The Quiet and Deadly Force
Celebrities and addicts alike are drawing our nation’s attention to the drug problem. Crime is running rampant. Prisons and jails are overflowing as fast as we can build them, and everyone is trembling in
fear over AIDS. There is no doubt that illegal drugs are a killer. A big killer.
But even while all this is going on, there is a quiet and deadly force that is killing thousands every year. It is legal. You might even have some in your own medicine chest. Slowly, quietly, they are killing and maiming. They are destroying families and wrecking lives; but they are not in the spotlight because they are legal and prescribed by medical people. Prescription drugs. Most people don’t realize the extent of the problem. I know I didn’t.
For many years I was an alcoholic, and none of the fancy doctors knew quite what to do about my problem. Back in those days we didn’t have rehab centers, such as we have today. About the most that could be done for people like me was to let us dry out in a hospital for a few days, pump us full of pills, and send us on our way. Alcoholism was treated as a “mental problem”-that is, by prescribing medications such as tranquilizers, anti-depressants, sedatives. The end result was that I became addicted to all these “treatments.”
For almost ten years I had to have pills to go to sleep, pills to wake up; pills to calm down, pills to pep up. It was an awful, helpless cycle. Towards the end of my addiction, I was taking about 25 of these pills every day, just to cope. Most of these medications would not be recognizable to you, but I’ll list a few of them for the benefit of those who know about drugs. My daily quota included Quaalude, Thorazine, Mellaril, Stelazine, Valium, Triavil, Sinequan. There was no way, of course, to keep track of just how many pills I was taking, or with what regularity, because I just took the pills as I felt the need. And I figured that if one was good, well, two would be twice as good!
These daily doses were in addition to my drug of choice, alcohol. Rod Carpenter points out in his ACTS curriculum, “The synergistic effect [of alcohol and these drugs] may result in depression of the Central nervous system, causing the heart and respiratory systems to slow down and fail. The deadly barbiturate-alcohol combination must be emphasized. The combination causes an estimated 3,000+ deaths annually-42% suicides and the remainder either from ingestion of lethal amounts or from a combination with other drugs.” (ACTS Instructor’s Manual I, page 65.)
In case you’re wondering how I got my hands on so many pills, I’ll let you in on one of my secrets-a common one among addicts. I would go to my psychiatrist, say on Friday, and complain of depression. He would write out a prescription with perhaps four refills, and send me on my way. The next Friday, I would report that the pills had worked just great, but that I was so “nervous” I could hardly stand myself. So he would write out a prescription for a tranquilizer, and so there you go. Do you get the picture?
But there’s more: While I was going through this routine every week with this doctor, I was also going through the routine with several other doctors! All legal! All medically-prescribed. It never occurred to me that I might have a drug problem.
Tolerance builds up fast to these drugs, which means that more of the drug is needed in order to get the same results. What ends up happening is that the mind requires more dope, but the body has not
adjusted to these amounts. This is when death can so readily occur.
One of the most far-reaching yet little-discussed effects of these drugs is that the patient develops what is called “learned helplessness.” This is a mentality that permeates the whole lifestyle and leads to despair and, ultimately, helplessness. When using these drugs, I soon became confused because I was failing to get better. The doctors were the authorities, trained in diagnosing what was wrong with me and then fixing it. They prescribed what they felt to the appropriate medications and, instead of getting better, I continued to grow worse. Addicts taking illegal drugs don’t expect to get better because they aren’t be treated for anything. They don’t have the same expectations in this regard as the pill addict, so they don’t
experience the same kind of frustration! And guilt. What was I doing wrong? I was taking all the pills they prescribed (and usually two and three times that number), and only growing worse! I had no way of
knowing at the time that the doctors were wrong. Like most others who are hooked on prescription drugs, I trusted my doctor.
It is far easier to swallow a pill than to try to solve life’s problems. As a result, pill addicts (like other addicts) fail to learn to meet life head-on. Instead of dealing with the pain, I would swallow another pill. Anything to stop the pain! Towards the end of my addiction, I was unable to reason, or think through problems. Between my pills and booze, I wandered around most of the time in a stupor, not remembering from one day to the next. The mental anguish grew so bad that survival for one more day became an impossibility and I swallowed 700 of those beloved pills at one time. I was determined to die,
because I had no way left to cope with the pain.
During the week-long coma that resulted from the onslaught of death pills, the doctors summoned my family, believing I would not pull out of this. But I survived, and was sent to a mental sanitarium to
recover. What really is bizarre is that, during all this, I was a graduate student, working on my Master’s degree in psychology. Naturally, the people in the mental sanitarium laughed me to scorn. They would look at this pitiful piece of humanity and sneer: “You? A psychologist? Look at yourself! Never!” That hurt. It really did. But it also did something to revive that old determination to prove them all wrong. So I proceeded to go on to earn the degree and become a psychologist-that’s why I tell people today, don’t let anyone destroy your dreams. You can be anything you set your mind to be!
Another example: Peter and Judas. Both were disciples of Jesus. Both were in responsible positions. Both had the advantage of learning from the Master on an intimate basis. Both had equal advantages. And both failed the Lord.
But Peter ended up repenting and going on to do great works for God, while Judas ended up committing suicide. What made the difference? Same circumstances, but such different outcomes. We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that Peter took it all to the Lord. The Bible says he went out and wept bitterly in what is called repentance. Judas did not. Judas tried to solve the dilemma in his own strength by taking the money back to the Pharisees. Peter threw himself on the mercy of the Lord and the Lord, thoroughly forgave him. Peter was not ostracized, nor did he have to do penance or step down to a lower
position. On the contrary, Jesus elevated him to the position of caring for His sheep; and on the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and preached one of the most powerful messages in all of history, a message that resulted in 3,000 people receiving the Holy Spirit in one day! That message is recorded in the second book of Acts.
Judas, on the other hand, committed suicide and was buried in a potter’s grave.
What about you? You can choose to be a Peter or a Judas. Whether your problem is drugs or alcohol or some other sin, rest assured that we have a God who knows all about your problem. He knows how to stop the quiet and deadly force. He knows where you are, and He knows just what to do to deliver you and make you whole. If you have strayed from the Lord, or if you have failed Him in some way, just do as Peter did. Jesus stands ready to forgive…to restore…and to use you.