Why We Do Not Believe What We Say We Believe in Laconia
I am pleased with all the efforts our city is putting forth to combat the drug epidemic in our city. Can more be done? Of course. Can better things be done than are being done? Certainly. Nevertheless we Laconian's are not ignoring the problem and that makes me glad.
In working with addicted clients, running Celebrate Recovery both at our county jail and in Laconia on Friday nights, and as I have participated in various drug-epidemic conversations over the past 2 years I have picked up on what seems to be a contradictory belief system weaving through us. It is a belief system we say we believe but ultimately have to disbelieve in order to live with ourselves. What do I mean?
There is a lot of compassion being extended to addicted persons today. That's a good thing. Anonymous People as an example is a documentary created with the expressed intention of taking away the stigma of addiction. The documentary really harps on the 12-Step policy of making AA meetings anonymous. They ask, "Why should addicted people be ashamed to be in recovery such that they have to keep their participation anonymous?" The assumption in the movie is that the reason people are ashamed is because our society has told them they should be ashamed.
In attacking the "stigma" of addiction, our intention of course is to help addicted people by figuring out where blame should be placed and advocating on their behalf. But if we will pause for a moment we will find cracks this kettle.
To begin, no one actually believes that when a person neglects his family because of his "need" for drugs he should not feel shame. No one actually believes that when a person steals money from his family to feed his addition he should not feel bad about it. No one actually believes that when a father behaves violently at home in regular drunken rages that he should not be made to feel like he has done something wrong. In our efforts to eliminate the "stigma" of addiction are we saying that when drugs lead us to harm others we should actually want to make known how bad we have been? Are we saying that when people do things that harm other people they should not feel remorse? Would you feel remorse if you hurt people through your addiction? What if you did not feel remorse about neglecting your children? Shouldn't you then feel remorse about not feeling remorse? Of course you should!
We say our society has created a stigma around addiction but we don't believe that. What we really believe is that our addictions automatically, whether we want them to or not, create in us a feeling of shame and consequently a stigma. Our shame creates the stigma, the stigma does not create the shame. Heaven forbid we ever need a stigma to make us feel bad about something we aught to feel bad about automatically.
The other place this contradictory belief system shows itself is in the affirmation that addiction is a disease and not also a choice. We don't believe that either. Why not?
In a recent Huffington Post article, Anna Almendrala said, "It’s time to stop pretending that substance use disorder is mostly a choice, and it’s time to stop shaming people who struggle with it." This is a loud, commonly held belief today (that addiction is a disease that overrules choice), but again even those who say it do not actually believe it all the way down. They can't. To believe it all the way down is to believe something about humanity which we can never get ourselves to believe even if we try. Explain.
All the way down the addiction as disease narrative, alone by itself, concludes that human beings behave the way they do because of their biology. Since we do not choose our biology, the argument goes, neither are we at fault for what our biology "causes" us to do. Here's the problem with that: if human beings behave the way they behave because of their biology then that includes the addicted person as well as the non-addicted. In other words if the addiction as disease narrative is true, that our biology causes our behavior, it is true of all humanity. It is true of your belief that addiction is totally disease and it is true of someone else's belief that addiction is totally choice. You both believe what you believe because you have been biologically conditioned to believe it and you cannot therefore accuse one another of being wrong. To use the title of the post article I referred to above: "We Wouldn’t Shame Lamar Odom For A Heart Attack. Why Do It For Drug Use?" To rephrase it in my own words, "We Wouldn't Shame Lamar Odom for a Heart Attack. Why Do It For Someone's Belief That Addiction Is Also A Choice? We Are All Biologically Conditioned"
If we allow ourselves to believe the addiction as disease narrative all the way down then we take away our right to be angry at anyone's behavior- both the rapist, the thief, the terrorist and the addict. We might as well conclude that terrorism is a disease as well as rapism, to make up a word. This belief, in the end, ends up being far too similar to the old, laughed at, ancient religious belief "the devil made me do it": "my biology made me do it."
One of the reasons the church is so important to flourishing cities today is because the church has the only answer to the human problem that can be trusted all the way down. The Biblical narrative says that mankind's problem is his heart not his body. The Biblical narrative does not deny that mankind has a bodily problem; it does not negate disease. However it makes it very clear that the disease is the consequence of our problem not the cause. The Bible makes it clear that first we were rebellious, then we were diseased. Not that every sickness I have is a result of my sin, but that all sickness, from Adam all the way down to Shaun, is ultimately a result of sin.
The Bible also makes clear mankind's ultimate solution- not telling ourselves we should not feel shame, not blaming other people for my behavior, but breaking out of our own denial and admitting our fault in our problems. In his right mind an addict would never say he is guiltless, and we do not help him by putting his guilt on someone else either...
Except when that someone else is Jesus!
If the Biblical narrative is true, which I believe it is, then the solution to our addictions is found where the problem began; in the heart. The solution begins in the melting of our hearts by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus' solution to mankind's problem was not to blame us (although He had every right to). Instead Jesus took upon Himself our blame so that we could walk blameless and free; free of guilt, free of shame, free to live as God intended us to live. But we become free not by saying, "I'm not guilty. I should feel no shame." We become free by admitting openly, "I am totally guilty and cannot free myself. I need a Savior."
In excitement for the launching of a new church with a new narrative that will lead people to true freedom in Laconia~ Shaun