What’s Going to Be Different About Your Eighth Time in Treatment?
. . . In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15
I meet all incoming patients in treatment for their admission physical. Occasionally though, I must see them again for a discharge physical. On admission, clients usually look and feel terrible. Often, by the time they’re leaving though, they appear buoyant and joyful. They’ve been sober for a month or two and they like it. They plan to stay sober and they’re hopeful about the prospects of a new life without drugs. But . . . they’ve been here before. In fact, maybe we just did this whole thing three months ago and this is their eighth treatment in the last two years. So, I ask – Why are you hopeful? What’s going to be different this time? Tell me one thing new that you learned in treatment.
Often, I’ll hear the same answer I heard previously. I don’t know. I’ve just decided I’m not going to do drugs anymore. It’s clear they’ve not really thought about it and that they’re not prepared to answer the question. Their hope is a false one. They’ve not got any real plan for recovery. They’re just happy they’re sober now, but if they don’t commit to radical changes, they’ll go back to the same old life. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Soon, they’ll be back using, and we’ll be doing the whole thing again in three months.
Thankfully though, some get it. Some clients can tell me exactly where they went wrong and their specific plan for change. They don’t have to stop and think about it because they’ve already written it down. They have an action plan that involves cutting out using friends, going to meetings, reconnecting with faith, and completely transforming their lives. If they stick to the plan, they’ll remain in recovery. They have real hope and they can explain why.
This is what I thought of when I read today’s passage. In it, Peter said that, as followers of Christ, we must always be prepared to explain the hope that is in us. Peter’s assumption though, is that we will appear to the outside observer to be full of hope. Are we? Do others look at us and wonder why we’re joyful and hopeful? If they don’t see the love, joy, and hope of Christ in us, then we must first answer that question. Why don’t I feel authentic hope and joy? A life of abandoning self to follow Christ may not be easy, but it is full of joy and hope. Once we’ve found those things, we’ll be able to easily explain the reason.