April 4, 2021
(I am taking a break from the chapter by chapter topics from Opiate Nation to focus on the significance of this holy week. Translations into most languages available at tab to the right.)
Spring is the season of regeneration, freedom, new life. The time of year when the whole earth seems excited to be alive after being dormant all winter. For the northern hemisphere, March and April are Spring – for our friends and family in Australia, right now it is Autumn. Regardless of what season it is where you live on this planet, it is Easter Sunday and the end of Passover week. Both the Christian and Jewish traditions celebrate the freedom from bondage and the beginning of a new life, although from differing perspectives and beliefs. Both begin the time with reflection and prayer. (I don’t understand Islamic tradition well enough to comment on it except to say that Ramadan is observed around this same time of year with introspection and fasting in remembrance of Muhammad receiving the Quran.)
For Christians, the freedom is from the bondage to sin in one’s life; for Jews, it is the freedom from bondage that the Israelites suffered under in Egypt. Both faiths look to an historical event in the past. They also remind us that while bondage was dealt with symbolically once – whether personally or communally – it is an ongoing problem in this imperfect world.
The point being: Neither freedom nor new life come without cost – and neither can be maintained without effort. This is the “Eternal Vigilance” I wrote about last week in the blog regarding habits and why they are important to us all. None of us want to continue living with habits that hold us in bondage and ruin our relationships, our future, our lives. We want – we need – freedom to be the best person we can be for ourselves, for others, and for our world.
This is what those who are living with addiction hope for when they enter detox then recovery programs, take medication and attend 12-Step meetings. In learning that they are powerless over people, places, and things, and as they surrender control over their addiction, they’re hoping for a total change from the bondage of anxiety, agony and depression into a new life.
No one, especially a young person, should have to die having failed to experience the freedom of a new beginning. But, with the purity of heroin having increased in the last 15 years, and fentanyl now mixed in to everything from pot to ecstasy to heroin, unbeknownst to users, the physical addiction is beyond comprehension. For those who are overdosing and dying in record numbers, they had no intention that their next use would be their last. This was what happened to our 25-yr-old son. Whatever he bought and used was more potent than what he was expecting and accustomed to. He died alone, with the needle still in his vein.
Prevention is the best way to stop these needless deaths. But for the millions who are already enslaved to opioids and other addictive substances, we need to work to increase access to and public funding for solid, long-term recovery programs and sober living communities. And we must continue to destigmatize those who are addicted so they will more willingly enter recovery while having confidence that the programs will actually help free them from bondage and offer them a truly new life.
One thought on “Celebrating Freedom and New Life”
I used to be one who, while sympathetic, would look down on those who’d ‘allowed’ themselves to become addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs. Then I researched addiction and reflected thus began to understand that serious life trauma, notably adverse childhood experiences, is usually behind a substance abuser’s debilitating lead-ball-and-chain self-medicating.
Generally, there’s a formidable reason why a person repeatedly consumes and gets heavily hooked on an unregulated often deadly chemical that eventually destroys their life and even that of a loved-one. Sadly, the pain of their reality may be so overwhelming that even the most extreme and potentially permanent form of escape — suicidal behavior — is sometimes chosen. Meanwhile, in many straight minds there remains the preconceived notion that drug addicts are but weak-willed and/or have somehow committed a moral crime.
That’s when I like to consider the great irony — and beauty — in the Jesus meaning/message. For me, it means (most notably but not solely) that Jesus was viciously murdered because he did not in the least behave in accordance to corrupted human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be.