Abstinence for Addicts the Answer to Opioid Crisis

Categories: Addiction Recovery, Adult Ministries, Overcomers Center, recovery

Prescription opioids can be abused and lead to illegal drug use.With so much recent attention being given to opioid addiction in South Carolina as well as the nation, it seemed fitting for Miracle Hill Ministries to weigh in on the opioid crisis as well as the larger picture of addiction. On any given night there are over 600 children and adults who sleep in a Miracle Hill facility, and many of these individuals find themselves sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings because of the grip addiction has on their personal lives or the lives of the family and friends they love. At Miracle Hill’s two residential addiction recovery centers, we have found that the most effective prescription for recovering addicts is not a replacement drug plus treatment but total abstinence as the individual learns to live a life of recovery.

Addiction has been labeled many different things: a disease, a genetic predisposition, a learned behavior, a coping mechanism, a sociocultural issue, or a product of moral failing. At the end of the day, regardless of the label, addiction is brokenness in a human life. This pervasive issue is destroying lives, families, and whole communities in our society.

Unfortunately, this is not a new issue. As addiction has gained a tighter and tighter grip on our brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers, our city and culture has had no choice but to act. As a result, the addiction treatment and recovery services in the Upstate have expanded significantly over the years and have diversified so that each individual, regardless of addiction issue or background, can find some type of support for their personal struggle. Even with this growing trend of support, addiction issues continue to magnify beyond the available services.  Addicts in the Upstate make the rounds among available services and between relapses discuss which programs are helpful and which are not. The result is that the cycle of dealers turns into the cycle of services.

Addiction to prescription opiates often leads to heroin addiction.
Addiction to prescription opiates often leads to heroin addiction.

Heroin Use Skyrocketing

Compounding the issue, today’s fast-paced and ever shifting culture is altering the landscape of potentially abusable substances. Addiction is finding new ways to scrape its way into our existence. In recent years a string of new chemically designed and organic substances have found their way onto store shelves: synthetic marijuana, bath salts, and most recently Kratom. These substances, which are being marketed and sold under false pretense, are turning desperate addicts, teens, and the curious from the streets toward the local corner store. These additions to the addiction market make an already desperate problem even tougher to identify and fight successfully. Furthermore, as prescription pain medicines become harder to acquire, heroin usage has grown to staggering levels. The newest batches of heroin are being cut with other substances, which in turn causes this dangerous drug to become down right deadly. Resulting deaths from Fentanyl- laced heroin were five times higher in 2015 as in 2013. Mix the heroin and methamphetamine epidemic with the continual usage of crack cocaine and alcohol, as well as synthetic drugs and the ever present marijuana, and we find ourselves in a world where drugs are no longer hard to find. They are everywhere.

Although I am writing as an individual who has fought on the front lines with addicts for years, I am also writing it as an individual who gave 15 years of his own life to addiction. Over the course of my life in addiction and sobriety I have watched as hundreds of other addicts have repeatedly tried to replace one addiction for another. I have stood by as many have gone from the dope man’s house to the line in front of the methadone and Suboxone clinic, and I have cringed as I heard the words, “I won’t ever use heroin again, but I am still going to smoke weed on the weekends.”

Stereotypically, if you walk into a 12-step meeting in any city on any day, you will find a bunch of broken people trying to dig their way out of a shattered life while smoking, drinking coffee, and ingesting massive amounts of sugar. Why? Because addicts live to make themselves feel different, preferably the easy way.

Freedom Through Abstinence and Recovery

You see, this is one of the greatest lies an addict chooses to believe in early recovery. As the suffering try to wrestle the demons from their broken and bleeding lives, they desperately want to find something that can numb the pain. Nothing sounds better to an addict than, “you can find freedom from this substance which has owned your life for decades and you get to continue to mask your feelings and your past.” This path does nothing but continue the cycle of life-dominating addiction, and unfortunately often does so from legal high ground. Although the decision may be made to get sober, sobriety becomes relative when you have a license to get high from a different substance.

In my experience, abstinence is the only answer to addiction that works long term. It is the only form of recovery that offers true freedom from addiction because chemically supported recovery is simply that, supported. The support addicts truly need comes from their meetings, programs, sponsors, churches, other recovering addicts, and most importantly their higher power. For Miracle Hill that higher power is a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Abstinence from drugs is the only way for an addict to stand on his or her own feet without a crutch and face life on life’s terms. I know there are many in the recovery world who would disagree with me and say that medicinally supported recovery works well for some people, but I would contend that it is practically legal addiction. I will not weigh in on the issue of medicinal marijuana other than to say that a push to prescribe marijuana to combat opioid addiction is a fool’s game. Every addict wants a license to smoke weed. It’s why they are addicts. Abstinence in conjunction with treatment is the answer.

Ryan Duerk in front of Miracle Hill Ministries' Overcomers addiction recovery center in Greenville, SC
Ryan Duerk at Overcomers Center in Greenville

At Miracle Hill we have two highly successful addiction recovery centers in Greenville: Overcomers for men and Renewal for women. Both Overcomers and Renewal are six to seven month, residential, Christian recovery programs that use a Biblical adaptation of the 12-step recovery model.

At these centers, our goal is to provide support in a Christian environment that promotes mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.  We help men and women develop the ability to live a drug and alcohol-free life by offering educational and life skills classes, group and individual counseling, Bible study, chapel, devotional services, personal training, classroom instruction and relevant seminars. We believe that abstinence, relapse prevention, treatment, planning, and relationship is the answer. We work with our guests to formulate a safe plan for their departure from our program which often includes a period of time in Miracle Hill’s transitional housing program.

If you or someone you know wants to move toward freedom from addiction, please call us at (864) 268-4357. At Miracle Hill we have a saying that speaks to the heart of our relationally-driven approach to recovery: “If you can’t find a friend in the world, you can find one here.”

Post submitted by Ryan Duerk, VP of Adult Ministries