The Power of Addiction

By: Rev. Michele Monroe-Clark, LCSW, BCC, Sr. Staff Chaplain

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She took a walk for lunch during work to use heroin and ended up in the bathroom of a local gas station. She was found unconscious and shaking by the EMTs. Her heart had stopped and the EMTs were able to get it beating again with CPR and medication. She was admitted to the hospital and placed on life support. Three days later she still has not regained consciousness. This is her third heroin related hospital admission this month.

It’s hard to understand why someone would repeatedly make the same mistake. It’s hard to comprehend why someone doesn’t just stop. It’s hard to maintain compassion for someone who seems determined to self-destruct. What people don’t realize is the person with an addiction isn’t trying to self-destruct, they are trying to survive.

The brain believes it needs the substance for its survival and will do whatever it takes to obtain the substance and avoid the perils of detoxing. Detoxing is physically, emotionally and spiritually difficult. Most people will use just to stop the process of detoxing because the consequences of using are far less detrimental than the experience of being “dope sick”.

Spiritual interventions focused on helping a person with an addiction heal are centered on compassion, hope and creating a desire to live that can rewrite the brain’s understanding of survival. All spiritual care begins with compassion and the ability to see a person as a human being and not as an “addict”. Believing that the person has potential for healing is the beginning of hope which can be sustained by acknowledging a source of life, known in some religious communities as God and in 12 step communities as a Higher Power.

Everyone needs a wellspring of hope living in them, healing them, restoring them and leading them to live healthy and whole lives. Chaplains can help people tap into this source helping the person move towards health and life without addiction.