Apr 18, 2010

Three faces on addiction



Last week I saw three street kids who are addicted to heroine. Each has a unique story.

A young woman, beautiful and smart, sat all alone on a curb in the alleyway. She uses heroin every day; her life revolves around finding out how to get the next hit. Her boyfriend is also addicted. Taking good care of her dog seems to be all she has of a normal life. When I spoke to her, she looked terribly tired and sad. She knows she has only three options. One, continue with heroin; this would end very badly. Two, kick the habit cold turkey. She knows how to stop the addiction, but "I know if I quit, I'll just start again. I can't seem to stay away."  Withdrawal is terrible. Imagine seven days of the worst flu you've ever had.  For most, that is the closest encounter we'll have to withdrawal from heroin. Her third option is a methadone treatment center. Methadone has side effects and is addictive, too.  She thought through her choices. "All are hard. All are difficult. I don't know what I'm going to do." She is resistant to the gospel. Faith is not a resource for her. As I left, I prayed for her to find the strength to stop. I prayed she would find room for faith because it would help her stop.

I also spoke with a tall and elegant man who was addicted to heroin just a year ago. He was suicidal and hated himself. He decided to stop, and he rediscovered his relationship with Jesus. Now he lives in an apartment. He goes to church every Sunday. He has a girlfriend "just because we like each other. It's the first time I've had a girlfriend for that reason. It seems kind of weird." However, last week, he began to use heroin again. "I don't know why. I just did. But you know... it wasn't good. I didn't like it. I guess I'm changing. I guess I'm finally growing up. I won't do it again. I'm even thinking about going to a Christian rehabilitation center. I want to learn to truly live." We talked about how the Holy Spirit will ask for changes in his life, but will not ask for more than he and Jesus can bear together.

Finally, I met with a former heroin addict and his wife; he stopped several years ago. He has two jobs now. They live in an apartment. "It feels really good to pay bills. You know...to be able to live like normal people. My wife doesn't have to dance anymore. She's out of the strip clubs." I asked, "And church? Do you see yourself in church someday?" "Yeah, but I don't know where to start. " I smiled and made an appointment to talk about finding a church home for the two of them.

Only forty percent of street youth are addicted to substances. The most common substance abuse issues in Austin are with alcohol and heroin. Though several options exist, not all will accept help. The key is helping them is to gain their trust. They alone hold the keys to their change, but some of us get the privilege to walk alongside them. I rejoice for the changes going on in each of their lives. I hurt for them as they each struggle with past and present pain. I especially pray today for the woman on the curb, sitting alone, and wondering which of the difficult paths to take. May she know that Jesus is sitting beside her, waiting patiently and lovingly, to bear her burdens with her.