With so much recent attention being given to opioid addiction in South Carolina as well as the nation, it seemed fitting for Miracle Hill Ministries, the Upstate’s largest provider of homeless services, to weigh in on the opioid crisis as well as the larger picture of addiction.
On any given night, there are more than 600 children and adults who sleep in a Miracle Hill facility, and many of these individuals find themselves sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings because of the grip addiction has on their personal lives or the lives of the family and friends they love.
As prescription pain medicines become harder to acquire, heroin usage has grown to staggering levels. The newest batches of heroin are being cut with other substances, which in turn causes this dangerous drug to become downright deadly. Resulting deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin were five times higher in 2015 than in 2013. Combine the heroin and methamphetamine epidemic with the continual usage of crack cocaine and alcohol, as well as synthetic drugs and the ever-present marijuana, and we find ourselves in a world where drugs are no longer hard to find — they are everywhere.
Addiction has been labeled many different things: a disease, a genetic predisposition, a learned behavior, a coping mechanism, a sociocultural issue, or a product of moral failing. At the end of the day, regardless of the label, addiction is brokenness in a human life.
At Miracle Hill’s two residential addiction recovery centers, we have found that the most effective prescription for recovering addicts is not a replacement drug plus treatment but total abstinence as the individual learns to live a life of recovery.
Although I am writing this editorial as an individual who has fought on the front lines with addicts for years, I am also writing it as an individual who gave 15 years of his own life to addiction.
Over the course of my life in addiction and sobriety, I have watched as hundreds of other addicts have repeatedly tried to replace one addiction for another. I have stood by as many have gone from the dope man’s house to the line in front of the methadone and Suboxone clinic, and I have cringed as I heard the words, “I won’t ever use heroin again, but I am still going to smoke weed on the weekends.”
Addicts live to make themselves feel different, preferably the easy way. This is one of the greatest lies addicts choose to believe in early recovery.
As they try to wrestle the demons from their broken lives, they desperately want to find something that can numb the pain. Nothing sounds better to an addict than, “You can find freedom from this substance which has owned your life for decades and you get to continue to mask your feelings and your past.” This path does nothing but continue the cycle of life-dominating addiction, and unfortunately often does so from legal high ground. Although the decision may be made to get sober, sobriety becomes relative when you have a license to get high from a different substance.
In my experience, abstinence is the only answer to addiction that works long-term. It is the only form of recovery that offers true freedom from addiction because chemically supported recovery is simply that: supported.
The support addicts truly need comes from their meetings, programs, sponsors, churches, other recovering addicts, and most importantly their higher power.
At Miracle Hill, we have two highly successful addiction recovery centers in Greenville, Overcomers for men and Renewal for women. Both programs are six- to seven-month, residential, Christian recovery programs that use a biblical adaptation of the 12-step recovery model. We believe that abstinence, relapse prevention, treatment, planning, and relationships are the answer. We work with our guests to formulate a safe plan for their departure from our program, which often includes a period of time in Miracle Hill’s transitional housing program.
Abstinence in conjunction with treatment is the answer.
Ryan Duerk is vice president of Adult Ministries at Miracle Hill Ministries. He previously served as director of Miracle Hill’s Overcomers addiction recovery center. He holds a BS in experimental psychology from USC Upstate and a MBA from Anderson University. He is also a board-certified counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors.