Drugs have destroyed the lives of countless Americans. Many are struggling daily with debilitating addictions while others endure the heartache that follows the loss of a loved one who died from an overdose.
More than 70,200 Americans died in 2017 from using illegal or prescription drugs. Of that number over 47,600 died from an opioid overdose, a twofold increase in just one decade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Data from the CDC show the opioid death rate reached 14.9 per 100,000 people in 2017, which is up from 2.9 in 1999.
The Trump administration has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and last year awarded over $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help combat the crisis ravaging the country.
Popular Christian rehabilitation program Adult & Teen Challenge defines drug addiction as a “one-time use of a chemical substance which results in a full dependency. This dependency can create strains in relationships and careers and can lead to a debilitating feeling of hopelessness.”
Pastor David Wilkerson started Teen Challenge in 1958 and it’s now internationally recognized for its success in helping addicts get clean, beating out all secular programs. The program was founded on the basics of the Word of God, prayer, belief in Christ, and an utter dependence on the Holy Spirit’s power.
There are three main groups of addictive substances: depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens.
Depressants slow down the messages going to and from the brain which affect one’s concentration and coordination. Hallucinogens distort a sense of reality. Some of the side effects include hearing things, panic, paranoia, and a feeling of euphoria. Stimulants speed up messaging to and from the brain, causing an increased heart rate, blood pressure and sleeplessness, among other things.
Many Christian artists and ministry leaders have spoken openly about their experiences with drugs — either as an addict or the spouse or child of an addict.
The following is a list of six prominent Christians who’ve candidly shared their personal experiences in interviews with The Christian Post. Each details how they managed to break free from their addiction and offer advice to churches and family members on the signs to watch for and how they can help their loved ones overcome their addictions one day at a time.
Brian Head Welch
Guitarist and co-founder of the metal band Korn, Brian “Head” Welch has been vocal about his past problems with drug addiction. And the rocker wants people to know that he wouldn’t have been able to kick the bad habit without God’s supernatural intervention.
Welch helped found Korn in 1993 and for a time he lived a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll until he left the band for a time in 2005 to follow Jesus.
“The last two years (before leaving the band) I was addicted to crystal meth and pills,” Welch told The Christian Post in a previous interview. “I would take crystal meth for the high, the come up, and then if I was up for a couple of days, I would take Xanax to come down and go to sleep. Or if I had to go on stage I would take Xanax to stop my hands from shaking because the meth was so crazy.
In the last two years of his drug abuse, Welch knew it was getting out of control. He revealed the beginning of the end began with a two-month binge while he was cross country hopping, crossing borders with eight balls of crystal meth on him.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not me. I can’t do this. I’ve never done this. I’ve never done a binge for this long, this is not my life. I’m going to quit after this tour,” he recalled feeling at the time.
The entire season he remembered telling himself that his behavior was “crazy” but Welch continued to travel around the world taking the risk each time.
“The whole time I was scared and I was ashamed of myself inside. Inside, I felt that darkness. And I was like, ‘but when am I going to do it? I can’t do it. I gotta quit. But I couldn’t take the step to quit and kept going and going. And then when I got a year into it, I was just like, this is it. I’m just I’m stuck,’” Welsh said.
Two months would eventually turn into two years of this internal battle for the rocker. He even had his dealer sending him drugs through FedEx while he was across the country.
“It was just my life,” he admitted. “I’ve crossed the line many times but that was over the top and you know, sending it through FedEx. I got home and I was like, ‘this is it, I’ve crossed the line and went too far, I gotta start taking steps to get off drugs.’”
When he returned back home to California he started taking the steps necessary to get clean. The musician first tried drug counselors but it wasn’t until a couple of his friends invited him to church that he would encounter a high he never had before.
“Anything about soberness I was going toward. The drug counselors, they were nice and everything, but I didn’t feel any hope there. I just felt like this hard knuckle [approach], ‘just get sober.’ It just felt like a prison,” Welch said.
“At the church, I just felt all this love. ‘God loves you, and he’ll help you.’ [they said]. So I felt so much lighter and freer. I didn’t have to do it on my own. Once His love touched me I was instantly addicted to God’s presence,” the tattooed celebrity testified.
Welch then realize his drug use was in the way of him experiencing God the way he did in that first encounter.
“Now the drugs, they’re in the way of me feeling God’s presence. So I get rid of that because I’m more addicted to the reality of God,” he continued.
At the time, Welch walked away from a $23 million record deal and left Korn to pursue Jesus Christ as his Savior and become the family man God wanted him to be, a journey fans will see in his upcoming film, “Loud Krazy Love.”
When asked how the church can help those struggling with addiction, Welch had advice for the body of Christ.
“It’s got to be supernatural, everyone’s different, we’re all wired different,” he said. “I just think the church needs to be accepting and not try to fix people on their own.”
Welch added, “God has to come into them and they have to have the revelation that He’s being invited in to live inside of them and He’s going to take up residence there, the indwelling Christ.”
He explained that addicts need to grab a hold of that and not only 12 steps in order to find the freedom they need.“Steps are good, I’m not discounting those but the most important thing is that God fills that hole because they’re trying to fill that hole with drugs, just like I was. So they need to be brought to that situation where they connect with God one on one and they [the church] can teach them how,” he said.
Welch also offered advice to anyone seeking freedom in Christ.
“When you’re alone and you don’t have the groups or the people, you need to have that foundation of you and Him, where He makes you feel like there’s nobody else in the world, and He’s spending His time with you and you alone,’” he illustrated. “Even though you know that God knows all these other people and He’s doing the same with them but it makes you feel as if He’s right there with you”
“That’s the supernatural touch in love. That will change the world,” Welch said.
In 2013, after getting sober and publicly sharing of his newfound faith through the most watched white chair film in “I Am Second” history, Welch felt compelled to return to Korn.
He now uses his voice to share of his faith in Jesus. For more information about his new film “Loud Krazy Love,” click here.
Grammy Award-winning singer Zach Williams says his life hasn’t changed much now that he’s famous, but admits he wasn’t always walking a straight and narrow path.
Williams was raised in a Christian home in Arkansas but got involved with drugs and alcohol during high school. As he encountered failures in his life he tried to drown his misery away.
After losing the Division 1 basketball scholarship at school, Williams was crushed because he had dreams of playing professional basketball. “When that happened, I started filling that hole with drugs. And when I moved to college I ended up getting a scholarship to play at a junior college. [However] the day before my first game I tore my ankle and that ended my basketball career, so I filled that hole with more drugs and alcohol,” he told CP in a previous interview.
Years later, he now says he realizes that people definitely have to keep themselves “out of situations that could possibly cause [them] to stumble or fall.”
“It was a great help for me to get involved in a church and surround myself with accountability,” Williams told CP of his road to recovery.
The “Chain Breaker” singer believes his experience has made it easier for him to understand others who are battling addiction.
“I would say that my past and the things that I’ve struggled with have definitely helped me to have compassion for others who are struggling with the same things,” Williams said.
“One thing churches are doing right now that’s [helpful], is they have programs like Celebrate Recovery and Jumpstart Ministries,” he said. “I know for myself and my wife, when we first started going to the church we were at it was a great place that we could go and share our testimonies, and it was also helpful for others going through the same thing.”
After winning awards and having a No. 1 hit under his belt, the Provident Music Group/Sony Music artist is using his platform to help others. Last year, he released Survivor: Live From Harding Prison, a six-song project recorded live from a Nashville-based prison where Williams and his band performed an acoustic set of his hits for 250 incarcerated men.
“I’m constantly blown away by how God just continues to use the things in my life and my ministry,” he testified. “If there’s one thing I can say that I stand for, it’s that you don’t have to have it all together and you’re never going to be perfect before you come before the Lord,” he added.
“The greatest thing is that He takes us as we are, wherever we are.”
For more information, visit ZachWilliamsMusic.com
Pastor Hector Vega
East Harlem Fellowship pastor and author Hector Vega has his own story to share about overcoming drug addiction.
Raised in midtown Manhattan (Hell’s Kitchen), Vega was in bondage to addiction for 15 years and spent 10 of those years in prison.
“My drug use started with me sneaking out of school and going to risky places with people who shared a common affinity for self-destruction,” Vega told CP.
“In the beginning, I was drawn to alcohol and marijuana, but that grew into playing around with much harder drugs like heroin and cocaine, which drew me into drug addiction.”
Vega said drug use was the vehicle that allowed him to escape whatever pain, shame, and guilt he felt. He admitted that much like every other person who was lost before coming to faith in Christ, he had an innate void and struggled with “identity, self-esteem, and fear of failure” which led him to indulge in destructive behavior.
“I was in a terrible state of confusion with no way out in sight. No matter what I tried to do to shake myself free it would not last, even when I was clean for a few months. But it all changed when I understood that God loved me — even in my worst state — and that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and to be in fellowship with Him.
“God had the answers to my identity problems, fear of failure, and lack of purpose and meaning. He had answers to the nagging void that was inside of me, and He alone had the ability to give me a new heart, a new way of thinking and a new life,” he testified.
He revealed that it was the Gospel message that ultimately granted him freedom from drug addiction.
Vega went on to share some patterns people should look out for if a loved one is battling substance abuse.
“Whenever you see isolation, withdrawn behavior, rule-breaking (even on a minimal scale), and risky behavior that pushes the envelope, those are clear warning signs that someone is in trouble,” he said.
“Too many teens and young adults have no accountability, no structure, and far too much freedom. In our present age, an affinity for video games shows a tendency toward a desire to escape one’s reality. The more young people detach from reality the greater the risk of experimentation with drugs and the leading into addiction,” Vega continued.
Communication of truth in God is key, the New York City-based pastor said. He noted that a vast majority of churches are failing to help people know they were made in the image of God, and held parents and other leaders responsible as well.
“TV, movies, music and social media (internet) play a strong role in communicating the lies of this world and secular philosophy, which also influence and shape our self-esteem, identity, and values. These polluted streams have unfettered access into our lives with virtually little to no truth to counteract it. This may seem like a radical position, but I believe people of faith have to wrestle with this reality and know how to navigate in a tech-saturated culture,” Vega said.
“The Lord Jesus is not willing that any should perish but it will take a radical group of people who stand on the truth of God’s Word and are willing to go into the darkness to bring the light,” he said.
He also hopes addicts will be supported by Christian transformation programs, jobs and life skill mentorship, discipleship training, vocational apprenticeships, honest transparent accountability, consistent prayer, and a reliance on the power of the spirit.
“I think churches have to wake up and face the reality that our programs are ineffective and lack power to transform the streets. How can we have all these churches and all these programs and all these sermons and things still remain the same around us?” the pastor questioned.
Vega quoted Jesus’ charge in Matthew 10:7–8, and said that too often the church is not going out but rather is waiting for the afflicted to come to them.
“On the positive side, I also think that churches are beginning to realize that the mission field is no longer just abroad in Africa but in our own backyard and right in front of us,” he emphasized.
“We have to return to incarnation ministry. Jesus made His dwelling among us. He didn’t leave when it got messy. We believers need to understand that this type of work is froth with failure, which has a way of discouraging even the best of us, including those who are specifically called to this ministry. Success in this type of work is elusive,” he added.
Since getting clean and giving his life to Jesus, Vega, a husband and father, has traveled the world and led his church in Harlem for 10 years. He’s now working to establish a social enterprise and educational community facility in East Harlem, which is a long-term missions’ poverty relief project in La Perla, Puerto Rico.
He penned his new book, Arrested by Grace, because of the impending threat he sees in the world.
“It seems that we are once again at a crossroads. The challenges facing our society and culture seem impossible to solve or cure. It’s time to remind people that God is still in the business of providing a way out and doing the impossible and the miraculous. Nothing is impossible for Him,” Vega maintained.
His message to all is, “There is hope! The opioid crisis and its battle for the lives and souls of men and women is not a lost cause!” he exclaimed.
“However, it will require an army of folks who care about the lives of our ‘neighbors,’ who believe in the power of Christ, and who are committed to get their hands dirty and work up close and personal on this crisis in our families, our neighborhoods, and our nation,” Vega said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law