Addicts chase an impossible prize. They want to escape pain, getting back to the only place and time in their life when they were fed and nourished, held close and safe, and the world was muted. Every addict is trying to get back into their mother's womb, to a time before they emerged into the bright lights, noise, poking and prodding, and chaos of the world.
Vodka isn't an option. Xanax cannot calm us. A beer or two only lets the demons in. The pills give us ulcers. A year or two between relapses only proves we're still walking in darkness. How can a man be born again and escape the pain that seems to be the price we pay for being alive? We can't get back into our mother's womb, and the only other womb open to us is a grave.
The tattoos hide scars. The bumps, scratches, and dried blood stains hide the truth. Broken bones have healed. Bloody noses have scabbed over. Dirt in the wounds has been washed away by our tears.
No matter what feels right at the moment when we get high, in the end it all goes wrong because what addicts cannot grasp while they're draining a bottle of Jack Daniels is that addiction is a symptom of pain. It's not the whiskey and pills that are the problem or the solution. It's the pain without relief that leaves us distraught.
Addiction is a giant that we cannot fight and defeat. We need a giant killer, but who's up to doing that job for us? The voice in our heads tells us we're trash and the demons are content so long as we're chugging vodka and shotgunning beers. Trouble is circled tight around us so that we cannot break away to find another way. So we live in pain, consumed by pain without resolution. We're drowning in pain from our impulsive, rebellious, self-destructive choices. We're drowning in pain from living in a sinful, chaotic world. But it doesn't have to be this way. There is relief from the pain. There is one who can defeat the giant called "addiction." There is one who can exorcise our demons.
As the psalmist writes:
Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (Ps. 107:17-22)
When we cry to the Lord in our trouble, he will send us a preacher with words that deliver us from destruction. God's Word can heal us. God's steadfast love can give us peace in the midst of pain and chaos.
As long as we live in this world we will experience pain. This is a sinful world and it is in its death throes, awaiting the final judgment when Jesus returns to regenerate and renew all of creation.
We cannot get back to our mother's womb, but the grave isn't the only other option. We can be born again from above, through water and the holy Spirit. We can be reborn. We can enjoy a new life. Purity can be renewed. Families can be reconciled. Friendships can be restored. Our body, mind, and soul can be healed. Demons can be replaced by holy angels. Jesus can kill the giant called "addiction" by drowning it in a flood of grace the Bible calls "baptism."
How can an addict be born again? How can we find relief from pain in this world? Through water and the Holy Spirit. Baptism saves us and there is nothing that isn't washed away when Jesus washes us clean.
Addicts chase an impossible prize. But for Jesus, what is impossible for us is possible for him because he is God. He is our Savior. Nothing is impossible for him, not even purging us of our addiction.