Recently I was asked to pray for a young person who had been hospitalized for an apparent drug overdose. When I heard that they had been released to go home I celebrated, of course. I continued praying, because not dying is only the first part of getting well from a drug overdose.
I do not know this young person. I have no idea whether they are a social user who got something they couldn’t handle, or an addict who was chasing a higher high. That means I have no idea whether the overdose is likely to change the drug using behavior that resulted in a trip to the ICU.
If they are a social user who will be “scared straight” by this experience, the hard part may be over. They will need to continue physical recovery from whatever damage they did to their body. Depending on what the drug was there might also be brain damage and if so, that damage may or may not be something they can overcome. I’ve seen both outcomes.
But if they are an addict, and their family thinks an overdose will make them stop, they may be sadly mistaken. Because if they are an addict, an overdose may be no big deal, just another experience, nothing to get excited over. It might mean that they decide to change drugs because the one that they overdosed on is dangerous for them. It might mean they decide they just got a bad batch of whatever, or maybe their dealer cut it with something toxic, but surely that won’t happen again. And to make sure it doesn’t happen again, they may even go so far as to find a new supplier.
I realize this sounds harsh, but I am speaking from personal experience. Whenever I overdosed - and it happened more than once - as soon as I was out of danger of dying I wanted more. I made all those decisions I listed as possibilities, because the reality is that I am an addict, and an addict is going to use until they simply cannot use any more. Overdosing was never a reason to stop, only a reason to change some part of my using behavior. An addict may switch drugs or methods of use or the people they use with, but an addict will continue to use until something makes them stop. Too often that something is death.
I stopped because I woke up one morning knowing I couldn’t live the way I was living any longer, and I didn’t want to die that day. I couldn’t live with the soul sickness and the emptiness in my heart any longer. I knew I had to change my life, right that minute. And I was lucky enough to find the right treatment center to get me started on the journey that very day.
I blame my recovery on prayer. I know that millions of people in 12 Step meetings and churches all over the world pray every single day for those addicts who still suffer the way I was suffering. I firmly believe all that prayer drew me toward recovery and toward God. It has been 30 years since that morning and I haven’t felt the need to use drugs or alcohol. I have wanted to probably thousands of times, but I have not needed to the way I used to.
So I will continue to pray for that young person and for all the others still using, and for all of their families. I hope you will pray with me. May God’s healing power touch them all.