The Scottish ‘Drug Deaths’ figures are due out as I type and sadly we know in advance what picture they will paint. The numbers are expected to reflect an increase in deaths registered to substance misuse with a shocking number of those being unintended overdose. So desperately sad and so brutal for the families and loved ones, left behind with more questions than answers.
There are it seems some recent changes in the kinds of habits, the mix of preferred substances, shifts in availability and price determining ever new issues to overcome for those working at street level. Addictions, often spoken of as a most cruel illness which affects not only the user but impacts every one of the wider circle of friends or family also. From my own perspective and way of seeing addiction, it is a symptom of an underlying problem. Addiction (or a predisposition to addictive behaviours) is the manifestation of some deeper wound or void at the level of the soul. A soul-wound if you will. Let it be known right now that I make no claim to possess particular qualifications or expertise to inform my stance, this is the reasoned opinion of a person who has made the care of souls his business and interest. I am someone who has had his own scrapes and has witnessed the impacts of addiction on loved ones over the course of a lifetime. Substances to numb the pain, to fill the void, to ‘help’ one be the person inside, to help forget symptoms.
Inexplicably some of us are more susceptible to particular poisons than others. What speaks to me may not speak to you in the same way but most of us will have a weak spot. Some addictions carry with them a form of public acceptance and even adulation like fame-hungry influencers or workaholics able to demonstrate outwardly the fruits of their ‘successes’. Justifiable addictions in the eyes of the world.
Drug addiction carries no acclaim, no veneer of respectability for public acclaim, especially once the shift occurs from you using drugs to the drugs using you. The voids that demand filling and drive unhealthy compulsions demand more and more, than can ever be delivered by the host.
Helps of various kinds have been conceived, agencies and programmes, education and prevention, an industry all of its own but the numbers tell me that the cleverness of humankind is running out of fresh ideas. But, there is something that beyond all other measures or steps provides genuine release from the grips of addictive states. Not only release from addiction but a filling of the void at the level of the soul. The miracle, which it is, is a genuine spiritual encounter accompanied by conversion, commitment, and renewal. Nothing else works like it. Nothing I have ever seen anyway. The cry of the heart, is in my experience, one which the Lord cannot and will not resist – ‘I am broken, lost, and if you are real; I NEED YOU!’. Perhaps the only true prayer we ever utter or say out loud.
John the Revelator wrote in Revelation 3:20 ‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
This week I had the privilege of seeing nine men from various states of addiction and brokenness make declarations of new found focus and life through their faith in Jesus as redeemer and saviour. It was a reminder of my own baptism and of the changed life I have had the privilege of living ever since. Nine baptisms, in a beautiful burn in the beautiful Muirshiel hills, nine people who we pray will go on to impact the world positively, nine people who are not statistics in the national news. I prayed for the men, as I pray for our Mission, as people on the brink of new life and new adventure.
We are in the business of signposting, pointing the way toward new life and new hope. We work in a valley often, but we fear no evil. Today really is the day of salvation, the situation in our land as urgent as it ever was and perhaps more precarious than ever before for the dear broken vessels who are perishing. This is life and death ministry make no mistake and a whether dismal statistics, or baptisms, it is always good to be reminded of the importance of the work.