When a Christian Admits to Opioid Addiction

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I was willing to serve a brother or sister in need. It was much harder to be a friend.

I knelt in the opening of a car door beside my friend who slumped in the passenger seat. Someone had dropped her off in the church parking lot during Sunday morning service. Fresh skin pops lined her right arm. A bloody needle balanced on her leg.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know where to go,” she said. “I want to stop using, but …” Her voice trailed off.

I put my hand on her stooped shoulder—the same shoulder I’d supported when I baptized her a few months earlier. I remembered how the church laughed together in joy, trying to figure out how to fully immerse her while protecting the ankle monitor she wore on her leg. The ankle monitor was gone now, but so was the transcendent emotion of her baptism.

“I’m not going to sit here and watch you kill yourself,” I said. “I have to call somebody.”

I closed the car door and walked away. I didn’t make it 10 steps before I turned around and went back to open the door.

“I’ll bet people have been walking away from you your whole life. We’re not going to let you go through this alone.” I left the door open this time as I went inside to call for help.

I heard my friend say, “I knew I would be safe here.”

My friend—who gave me permission to tell this story—wasn’t the first Christian to admit a substance abuse addiction to me. The first time I was far more harmful than helpful—more judgmental than hopeful. Feelings of betrayal and anger, hopelessness and grief came in waves. Confessed lies tore apart shared memories, and I distanced myself.

How is someone supposed to react when a brother or sister in Christ brings an addiction to light? There isn’t …

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