The Damage Undone

“I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.”

–lyrics from Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done

Neil wrote this song about two close friends who had heroin addictions. They died after the song was recorded. The sun went down on his friends. Heroin addiction, like other addictions, left unchecked, is a death sentence.

This ballad is a warning for those who engage in destructive behavior such as using heroin. There is a little part of destructive behavior in everyone.

A drug addict once told me that he wished he hadn’t engaged in the behavior that put him in the sorry state he was in.  Although life is not a video game, where you can erase everything you’ve done and start over, you can, with God’s help, start fresh.

The book of Lamentations records the story of Jerusalem ravaged by war. The Israelites were run out of  town and were oppressed after having turned away from God. “Those who pursue us are at our heals; we are weary and find no rest.” Sounds like the state of the homeless in Bucks County, PA.

The prophet Jeremiah reluctantly called on God to intervene. “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old. Unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure,” he lamented. But despite the Israelites messing up, God answered prayer and returned the exiles to Jerusalem.

No matter how much we mess up, if we come to God and trust in Him he will have mercy on us and will restore our ruined lives. After turning away from God, my life spun out of control and I was in a downward spiral. I suffered greatly, hurting myself and loved ones. The anxiety and depression I had suffered from but kept under control got out of control.

God restored me, pulled me up out of the pit after I returned to God.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of adults in America suffer from some form of anxiety related disorder. For the Christian, there should be an inverse relationship between such afflictions and their faith. The more you have faith, the less you are afflicted with such ailments. One Christian sister told me that if you pray, you don’t worry. If you worry, then you don’t pray.

“[Thou], which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”

–Psalms 71:20

There is Hope

49 Overdoses of heroin, causing five deaths in lower Bucks County, PA, just since January 1, 2016! The drug epidemic affects everyone, including homeowners and the homeless who are not drug addicts. Many of the druggies join the homeless population, making it harder for the homeless to find shelter by shear numbers and by contributing to stereotypes that result in hobophobia, the irrational fear of all homeless people. In some cases the druggies caused everyone at an encampment to get booted.

Today the drug problem in Bucks County is similar to the alcohol abuse problem when Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was formed. Our nation realized that prohibition, banning booze for everyone, didn’t work. The gross amount of money waging this war, prohibition, wasted money, so much that it crippled the economy, contributing to the depression. As is the case today, many people became homeless just because of the economy.

Today the war on drugs rages, wasting taxpayer money. We wouldn’t have to wage this war if there wasn’t a market for drugs. As was the case when AA was formed, the problem is individual problems, the root of which is sin.

A forerunner of AA, Dr. Franklin Nathaniel Daniel Buchman, a minister, started a movement called “A First Century Christian Fellowship”, later called “The Oxford Group”.  It’s philosophy to treat alcoholism:

  • All people are sinners
  • All sinners can be changed
  • Confession is a prerequisite to change
  • The change can access God directly
  • Miracles are again possible
  • The change must change others

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Alcoholics_Anonymous

The Oxford Group advocated principles from the Sermon on The Mount,  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5-7&version=NIV 

where Jesus taught people the right way to live. The group boiled down these principles:

  • Absolute-Honesty
  • Absolute-Purity
  • Absolute-Unselfishness
  • Absolute-Love

A business executive tried to resolve his alcohol addiction by going to psychiatrist Carl Jung but it didn’t work. Shortly after a year long treatment with Dr. Jung,  he returned to his drinking. When he went back for treatment, Dr. Jung told the man that his case was nearly hopeless and the only hope was for a spiritual conversion with a religious group.

There is a belief that alcoholics can overcome their addiction. Although AA and The Oxford Group agreed that drunks are powerless over their addiction, AA saw the problem as a disease that cannot be cured. The Oxford Group argued that it’s possible that addicts can have complete victory over their sin.

The methods the Oxford Group advocated can apply to any kind of addiction, or other problems rooted in human character flaws, a result of sin.

Homelessness, although not always the fault of the person who has become homeless, is a struggle. Christian counsel can help the homeless too. We all have problems; it’s just a matter of degree. Carl Jung wrote of an experience at an insane asylum he visited with what he called “an intelligent layman,” who remarked that the inmates had problems like the average person, only they were greatly magnified. Dr. Jung was right about that.

Today in southeastern Pennsylvania, where addictions and other problems run rampant, churches are stepping up to the plate to counsel addicts. At the church luncheon after the funeral for our dear sister Martha, who was a member of the homeless community in lower Bucks County PA, the pastor and a church member told me they were seriously considering starting a program for addicts. After I gave them my two cents, they decided to move forward with the program.

In lower Bucks County, two churches host the 12 Step Journey program, where scripture is heavily used in conjunction with the 12 steps model to help people deal with drug and alcohol addictions and other problems that plague them. People with different problems mesh well together and people have made great progress in having victory over their sin-caused problems.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/ 

Heroin addiction stands out, but there are other problems, and this is just the tip of the iceberg above the underlying cause. Several decades ago, writer E.B. White wrote that New York “is a cancer as yet undetected.” Well, the heroin problem is a manifestation of a social cancer, the underlying cause of which people don’t see, maybe because they don’t want to.

Where there is God, there is hope. Hope for the sinner. It’s not too late. God will lift you out of the pit, as he did King David.