My grandmother, the one we called “Mither” who baked the best cinnamon buns and who prayed fervently for our salvation, believed that “murder will out”. Often preceded by “the Lord knows” and followed by “in His time”, Mither’s maxim was meant to apply across the board to all transgressions great and small.
The technical term is metonym where a word like “murder” is intended to stand for “offenses in general”, including theft from cookie jars, smoking cigarettes, lying to parents about smoking cigarettes and wagging school – as well as, of course, to homicide.
Drug abuse is sin
Lately I’ve been thinking of Mither’s adage in connection with some truths now coming to light about drug abuse. Jesus says, “He that commits (practises) sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34) This is a perfect description of addiction. When you take a mind/mood-altering drug, you begin to become a slave to drugs. You lose control of your life. First you take a drug; next the drug takes a drug; then the drug takes you – wherever it wants you to go. This is how sin operates.
Hidden by ignorance and denial for years if not decades, such vital verities as this are emerging at last. Romans 5:20-21 (NIV), But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. As the problem worsens, the truth becomes more apparent.
The drug problem is now so devastating, ubiquitous, momentous, and so recalcitrant to standard (weak) solutions, that obfuscation can’t help but fade. Drug truth is coming to light.
Since the nineteen sixties, a significant number of influential “experts” on drug abuse including police, psychologists, professors, pundits, politicians and philanthropists have themselves used drugs without having really tried to quit altogether. These people see no reason for tough laws or compulsory treatment for addicts. “Social” drug-users nearly always favor decriminalization and legalization. They espouse “harm-reduction” and think “controlled-use” can be a solution. However, the bad-or-maybe-good news is that drug addiction is relentlessly progressive in high-brow professionals as well as in lowly crack-heads. In time the symptomatology of all drug-users becomes obvious. The time comes when high-and-mighty addicts cease to be effective opinion-molders as their lives become unmanageable. The good-or-maybe-bad news is that when sports heroes go to rehab, when psychiatrists become mental patients, when judges become junkies, then murder will out.
Furthermore, when sin increases and headlines get bad enough, naive citizens who never used drugs finally become aware of the intractable horror of drug use. Perceiving at last the failure of half-measures, “square” people now call for tougher love, tougher laws and more compulsory treatment. When Oscar-winners overdose, murder will out.
Prominent among solid but naive non-addict citizens are what Dr. George O’Neil calls “the parents of lost children”.
So much for the news about sin increasing. Now for news about grace increasing even more…
On the entirely positive side, day by day the population of completely abstinent ex-addicts keeps growing. I know because I’m one of them. We are those whom God has healed. We know it was God. We know human “will-power” and “discipline” failed us. “Non-directive” counseling, “wet” rehabs, any treatment that allows controlled use was worthless. In the finish it was abstinence or death. We know the truth about drugs.
Abstinence, a gift from God, can be maintained only by complete surrender. Spiritual growth is required. Jesus Christ is very popular among abstinent ex-addicts, all of whom attest to the need for God to remove obsessions and compulsions (read “sins”) and restore sanity. Most recovering addicts also favor tougher laws and tougher love for those still using.
“Reformed” addicts (like me) can be a pain in the neck in early days of recovery. Eventually we do come good. However, immaturity is common because emotional growth stops when drugs take over. When I got clean at age 47 I was an emotional adolescent in a middle-aged body. I needed to grow up and learn interpersonal skills.
I was often “over the top” in human relations. Being honest myself for the first time in ages, I saw hypocrisy in everyone else. I sounded self-righteous when actually I was really scared to death of relapsing. I also became fanatically over committed through trying to redeem myself instead of letting Jesus do the job. However, the entirely good news is that, in time, because I kept away from the drug scene and remained abstinent (2 Corinthians 6:17 “come out from among them, be separate and touch not the unclean thing”), I eventually joined the human race and became a reasonably mature Christian. Meanwhile, I and other recovering addicts were especially equipped to help using addicts achieve abstinence. God gives us a special gift. We alone are able to prove through experience that we know what we are talking about. Many using addicts won’t listen to anyone who “hasn’t been there”.
The best news
Ex-addicts are constantly on the increase! By now enough of us have achieved enough maturity to constitute a political force and a professional reality. Because we’re getting the numbers, politicians are beginning to listen to us. Bureaucrats aren’t taking much heed yet but they soon will. For one thing, ex-addicts are becoming bureaucrats themselves. This means that laws and love will finally get tough. Even though government officials are always the last to catch on, one or two now show signs of perceiving the horrendous harm in harm-minimization and the need for compulsory treatment. As time goes on, more will come on board. Slowly but surely, murder will out.
It happened in the case of cigarettes and lung cancer. As early as the 1930’s, scientific data were available to show a link between lung cancer and smoking. By the 1950’s cigarettes were well known to be a cause. Yet governments paid no attention until the population of ex-smokers and non-smokers became a political force and professional reality in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Now that ex-smokers and non-smokers have the numbers, laws are getting tougher and abstinence is recognized as the only sane option.
Tough laws and tough love
So, thank God, “harm minimization”, “controlled use”, “decriminalization” and “non-directive counseling” are on the way out; abstinence, compulsory treatment, tough laws and tough love are on the way in. Churches are learning there’s more to recovery than answering an altar call, saying the sinner’s prayer and donating to Teen Challenge. The op-ed columnists are catching on as the headlines get worse. Prominent psychologists (Dr. Phil), a few social workers and the occasional bureaucrat are beginning to face facts. After decades of denial, murder will out after all. (In case you think the murder metonym is far-fetched, be reminded that a soft option can actually kill an addict.) Whether or not we want to hear it, the tough truth about addiction is the only thing that sets us free. Anything less leads to jail, institutions and death.
The Bible puts it better than any text-book or rehab manifesto in the “slave of sin” maxim of John 8:34. If you play the game, you will get the name. If you do the deed, you will die the death. (Genesis 2:17) The rest is sanctimonious hand-waving.
So let’s all face facts: drug addiction is not caused by low self-esteem, child abuse, familial dysfunction, spiritual maltreatment, bullying, post-traumatic stress, clinical depression, cognitive dissonance, inadequate resilience, poverty, excessive wealth, manic euphoria, over-confidence, nurturing deficiency, stupidity, ignorance, moral turpitude, leniency, lassitude, lack of will power, or any other antecedents, correlates, proposed causes, predispositions, predilections or inclinations espoused in journals, advocated on websites, or broadcast on the evening news – unless accompanied by the ingestion or injection of a mind/mood-altering substance. Drug addiction is caused by taking a drug. The fall of man was caused by taking a bite. Everything else is ancillary. That’s the truth.
So!, why don’t all drug users become addicts? Answer, they all can and do – if they keep on taking drugs! Some take longer than others. Some are more sensitive. But nobody avoids addiction forever who continues to use drugs. Likewise, nobody ever fails to recover who quits and remains completely abstinent.
Here’s an important fact: sensitivity cuts both ways. Some people become quickly addicted because they are sensitive. However other sensitive people realize their vulnerability and quit early on. Unfortunately many highly resilient people, trusting in their strength, continue to use past the point of no return. So resistant people get addicted too. In the drug world, trusting your own strength can kill you whereas acknowledging weakness can save your life.
Advice from someone who has been there
Whatever else you do, avoid the next mind/mood-altering drug. Always remember, the first drug does the damage. Seek help. Ask God for help. Pray to stay clean. Honesty is the best policy: murder will out. Complete abstinence from drugs is the only thing that works. Anything less than tough love will kill you. Surrender to compulsory treatment. Surrender to God and He will bless your whole life!
Charles Slack, Ph.D. Psychology (Princeton), clean-and-sober since 3 March 1976.