Welcome to the 3rd edition of Drug Free Australia’s update on Drug Prevention.
Shockingly, Australia remains one of the highest illicit drug using countries (per capita) in the world. Ice and stimulants like ecstasy are the main contributors to the bourgeoning community problems we are all facing. Smoked cannabis/marijuana is also a high contender – adding to our burden of disease and mental health issues…
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New research from Roy Morgan released by the Salvation Army this week reveals some astonishing figures that our churches need to take seriously (is it too late for many of our Christian young people?).
Point 1: 26.4% reported that when they drink alcohol it was often because they were celebrating (approximately 4.8 million people) and 47.3% said it was sometimes because they were celebrating (approximately 8.6 million people).
Point 2: 2.1 million People sometimes use alcohol because they want to get drunk (12.1%)
Point 3: 32% of 18-24 year olds reported they often or sometimes consume alcohol because they want to get drunk.
For many years now I have been appalled at Christian functions serving alcohol – especially weddings – when it seems to be the “right thing to do”.
It is time once again for Christians to set an example and promote the positive message you can celebrate without alcohol and teach our young people this.
All pastors and leaders need to promote this positive message. Yes, we all know the dangers of alcohol and the carnage and personal tragedies that result from getting drunk.
PLEASE, may these figures scare you into positive action?
And well done Salvation Army for arranging this research.
you can celebrate without alcohol! you can celebrate without getting drunk!
Check out the rest of the statistics.
And well done Salvation Army for arranging this research.
Salvation Army Media Release:
Alcohol Awareness Week
The Salvation Army’s annual Alcohol Awareness Week (21–25 October 2013) called for debate around alcohol advertising and sponsorship, particularly in sport.
New Roy Morgan research* commissioned by the Salvos reveals 72% of respondents say alcohol and sport have become too closely related in Australia and 67% say it is time to start phasing alcohol sponsorship out of sport in the same way as tobacco advertising.
‘Australia is a sporting nation. We see this every weekend when thousands of young Australians take part in sporting activities across many codes,’ said Kathryn Wright, Territorial alcohol and other drugs Unit Director. ‘The Salvation Army is calling for a re-think about where alcohol fits into this culture.’
Some of the policy directions that have already been discussed or implemented in other countries include the banning of alcohol sponsorship in sport and the banning or restricting of alcohol advertising during sporting telecasts.
The Alcohol Awareness campaign has the backing of major organisations including The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, The National Stroke Foundation, Dr Kerry O’Brien from Monash University and Curtin University’s Professor of Health Policy Mike Daube.
*1,001 people were surveyed across Australia.
21–25 October 2013 | salvationarmy.org.au “Alcohol Awareness Week”
by Charles Slack
The first week in March is the anniversary of my last drink or drug. Thanks to Lord Jesus Christ, I’ve had nothing in my blood but blood since 3rd March 1976 – twenty-seven years of a clean brain. Why did I take drugs in the first place? Why did Adam disobey God and bite the fruit? We should have known better! Or we did know better but did it anyway.
In the early 1960s, when it was still legal, I began experimenting with the drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). At first, my drug use could be called genuine research. Dr. Timothy Leary and others at Harvard obtained the drug from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. We had no idea it would be habit forming. At first we administered it under controlled conditions. However, as history relates, things rapidly got out of hand.1)http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/9487/heinylsd.htm
Personally, the results were disastrous. I took other hallucinogens and graduated to opiates, barbiturates and large quantities of alcohol. During this period, 1961-76 my CV is deceiving. Actually, my career went into reverse. Working my way down the academic ladder, I finished up in Alabama writing test items for a medical school. They gave me a title but the job really consisted of ghostwriting exam questions. Through drug-addict physicians, I got the supplies my habit demanded. Finally, I lost even that job, spent the night in the drunk-tank of the Birmingham City Jail where I amused guards with stories about once being a Harvard professor.
Through the efforts of a criminologist (Professor Alex Bassin of the University of Florida,2)http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/about.htm I found my way into “Twelve-step” programmes. Although I had difficulty identifying as an addict/alcoholic – after all, I had a Ph.D and they didn’t – nevertheless, I became alcohol and drug free. To date, facilitating my own recovery, I have attended thousands of meetings and spent considerable time helping others to stay clean and sober.
In October 1976, when I was seven months off drugs, I migrated to Australia to work in the Welfare Department of the State of Victoria. It was not easy to adjust to a new job, a new country, and a new state of mental health all at the same time and I was barely able to keep my job and stay clean and sober.
I had not yet fully repented:
I was dry but still hanging on to old ideas and lacking in the joy of the Lord. However by November 1980, my mind was clear enough to perceive God’s Word. In the middle of a footy oval in Blackburn, Victoria at five in the morning, I sank to my knees and told God that I could not continue to run my life. He must take control or I would relapse onto booze and drugs. I was willing to do anything Jesus wanted. At that moment when, with my drug-free mind, I finally resigned as general manager of myself, Jesus set me free indeed! As a born-again Christian, I received the Holy Spirit, began to fellowship with the saints, and found great comfort and release from compulsion to drink and use drugs. I became an elder in and treasurer of a suburban church and then the pastor of a country church.
Over the years, Lord Jesus has used me to bring drug addicts to Him. I have worked in rehabilitation programmes and groups of all kinds including the Justice Department of Western Australia.
Currently, my wife Sue and I pastor the church in tiny Green Head WA 300km north of Perth. We also conduct seminars on recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse.
Well, at age 83 I’m not.
Since becoming a Christian (age fifty), I’ve been consistently joyous. Even while grieving, mourning for loved ones, there’s joy at the bottom of my heart. I’m usually in good health – but while writing this article, I had severe flu including a night in hospital. The coughing and sniffling didn’t quit; headache and chest-pain were relentless. Physically incapacitated, I suffered. But I was not depressed. What a change! Before coming to the Lord, I was constantly in the dumps. I thought I was meant to be that way.
MY ANSWER: the world is actually a lonely, depressing place.
You will be at least slightly lonely and depressed unless you have an intimate, father-relationship with God. And that only comes through Jesus Christ. There are things you can do to mitigate natural worldly despair but the only complete cure is what the Bible calls “joy of the Lord”.
“Worry comes with the territory.” That’s what people said back in the early 20th century.
Now it’s true of depression. Our society, the whole post-modern world itself, is depressing – and getting more so.
The 1930’s (my childhood) were apprehensive times.
Philosophers called it “angst”. Great literature, theatre, music and dance were about “the age of anxiety”. But anxiety eventually morphs into depression. Given enough worry, you fall into the pit of despair. No lasting contentment.
Oh yes, life has its up-moments but there’s no continuing lift. A bit of fun comes from the odd, fleeting pleasure – winning a prize, achieving an ambition, triumphing over an opponent. These provide brief respite. But the distracting thrills fade. Suffering moves forefront. Ubiquitous evil takes centre stage. TV provides distraction and a few laughs. Somebody somewhere shows a kindness. Some champion gets gold. A hero rescues a child or an animal. A few sacrifices are made for the common good. (So goodness does exist.) But the totality of positive events is insufficient to raise the negative baseline. We remain deprived of ongoing happiness.
It’s not the first time in history. The book of Ecclesiastes, written thousands of years ago by the wisest, richest, most powerful man of the day, clearly states that worldly pursuits will let you down. “All is vanity” says the King James version; “melancholia” was the 19th century word; “depression” is the post-modern term. Same in Jesus’ day: He came specifically to save the “broken-hearted”; He preached good news for the “poor in spirit”. And the crowds who thronged to hear him were politically and religiously oppressed as well as spiritually depressed – like many today.
The seeds of depression lay in my very identity. Most of us find our primary identity in a job or profession, or perhaps in a roles as spouse/parent/friend. If I think of myself primarily as a psychologist, I am bound to become depressed sometime after middle age. If successful at I will push the ceiling and be disillusioned. If I am a failure, I will encounter personal limits and be disheartened. This is true of every occupation. Each has its mid-life crises as does each social role. Thinking you are primarily a mother means you are unprepared when you must quit mothering – either because you’ve been successful or because you’ve failed. You will be depressed if your children become dysfunctional. But if they function properly, you no longer function as their parent. The Bible teaches parenting to be a “calling” not an identity. My reason for living is in Christ.
I am primarily a “child of God” made in His image – who happens to have worked as a psychologist. In my retirement, I say I am a “reformed psychologist”.
What to do. The customary advice is:
• See your doctor. Get assessed properly. Get treated if need be. OK, but don’t expect the treatment (pills) or the counselling (talk) to be a cure. The medication is likely to seem like a cover-up or even just a wet blanket. The counselling will try to help you accept yourself as you are and the world as it is. However, what you really need is a new self and a better world.
• Join social activities, “get connected”, make friends. Easier said than done, often impossible when depressed. Far better to start by getting connected with the Lord. Go to prayer meetings. Go to church! “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and then things like serenity, security and happiness “will be added unto you”.
• Be a volunteer. Help others. This was first proposed by psychoanalyst Alfred Adler over a hundred years ago. Problem: none of his depressed patients could even think of anything to do to help another person. Easier option: go to church early on Sunday morning and smile at people as they come in.
• Exercise regularly. This definitely works. Endorphin’s rise. Try strenuous praise and worship. Most depressed Christians sit way in the back in church. Move to the front and sing loud.
• Read inspiring literature. Read the Bible. Read Sarah Young, Jesus Calling. And/or write, telling other people what to do. Writing can be unpleasant but having written is usually quite pleasant.
• Quit smoking and drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. Smokers are more depressed than non-smokers. Ex-smokers eventually report elation. If you can’t quit, go to church anyway and ask for prayer. Check out AA and NA meeting in the church shed or basement.
Finally, If you think I’m overstating it, if you think you’re reasonably happy and don’t need Jesus, let me say there is one thing worse than being lonely and depressed. That is being lonely and depressed without being aware of it – unconscious depression. You think you’re meant to be unhappy so you’ll work hard, miserable so you’ll keep striving, less than par so you nose will stay on the grindstone.
In the sixties Nancy Sinatra sang I’ve Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.
I was “down” for years during the sixties, and I didn’t discover why until Jesus came into my life. I was fifty years old when that happened. I can honestly say I have not had another depressed moment since the first Sunday in October 1980.
Let Lord Jesus heal your broken spirit.
Let Him show you a better world. Let Him put the joy of the Lord down in your heart.
John 8:34-36 (KJV) 34Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Revelation 12:11 (KJV) And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Australia is in the throes of a drug epidemic.
The problem – including opiate, amphetamine, cannabis, designer drug, hallucinogen, solvent, alcohol and prescribed drug-abuse – becomes endemic as use and abuse spread in schools, workplaces, homes, sports and churches. No age is unaffected, no social class or ethnic group immune. “Social use” leads to full-scale addiction and once that takes hold, few recover.
Listen to me: those that do recover commonly believe divine intervention is required.
Most of us with substantial recovery disagree with government policy, methadone maintenance, controlled use, “harm minimisation” etc. We know the goal is abstinence, complete abstinence, nothing in the blood but blood – and what’s more, we know how to get it.
I am one of a growing number who know. I mean it! Listen to me: my cohorts and I are the answer.
We got addicted, yes, but now we are completely drug-free and remaining that way. If everyone did what we do, there would be no drug problem.
When epidemiologists study a disease, their first priority is to study those who did not succumb. The solution to an epidemic is to be found by careful study of those already immune and already recovered. First find out what God has done, then you know what to do. Find out what God has done in us: what makes us different. Our history reveals the cause and leads to the cure. Don’t just study problem-people, study solution-people.
Not listening: Sadly, this approach is not being taken by policy makers in Australia. The government and professional establishment are busy listening to drug abusers, social drug users, experts who never used drugs, addicts in between relapses, rights advocates, anybody and everybody except former users who personify the complete solution which is complete abstinence.
How do I know? I was a poly-drug user, severely addicted, but have been completely drug-free since March 1976. In 1975, at age 46, I was unemployed and unemployable, spending the night in the drunk-tank. Today, at age 83, I am a sober, self-funded retiree. I am well-known and respected in recovery circles. But the professional establishment is not listening. Why? I’m “too religious” and “too rigid”. Listen to me: complete abstinence is rigorous not rigid! My recovery is miraculous, marvellous and mystical but “religious” is not the right word for it.
The Grace of God: Nearly all recovering addicts are aware that a power greater than themselves is needed for true recovery. Many are aware that that power is Jesus Christ, the One who sets captives free from sin. Others may know but not fully acknowledge and still others may acknowledge yet not show gratitude. In Luke 17:12-19, Jesus heals ten lepers, yet only one turns around to thank him. The proportion of all recovered drug addicts who turn to Christ is probably greater than ten percent – yet still less than the number healed. God’s grace is bountiful, extending both to those we might consider deserving and undeserving.
The more you investigate healing from addiction, the more amazing it seems. It’s not uncommon for a full-on habitual taker of illegal drugs suddenly to become a clean-and-sober evangelist leading friends to Christ. It’s also possible for an over-the-top person (like me) to go from habitual lying to what might be called “compulsive candour” – seeing hypocrisy everywhere. It’s the “reformed addict” syndrome. Who wants to listen to a sanctimonious Bible basher?
Why they don’t listen:Addicts in early recovery are poor communicators. Drug abuse causes emotionally retardation, development ceasing from the moment the first drug is taken. We have much to learn. It takes time to become informed as well as reformed. Until then, we are a pain in the neck to family and friends. We sound self-righteous when really we are afraid of relapsing. But if we continue to repent we improve. When we surrender to Jesus, our improvement is remarkable. After thirty-six clean-and-sober years, I am quite good at explaining what God is doing in my life. Listen to me. I may be able to help – you, your neighbourhood, your country – your family.
Drug specialists, bureaucrats and well-meaning Christians, while well aware of the problem, are far less acquainted with the solution that lies at the heart of recovery. That’s what I’m an expert in -how to quit and more important, how to stay quit.
How to listen: As I try to explain to my grandchildren: there’s a new type of communication with no media, no electronics, no Ipads, no wifi dongles or modems – nothing, just people. Two equal people (who have not taken any mind-altering chemicals today) sit opposite each other and look each other in the face. It’s not sex; it’s not therapy or counselling; it’s “conversation”. The Bible calls it fellowship. We take turns. While one person talks, the other listens carefully. After I understand you, then I talk to you. Listening is as important as talking. When we converse this way, it is not long before what we both recognize as truth emerges. It is an amazing experience. Give it a try.
Psalm 50:23 (KJV) …to him that ordereth his conversation (life-style) aright will I shew the salvation of God.
When we get together, as I hope we shall, we will get to know each other. I promise to listen carefully to everything you say. And remember: when you know me, you know a solution to the drug problem. When you know Jesus, you’ll love conversing with all kinds of people.
Hebrews 13:1 (KJV) Let brotherly love continue.
You may be surprised to know the Bible is all about what we now call “addiction”. The Bible just has different words for it. “Slavery”, “idolatry”, “transgression”, “trespass” and “sin” are some of the Bible words for behaviour we can’t stop once we start. But with God all things are possible. That includes the complete change in personality required to recover from heavy addictions. The Christian Church got its start when many thousands witnessed such a profound change in Jesus’ followers and were willing to go to great lengths to do likewise. Sometimes He even delivers us without being asked. The Lord surprised Paul (then called “Saul”) with a miracle (Acts 9:3-20) on the road to Damascus which delivered him from his addiction to religious legalism. At this point Paul began to influence others who perceived that huge change in him. This article is about how God can use you to help make a change in others.
Once the Lord had got me clean and sober however, I was more effective than normal folk in influencing other addicts. On hearing of my recovery, people with drug problems would often make a decision to seek a lifestyle change. Normal people, good Christians, could try and try, but they would fail where my story worked to inspire addicts to turn to God and recover – sometimes when least expected. It happened in my own family even before I knew Jesus as my saviour.
I became a Christian late in life, baptised in 1980 at age fifty. Before then, I had just repented of my alcohol and drug use by attending 12-Step meetings. The Lord will honour sincere repentance in anyone, even a loud-mouth atheist like I was. All I did was humble myself, become more open-minded, join with others, and ask sincerely – even though I didn’t yet know exactly Whom I was asking. God then removed my compulsion to drink and use drugs. In 1976, eight months clean and sober, I migrated from the USA to Victoria Australia to work for the State Welfare Department.
Meanwhile throughout the late 1980’s one of my adult offspring was hanging out in a notorious drug district in California with beatnik and hippy artists who had “tuned in, turned on and dropped out”.
I rarely visited the USA and so I was astonished when my offspring phoned Australia to say, “I’ve been clean and sober for two years, attending 12-Step meetings”.
I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
The answer: “You’re such a blab-mouth, Daddy. I didn’t want everyone in America to know. It’s OK to tell your friends in Australia but I’d rather be anonymous around here.”
I got the point but asked, “Why 12 Step programs?”
“I knew they worked. I could tell by your voice over the phone.”
Although I was concerned about my child’s lifestyle, I was living halfway around the world. We communicated briefly by phone – not enough time for me to persuade even if I’d tried.
Could I have been more influential had I been able to interact, discuss, reason, plead, nag or manipulate? Obviously not. I believe a principle was at work.
My ex-wife, the children’s mother, played a vital role in this. Although our marriage was destroyed by my drinking and drug abuse, she ultimately forgave me and strongly supported my recovery. Her endorsement gave my story credibility and persuasive power.
My offspring got sober, quit the hippy drug crowd and went to work, quickly rising to become a sales manager and eventually a vice president of a computer company. Then a successful marriage gained me a gorgeous grandchild. Another unbelievable bonus: although that old hippy crowd are mostly dead and gone, one of its leaders got drug-free along with my offspring. Whenever I visit the USA, I take a walk with this amazing artist who is now physically fit, clear-headed and more productive than ever.
Notice that the Lord’s grace extends to those who do not (yet) know Jesus as saviour. Some get healed first and saved second. Others remain dry through repentance alone. In any case, through God’s common grace, they are far better off abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
What you used to be like compared with what you are like now: how much you’ve changed – that’s the vital tactic which always triggers a reaction of some kind, positive or negative, avowed or denied, expressed or repressed. It leaves no one unaffected, and quite often it works!
Don’t get me wrong. Neither you nor I can cause another person to straighten out. No one except Jesus Himself can get an addict off drugs. Only God can make change in another person. However, you and I can facilitate a social situation in which a person may admit to wanting change. We can humble ourselves and gather in a small group. Seeking help is actually a form of prayer.
Even a weak ex-factor ruins an addict’s complacency. It can elicit anger, denial and avoidance or even an explosive reaction. Years ago, I knew a strung-out junkie girl who kept telling me how much she loathed Weight-watchers. When asked why, she would not answer coherently. This girl was on mega doses of amphetamines, dangerously thin, irritable, angry and paranoid about the famous slimming program. Eventually I learned that her mother had joined Weight-watchers and was maintaining a healthy body-mass index.
Why was the drug-addict daughter so hateful and obsessed? Her mother had clearly improved. Daughter hated Weight-watchers because it represented major life-change. And it was working for mom! If a mother could lose weight without drugs then a daughter could lose drugs. She couldn’t get it out of her mind.
Unconsciously most addicts want to change. They just want to keep using drugs while they do so. This means the strongest rejection often comes just prior to acceptance. Getting high on any drug depends on continuing to believe there’s no good reason to quit that drug. Losing that belief is the first step in actually quitting. Because quitting is painful, addicts continue to shut out all evidence of the possibility of positive change. However, if A can quit, then maybe B should do likewise. Having become clean, sober, happy, joyous and free, I bring addicts down from their highs just by entering the room. I don’t have to say a word. Sometimes I think my mission in life is bringing addicts down – where the decision to seek help is at least possible.
Lack of the ex-factor explains why so many devoted parents are powerless to help their own children, why they’re helpless to instill common sense in rebellious offspring. The parents are righteous but static – no change. Well intentioned friends can be trustworthy, loving, patient, loyal, peaceful and selfless but because they are perceived as always having been that way, they have zero influence.
1. Ex-sinners have more impact than same-old saints.
2. Never give advice. Pass on what worked for you.
3. I must give God the glory and my spouse the credit. I just take the privilege. (That idea comes from Joyce Meyer on TV.)
4. We will generally fail to influence anyone who can’t see clearly that we ourselves have been influenced.
5. Change is painful and people resist it. People also try to resist perceiving change in others. For this reason the ex-factor sometimes elicits extreme negative reactions.
6. A parent can never direct a wayward son or daughter toward a personality change unless the parent is perceived as having undergone a personality change.
7. The main reason they’re not listening to you is because you have zero ex-factor.
8. You will be convinced of these truths only when you are aware of how I became convinced of them (my ex-factor).
Long after the actual fighting had ceased, books continued to be published, movies filmed, even an opera West Side Story, about teen gang warfare. When the public became satiated, focus shifted from the gangs to the people studying them. I was invited as guest on an all-night radio program.
“Long John” Nebel, the show’s host, had a loyal following listening nightly to discus¬sions of off-beat phenomena (UFOs), odd-ball health procedures (colonic irrigation) and social problems (delinquency). I insisted the gang leaders sit in the studio with me. I didn’t want to talk about them behind their backs. I was positioned at a microphone across from Long John. Big Chino, Angelo and Wilson, sat in respectful silence at the far end of the room. The studio sound-proofing eliminated street noise and seemed to reduce anxiety in the boys.
However, Long John began with agitprop. Introducing me as “a very young ivory tower academic”, he doubted my experience, hence my ability to solve real problems. “What in the world, young Doctor leads you to think you could possess a cure for crime and delinquency? How can you possibly believe you possess solutions to gang war?”
Thank God (in whom I did not yet believe) I made the right reply. I said “No, but they do”. Three Latin teenagers now smiled benignly lifting open arms and harmless hands in gestures of peace and goodwill. This was the ex-factor with a capitol EX. Big Chino, Angelo and Wilson personified the answer to his question. Long John instantly did a “double-take” and spent the rest of the night interviewing the boys with a passion.
The dialogue itself was somewhat disappointing. The boys’ solution was to get-out-of-town to places with swimming pools and dance floors – but even on the radio at that moment, dialogue was not the point. Who the boys were in contrast to what they had been was what mattered. As a result, Long John’s interest in their personal details was insatiable. He interviewed them non-stop throughout the night finishing in the morning with a plea for money for bus rides up-State. I recall he grossed over fifty dollars, a reasonable sum for early hours in the early sixties.
The most powerful ex-factor is changed presence expressed in looks, words and deeds. Sometimes you just know that a person has been transformed. In the radio studio the ex-factor was high enough so that what was said hardly mattered.
So to make change in someone’s life, stop trying to make the change. Instead try prayer behaviour: humbly seek people who have changed and ask them how it happened. Take advice rather than give it. Gather in a triad. Submit to obvious change in your own life. Observe what God does. Give Him thanks.
How do I know all this?
How can I be so sure?
Answer: because of my own personality change, bottom to top, bad to good, tail to head. Before being transformed by Lord Jesus, I was totally powerless to influence anyone. While being changed by Him, I influenced others without knowing. After changing me, He used me to make change in others. That’s the ex-factor. It’s a fact.
“Where are you now?”
The other psychologists would ask me this at conventions and conferences.
They meant: where are you working, what university or research outfit? When my career went in to decline, I resented the question, didn’t want to disclose how low I’d descended down the job ladder. I’d reply with sarcasm, “I’m here in the Hilton Cocktail Lounge: where are you?” and then order another drink. After enough vodka martinis, the Lounge of the New York Hilton looks a lot like the Lounge of the Chicago Hilton. Both are rather fuzzy. In fact everything is a bit formless – and – ah – where was I – Oh yes – here at my computer writing about disorientation. Right?
Adam where are you?
One doesn’t need to be drunk to be disoriented. Any sin can impair orientation. In Genesis 3:9, the Lord God asks Adam “Where are you?” Obviously God knows. He’s giving Adam a test item, a diagnostic query. God doesn’t waste words. To Adam it also meant explain yourself. How far have you gone from Me? I call it the “Adam Item”. What are you doing? What are you really doing?
The Adam Item
And maybe most important of all the Adam Item also means: Who do you think you are? God knows exactly what Adam will answer but He wants Adam to speak for himself. In three words, the Adam Item, “Where are you?” exposes the totality of original sin. How are we going? Who do we think we are kidding?
Adam could have confessed his disobedience. But he obfuscated, “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked: and I hid myself.” Hid from the all-seeing eye of God! Not just evil – really stupid!
To prompt Adam to wise up, God asks, “Who told you you were naked?” and finally, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” He points the finger at Eve. The rest is history.
So man tried to cheat on God’s first test item – as God knew he would. The Big Question for us is can we acknowledge our mistakes? Where are we in relation to God? The Item takes different forms depending on the sin: how, who, what, when, why, where.
The Addict Item
“Have you used a drug today?” If not, then “How long has it been?” Addicts may not like the question, but they understand it. The next question is: Do you want to quit?
I quit using drugs on 3 March, 1976. Before that date, I hated the Addict Item and avoided all questioners. The Addict Item didn’t make me repent but it tended to spoil my using. Eventually I reached desperation and was ready for surrender. Then and only then did I admit to others (and to myself) how much, how often, and how recently I had used.
2 The Addict Item doesn’t cure addicts
It makes them angry. Years ago a nurse in a nearby town phoned me to ask if I would speak to her patient. The dialogue went:
Charles: Hi. The nurse has asked me to speak to you because I used to be heavily addicted to drugs. However, I am totally free of all drugs now and have been for quite a few years. How are you doing?
Patient: Not too well. I’m very confused and I can’t sleep.
Charles: I know what you mean: I’ve felt that way many times. Let me ask you, how long has it been since you’ve taken a drug of any kind?
Patient: (Pause) Well, I had a bit of mull yesterday.
Charles: How about other stuff?
Patient: (Pause) Well, oh, I’d say about two weeks!
Charles: (I’m quite sure he’s lying) So you have not used today?
Patient: (Pause) Right.
Charles: OK, so do you want to quit, I mean get off and stay off all drugs? It’s not easy but it is worth it.
Patient: (Pause) I don’t rightly know what I want. I’m confused, aren’t I?
Charles: OK so you need to give yourself a break. You need a clean brain for a few weeks, in order to know what you want.
Patient: But I can’t sleep.
Charles: So what! Nobody ever died of insomnia. I couldn’t sleep when I came off drugs. I hadn’t really slept for years because I always knocked myself out in one way or another. I never really slept because I always crashed.
Learning to sleep without drugs takes time. Give yourself a break. Then you can decide if you really want to quit for good.
Patient: But I need to sleep!
Charles: No you don’t. Just stay awake: you’ll sleep eventually. If you take sleeping pills now, you will soon be back on your other drugs. Your brain will never get clean enough to make a good decision.
Patient: But I need to sleep because I’m going to court Thursday on a dangerous-driving charge.
Charles: Good! When you get to court, tell your lawyer to tell the court you are an addict and can’t sleep. Tell the judge the truth: you are agitated and need treatment. Tell them you need a good rehab that will detox you and keep you off all drugs. Then you will sleep well, like I now do.
Patient: (No reply: he has dropped the phone!)
Charles: (now speaking to the nurse) He needs to go to a rehab. Tell the court that’s what he needs. And no sleeping pills. Let him stay awake. Sleep in the daytime. It won’t kill him.
Nurse: I think you’re right. I’ll do what I can. (CRASH!) I’ll call you later!
The nurse phoned back to say the patient was so angry he kicked a hole in her door on the way out. She had him charged with “wilful damage”. She said she thought he might go into a rehab providing the court cooperated. She agreed we’d done the best we could under the circumstances. Now we should pray for his recovery. The Addict Item can assist the addict to get to a place where abstinence is possible through the grace of God.
Notice God did not rescue Adam and Eve. He ejected them from His garden! However, as a result mankind was in a position where rehabilitation was possible through Jesus.
The Co-Dependent Item
If you are a non-addict trying to influence an addicted relative or friend, your Item takes this form: Do I still think “there must be some way” I can save my addicted child, spouse, relative or friend?
The greatest lesson from Adam is simply that God himself did NOT rescue the sinners from their sin.
According to this plan, each of us must make a decision (Philippians 2:12-13): to surrender to Jesus or go on sinning. It’s His way or “my way”.
The lesson from the oldest story in the book: God’s way is best.
Depression and grief are not the same. Depression is a lingering state of mind (often assumed to have a neurological basis) whereas grief is a more acute state of emotional pain caused by a specific loss. In grief, we temporarily mourn the passing of a cherished person, place, thing (or sometimes theory or thought). Often the emotional pain following loss does not seem to be temporary. When that happens it’s best to call it depression rather than grief. Likewise, self-pity, a persistent] distress featuring bitterness and resentment, is more likely associated with depression than with true grief.
So the Bible-based relief from full-on, intransigent, relentless, deep depression (worldly sorrow) is full-on, deep but transient Godly sorrow (II Corinthians 7:9-10). Godly sorrow is intense, sometimes almost unbearably severe. But unlike depression, we can mourn and go through the worst of it with God’s help. The Bible cure for depression involves letting your heart break, your tears flow in complete sorrowfulness.
Grief-relief from depression, effective but not easy
This Bible-based method is painful. Grief is more intense than depression and we naturally fear its full-on agony. But the good news is: the intense phase of grief is short-lived compared to depression which never quits. The intense phase of grief, though horrible, lasts only “for a season” – thank God – and He constantly promises to comfort us during the worst of it. When we emerge from grief, as we eventually do, we may still feel some loss but we are no longer at a loss – the sun shines again. On the other hand, we never do emerge from clinical depression. We just suppress/repress (or dampen the blues with medication) while the anguish goes on and on undercover.
Great men and women of God have suffered depression (formerly called “melancholia”) until they completely surrendered to God. Billy Graham was “spiritually dead” prior to being born again. Franklin Graham was “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. St. Augustine wrote his famous Confessions about the depths he experienced before turning completely to the will of his Saviour.
David of Judea and even Jesus Christ both asked, God, why have you forsaken me? (David in Psalm 22; Jesus in Matthew 27:46.) There’s no use trying to convince yourself God hasn’t abandoned you when you really think He has. Why not do what David and Jesus did to get the answer direct? If God doesn’t answer immediately, persist! Set aside a time every day to ask God why He seems to have left. Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself.
My depression was caused by my hanging on to something God wanted me to let go of. As long as I hung on, I was still “of the world” in a big way. The Bible way is “die to self” and grieve, after which you rise – becoming a new creation. Jesus says (Mark 8:34-35) “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Psychoanalytic cure never applied
A Swiss psychoanalyst, Dr. Alfred Adler, invented a fourteen-day cure for depression. Adler said, if each of fourteen days you simply think of one thing you could do to help another person, your depression will lift. You don’t really have to do anything, just think that thought. Problem: his patients could not think it. Severely depressed people simply could not imagine a single thing to help someone else. They asked Adler, “What do you mean by ‘help’?” He replied, “Make someone smile.” Still they couldn’t do it. A patient said he was so depressed he couldn’t sleep. Dr. Adler said, “Stay awake and think of something that would help someone.” Next day the patient said he went right to sleep! Dr. Adler’s patients didn’t know how to make his cure work because they didn’t know the Lord. You and I can help somebody merely by going to church early. Leave in advance and get there early: you meet the best people that way, Early Club members who help make the church service possible. Being an early bird indicates willingness to help. Even if you actually do little or nothing, you have at least done some Adlerian thinking. Repeat for three Sundays in a row and put your mind to it every day in between and your depression will lift noticeably. Such is the power of even a tiny bit of Godly devotion.
Good and bad sorrow
Worldly devotions, such as idolizing your child or worrying about finances, may seem OK but these can take priority over God. A person, place, thing or thought that God wants us to let go of can be deadly. It may not be a felony or misdemeanor but it is a form of idolatry, a breach in our relationship with Him. Such attachments cause depression.
The ultimate cure for depression is Godly sorrow which means grieving. You repent and then you mourn because you have totally let go of the person, place, thing or idea you valued so highly. You go through the great grief like a heavy waterfall. When you come out, the world is brighter. Good grief! People are afraid of grief but actually there is nothing to fear. The intense phase of grief is always temporary.
So think, for a moment, about exactly what or whom you may be idolizing. It might be your profession, your self-image, even your ministry. You don’t want to give it up because it seems as important as your very own soul. That beloved person, place, thing, activity, idea or ideal is an idol. Hanging onto it can eventually kill you; the Bible says it “worketh death”. As long as you hang onto him/her/it/them, you remain intractably depressed and there seems no way out. However, you are deceived: the way out is to become willing to let go completely.
If you are unsure or unaware of exactly what it is you are holding onto, if the object of your tenacity is unknown or uncertain, then seek help from a Godly mentor or advisor to help you find words for it and bring it to full consciousness.
Then, hand it over to Lord Jesus. Give Him your cherished self-concept: you are now a new creature in Christ. Give Him your idolized, unsaved child: s/he’s the Lord’s child now. Surrender your drug-abusing partner to God: s/he’s God’s problem now. Give UP the idea you will ever get healed the way you think you should: let the Lord work in His inscrutable way with your health. God’s will be done, not yours. Surrender your life to Him – total, absolute, unconditional surrender.
Sound impossible? Letting go completely means total loss and total loss means unbearable grief. But that’s your only choice, unbearable grief vs. interminable depression. If you choose grief, you will find grief is temporary and God will send His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to get you though. If you choose to remain depressed, He makes no such promises. In fact that’s the whole problem in a nutshell: God appears to forsake the depressed while He blesses those who repent and mourn.
Don’t idolize your life
Jesus said that whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33) Idolizing my self-made lifestyle made me suicidal with depression. But, thank God, I didn’t kill myself. Instead, I “died to self”, was crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) At the time I was totally powerless, I felt I simply could not do a single thing. That’s when God took over. I just let Him do His job. The pain was great (greater than the depression) but after God removed the cause, agony subsided.
Don’t let anyone tell you to lighten up: happiness comes later. When I grieved, I cried tears. I mourned and felt unbearable loss when at last I finally let it go. That person, place, thing, idea, whatever I was clinging to, is now gone forever and I suffered accordingly. However, the Lord Jesus always supplies a “Comforter and Helper” (John14:26): the Holy Spirit comes. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Grief is all about suffering and being comforted. God gives us mourning to get the grief out of our system.
Surrender requires trust in God. “He will bring it to pass.” (Read Psalm 37 and take it totally to heart.) Ask God to remove ALL your old ideas. Begin afresh. Let him give you new ideas about relationships, healing, love, salvation, your profession, your ministry, and of course, about depression and happiness. He will renew your mind in His time. Just do what He requires. It may seem mechanical, but go through the actions anyway. Be patient. He will bring it to pass. God will turn your mourning into joy and “gird” you with gladness (Psalm 30:11). You will be more content than you ever thought possible.
Finally, the most important thing you can do to keep from getting depressed again is regular, full-on worship of the Lord. Worship at every opportunity. Next in importance is “helping others”: 1) Love God with all your being; 2) love your neighbour. This is good advice but, when you are depressed, no way can you do it without Lord Jesus in your life.
But after you pass through the grieving, you can worship and share abundantly.
On pages 250-251 of “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference” by Philip Yancey, is a testimony by a severely depressed lady named Jacqueline titled “Hanging On”. When depressed Jacqueline says she felt “everything was wrong”. She “might as well have been run over by a truck.” She could hardly get out of bed. She “went on suicide websites to see if other people had experienced something similar.” In the finish she completely surrendered to God’s love and pulled through by His grace. Jacqueline concludes depression changed her forever. “It took away all cockiness, any sense that I can make it on my own. I think of myself as having a spiritual disability now – I have to rely on God all day long every day. I can’t count on myself because I have failed myself. I used to see prayer as a way of getting God to do what I wanted. Now I see it as my way of getting in on what God is doing, and just hanging on.”
I put it this way: it is human to desire success but divine to embrace failure and turn to God.
(Isa 53:5) But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
We Christians know to whom that verse refers. But many who don’t know Jesus as Saviour worship ordinary living people called “celebrities”. Although they would vehemently deny it, a significant portion of this hero-worshiping public unconsciously expects to see its celebrities destroy themselves. It’s a repressed desire – worshipers vaguely aware that their adulation is deadly but denying the celebrity’s vulnerability and fallibility. Eventually the celebrity will prove fallible and will often suffer and die from alcohol and drugs in despair caused by adulation, pressure to meet public demands, and outlandishly destructive actions of sycophants. It’s a deadly diversion for a multitude fixated on a human idol.
Name of the game:1)The concept of “game” in interpersonal relations was pioneered by psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne. Games People Play is a bestselling book by Berne that helped introduce his Transactional Analysis to the counselling profession. Since then, over five million copies in forty editions have been sold worldwide. However, the notion of a “celebrity-worship show” is that of the present author and he alone is responsible for any errors in fact or rationality.
We Love You to Death (LYTD).
The public has the capacity to worship and has a great time doing so at sporting events, rock concerts, award ceremonies and the like. However, the public cannot fully adulate a person without endowing that person’s image with superhuman attributes.
The act of worship only satisfies when it can exalt the object of worship. But idolising the image of a person other than God entails superseding, ignoring or denying that person’s humanity, a destructive act.
The only truly safe object of worship is the Lord God almighty. Revering anyone other than Him, His Son or His Spirit will eventually cause harm.
In the excitement of worshiping a man-made celebrity, the crowd suppresses negativity. The crowd denies its own envy and suppress the celebrity’s character defects. Any truthful assessment would diminish euphoria. Every thought must be elevated if the crowd is to go with the flow and experience the ecstasy.
However, that which is suppressed at the moment of excitement eventually surfaces when euphoria wears off. In the finish, this means the crowd cannot help but be fascinated when its cherished celebrities ultimately come to grief. Extreme adulation is followed by scape-goating, nit-picking, axe-grinding, back-biting and intimidation. The same public that adulated now includes fanatics who pester, stalk, harass, and terrorize. Death threats are not uncommon; security personnel are required. Fame has its price: ultimately, fame charges the ultimate price.
The most destructive consequence of celebrity worship could be called the “scapegoat syndrome” or “sacrificial-lamb scenario”. All of us Christians know that everyone needs a Saviour and we truly believe that our Lord Jesus died a painful death in order that we, redeemed by His sacrifice, can live guilt/sin-free lives. But it is also true that unbelievers, consciously or unconsciously, need a sacrificial saviour without knowing they have one. We Christians know our Saviour’s crucifixion and our redemption to be historical facts but, unbelievers have the necessity without the facts. For this reason, the idolising public secretly relishes seeing its celebrities sacrificed on the altar of their popularity. A whole industry of fan magazines and other media is devoted to portraying agony (they often call it “shock”) in the lives of famous persons.
Thus the public is spellbound when a celebrity drug addict like Michael Jackson publically crucifies himself in high-def, living-colour, employing exotic plastic surgery, bizarre structured environments, and destructive intimate associations. After his inevitable death, fans continue to perceive Michael as super-human in order to block the obvious horror and shame. Limitless media storage helps maintain the illusion. Meanwhile lives are lost through copy-cat actions. Satan has a good thing going in celebrity suicides. Satan is producer and director of the LYTD show.
The script for LYTD: plays out with a cast consisting
a) the winning hero
b) established celebrities
c) the celebrity-worshiping audience and public multitude,
d) the media, and
e) sycophants, toadies and yes-men.
The plot goes like this:
1) For starters, the winning hero is rescued from obscurity and becomes a celebrity. The hero escapes “death” (rejection by the audience, rebuff by experts and elimination from the competition). The winning hero escapes the death of insignificance.
2) The media promise the hero a rich and abundant future life of fame. The multitude feels fulfilled because its worship has resurrected the hero from unimportance.
3) Sooner or later however, the hero reveals human weaknesses.
4) Sycophants defend the hero and gain control through flattery, body-guarding, servitude, supplying drugs, providing sex, and realising fantasy. An army of parasites and toadies meets every need and indulges every whim.
5) The previously worshiping public now envies the hero’s celebrity status. The media expose and invent flaws in the hero’s character. Attack comes when least expected. The hero is off-guard, complacent from adulation. The callow hero makes fatal mistakes. This is the plot-point where the hero becomes a victim, reduced to puerile emotional dependency.
6) While the celebrity loses identity (soul), the myth, already ubiquitous, becomes entrenched. The public is intrigued by the suffering and inspired by the myth – but edified by neither.
7) Particularly when drugs are involved, the victim (former hero) succumbs to a shameful demise.
8) The intransigent public, addicted to idolatry, continues to adulate the myth and fixate on the gory details of destruction while ignoring the cautionary lesson. Thus fame triumphs over reality, stardom over degradation, popularity over obloquy. Satan triumphs over truth.
The game is over. A celebrity has been loved to death by the multitude which now survives to worship another celebrity.
I thank God I need not participate in this ritual.
For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.– Colossians 1:13-14
|↑ 1.||The concept of “game” in interpersonal relations was pioneered by psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne. Games People Play is a bestselling book by Berne that helped introduce his Transactional Analysis to the counselling profession. Since then, over five million copies in forty editions have been sold worldwide. However, the notion of a “celebrity-worship show” is that of the present author and he alone is responsible for any errors in fact or rationality.|