Jesus is ready to free addicts, but it’s not so simple

Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor who really became alive in whatever character he portrayed, died on Sunday. For many of us who were fans of his, it was a true shock. Dying at 46 is just too young, and dying because of an addiction is even sadder.

For me when I think of an addiction as a disease and I ponder the landscape of Philadelphia which has similar stories from people suffering in identical ways, my heart breaks. This disease can plague anyone, but without a doubt, it dominates the poor. Hoffman will be honored and remembered for a long time for his extensive list of brilliant performances. Of course not everyone has such a legacy to leave behind, and addiction is just as painful to those in poverty, who might be forgotten, or might die alone.

A disease that often starts with a series of bad and difficult choices leaves those enslaved to it trapped. In its final blows is not as simple as a choice or not. For an outsider a death because of an addiction may appear preventable (one actor called it “stupid”), but for those who are trying to cope with the addiction, it’s not so simple. Addiction is cunning and baffling, it can even subvert the most intelligent among us. It’s for this reason that I’ve opposed incarceration of drug users and preferred rehabilitation as a method of freedom. Of course, this rehab needs to paired with a spiritual change and experience.

As someone who hasn’t suffered with a serious chemical addiction, empathy must be my first instinct when it comes to relating to addicts. Without a place that lacks judgment and specializes in love, the weakest among us might be triggered to relapse.

Trying to apply rationality and reason, even for those of who believe in an afterlife doesn’t always help in these circumstances. Unjust death as a result of a disease isn’t something we can make sense of. In response, Christians need to be lovers and mourners, but also advocates that not only help individuals struggling with addiction, but make sure we have institutional fixtures that assure us these things can be prevented and tackled with every resource we have available.

For Christians who serve the God who freed the Israelites from their slavemasters, who delivered them to their Promised Land, whose God came into the world as Jesus to save it and free us eternally, and whose presence has been felt as a liberator throughout history, we know that Jesus can free even the most addicted.

Of course, rather than saying all it takes it prayer and faith to overcome our addictions, it’s important for Christians to create communities that are safe, to partner with organizations whose expertise in addiction treatment exceeds their own, and bring the grace of Jesus with those suffering with addiction.

It’s not all clinical, but my opinion is a connection with Jesus and His community is an important part of anyone’s path to recovery. But I’m thankful that we have advocates among us in Circle of Hope who know about such things and can help over a complete approach to recovery. Recovery is aided in community, with one addict helping another as they can.

We create a safe place for people to sort all of their journeys and all of their struggles. It’s not the absolute antidote for every struggle, like a quick fix that just solves all of our problems, but hope in Jesus is irreplaceable for this life and for the next one. Life in Christ is freeing and hopeful. He restores us to him and his hope moves through us. I need Jesus to save me almost every day. My hope is that those who are struggling with addiction find Him too. I hope that as Christians we can help them along as well.

13 Replies to “Jesus is ready to free addicts, but it’s not so simple

  1. Well said Johnny! I’m so happy we belong to the community that’s willing to work with others. And to create space and for 12 step meetings to happen.

    Also for poor people it’s not that romantic to suffer specially an addiction. You made a very good point about leaving a legacy. I know many artists who just want to be discovered so they can die with their art left behind .But Jesus has done the work he discovered us .he loves us he’s died for us . He’s the reason for our arts and our love will be our legacy.

  2. Your compassion is so Jesus. I’ve also often heard from my recovering friends that in addition to empathy and non-judgement, they needed some tough love to “kick their butt” and save their lives. So, we are a safe place, and that’s also why no you can’t bring stuff around to our p.m.’s and cell meetings, and no you can’t watch our kids while you’re high. And you just might run into someone who will call you out and press you to haul yourself over to rehab and to meetings. In gentleness and love of course; the kind that doesn’t hold back.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Art. You are a leader of compassion among us. The balance of truth and love is crucial. I’ve had to have some tough conversations with people regarding substance abuse–sometimes people who just make bad choices and aren’t addicts, even.

      1. Thanks Art, I absolutely agree with you Tough love is one of many reasons I’m sober today.
        I never had another option. It’s a matter of life and death.. And as Jesus lovers that could be hard to understand even though it’s the crux of our faith
        It’s been my experience
        that being in a room full of Addicts (like A.A) can be the safest place for me and my community.

        I’m also open about my recovery but I cannot expect others to be so. So let’s not assume that either .

  3. The first time that I ever heard of Hoffman’s name or of him was on the day that they announced that he died. There are some of us who are not ruled by the celebrities of Hollywood. And this, to me, is a very good thing. Considering his life (as is now posted all over), I don’t quite get what the uproar is. He lived a life of risks and thus that is how he died also.

    Give me a hero like Abraham Lincoln, and a hero like those who return from war or a hero like those who save lives every day as they resuscitate humans here and there, or give me a hero like a teacher who teaches a kid and thus extends to that child a brand new life and a new way of living, yes, give me a real hero anyday rather than a cereal-box type hero of society. RIP Hoffman, sorry old chap that you did not choose life.

    1. I think my point is that it’s more complicated than you are making it. Addiction usually does involve bad choices, and in many circumstances they seem like the only options. That’s no excuse, but I think practicing empathy and loving those who are suffering with an addiction is important to their path to recovery. I think speaking the truth is too. With that said, for me Hoffman’s death is a reminder that many others are experiencing the same problems and I want to care for them.

      1. To your comment, I completely understand what you are saying. For the purposes of my opinion, Hoffman’s death is a reminder that many families are harmed and hurt by the actions of drug addicts, who are active. And I want to care for them, for the families, as you want to care for the others experiencing the problems that Hoffman had. We can practice empathy and love those who are suffering from the actions of those addicted, just as others can practice empathy and love those who are “suffering” with the addiction directly. My heart and my empathy always goes out to the families, the children and other families of those who are addicted. That is the great thing about wordpress in that we can all “hear” other people’s opinions. Thank you.

  4. I’ve been sad about Hoffman’s death. He had been “clean and sober” for a long while. It reminds me that without relying on the power of God through Jesus, it’s really hard to kick all of our addictions.

      1. Thank you Rachel !
        you made me think.when you mentioned Hoffman’s sobriety time . It’s been my experience that addiction is a disease and needs to be spiritually maintain because it lies dormant . Even if you practice abstinence it’s always there, like the devil. but you still push forward you keep faith one day at a time. It’s been my experience with having long term sobriety . I am prone to relapse and pick up right where I left off at. If I’m not willing to have a constant contact with a higher power .
        Absence and time is not the key to Life long sobriety. Only living a spiritual life is. Many can compare it to diabetes it’s always there and never goes away and if you don’t maintain your diabetes it will kill you.

        Addiction hold everybody hostage not just to Addict but the family. Friends and community. There’s no quick fix there’s no college course there’s no Dr. that can cure the disease. Only Jesus has that power to restore us and he puts others in the life of the addict to help maintain their disease with their experiences love and compassion I thank God for him every day.

  5. I think we all have an addiction to something which may or may not have a harmful effect on others.If we look inwards at what might be our addiction and how it influences our lives and of those closest to us,we might all have empathy; with each other.At the end of the day it is a victimisation only the addicted can break but its not easy for the holy spirit to get pass the soul with all its desires.
    God bless

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