Recovery in a Pill

Recovery in a Pill

Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 2 Corinthians 11:7

Working in addiction medicine, I regularly meet those who desire recovery but who also don’t want to change too much. They want to be sober, but when it comes to the work of recovery, their follow through is often anemic. As a physician I can prescribe medications that assist in recovery by reducing cravings for certain drugs (Medication Assisted Treatment), which can be a wonderful thing. When the addicted patient comes into my office requesting such a medication though, I’m always concerned about his intentions. Is he working hard at recovery and just looking for some help with cravings? Or is he unwilling to change anything and simply looking for recovery in a pill?

I’ve been in that place. Maybe I wasn’t looking for a literal recovery pill, but I wanted the easy way out. In my first couple of attempts at sobriety, I remained unwilling to change much. I wanted my life back, but I wanted it back for free. I didn’t want to have to do anything to get there. And so, I got nowhere. If you’d have offered me a pill that could make me sober, I’d have taken it. And if there was such a thing, maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad.

The problem is that there is no pill that can make you sober or eliminate your addictive, self-destructive behaviors. There are medications that can help if you’re willing to work at recovery. If, however, you rely on the pill to do all the work, you will fail. If you simply want the easy way, then you’ve given nothing. If recovery costs you nothing, you won’t value it and you won’t keep it very long.

We don’t inherently value that which comes free or easy. This is what concerned Paul in today’s passage. In it, he asked if he’d made a mistake in freely delivering the gospel to the Corinthians. They were easily distracted from God, and it didn’t seem they valued the relationship much. Paul suspected this was because it cost them nothing.

It’s our nature to desire self-improvement while not wanting to sacrifice anything to get there. We all want change in a pill. That’s not the way transformation works though. God changes us as we do whatever it takes to abandon our old life to follow him to the new one. Sometimes medications can be part of doing what it takes to abandon the old life, but if your plan for transformation lies entirely in a pill, you will fail. Radical change requires radical work.

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