Caller one reported a man slumped over his steering wheel in the Auto Zone parking lot. Call two was made from a grocery store bathroom where a concerned patron described a distressed, inconsolable woman collapsed on the floor of the second stall. The third call came from a frantic house keeper reporting the finding of a lifeless body discovered alone on his hotel room.
After each caller made their report the operator asked questions, took down names and alerted authorities. "The paramedics are on their way. Stay on the line with me until they arrive." What little comfort the distant voice could offer to the worried caller and even less to the fragile lives of the suffering and deceased lying helplessly on the ground.
When paramedics arrived the verdict was the same for each case. Overdose. The man in the parking lot, the woman in the bathroom and the body in the hotel room had all consumed a dangerous and deadly substance. Each had filled their body with a material so harmful their precious organs stopped functioning. The man in the parking lot and the woman in the bathroom survived but just barely. The man in the hotel room was pronounced dead at the scene. His last moments were spent alone, gasping for air has his lungs fought for air and his body slipped into a state of unconsciousness.
The next morning the newspaper told a sad story that reflects the state of a city in an addiction crisis. Every one of the overdose tragedies had happened nearly simultaneously, all within minutes of each other. The three individuals had no relation to one another. They had never met one another and didn't obtain their drugs from the same dealer. But they all had something devastating in common. Each one lived completely dependent and utterly addicted to illegal drugs.
If only I could write that the story of these three was a tale of fiction or a fluke so out of the ordinary that a movie is in the works to recount the tale. But the tragedy of it is this story is all real and it is frequently repeated in my hometown and nearly every city across America. The drug epidemic is ripping lives apart and killing thousands upon thousands every year.
Drug addiction starts so innocently, or so the drug user believes. Just a hit here or there. They rationalize their use as "social." They call it minimal and claim they could choose to stop in an instant - if they wanted to. But they don't want to because, despite the negative effects and well-known dangers, they are addicted. They enjoy the high and the way it makes them feel. They like being numbed. They become dependent on the escape from reality and the stresses of daily life. Some claim it helps them to sleep, eat or come up with creative ideas. They say it makes them funnier, calmer or more cheerful.
But to the man on the hotel floor, it made him dead.
Addiction is dangerous. The addicted rarely, if ever, know they have a problem. They don't see it. The smoke from their blunt clouds their vision. The haze from their pills fogs up their reality. They can't see the threat they face every time they ingest their drug of choice. Every hit is harming them but they are utterly blind to the truth. They don't see the problem and some never will. Some will go to their grave with the problem. Others will end up face down in a steering wheel with droll pouring down their shirt and convulsions pulsating through their hands. A few will escape the death grip of the drugs, others will return to their dealer only to find themselves, once again, sobbing on someone's bathroom floor.
If only we could make them see that their addiction is killing them slowly, painfully and tragically. If only we could open their eyes to the life they are smoking away and the future they are destroying with every swallow of their precious pills. But we can't make them see. We can't open the eyes of the blind.
Only God can do that.
As a city, as a nation, as people who love the lost and care for the hurting, we can only pray for the chains of their addiction to be broken and the sight that sees truth to be restored and redeemed. As long as they still have a pulse, they have hope. As long as they can cry on the bathroom floor, they have a future. If there is still a flicker in their heart beat and a breath in their lungs, God is not finished yet.
By the power and grace of God the eyes of the addicted can be opened. The truth and depth of their destructive problem can be revealed by the enlightening and life-giving grace of God. Through God's redeeming touch He can show them how far they have strayed from reality. He can bring them to their knees before His throne and turn their hearts away from the false god of substance abuse and drug addiction. Then God can sanctify their souls and replace in them a hunger and thirst for His righteousness. God can turn the drug addicted into the Christ-addicted, lighting them on fire with a passion for redemption and salvation.
Friends, you and I can't change the lost, the drug addicted and broken. We can only point them to Jesus and share the truth that the only way to live free of the addictions of this world is by the power of God. Man can only live free of the chains of this world's deadly drugs when his heart is so captivated by the hand of God that he is utterly, totally and wholly addicted to the perfect Savior and Lord.