When we think of people with drug addictions, our mind takes us to what we've seen on TV and movies, right? The typical drug addict: circles under the eyes, thin, vacant look on his or her face, missing or decaying teeth, zoned out, dissheveled. You know the type, right? But this is not the face of addiction in this case. My friend is young, fresh-faced, beautiful smile, intelligent, fit, vibrant and charismatic. Yet, she is an addict.
That's just one type of addict. I'm the another type. I'm a sugar addict. It's taken a long time for me to figure this one out, but it's the absolute truth. My whole life. And yes, you may not think that a drug addiction and a sugar addiction are anywhere near the same thing. Her addiction is to illegal drugs. My addiction is to sugar, which is not only legal but is put in all kinds of foods,not only desserts and sweets, but it's hidden in everything from peanut butter to breads and cereals. But the reaction is the same, and the emotional triggers that lead to it are the same too.
For her short 19 years, she has seen a lot. The drugs were there when she needed to fit in, when she was feeling unaccepted, when there was a need for comfort. The numbness of the high kept her from feeling what was too painful in her young life. One addiction led to another. And another. Tough love didn't work.
What was missing in her childhood was "love" - the unconditional, selfless love of a parent for their child. What is missing in her life is an understanding of God. This is what we talk a lot about. Approaching all things through love. The concept is foreign to her. A loving God that cares for us. That is there for us when we need hope and strength. As she works through her recovery, I see that she's trying to understand. She wants to understand. We talk a lot about acceptance and forgiveness, again, not easy concepts to grasp when you don't know God. But we're getting there.
Last week, as we spent time together, a text message came in. It was the notice that episode 1 of the Lenten Journey with Fr. Vazken had posted. She was receptive to hearing it. And so we sat and listened. And it was so appropriate because the very first lesson was the desire in ourselves to be well. And the second lesson, that we can't rely on others for our wellness. It is up to us to do all that we can to see to our wellness. Yes, we have the tools and the support from others, but until we can admit to ourselves that we want to be well and take the first steps, it's just not going to happen.
And so that's where we are. We've been listening to each episode together each night. Slowly, she is understanding the stability of a loving home. There is a lot of guilt inside her. And sadness. But there is also this beautiful and bright light that I know will shine brightly if allowed to grow. I shared with her one of my favorite quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: "There can be no deep disappointment, where there is not deep love." Trying to reassure her that there are people that do love her, and that their disappointment in her life's course of events was only because of the love they have toward her. There are just many different ways of showing it, and what is needed in this case is wrap-your-arms-around-her, and tell her that no matter what, you will love her type of love.
On the third night, she told me of her life. She shared with me everything she had been through. More than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime. The evening ended with a long hug. In the morning, at work at my desk, I received a message from her. A quote by Alan Cohen:
Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty, and your purpose when you are confused."
This Lenten Journey is going to be an extra meaningful one for both my friend and I. The road to healing is going to a long one, but hopefully one of strength, peace, and a desire to be well. We can't do it alone. We hold on to one another, and God provides the love for us to accept, forgive, and be made whole.