Doug Clarke

It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Doug Clark. I am the director of Outpatient Mobile Services and Reentry at Northeast Treatment Centers. I say that, not because that matters, or because my title or what I do for a living is important. The reason that I say that is because in 2008 that very center that I’m now the director of, is where I sat in a room going through withdrawal from opiates for the first time as a mere child, terrified.

You know that first time, right? You start getting sick, or a dude doesn’t answer the phone, or you don’t have any money. Whatever the circumstance, you can’t get high, and all of a sudden you start getting fear. You know the fear?

The hands of addiction start creeping up over your shoulders and they grip around your neck and they start to strangle you, and you can’t breathe.

Now today, I’m running the programs that I was once a part of. I say that, not to boast of myself – but to boast in the grace and mercy of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because it’s by Him, and Him alone, that I’ve come to the place where I’m at now.

I want to share my story beginning a few weeks after I stopped using completely. I’m sober, right, and I get this crazy idea. I’m going to be a drug alcohol counselor. Can anybody in here relate to that cliché? I’ve got three weeks clean. I’ll make a great drug and alcohol counselor. I’m going to change the world. That was me.

In my early sobriety, I ended up actually going to college. The reality is that I’m not cut out for it. But Christ has worked miracles among us. As I started going to school, I went for a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I went to a Christian university, and they taught secular psychology, but they also taught theology.

So at the same time that I’m studying psychology, I’m also studying theology. I’m studying things like the biopsychosocial model of addiction. I’m studying the disease model of addiction. I’m studying various treatment methodologies.

The problem was, what I was studying from the secular psychology standpoint, couldn’t answer some of the questions that I still had about addiction. It could tell how social development brought about the usage of certain substances. It can tell how genetic disposition could be predisposed towards using substances. But what it couldn’t tell me was why the drug had gripped me so deeply to the core of my being, where I could not live without it in the midst of my addiction.

It couldn’t tell me why I would go to bed at night, and I’d have one bag of dope left. I’d be like, “You know what? I’m going do it tonight, and then tomorrow I’m going to wake up, and I’m going get my whole world together. I’m going to have a dog. I’m going to have a wife. I’m going to have children. I’m going to have the life I’ve always dreamed of.”

You know what happened the next morning? I’d wake up and go right back to the block to cop (get drugs). Like clockwork. It was almost like I was in a cage in the back of my mind. I was conscious of the decision I had made the night before. I was on Autopilot, screaming out from the back of my mind, “Please don’t do this. Don’t do it.” And sure enough, Doug went and did it.

(The psychology courses) couldn’t tell me why I was so gripped in my soul, and this is where things became interesting.

I thought the world had addiction figured out. When I was in addiction, I thought that there were solutions for this thing. Truth is, addiction, according to the secular world, is an enigma.

Now, I’m studying theology, the knowledge of God. When I speak of God I’m speaking distinctly of the God of the Bible. As I started looking at these two different topics next to one another, I came to find that what secular psychology could not answer for me, the scriptures were able to answer. They began unfolding before my eyes in practical ways that I never could have imagined.

So what I’d like to do tonight is present my story to you through the lens of one of the most foundational truths from the Bible that has transformed my life. When we ask the question, what is addiction, what’s the answer?”

A lot of people would give a lot of different answers to that question. Some people would say that it comes from a poor family life. Some say it’s a disease. Some say we have a genetic disposition towards it. Some people would say that our background causes us to fall into addictive patterns. I don’t deny any of those things. But what I believe is that those things contribute to the development of addiction, but that they are not necessarily the root.

There is a root to addiction that starts as a seed and begins to build up and grow within us as we develop through our lives. Our genetics contribute to the way this seed is expressed. Our social upbringing contributes to the way this seed spreads its roots throughout our being. Psychological issues that we face in our lives, the trauma that we experience, help define this is root’s shape in our hearts. The addiction itself is merely the fruit that has grown from the root.

There’s a psychologist by the name of Ed Welsh. He has given a definition to addiction that I think far surpasses all the other ones. All the other definitions of addiction stem from a worldview that sees the physical person and the psychology associated with them as the foundation of who that person is. It sees spiritual factors as secondary or even nonexistent. But in order for us to have a right understanding of addiction and what the root of addiction is, we must begin with spiritual principles and allow those to define the rest of our research and knowledge.

Ed Welsh defines addiction at its root as a worship disorder. We have this seed when we’re born. All of us have it, every single person. It is the seed of sin. The word “sin” makes people uncomfortable. It sounds judgmental. I’m not a sinner.

Listen, I’ll tell you right now that I’m the worst of sinners. I have the word, “scumbag” tattooed across my stomach. And that rightly describes me. But in Christ, I’m not a scumbag any more. I don’t use the word “sin” to be judgmental. I use it to define what is in us that begins the developmental process that leads to the fruit of addiction. Specifically when I say sin, I’m speaking of the sin of idolatry.

Let me ask you guys this, when you are out there getting high, don’t you worship that drug as a god? You woke up every single day in your addiction and you lived your life to get high or get drunk. Your day revolved around the substance. Every single day you came to the altar of worship and you bowed your knee in the hopes of getting the affection of that drug.  

The moment you got it, In the same instant, it was gone and you were preparing to  worship again. Day in, day out, we bow our knees to the gods that we worship. The truth is this, when it comes to these gods we approach them trying to manipulate them. We see something in this god and we say, “I got this problem in my life, and this object of worship can solve my problem.”

We see this in the Old Testament. The people of God started looking at what the other nations had, and the gods of those other nations, and what those gods promised them. They say, “I can draw benefits from what these gods have to offer me.” They start to worship these gods. As time goes on they start to adopt the cultures of those nations. Before you know it, those nations have overtaken the people of God and consumed them, and they are now bound in slavery, both spiritually and physically.

So it is with us. Listen, I’m going to get very transparent here. I’ve never said this in in a speech before. I grew up in the porn generation, where you could start to get it on the Internet. From an early age, I was introduced to a distorted picture of what sex was supposed to look like. It was an unrealistic image of what relations between a man and a woman were supposed to be.

I never developed an understanding of what it would feel like to have intimacy with a woman. So when the time where I started having sex, I felt like I just didn’t measure up to the videos that I had seen – until  I stumbled upon those Perk30s. Now, any man in here who has done opiates knows that 30 to 40 seconds after you stick that bad boy, you become a porn star. You are able to perform at that level. You become the man on the video.

What does this have to do with what I’m saying? I had a problem, an insecurity, a fear. I saw this thing that could solve my problem. So I said, “I’m going to manipulate this thing.” Day after day I chased after it. I chased it, I chased it.

So the day came when I tried to stop chasing it. I didn’t realize that I had entered into bondage. This object of worship, what I thought could solve my problem, now had hold of me. I wasn’t using it for sex anymore. I was using it because I needed it to survive. And now I’m doing heroin. This is the plight of addiction.

This was the major truth that the Bible showed me that made sense. I had a worship problem. Addiction is like when you watch National Geographic. It’s hot in Africa, right? Here comes the gazelle. Dust balls flying all over and stuff. There’s that dirty little pond. The gazelle sees it and is like, “Man, I’m thirsty. I’m going get a drink.” He goes up to the edge of the water, looks around, nothing going on, water’s calm. Dips his mouth down and begins to drink the water. It quenching the gazelle’s thirst. Gazelle pauses for a moment. He lifts his eyes, and there’s these two eyes of a crocodile. Before he can pull away, the crocodile has spun him down to the ground and is dragging him into the depths to drown.

So it is with our addictions. You come for a cool drink, only to be gripped, dominated, and drowned. Left in a state of spiritual decay and brokenness. A perpetual cycle of worship that we of our own strength and power cannot break.

So what do we do? What’s our hope? I’ll tell you what my hope was. My hope was found in the person of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The theme tonight has been the second and third steps (of the 12-step program). We come to believe that there is a God who can restore us to sanity. We offer our wills over to that God. Let me take that a step further. The God that we speak of does not just restore our sanity, He restores our worship. That God has created the universe: the stars, planets, everything that we see when we stare at the night sky, all the way down to the most miniscule atoms that we cannot even catch with our eyes.

He’s created it all. He holds power the likes of which we could never comprehend. This God can restore our worship. He can restore our affections. He can restore our hope. He can restore our lives. He can change us from the inside out. The way that he does it is by taking away that root out of us that has polluted every aspect of our lives and brought terrible destruction upon us.

Ezekiel 36 says that, “He’s going to take out our old heart, and he’s going to give us a new heart in its place.” He’s going to place His Spirit within us. There is a humility to this majestic God that we cannot comprehend, because this God has stepped down from his mighty throne. This God has entered into a creation that He made that we human beings have ruined through our sin.

Imagine being God, perfect and holy, never having sinned, entering into a world that is a sea of sin. This God took upon himself human flesh. He lived the life that we should have lived. Was innocent, and perfectly kept all of God’s commands. Yet, in his finest hour, took your root of sin.

That root, as well as the roots for all those who would believe, came together and made a tree in the shape of a cross. That God took the guilt, the shame, and the weight of our sin and wore it upon his back. When he was nailed to that cross, guess what? You’re sin was nailed to that cross.

When he died on that cross, the death blow was issued to your worship of a false god. When He was laid in the tomb, your addiction was laid in the tomb. But when he rose again on the third day, this great and mighty God rose with a new life for you.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold the new has come.” If you are in Christ, if you have placed your hope in Jesus as your only hope and salvation in this life and the next, guess what? Sin’s power has been broken over you. You’ve been given a new nature, a new life, a new power by His Spirit within you; so that you don’t have to walk in the grips of addiction anymore.

God has been gracious to me, allowing me to have freedom. So I’m going to leave you with this message. We all are at risk for relapse. All it takes is one weak moment when we’re not on guard, and here comes that thought. It’s easier to get high because getting high will immediately satisfy that need that we have. Should you stumble, should you fall, when you lift your head, don’t go back to the idea that you are am bound by addiction.

The grace of God is sufficient, and you get back up on your feet and run to the cross. Deny the accusation that’s cast at you: “I’m a junkie. I might as well just keep on getting high.” No! If you’re in Christ, you’re a new creation. You bear his name, bear his stamp. You bear his blood.

Run to the cross. When you fall again, run to the cross. Run to the cross a thousand  times until you stand in His presence at the end of your life, and you receive a new body that’s not bound by sin.

That is the truth that has changed my life, and it can change yours as well.

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Brandon Robinson

Brandon Robinson

I remember being in church and going up to the altar and crying. I was so tired of the life I was living. I needed help. I felt a sense of peace at that time and knew that if this Jesus thing can work for some of these other guys, then it can definitely work for me.