And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15
Addiction medicine invariably involves a lot of mental health care, with anxiety perhaps being the number one complaint. In jail or treatment, my patient’s lives are often in chaos and, in their angst, they’re looking for some peace. Under these circumstances they cannot turn to the drug or alcohol that they’d normally use to find relief and they’re feeling overwhelmed. I get it. I’ve been there.
When it comes to anxiety medications, I have a similar conversation with almost everyone (addicted or not), which goes something like this: Medications certainly can help with your anxiety. Your anxiety though, is something you will need to work on as well. You likely need counseling. You may need to learn coping mechanisms. You need to learn to live life without self-destructive coping mechanisms. If you came to me after putting your hand on a hot stove, I could give you medications for the pain and to prevent infection. I’d do so though, with the understanding that you’re going to do your part. It’s not going to be effective if you take my medication simply so that you can keep putting your hand on the hot stove. You must take the medication and you must work on change. If you rely on a medication to do everything for you, you will probably not do very well.
Some anxiety is our fault, and some isn’t. Some of us have caused all our own angst in life and for some, anxiety is simply a life struggle, due to no fault of their own. Everyone though, is responsible for their response to the anxiety. Often, our natural impulse is to choose some unhealthy, unhelpful release. Maybe we drink. Maybe we take our frustrations out on others. Maybe we turn to shopping or sex. Whatever we do, our natural impulse isn’t usually to choose to do the hard thing, making constructive, helpful choices. Often, we simply make things worse.
In today’s passage, Paul told the Colossians to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts. Like Paul’s previous instruction, this is an action command. It is something at which we must work. If our life struggle is anxiety, then daily, our job will be to do whatever it takes to abandon those things that worsen our anxiety. Then, we must follow God, seeking his will and peace. Our underlying anxiety may or may not be our fault, but our response to it is always our responsibility. Medications may absolutely be part of an appropriate response and, when necessary, no one should feel guilty for needing them. If, however, medications are used in place of making healthy choices, then medications may simply be masking the underlying problem.