, downing six cups of coffee a day or binge-watching Breaking Bad has a different affect on our bodies, minds, and environment than consuming drugs or alcohol, but we all have idols we find hard to say “no” to. Some of us fight the siren song of sugar or Instagram likes, others, due to many different factors, battle more dangerous and destructive beasts.
Why do some people get addicted to drugs, pornography, or alcohol and not others? All of us are made up of four kinds of building blocks: the traits we inherited, the unique way God made us, our social environment, and our own choices. These include the kind of family we grow up in, the examples we see, our brain chemistry, the friends we have, our natural disposition, our decisions, and the events that shape us. How we perceive the world around us and respond to it have to do with all of these factors.
We can find an ocean of different reasons and ways people end up addicted to harmful things. There are stories of rich kids drifting into using drugs blindly and bored, because it is available and everybody else is doing it. Others fall prey to people out to make money. Kids stumble upon pornography and do not know how to stay away from it or where to turn for help. Stressed adults fail to admit that their social drinking has gone too far.
While some people drift into these habits somewhat unknowingly, others use alcohol, drugs, and pornography to escape the hardships of reality and to numb the pain. Trauma, extreme poverty, unemployment, loneliness, broken families, academic or work pressure, and hopelessness are some of the experiences that can put people at risk of falling into addictive behaviors.
We have come across plenty of stories of addicts through our work in the majority world. Some recovering, others still struggling today.
Kanishk, the oldest child and only son of his HIV-infected widowed mother from one of India’s urban slums, was a good student. He enjoyed school but was forced to quit in 10th grade, loosing his peers and his school community, because his mother needed him to work. She sent him to a local mechanic shop, where he was trained and started earning money after a few months. His mother was happy and things were going alright…until a coworker introduced Kanishk to drugs. His mother had no idea why her son was not bringing home his whole salary and why he was acting differently. Kanishk started stealing from his home and from surrounding stores to support his habit and eventually got arrested. His mom only found out from the police that her son was taking drugs. Kanishk had spent two years in juvenile prison; his addiction worse by the time he got out. He tried to stay at home and get better, but it was not a good situation for anyone. He was taken to a rehab center but escaped after a while. At the moment he is back in jail.
Linh, from an urban part of Southeast Asia, has managed to get her life back on track after about ten years of drug addiction. She used to live on the street and steal whatever she could from her family to buy drugs. A turning point came in Linh’s life when she had a baby boy and he had to be given to foster parents. The desire to raise him was strong in Linh’s heart, and with the support of a discipleship relationship and the prayers of many, she managed to get off drugs. She was ready to welcome her son back when he was six months old. In the following years she reconciled with her family; they forgave her and let her move back home. Today, with the help of community and family, she manages her own store at a market, is a committed member of a church, and a good mother to her son.
The combination of brokenness in and around us, serious hardships and the lack of a healthy community offering love, help, guidance and hope could make any of us good candidates for falling into addictive behaviors. Let’s pray for those caught up in addiction, keeping in mind our own frailty and our Heavenly Father’s abundant grace.
- Pray for the Spirit to free, help and counsel addicts.
- Pray for addicts to seek God in their pain and desperation and find Him. Pray that they can cling to Him when temptation is strong.
- Pray for families of addicts to be able to help, love, forgive, and support their struggling loved one and to find the help they themselves need.
- Pray for good educational resources and programs, rehab centers, and counselors all over the world.
- Pray for churches that would graciously reflect God’s perspective on sinners and would love, forgive, support and walk with addicts and their families.
- Pray that addicts would learn to face their own pain and seek help instead of numbing it.
- Pray for reconciliation, healed relationships, and second chances for recovering addicts.
- Pray against the shame, stigma, and silence that come with addiction.