This past Friday I attended a Harm Reduction Training course in Hagerstown, Maryland. This course was designed to help industry and community workers become more aware of how to tackle the Opioid Crisis in Western Maryland. As someone who was reared in Baltimore, I thought I knew all there was to know about a drug crisis. I had watched all the seasons of Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire; I recognized the neighborhoods and equated recognition with understanding. However, as I learned on Friday, I was nothing more than a spectator. My understanding of how and why people drift towards substance use was as solid as my understanding of Mandarin- I had studied a bit but knew nothing.
So, I sat in this seven-hour training on Friday, realizing that I not only had so much to learn, but that I also had so much in common with those who abuse/have abused substances. For years I abused food, alcohol, and sex, putting my desire for them all above my desire for anything or anyone else… especially God. I craved these items because of the euphoria that they brought; I craved them because they took away the pain that flooded my life. In the Opioid Crisis world, Harm Reduction means respect, dignity, and compassion as you meet people “where they are at” and work to help them through their addiction/substance abuse. In my life, harm reduction equated to faith in God.
These are my three biggest takeaways from the training:
- Oftentimes substance abuse begins as a way to cope from other pain in one’s life.
- In order to help a person overcome addiction or abuse, a replacement of sorts must be given.
- I have so much more to learn…
For me, I coped with the pain of my childhood by substituting the pain with food/alcohol/sex because society said that those were “ok” things to indulge in. Commercials for food, alcohol, and condoms are plentiful… yet commercials for bibles, churches, and faith are rare or nonexistent. Let’s be honest, when we are living according to the world’s way of life, it is easier than the alternative; we aim to fit in and we aim to please others. Conversely, when we are living according to the Lord’s way of life, we are forever living for an audience of one- God, Himself.
I do not know about you, but I spent the better part of my life (a little over 30 years…and I am only 31 years old) more concerned about what others thought about me than anything else… and when the pressure got too hard to bear, I turned to unhealthy coping methods to help me deal with my perceived failure.
I did many things to please others because it was the “in thing” to do… if only diligently seeking God had been the “in thing” then maybe I could have avoided years of pain…
Thankfully, when all those worldly items stopped working and began to actually make matters worse, I substituted them all with God.
Open your bibles to 1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV is listed below):
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
When I read this section of scripture from the Apostle John, I was silenced when I realized just how black and white the truth really is- either I love the Lord, or I love the world, but I cannot love both (kinda reminds you of Matthew 6: 24, doesn’t it?). Choosing to follow the crowds and trends of this world means that I am choosing to live of this world. Choosing to fill voids or pain with anything else other than God also means that I am choosing to live of this world. And, as scripture says, when I live of the world, I love the world and if I love the world, the love of my Father is not in me.
So who/what do I choose?
Open your bibles to 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV is below):
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Thankfully, the Apostle Paul reminds me that there are no new temptations under the sun and it is all common. He further tells me in this scripture that God is faithful and will always provide a way of escape, that I may be able to bear the temptations that I will undoubtedly face.
Beloved, life will get hard and common temptations (like food, alcohol, and others) will arise, but God has already provided the way of escape for you. To help you a bit more…
Open your bibles to 1 Peter 5:6-11 (NKJV is below):
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In summation, common temptations will arise and try to make you love and live of this world, but God has already provided the way of escape for you. Cast all you concerns upon Him, because He cares for you. Continue to prepare yourself, being alert and ready for spiritual battle, for the enemy is lurking and wants you to love the world and not our God. But praise be to God, who will strengthen you and give you peace through His eternal glory!
*If you or someone you know needs help with Opioid or substance abuse, please click here.*