Addiction: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer

By on October 29, 2017
Addiction: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer

The cross around her neck reminds her that it was God who protected her. For nearly nine years, “Jessica” (not her real name) was on the payroll for what she calls an “equal opportunity destroyer:” addiction.

“I grew up in a nice, suburban town,” Jessica says, “the youngest of three children.” I got straight “A’s,” was the captain of the softball team, and graduated college with a degree in psychology. But as a kid, I was put on the back burner. I lacked emotional support. My parents separated when I was 17, fought for two years, and divorced by the time I was 19. I had no church, no faith and no real coping skills.

“I partied as a teen, hoping to avoid the pain I felt. Alcohol was my first “drug of choice.” There were times when I felt suicidal. Because I didn’t know how to cope emotionally, I next turned to drugs.”

Jessica’s road to addiction is not for want of education or information. She knew all about opiates from her sister, who started using before Jessica did. She watched her sister become ill when taking drugs, and even drove her sister to her “appointments” (prostitution) to try to help keep her safe. But then she found herself becoming equally involved.

“Partying and using drugs was fun to avoid my problems,” Jessica confessed to me in a phone interview. “However, I was creating more issues down the road that I said I’d never do. I didn’t realize drugs came with their own added complications and more pain.”

As the addiction took hold, Jessica realized she needed money to pay for the car she was using to drive her sister – and now herself – to their appointments. They had no place to live and were living out of the car, so maintaining it was critical. This is what prompted her to begin trafficking herself.

“The physical sickness I had when I couldn’t get hold of the drugs is what motivated me to exchange sexual favors for drugs. You feel so sick you will do anything to avoid it. Despite my reluctance to do certain things for drugs, I became what I call “Y.E.T: You’re Eligible, Too.”

Jessica began posting ads on a well-known website to sell her body, hoping to create enough income to support her habit.

“You wouldn’t believe the type of people who respond to those ads,” she said. Military men, husbands who cheat on their wives, older gentlemen – the variety of reasons would amaze you, and it could be the person sitting right next to you.”

The wake-up call came when one night, Jessica was leaving a client’s house. She was high and had been up all night, “working.” As she was driving home, she fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed her car.

Intervention came not through incarceration, but when her ex-boyfriend’s parents put her into a treatment center after the crash. First in Maine, then at a work-based recovery center in North Carolina, Jessica began to make headway. She wanted her “higher power” to be God after a religious group came and spoke at the center. When she found God, He became “Dad” to her and showed her what she was doing wrong.

“Prayer is still uncomfortable for me,” Jessica admits. But I love to pray prayers of gratitude. Recently, God led me to meet “A,” one of the leaders from the Bags of Hope ministry in Boston, and she brought me back to church. Before this, I didn’t even know the difference between God and Jesus! I now know that it is a power greater than me that restores me.”

I asked Jessica what helps keep her sober. “God,” she replies. “Surrender. Believing in something greater than you, and admitting that you’re powerless. I was so desperate at one point that I couldn’t even buy a box of QTips.

I thought no one cared and that I didn’t matter. The pain I caused people by becoming a user created such loneliness and a belief that there was no help. It was at that point that “Ann” (not her real name) gave me a “Bag of Hope” that had all kinds of toiletries, resources, and a note of encouragement, and it was then that I knew there were people out there who loved me, and that God works through people. I never want to go back to what I did again.”

Jessica’s story is, sadly, all too common. Addiction is a genetic predisposition, easy to turn to when emotional or spiritual support is lacking. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are driving teens and adults deeper into this crisis, to the tune of millions of dollars and the cost of thousands of lives.

A National Epidemic

What does addiction look like nationally? In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, almost double the number of deaths since 2006. This “destroyer’s” target audience is younger, too: most new users are typically teenagers, and their first introduction to drugs is through marijuana or prescription pain relievers.

Sally Floyd, LPC-MHSP, an addictions counselor for over 13 years in Tennessee, remembers one incident clearly. A mother of a college-age son called, saying she thought her son might have a drug problem. (He, like many children, was diagnosed with ADD and given the prescription drug Adderall to help him study.)

When Ms. Floyd asked the child’s mother how her son was getting drugs, she responded that she was mailing him 90-day supplies of this addictive amphetamine. The son was then selling the drug to his fellow students. In order to help this mother understand problem at hand, Ms. Floyd had to confront her with an awful truth: “So you’re your son’s drug dealer.”

Another dealer currently in treatment is the father of nine children. For the past 15 years, he has earned $60,000 each month to support his family – selling drugs. Unfortunately, his income stopped when he was caught and incarcerated. Now behind bars, he still doesn’t see the issue; after all, he told Ms. Floyd, he wasn’t using drugs or harming people, he was simply selling to people who wanted them.

Ms. Floyd’s strongest caution? “Most people who end up in the legal system have never learned that actions have consequences. The best thing you can do for your child is to teach them, early on, this principle.”

The Root of the Problem – and Its Solution

As many recovering addicts, including Jessica, have noted, drug usage often begins when the pain of feeling unworthy or rejected is too much to bear. Divorce, death, or a parent’s own addictive lifestyle can all contribute to the neglect of children and their subsequent need to dull the pain and “feel better.”

Tony Fitzgerald, head of the Church of the Nations in Virginia, speaks regularly at youth conferences worldwide. He likes to say: “Worthiness comes from whose you are, not who you are.” No amount of people-pleasing or personal accomplishments will ever satisfy our needs for love and a sense of worthiness. Those can come only from secure, healthy families or from a relationship with God as a loving Father.

So what can you do? Conversations with addicts, alcoholics, and even people caught in human trafficking have repeatedly shown that support systems and coping skills are the most lacking aspects of addicts’ lives when they begin their downward spiral.

When Jessica realized there were people who cared enough to create a “Bag of Hope” for her (containing needed items like toiletries that she could not afford), it was a turning point. “I knew then that there was a God,” she said, “that my “Higher Power” was looking out for me. I knew a power greater than me was restoring me. It’s a big shift from when you’re not the center of the universe!” she laughed.  Visit www.Facebook.com/BagsofHopeministries for more.

Lack the funding to support recovery efforts? Be creative!

One creative woman in Massachusetts wanted to help tackle the issues of addiction and sex trafficking, but lacked the finances to make a donation. Instead, she put her crocheting skills to good use. Setting up a table in her church, she sold handmade items for several weeks and donated 100% of the profits to a local ministry. Her contributions so far total $250. She encourages would-be supporters to think “outside the box.”

Success stories like Jessica’s should inspire us to do more and fight back against addiction’s destruction. With intervention, treatment, support and prayer, this “equal opportunity destroyer” can be overcome. As a wise person once said, “If you realize one day that the enemy has stolen 10 years of your life, don’t give him one day more.”

 

© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com

 

The author with a “Bag of Hope” she created at a recent event. Deborah Perkins is the founder of His Inscriptions ministry and the author of How to Inherit Your Spiritual Promises: 5 Steps to Success. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, one cat and four chickens. She blogs for Bible Gateway, Tyndale House Publishing, and LivingBetter50. Join her daily here or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

  

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Addiction: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer