I Know this is Killing Me, But . . .

I Know this is Killing Me, But . . .

And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. Exodus 9:11

It’s maddening to watch someone drink themselves to death. It’s not as if they don’t know what’s killing them. In the times I’ve seen it happen, it’s not that they want to die. They have loved ones who’ve prayed a thousand times that they’d stop. They’ve prayed the same. They know they’re dying. They know the alcohol is killing them. Yet still, they can’t stop. It’s hard not to be angry with them, abandoning everyone and everything for the bottle.

I know however that they don’t want to live and die like this. I’ve been there. In my own drug use, I often took opioids combined with acetaminophen, a medication that is toxic to the liver in large doses. Many times, I consumed poisonous amounts of acetaminophen. Many times, I’d lie awake at night, worried about that pain in the right upper quadrant of my abdomen. I knew I was slowly killing my liver and I promised myself that I was going to stop. The next day though, when the withdrawal set in, I began my hunt for more pills. I’m a physician. I knew what I was doing, yet I couldn’t stop. I often write that if I hadn’t faced dramatic consequences, that I’d still be using drugs, but honestly, my liver didn’t have 10 more years of abuse left in it. If I’d have kept up my drug use, I’d be dead by now.

I’ve got to think that the Egyptians must have come face to face with this realization in today’s passage. In it, God struck the Egyptians with painful boils as Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews. The Egyptians had suffered annoyances and their livestock had died. Now, however, their physical well-being was directly impacted. You’d think that Pharaoh would let the Hebrews go, but the Egyptians were desperately dependent upon the slave labor which the Hebrews provided. So, even though Pharaoh could see it was killing his people, he couldn’t let God’s people go. That is addiction.

Many of us have found ourselves here. We know pornography is killing our marriage and our faith, but we can’t let go of the smartphone. We know that job is destroying our home lives, but we can’t surrender that paycheck. Whatever it is, we understand that it’s killing something in us, yet we can’t bear to cut it out of our lives. That is addiction and it means that we can’t simply decide to flip a switch in our brains, stopping the behavior. Stopping at this point means embracing radical change, doing whatever it takes to cut that thing out of our lives. This will, by definition, be difficult and painful. The only alternative though, is that we simply continue down our path of death and destruction.

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