November 2017 Editorial: I've Been There
Editorial by Josh Voigt
Addict. It’s a word we don’t like to use to describe ourselves. But at age 17, I was addicted to alcohol and cigarettes, and a user of marijuana, PCP (Phencyclidine) and other drugs.
I cannot place blame for my poor decisions on my parents or upbringing, as I was raised in a loving Seventh-day Adventist home. I became addicted through peer pressure and my inability to say no. I wanted friends to like me, and never wanted to look like I was too afraid to try something.
It all started with cigarettes when I was 13; well, not really cigarettes. We rolled up dried grass in notebook paper, and lit it on fire. Once I finally tried my first cigarette, I hated it. In fact, for the next two years I would not inhale the smoke but hold it in my mouth so my friends thought I was cool. That all ended when they caught and confronted me. It wasn’t long before I began stealing to pay for cigarettes. One day a friend brought some marijuana, and we all tried it. The next year it was beer. Again, I hated the taste, and would pretend to drink it, pouring it out when no one was looking. When my friends discovered this, I drank a few cans to prove I was actually consuming it. It didn’t take long for dependence to kick in, and at the low point in my life, I was drinking grain alcohol in a water bottle at school. Looking back I realize that what I really wanted was peace. The few moments lost in drugs or alcohol seemed to provide it, but then the hangovers destroyed it.
Seeing that my life was out of control, my parents and church members prayed for me, going so far as to have special meetings at church just to pray for me. After I spent time in reform school, engaged in colporteur ministry and learned to make better choices, God fulfilled David’s prayer in my life: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10, ESV). Ultimately all praise goes to God, as He removed my addictions.
I believe we should talk more openly about issues such as addiction in our churches. Our perfection facade makes it hard for those who are struggling to seek help. A National Institute on Drug Abuse study showed that 9.4 percent of our nation’s population has used an illicit drug in the past month. It’s very likely that people in our churches and schools—people we know—are struggling privately.
Secondly, I would like to see more churches become active in facilitating recovery. Adventist Recovery Ministries has many useful resources. They provide awareness programs and training to help people see the severity of the problem and how to make a difference in someone’s life. They also host retreats for addicts.
Finally, join me in praying about this issue. As I’ve witnessed in my own journey to recovery, prayer is a power like nothing else.
Josh Voigt pastors Chesapeake Conference’s Catoctin View and Middletown Valley (Md.) churches.
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