An Addict by Any Other Name . . .
All who take the sword will perish by the sword. Matthew 26:52
It’s not uncommon in Christian recovery circles to hear that you’re not an addict, you’re a Christian. The belief is that one cannot be both, and that if you identify as struggling with an addiction, it will be a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophecy. To live the new life then, you must identify only as a child of God, denying that you’re an addict. Identifying as anything else – admitting that you struggle with addiction – is an affront to God.
Alcoholics Anonymous insists on the opposite. AA encourages the one who struggles with alcohol or drugs to admit the struggle. At meetings, one would say, My name is _____, and I’m an alcoholic. This admission puts it at odds with those Christians who believe you cannot be a Christian and an addict or alcoholic.
The problem with insisting that I’m not an addict though, is that it attempts to make my mind accept something that simply isn’t true. If I’ve lost my job and my family to a drug addiction, then, by definition, I’m an addict. Calling myself a Christian doesn’t magically undo all of the horrible things I’ve done, and it doesn’t help me to not do them again. It’s just fanciful labelling. Whispering to myself repeatedly, I’m not an addict, I’m not an addict, doesn’t make me not an addict. Using drugs has consequences and believing in God doesn’t negate those consequences.
Jesus reinforced this concept in today’s passage. In the story, at Jesus’ arrest, Peter drew a sword, attacking one of his enemies. Jesus commanded Peter to put the sword away, insisting that all who live by the sword will suffer the consequences. One who lives by the sword and dies by the sword, is by definition, a swordsman, even if he believes in God. Peter followed Christ, but in choosing evil, Jesus said he would find destruction. Peter could be a Christian and a sinner, and claiming he wasn’t a sinner didn’t magically make him not a sinner.
If I’ve destroyed my life with drugs, I’m an addict. The path to life and recovery isn’t in whimsical self-speak. The new life is found only in daily doing whatever it takes to deny the old ways to follow Christ. In doing so, I become a Christian who is also an addict, but who is now walking by faith and living in recovery from my addiction.