They don’t look like addicts {Redemption Stories}

When we were kids there was the boogie man. I wasn’t sure what he looked like but I knew it was scary. Left to my imagination, he would have been shrouded in dark shadows, hunched over with a wicked smile. Maybe a little like Ebenezer Scrooge.

For years I thought addicts looked like dead-eyed men, swaying on their feet in front of convenience stores asking for change. Their clothes were crusted with dirt as they hung from their bony frame. Their skin was weathered from the sun and their faces hadn’t seen a razor in months. Aren’t these the faces of alcoholism? Of crack?

What does an addict look like?

President Trump has declared an opiate crisis in our country. The word is out. It’s broadcast on the evening news and Netflix documentaries. We have a drug problem. Addicts are being made every day and they look a lot like me and you.

There are more people addicted to prescription medication than any other drug. Kids are more likely to get their drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet or from the doctor to help ease the pain of a sports injury. Xanax will ease the stress and Vicodin will soothe the pain.

Let’s not forget our love affair with alcohol. The morning news anchors laugh about one more glass of wine. Wednesday is called Wine-day and the commercials show all the fun we’ll have with a Bud Lite in hand.

The problem isn’t necessarily the substances, the problem is us. We decide how best to medicate us. If one is good, two will be better. There’s a saying for alcoholics: one drink is too many and 1000 is never enough.

Steve, JoJo, Thomas, Anthony, Terrance, David, Matt, …none of these men look like addicts. They look like my son or your brother. You wouldn’t cross to the other side of the street if you saw them walking your way. Today. Today they are healthy, clean, employed and productive. They are still addicts.

We don’t look like sinners. We keep our secrets and hide our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I know. I’m well practiced at this too.

When men enter our rehabilitation program, we start with the basics. We start with the outside. Collared shirts have to be tucked in and belts worn. Their hair can be no longer than their collar, and no beards. It’s about change. If you aren’t willing to change the small things how can you expect to change the big things?

Their outward appearance is a starting place. What we hope will change most in inside.

They don’t look like addicts but they can look like redemption.

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

All My Hope, Crowder

More about Debby Hudson

Where do you find grace? Inside the church walls? Around the dinner table with your family? For years, grace was not much more than the prayer we said before meals or a biblical concept. Then I met a group of men who had, as we say, reached bottom. They welcomed me to Graceland. They showing me grace can be found in the darkest of places. I'm still searching and learning. I hope you'll want to come along.

10 thoughts on “They don’t look like addicts {Redemption Stories}

  1. Christy Richardson (@lifeplayground6)

    They don’t look like addicts and we don’t look like sinners; I was thinking that thought before you said it. We all hide our sin behind something don’t we?

    Aside from that, while I don’t think alcohol should be illegal, the alcohol/legal drug commercials irk me greatly. Doctors should be educated about the drugs and able to prescribe them based on the need and their expertise, not based on what I walk in and ask for, or what the pharmaceutical companies push.


    1. Debby Hudson

      Christy, you are spot on about doctors needing to be educated more in addictions. It’s something I hear frequently from our Program Director who has well over 20 years in recovery herself. We have a real mess on our hands with all of that. Thanks for your comments. You’re spot on.


  2. Lesley

    So true, we’re really not so different when it comes down to it. We’re all sinners, however we look to others, and we are all in need of God’s grace and redemption.


    1. Debby Hudson

      Lesley, have you read the book Same Kind of Different As Me? I think I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie. I’m not sure how a movie will play but I definitely enjoyed the book. It was a good reminder that, as you said, we’re really not that different. It’s reminding me of a song that I can’t place. And you’d probably know it. I hate it when that happens 😉


  3. Annie Rim

    I have so many thoughts on this… I do think it’s interesting how normalized drinking has become. (I’m thinking of that Sarah Bessey post from last year.) How would we respond if we talked about cocaine-Wednesdays the same way? You’ve given me a lot of food for thought…


    1. Debby Hudson

      Exactly Annie. No one would dream of saying cocaine-Wednesdays would they? Yes, that Sarah Bessey post was excellent.


  4. sarahgirl3

    Look like redemption.
    It is hard for us to not stereotype, isn’t it? Or we think “they have a problem, not me.” All of us have a heart problem and need to depend on God and not substance!


    1. Debby Hudson

      You’ve really hit it, Sarah. One reason families have such difficulty dealing with an addicted loved one is it’s “their” problem. Sure makes it easier on all of us when we think that but like most things, it’s more complex. Thankful for our God who takes us as we are but never leaves us there.


  5. mareedee2016

    We judge so harshly, yet all have our own demons we are fighting. It is so true we have no idea what an addict looks like. I grew up in a home with one and the outside world didn’t know it. We hid it well, until we no longer could.


    1. Debby Hudson

      I’m sorry you have first-hand experience with that Mareedee. Keeping it hidden can be as difficult as living with it. I hope today you are experiencing freedom to its fullest.


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