The Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, recently issued a new report on addictions and substance abuse in the United States. The report had some startling observations: more people use prescription opioids than use tobacco; there are more people with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer; about one in five Americans binge drink (much higher among Millennials); and substance abuse disorders cost more than $420 billion per year.
Americans are hooked – on drugs both legal and illegal. We are so desperate to self-medicate we celebrate drinking as a social necessity and legalize marijuana as a means to raise tax revenue (“for the schools” we are promised). When a person is abstinent, they are either considered an archaic relic or a social pariah. Recently, a young woman asked me, “Was it hard when you had to give up drinking to get your job at the seminary?” She was incredulous to learn abstinence has been a lifelong habit, not something adopted as an onerous job requirement. She later told me I am the first person she has ever met who does not drink.
What causes people to abuse drugs and alcohol to the tune of $400+ billion per year? Why do people binge drink (not a glass of wine with dinner, but games like Slap the Bag) as a means to black out faster? Why do professionals scheme ways to get prescription medications they can secretly abuse? Why am I only person my friend knows who does not drink?
The answer is personal pain – an inner longing for meaning in life, a sense of being loved based on something other than performance, and a need for resolution to perplexing guilt. These painful feelings are common to humankind. Jesus called these needs a deep, unquenched thirst. He called himself “living water” and invited everyone to drink freely.
Rather than admit these needs and drink from the only source that satisfies them, we deny these needs or deny God as the Source who can satisfy them. We dull our senses, hoping for some relief, rather than resolve the issues through confession, repentance, and faith.
During the holiday season, substance abuse increases. If you are an abuser, your solution isn’t in a bottle or a pill. If you know an abuser, their solution isn’t more willpower or better choices. The solution is a deeply satisfying, life altering, daily grace-infusing relationship with God through Jesus.
Get hooked on him during the holidays.