- “You do know you’re in a room full of convicted felons, right?”, Bill asked. This little detail was news to me. “Oh,” I respond, wide-eyed. “Does that change the way you think of us?” I look down at the floor for a moment, awkwardly shuffle my feet and consider my response, “Actually, it really does!” I look up and smirk. “Because now I know this place is really safe. ‘Cause none of you can legally carry a gun!” Bill and I laugh. We hug. There’s an unspoken understanding between us. Here in this group, people are seen. Not judged.
Providence brought us together. Bill and his ministry partner, John, (names have been changed to protect the not so innocent) are two former alcoholics who were looking for space to conduct a meditation gathering for their 12 Step program. They reached out to a local pastor to see if the church had space for their meeting. Approval was granted. However, they had one more request. John asked the pastor, ”Do you know anyone that actually leads meditation because we don’t?” They had absolutely no idea how to lead meditation and they didn’t have any connections to find someone who did. The Pastor shook his head. Chuckled at their dilemma and said, “Yeah, I’ve got just the gal for you.”
I was that gal! For months now, I’ve been leading their meditation group. I’ve grown to love this rag-tag gathering. They come religiously to calm their minds and lighten their spirits. They also come for the community. Each week, we learn a little more about each other. We are building trust. We are making connections. And we are creating a safe place. Three things addicts never had. Or once did, but lost along the way.
The truth is most of us have been touched by addiction. It is not an isolated experience. According to Addiction Center.com:
- Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% receive treatment.
- Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990.
- From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 Americans died from overdosing.
- About 20% of Americans who have depression or an anxiety disorder also have a substance use disorder.
Those stats are staggering! On some level or another addiction impacts us all. Whether it’s a personal battle or the intense struggle of someone we love, our longings are the same. Each of us desires to be fully seen for who we are without being overwhelmed with shame and guilt.
Addicts need to be seen as more than their past addictions.
They carry regret around with them, and sometimes it’s simply too heavy a burden. They have not learned to forgive themselves. Often they feel society looks at them as dangerous, weak, and immoral. Some believe they don’t deserve good things to happen to them. Unfortunately, the tremendous weight of all that can often trigger them to use, and the cycle begins again.
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We are ALL recovering from something. It’s true. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, overeating, abuse, trauma, mental health issues, or a slew of other possible addictions, we’re all susceptible. We all need grace. Grace from ourselves. From others. From God. Accepting that grace can sometimes be the biggest obstacle.
God sees you as one of His own. He longs to hold you, heal you, and hear from you. Jesus died to bring us into relationship with God. To wash away our sins so we don’t have to carry that burden. (Romans 6:18 NIV)
If you have an addiction, are recovering from one, or loving someone who is an addict, take heart! God will meet you exactly where you are.
Jesus isn’t afraid of what you’ve done. He was charged as a convict too, so He knows what you’re going through. Jesus knows your brokenness and He knows your shame and He took it all on when He died on the cross.
You are not alone. He has been there and He sees you. Just like He saw the convict/thief on the cross next to him, He didn’t view the thief as unworthy but as a child of God. Someone He came to save and who would have a place with Him in Paradise.
So, don’t continue to carry the burden Jesus died to take away.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1 NIV)
Every addict needs to be seen. Shame-free. Guilt-free. To be in community with Him and others. To know that addicts, yes, even struggling ones, are loved and welcomed into community. Into Paradise. Where we see a room full of sin and shame, God sees a room filled with His children. He knows our dark places and it doesn’t change the way He looks at us.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).