‘The leprosy in my neighborhood is addiction’
PONTIAC, Mich. — “You can’t be a Christian and do drugs.…
The evening song service began. A deacon approached me and whispered that he had put “a drunk man” (let’s call him Tom) in my office.
I walked to my office to find an inebriated person I had never met. Tom was homeless and told me that he needed help. My response was that I would be willing to help him.
Tom left the building before the worship service ended, but early the next morning, the church offices’ doorbell rang. Tom returned well-groomed and sober asking for the promised help. Through the guidance of another minister in Nashville, I drove Tom to a hospital that quickly admitted him for detoxification from alcohol abuse.
I was around 30 years old and knew little about addiction. It was several days before I was invited to visit Tom in the detoxification facility. Over time Tom completed his detox, studied the Bible with me and was baptized. He started attending worship services, where he often sat alone.
I am embarrassed to write that I never had him in my home.
Tom soon disappeared, and I lost all contact with him.
About 20 years after meeting Tom, I enrolled in Vanderbilt University Graduate School of Nursing. I earned a Master of Science degree in nursing and then became board certified as an adult nurse practitioner. I am in my fourth year of treating people with opioid addiction.
The following steps represent some of what I have learned that might assist you to help someone else.
I know God is a forgiving God, yet 34 years later I still feel saddened that I did not do more to help Tom, the man that sought my assistance with his addiction.
Frequently in my clinical work, patients report that a relative or friend has been exposed to fentanyl or overdosed and died. Addressing the growing opioid crisis is one way to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
GARY DODD, a member of the Concord Road Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tenn., works as a nurse practitioner at Cedar Recovery, a medical practice seeking to solve the opioid crisis and repair communities.
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