The Slient Shame of Addiction

When news broke mid-February that Whitney Houston had died from a drug overdose, most people weren’t surprised. After all (sadly) it seems most of Hollywood is addicted to drugs – prescription or other. What did shock many though was Whitney’s recent profession of saving faith in Christ and her Evangelical funeral. Some Christians probably questioned if Whitney was truly saved, seeing that she struggled constantly with addiction to alcohol and cocaine for most of her adult life. Perhaps you too wrote off her Christian testimony, dismissing her Christian confession as superficial Hollywood drivel.

Addicted Christians?
For me, Whitney’s tragic end was  a chilling concerto – a solo performance of her flawed life played to the world’s stage, accompanied by an orchestra of critics, family and fans who stood by watching her wither away.

The observable dichotomy of a Christian drug addict jolted me back to a reality that is sometimes forgotten in our pews: Christians struggle with life, and with addiction. Often people who love God don’t walk in His promises or perfect plan for their lives – and they need our help, both practically and spiritually.

A silent sin in the Church
It is very sad to see how often believers hide their sin and failings from one another – often with horrific long-term consequences (like church splits, divorces etc). Why is there such shame in the Body of Christ? Because we all fear judgement and condemnation from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Often what starts out as a small dependence on sleeping tablets, or a need for that daily glass of wine, leads to full blown addiction that could have been curbed if the person just reached out for help. Yet how many times have we all been guilty of judging a fellow believer when they have bared their struggles – especially when it concerns pornography and sexual sin – only to have them slink away and eventually disappear from fellowship.

Addiction is everywhere
Our culture drives people toward addiction, and the Church needs to wake up if we are to save people from the snares of silent sin. Addiction at its root is not about needing a substance to make you feel better, but rather about needing Jesus to heal your soul. All around us people are addicted,  not just to “hard-core” drugs, but to sophisticated pacifiers like pleasure, vanity, man’s approval, money, technology etc. Today people joke that they can’t exist without their ‘Crack-berry’ (a Black-berry phone) and just “die” without internet signal. Look around you and see how many people sit on their phones at dinner, barely even exchanging words. We are regressing!

Society is crumbling
Society at its core is crumbling. The pressure to perform and amass the praises of men has overtaken the pursuit of peace with God in His presence. It feels as though life is speeding up, and the support structures once in place, are falling down. People have become so cocooned and alienated from each other (even in Christian circles), that most people would rather escape from their burdens through  TV, drugs and drink, than bridge the gap and talk to a friend/family member/boss/pastor or neighbour.

God’s house should be a haven
But are we (as Christians) partly to blame? I have heard various pastors from their pulpits say things like: “If you don’t attend our prayer meetings and marriage seminars, then don’t come crying to the elders for advice when your life falls apart.”

This is a shocking statement – and has no place in the Kingdom. The house of God should be a haven for the hurting, and Christians should always go the extra mile to help those who are battling. We can’t just point fingers at the leaders though, every Christian has an onus to help. Don’t let your niece, neighbour or friend become another Whitney.

Recognise addiction
The following are some signs  of, and solutions for, addiction, but please consult a Christian rehab if you need further clarity and advice, as space prevents us from providing more detail:
• Aggression, depression. A change in behaviour, dress or sleeping patterns
• A secrecy and reluctance to share details as to their whereabouts/friends etc
• Some addictions are very subtle. If you notice that a friend has an unhealthy dependence on a certain product (slimming products, nicotine, shopping, gambling,  technology, etc) or person, perhaps you need to broach the subject with them
• Suggest a fast from that particular thing (such as TV) and pray with them to break the temptation it has for them
• Depending on the severity of the addiction, suggest the person see a trusted counsellor, pastor or addiction expert for advice and help
• Consider starting an outreach or support group in your church for people struggling with addiction. We cannot expect people to deal with their problems alone. The Church has to get involved. Work with other local ministries doing the same thing. Also contact a Christian rehab centre.
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36 

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