How do you respond to that? Recently I was at the Recovery House, a residential treatment facility for those overcoming drug and alcohol addictions. Every time I meet someone new I try and learn their story, because they are not a statistic. They are a human being, broken and battered as they might be. They have dignity and worth even in the midst of their current struggles.
As always, their stories, and especially the path that led them to addiction fills me with a mix of mild shock and heartache.
- I met Karen*. This is her 11th rehab. She’s a mess and she knows it. She is the black sheep in a good family. Mom and dad are still together. Both have respectable jobs. One works for the government, the other is a lawyer. But the pressure to perform in a ‘perfect family’ quickly became to much. She started abusing drugs and alcohol before she was 10. It doesn’t help that her mom is a functioning alcoholic and set that as an example for her daughter. Her mom can handle her alcohol (or so she thinks). Karen obviously cannot.
- I met Rachel*. This is her first rehab. Really, she got addicted later in life. Good childhood, never had any problems before her 30s. When she was 34 she was recently divorced and had a weekend free. In her words she had a “bright idea” to visit a liquor store and get some wine “because she could.” That simple decision led to a three year addiction and downward spiral that cost her a career, a home, and all of her savings. She said when she walks out of rehab she’ll be walking out with nothing.
- And then there’s Brittany*. She’s young, in her early 20s. She’s in for meth. This is only her first rehab, and she was still coming down off of the toxin in her system, but she’s been abusing drugs and alcohol for over a decade. Growing up locally, she’d never really been to church. Her question to me was, “How can you forgive and forget like the Bible says?” She then began to use the hypothetical of someone who was raped. By this time I’d been speaking with her for an hour, so I cut through that and said, “We’re talking about you, aren’t we?” Brittany said “yes.” I asked her how long ago she was raped, and she said, “I was raped when I was 9, and I’ll go ahead and tell you, it was by my dad.”
What do you say to that? How do you respond? What kind of evil lives in the world that allows this to happen? I responded in anger on her behalf. I said that as a man, I am sickened by other men who could molest young children. I said part of me wished I could go and cut off the pecker of every single man who would rob a child of their innocence. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like that. I reaffirmed to Brittany that she did not deserve to have that happen. It was in no way her fault.
Going to her original question, I told her that she may never forget (the Bible never actually says “forgive and forget”), but God can help her to forgive. I encouraged her not to focus on forgetting, but on God redeeming. I told them how God could take even the worst circumstances and bring something good out of it.
As a way to make a connection, I referenced some of the deepest pain I’ve ever walked through: my wife and I’s struggle with infertility. For years, the label my wife and I wore was that we were the couple that couldn’t have kids. There were countless nights of heartache and tears. Yet through that, God brought us our oldest two sons, sons that we would have never adopted if we had kids on our timetable. We can honestly look back and say we are thankful for the struggle, because God has redeemed it so beautifully.
I told Brittany that I know that my struggle was nothing in comparison with what she walked through, and that she would never look back and say she was thankful that happened (nor should she), but my prayer was that one day she could look back and see the good that God has brought out of it. I encouraged Brittany to go deep in this rehab, to unpack all of the baggage that she could and to get to a good place, because there are untold girls out there in dark places, and God can use her to give hope to girls struggling with similar situations. Her greatest ministry in life might be offering healing to women who were molested as children. My heart breaks for Brittany. It breaks for the evil in the world that would allow this to happen. It has shaped her past and her present. But through the power of Jesus it does not have to shape her future. Amen.
QUESTION: If you had the chance, what would you say to Brittany?
*names have been changed to protect their identities