Tag Archives: drugs

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

I have been working with this coworker for awhile, he was hired around the same time that I did. He was hired as a maintenance worker and quickly became my favorite one, because I felt comfortable asking for help without feeling as though I was being an imposition. In exchange for his help, I gave him some extra samples of the pastry I was planning to sample that day. We would joke that he was the official taste-tester and if he dropped dead I would know that I shouldn’t sample that pastry.

Over the course of our time working together I developed the suspicion that he had a “colored” past, as they say. He went to Las Vegas for his birthday and let’s just say he was not going for the shows. I never asked him for details because it was not my business to know. On Tuesday he was sporting a freshly-shaved head and I commented on how dapper he looked. He smiled and thanked me, he then added that he did it every few months to keep him humble. I asked him what that meant and he admitted it helped him remember what life was like for him when he was in prison. Looking in the mirror everyday and seeing his shaved head was a good reminder of where he came from and to be thankful for the life he had now. It is easy for him to forget how terrible life was in prison. He confessed that he can easily fall back into his old ways and lose control with money; he needs to constantly check himself. He can receive a lot of bonuses at his other job and the temptation to use them to go back to dealing drugs can be hard to overcome at times. He needs to see his shaved head to remind him how awful his life was. He never wants to go back to prison — he has a better life now with a son that he needs to provide for and set a good example.

After telling me his story, I think he recognized how vulnerable he was being and tried to joke it off saying that he knew how weird it sounded. I told him that it didn’t sound weird at all and I admired him for being so aware of his limits. I said it was great that he took active steps to keep himself from giving in to temptation. The fact that he is smart enough to recognize that he still has the impulse to misuse money and shaving his head helped keep him from repeating his mistakes was a great accomplishment. I thanked him for sharing his story; he was an inspiration. He is a blessing in my life because he reminded me what a gift my life was and not to take anything for granted.

___

Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: PD-US

Listen and Ask Before You Give

Lawyers are taught to listen carefully to what our clients say and to ask questions, because a client might think that one issue presents the right course of action to take in court, but in reality a detail that may seem incidental to them could present a stronger case with a different line of argument.

Doctors too, should listen carefully when patients describe their symptoms, lest they misdiagnose them. My mother, a frequent migraine sufferer, was quite adamant that something had burst in her brain and it was a crushing pain unlike any she had endured before, but the GP insisted that it was probably just another migraine and she should just take some painkillers. Five days and many painkillers later, my mother underwent open head surgery for a brain aneurysm.

Sometimes, when we are approached for charity, it pays to listen and assess what the person really needs, lest we end up harming them more than helping.

A disheveled lady approached me outside a hostel in Adelaide, asking for $4 to take the bus home. It seemed strange to me that she needed $4, because the fare from the airport to the city had been cheaper than that. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt and handed over the change.

Later, I noticed her playing a poker machine in the basement, and I felt simultaneously incensed and sad. It appeared that I had just contributed to her gambling addiction. How could I have better handled the situation?

In Melbourne, I met a young homeless, nearly toothless girl on a tram, who was being booked for not paying the fare. I offered to pay for her, but the lady booking her paid. So I offered to bring her to lunch at an Italian restaurant… and the waiter paid! After we went for a stroll around the nearby university grounds, I decided to pay for her night’s lodging. After receiving $30, she said, “I forgot, on Wednesdays they raise the price, it’s $40 today.” I gave her more, and she departed. Later, I googled hostels in the area, and there was at least one with rooms for $26. I hoped that she would spend the extra money on food.

A few weeks later, she asked me for more money, saying she would pay it back. Soon enough, she was asking for even more. However, I was in the midst of moving back to Brisbane, and didn’t see her again.

Now, looking back, and having met more people who have struggled with drug addiction, I wonder if I had just been unwittingly feeding a drug habit. What could I have done better under the circumstances? How does one begin to help another person break free of the chains in their life?

J.J. Tissot, "Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus"
J.J. Tissot, Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and when He met Zacchaeus, He asked them for simple things — a sip of water, lodging for the night. In asking them for things they could give, He opened the way for what He could give them — forgiveness and freedom from their sins, their patterns of addiction to lust and greed.

Perhaps here is a model for charity. Those mired in sin and addiction often feel helpless, even useless. Once you acknowledge someone’s free will and locus of control, they can begin to transform from within, breaking free of self-absorption while realising what they can still give to others. Jesus didn’t ask Zacchaeus to make amends for his misdeeds, but Zacchaeus joyfully announced that he would give half his possessions to the poor, and if he had cheated anyone, he promised to repay it fourfold (Luke 19:8). Our Lord’s request for Zacchaeus’ hospitality unlocked the man’s heart. How may we help to unlock other hearts today? And do our own need unlocking too?

___

Image: PD/US

Save

Confessions of an Ex-Drug Addict

By guest writer T.E.W., with Jean Elizabeth Seah.

I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, He can work through anyone.
– attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

My life thus far might seem a waste, even something loathsome, to many people, but now I know it has been redeemed, and is in the process of being redeemed. God willing, I shall yet honor Christ, though I have been all things unholy.

I was raised by a hard-working father and a loving, vivacious mother in a quiet outer suburb of Queensland, on four acres of lush property. From the tender age of three, I joined dance classes  which were the highlight of my days, starting with jazz and then progressing to tap-dancing with my mother. All my life, I have found it difficult to remain committed to anything – save dance.

Unfortunately, this love of dancing contributed to my ostracization in school. The other boys were typical jocks, who enjoyed sport and play-fighting. I never understood them, and they labelled me a “gay” for being a dancer.

Being bullied through school, and never finding a true friend, I suffered from low self-esteem and found it difficult to concentrate in class. Things became worse when my family was forced to move to an inner suburb in my teens, where I was abused by a family friend, and introduced to drugs by someone who lived next to the dance school.

No one in my family knew what damage hard drugs could do, and I accepted them, hungry for what appeared to be friendship from the person who proffered them. As Professor Peter Cohen, Director of the Center for Drug Research in Amsterdam, has concluded from sociological research, drugs are a replacement for human connection.

“…human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe… we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.”

– Johann Hari, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think”, The Huffington Post, 20 January 2015

Thus, at the age of 19, I began my relationship with speed, and later moved on to ice. My reliance on methamphetamines started off innocuously, producing highs which enabled me to create exquisite drawings, expressing my inner self which had been rejected by my schoolmates. Then I craved more and more of the drugs, and they swallowed up my life.

My parents went through hell. Sometimes I went without drugs for six months, so I labored under the illusion that I was in control – but no, I had long ceded control to the drugs. Once, after having been awake for about four days injecting ice, I drove home (only God knows how I got home without running off the road)  and made a bowl of Weet-Bix before crashing on the couch. The next thing I knew, I was standing, in motion and having checked the time began to panic because I was supposed to meet a friend. I drove to her place, and after some frantic phone calls I managed to get in contact with her. She too had been on drugs, and we both couldn’t remember what we had been doing for a whole two-hour period. I ran my hand through my hair and found Weet-Bix mashed against it. I wonder what the living room looks like, I thought.

When I returned home, my mother was terrified. She had watched me standing in the living room contorting my hands and uttering garbled words for approximately two hours before dashing out of the house. Her little boy had turned into a monster.

Life progressed from bad to worse. An acquaintance taught me how to break into homes, stealing any copper we could find in order to finance our drug habits. I had failed high school, and had no aim in life, save the next hit which could release me from this misery, for awhile.

Then my mother had cancer.

I had been brought up in the [Australian] Uniting Church, but never understood any of its teachings. Over time, I became an arrogant, agnostic atheist, but not so arrogant as to reject any evidence of a higher power if it was presented to me. I immersed myself in the goth subculture.

After three years of caring for my mother at home while my father continued working to support us, the certainty grew on me that the end of her life was near. My birthday is on the Feast of St. Monica (as I now know), and I had the strong feeling that my mother was going to die exactly a month later.

The last week of my mother’s life was spent in palliative care in the QE2 Hospital in Brisbane. I was about to step into the shower when Dad called to say that Mum had passed away. I received the news with dead calmness, and returned to the bathroom. It was only when the water hit my body that I felt my heart break, and let out a primal scream of loss.

This was the beginning of a series of events and signs which led me to conclude that a higher power must exist. For the first few months, I refused to even acknowledge this supreme power as God, instead resorting to New Age terms like “the universe” and “source energy.”

I began visiting various churches and reading the Bible about three and a half years later, after spending the intervening time dabbling in tarot, crystals and chakra meditations, an attempt to understand God from a mathematical and scientific perspective. I could never find a home in any of those churches. The Pentecostal services left me with an emotional high which would quickly subside.

Then, last year, after staying clean for awhile, I visited an old acquaintance and fell headlong into the trap of drug addiction again.

Yet, this was what eventually led me to the Catholic Church, for I resolved to amend my life, and checked myself into a facility which happened to be right beside a lovely old church near the Brisbane River.

Still, I would not have stepped into a Catholic church, if my room-mate had not said, “There’s free food next door!” The church has a coffee ministry for the homeless twice a week. Through their corporal work of mercy, they performed the greatest spiritual mercy for me – leading me home to my heavenly Father, away from my sinful past.

At first, as an obstinate Protestant, I shied away from addressing the priests as “Father.” But soon, I began to see how the Catholics truly lived the Gospel, and in my first Mass, kneeling before the Holy Eucharist, I finally found the peace of Christ, the peace which the world cannot give.

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16).
— Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

I was received into the Catholic Church this past Easter Vigil, and am just beginning to grasp its glorious spiritual treasures. Further, God has blessed me with a loving new spiritual family, in the parish, in Verbum Dei, and in granting me what I thought impossible – a human being who loves me in spite of my past, and who wants to share a life with me, though grave uncertainty lies ahead. Our only certainty is God, after all. What amazing grace, which saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now, I see.

If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and religious today.
– St. Josephine Bakhita

Originally published at Aleteia.

Prison Societies

By guest writer Steve Kellmeyer.

It is usually said that Western democracies are the most free societies on earth. But is that true? This video provides a rather different way of deciding what societies constitute prison societies.

If the information presented above is accurate, and there is no reason to think it is not, then an excellent way to judge how free every country’s citizens actually perceive themselves to be is very straightforward: just measure the addiction rates in each country.

There are two or three major classes of addiction, depending on how you count. Alcohol is such a prevalent drug that it generally gets its own category. Opiates and every other drug are grouped together as a separate class. Sex, especially homosexual addiction, is the last major class. So, how do countries fare on the addiction scale?

Alcohol is the preferred addictive drug in Eastern Europe, which leads the world in alcohol addiction.
New Zealand, Iran and the United States lead the world in opiate addiction.
China has the highest proportion of homosexual addiction, followed closely by industrialized societies like Canada, Germany, and the United States. And, yes, there are cultures that really have no homosexuality or other sex addictions.

Notice that third-world areas, like South America and Africa, simply don’t have the addiction problems that industrialized nations do. These areas struggle with famine, disease and poverty, but they don’t have addiction problems to anywhere near the extent of the “advanced” countries.

Now, this is not to say that living in physical poverty is a walk in the park. Obviously, it is not. But, if the addiction-cage theory is correct, we cannot say industrialized nations are well-off. Industrialized nations simply suffer a different kind of poverty, a poverty of freedom. According to the addiction studies, the industrialized world is simply a series of prison societies.

Which is exactly what the Catholic Church has been saying for the last century.
It’s almost like science is finally starting to catch up to theology.

___Steve Kellmeyer

Steve Kellmeyer is a Catholic husband and father with undergraduate degrees in medical lab technology and computer science and graduate degrees in European history, theology and catechetics, the teaching of the Faith. His work can be found at https://scripturalcatholicism.blogspot.com/ and https://www.bestcatholicposters.com/

A Secret, an Eulogy, and a Prayer

Here’s a secret: I’m a bad person.

On June 5th I found out my friend Kacie died of a Heroin overdose. She was 23 years old. On June 6th, she would have been 24.

Why does this make me a bad person?

7th Bday 1
This is my 7th birthday party, that’s Kacie in pink on the far left and me in pink on the far right.

When we were in elementary school, Kacie and I were best friends. We had friendship bracelets and everything. We went to each other’s birthday parties. We played together during recess. My Mom recently told me a story about Kacie being scared when her mother was taken to the hospital, and how Kacie called late on a Saturday to ask me to come spend the night at her house so she wouldn’t be alone. At first my Mom said no, but then Kacie’s grandmother called to beg my Mom to let me come, that Kacie needed me. I went. I do not remember this event.

I do remember, vividly, exploring the woods behind Kacie’s house armed with steak knives with the intention of chopping down trees to build a fort (we knew butter knives would be too dull, but we weren’t strong enough to make the steak knives work either, so we didn’t get very far in the fort-building process).

Kacie was a girl I had essentially grown up with. I remember chatting with her about Sailor Moon and boys in 6th grade, arguing about electricity in 5th grade, doing the talent show together in 4th grade (Spice Girls, anyone?), drawing with gel pens on black paper in 3rd grade.

You know something really terrible? I can’t picture Kacie at all in 7th grade. I have a very blurry memory of her at the 8th grade dance. I see her sitting across from me at Poetry Club in 9th grade. Actually, my only memories of Kacie after 9th grade involve poetry club, reading the verses and prose she wrote, sometimes seeing her.

I’ve barely thought about Kacie for ten years. The girl I once shared “Best Friend” bracelets with. On June 5th I found out she died, but her father found her kneeling before her bed—in a pose I cannot help but associate with prayer—her lips blue and her spirit elsewhere on March 12th. I missed her death by over two months. When I learned about Kacie’s death, I posted on my Facebook page a notice of her death (in case other Facebook friends had missed her passing) and the declaration: “I am a bad person,” the Facebook/secular equivalent of “I am a sinner. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

Now don’t get me wrong, people grow up and grow apart and that’s a part of life. Children might be able to maintain 100 good friendships but adults are lucky if they have five. The sin I publicly confessed was that of Ezekiel 33:7-9:

“You, son of man,” (God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel, who stands in for all Jews/Christians/believers), “I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”

You see, Kacie and I didn’t just grow apart. I chose not to be her friend. In High School, I saw her getting dangerously thin, dying her hair unnatural colors and wearing makeup in a way that clearly said: “I am emo” which was sort of a counter-cultural fashion/music statement but much more a declaration of joining the “wrong sort” of crowd…the people who supported her in addiction and skipping class and treating life like something that should be rebelled against rather than honestly enjoyed. I saw, I knew, but I did nothing to “dissuade Kacie from her way,” I simply turned my back and ignored her. That means God will hold me responsible for her death. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

In truth there are no “wrong sorts” of people, no irrevocably wicked men or women, to borrow Ezekiel’s word. There are sinners. We are all sinners, and when we see someone else sinning*, someone else in trouble, and do nothing, their sin becomes our own.

After I declared “I am a bad person” on Facebook, I got some replies from people worried that I was depressed or mentally unstable, but I assure you I am too little effected by Kacie’s death. Kacie was a friend, someone I knew to be in trouble, and I did nothing. Even fake-black haired with eyeliner tears drawn on her cheek, she was sweet and kind and wrote beautiful poetry. She was a worthy of dignity, a “beautiful Daughter of the King” as one of my holier-than-me friends says.

Usually I don’t like to share–or read–such personal confessions online, but I think God intends my sudden experience of an old sin as a “teachable moment.” When we see others suffering as a result of their own sin, it is our responsibility as Christians to try to dissuade our fellow fallen human beings from their way. If we do not, we too are guilty. Now Kacie’s parents are promoting awareness of drug abuse, trying to change the world for the better in Kacie’s name (http://www.kaciescause.com/) and I am left doing the only thing a failed Christian , a failed daughter of man can do: pray.

Kacie, I will pray for you and with you every day for the rest of my life. Hopefully God will allow me to atone for my sin of ignoring your pain.