This is Your Brain on Drugs

This is Your Brain on Drugs

And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. Genesis 12:15-16

When I was a kid, there was an anti-drug commercial on TV that simply showed an egg, sizzling in a frying pan. The voiceover delivered a blunt warning, “This is your brain on drugs.” It was a concise message – Drugs are bad for you. Don’t use them. It made sense, and I walked away knowing two things. First, I knew that I’d never use drugs. Second, I knew that anyone who used drugs was a total loser. Eventually though, after a surgical procedure, I was exposed to drugs . . . and I really liked them. I wanted more.

That message – This is your brain on drugs – wasn’t wrong. It just didn’t tell the entire story. Drugs are destructive . . . but they do something for us too. We use for a reason, otherwise no one would ever become addicted. When we use, we feel good. Or maybe we just stop feeling bad. I once used to find sleep. Others use to temporarily escape anxiety. We all have our reasons for using. Those who don’t use drugs may look down on those of use who’ve struggled, but everyone’s got their own less-than-productive behaviors they use to find some relief or release, whether it’s food, pornography, screen time, or even self-cutting. We do these things for a reason. They provide some perceived, albeit temporary, benefit for us.

This is the story of Abram in today’s passage. In the story, Abram schemed to pretend that his wife, Sarai, was his sister so the Egyptians wouldn’t kill him and take her. Pharaoh saw Sarai, found her attractive, and took her into his harem. Pharaoh then rewarded Abram, whom he thought to be Sarai’s brother, giving him livestock and servants. At this point, Abram may have been pretty pleased with himself and his plan. Things are working out pretty well for me. What a great plan! God though, wasn’t amused, striking Pharaoh’s house with plagues, informing him that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Abram’s plan fell apart as he and his family were banished from Egypt, fortunate to escape with their lives.

Abram’s problem is our problem. We embrace the self-destructive for a reason – it does something for us. The problem though is that there’s always a price to pay later. Eventually, the destruction catches up. Living by faith and recovery means developing and practicing the maturity to live for what’s right, not just for right now. It is only in abandoning our self-destructive appetite for immediate gratification today that we can enjoy peace and joy tomorrow.

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