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Nancy Long had plenty of nice things – a sports car, a house, and a good job – proof enough to her and those around her that her drug and alcohol use hadn’t spiraled out of control. Or so she thought.
By 40, Long was using Oxycontin, a powerful prescription painkiller. Though she visited crack houses with some regularity she says, “I could maintain life and keep a job and I could work. That was part of the secrecy that came with it.”
But Long wasn’t hiding her addiction as well as she thought. At the end of a prayer retreat, friends confronted her. “They said, ‘You need help,’” Long recalls. “I was like, ‘OK, where do I go?’”
Long’s experience is far from unique. Once thought to be the domain of those in their teens and 20s, the face of addiction is aging. Some 4 million people – most between the ages of 30 and 50 – are addicted to prescription drugs, while 47 percent of all alcoholics are in their 30s and 40s. Health care providers report a rapidly growing number of women in their 30s and 40s seeking treatment for eating disorders. And those most likely to die of a drug overdose are between 35 and 54 years old.
Overdosing is where Long thought she might end up, so she checked into a detox facility to begin the long process of rehab. By the time she completed treatment, Long was on staff, helping others get clean.
Though she now runs a rehab in Virginia devoted to helping others overcome their addictions, Long still carries the scars. She won’t go into a place that serves alcohol because the pull of drinking is too great. And a dirty needle yielded hepatitis C. “It’s one of those sins I’ll pay for for the rest of my life,” Long says.
Quick Fix, Long Recovery
Addiction – whether it’s to something society uniformly agrees is bad, such as cocaine, or to something more socially acceptable like Internet gaming – largely plays out in the same way.
It becomes a dominant force that drags a person into a secret life, where he is either participating in or thinking about his addiction almost constantly.
“Addiction issues are very complex to deal with,” Corey D. Schliep, a licensed clinical marriage and family therapist explains. And an addiction rarely acts alone. “There is more than likely an over-arching addictive personality or temperament within the individual making them susceptible from going from one addiction to another,” Schliep says.
Ron Watson was addicted to sex, pornography, alcohol, and drugs. “[It was] an escape for wounds that have never healed – rejection and abuse, both verbal and physical,” he shares. “It got my mind off the pain.”
After becoming a Christian in 1990, Watson tried to put aside his addictions. But after a failed marriage, drugs became his salve once again. Watson went into rehab, but upon leaving he landed in a damaging relationship. When that relationship ended in 2006, Watson used flex time at his job to stay high or drunk for two solid weeks. That’s when he realized he had a serious problem he couldn’t handle on his own.
“You get to a point where you go, ‘I’m tired, I can’t fix myself,’” Watson says. “I literally could see myself crawling to the Lord. I said, ‘I’ve tried to fix myself. Everything I’ve done isn’t working.’ That’s when I started going to a church and people talked to me about the grace of God and the love of Christ. It’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever experienced. What once was my desire, that I thought I’d never change, is changing.”
Now 35 and off drugs for more than a year, Watson continues to think about them. “Sometimes it’s a thought, a feeling, an emotion,” he shares. “The strength that develops minute by minute, it’s not mine, but the Lord’s. I know there are people the Lord has delivered instantaneously, but mine is more of a walking out process. … I’m able to say, ‘Look where I was a year ago, and look where I am today.’”
Mike Ellis, pastor at Geneva Park Baptist Church and executive director of Victory Home rehabilitation program in Chesapeake, Va., says there’s really very little difference between someone with a long history of drug use and someone who spends too much money shopping or too much time on the Internet.
“The thing that we choose to bring us pleasure outside of Christ, when that thing is unable to bring us happiness anymore, that’s when we need help,” Ellis says.
An Addiction You Can’t Quit
While all addictions are difficult, food addiction can be a little trickier. A body can live without taking drugs, drinking alcohol, or looking at pornography, but all bodies require food.
For Lisa Avery the cycle of binging and dieting began in college while she studied to become a nurse. “I had a difficult semester and became rigid around food and my schedule and study and sleep and I was exercising a lot,” Avery recalls. “The next semester, I couldn’t keep that control up and I started to crack. I would find myself eating alone in my dorm room instead of going to the cafeteria with people. I remember the first time I ate until I was sick. I felt awful and said, ‘I’ll never do it again.’”
But she did do it again, and what once was an every-couple-of-weeks problem became more frequent. “As time went by, it started to destroy my life,” she shares. Avery found herself waiting for a milestone to make a change. “I kept saying, ‘If I can just graduate, I’ll be a new person.’ ‘When I move, I’ll make a change.’”
But those life events never made the difference Avery hoped for. “I wasn’t able to function in my job. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wasn’t suicidal in that I didn’t have a plan, but I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up,” she remembers. “[Eating] was my drug. I had to be constantly doing that in order not to feel, to escape the reality of what my life had become.”
In 2005, Avery entered a 60-day inpatient treatment program for eating disorders. She emerged determined not to binge again. But she swung too far in the other direction, and her weight dropped to a perilous low.
As Avery began to let go of the rigid control, she began binging again and re-entered another treatment facility, this time for a 90-day stint. It was a different approach than her previous rehab.
“I had therapists who would tell me, ‘You’re going to do it again.’ That helped me know that it wasn’t the end of the world,” Avery says. “I didn’t have this picture that I was cured anymore.”
Armed with information, Avery made lifestyle changes upon emerging. The inconsistency of work in a hospital was a recipe for her to struggle, so she changed jobs to work in an office with a more set schedule. However eating remains a struggle for her. “I just try to keep looking in the right direction, even if I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like,” Avery shares.
Facing It Alone
No matter the poison, dealing with addictions can be especially difficult for singles. Schliep believes that singles may be more vulnerable to stronger addictions because often times, “no one has constant access to their life.”
Dawn Sutton, a registered therapist who offers online therapy sessions (sun risecounselling.com), believes “all addicts need some sort of support system as well as accountability relationships. Singles have to rely more on their friends and relatives and their church family rather than a spouse for support and accountability.”
Just as her friends lovingly initiated her road to rehabilitation, Long believes helping an addict be accountable is something everyone can do. “When they don’t come to church, check on them. Call them. That accountability is really important,” she says.
And don’t give up if a recovering addict slips. “Relapse is a natural and almost predictable part of the process,” Schliep says. “We all experience relapse in some way in our life’s journey and therefore we, as a church body, choose to view addictive relapses in the same manner as all other relapses, and work to assist individuals and families in their journey back toward God.
Christ Church on Greenland road has an excellent and well established Celebrate recovery program that is a faith based program and works at dealing with the underlying issues that lead one to want a reprieve from reality by substance abuse. They also offer codependency study groups and groups from multiple addictions not only drugs and alcohol. If you would like more information you can contact them at http://www.ccontheweb.com/ and they will assist you in find a celebrate recovery program in the jacksonville area.
There are also Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA)groups in the Jacksonville for support and encouragement in you journey either a person suffering from addiction or a person living with someone who is addicted. Both of the programs offer Al Anon for the family members of a person suffering from addiction.
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