Hope in the midst of the heroin epidemic
The heroin epidemic in Northeast Ohio is devastating. Families are being ripped apart; grief and overdose deaths are front page news. But there is also hope, and transformational stories being written in the lives of young men and women. I feel compelled to share some of these stories.
Ten years ago, Linda (who has since died from a minor scrape of her toe, thus I use her name) came to us at CrossPointe Community Church in Westlake wanting out of a drug and prostitution lifestyle. After being encouraged to post Bible scriptures on index cards on her bathroom mirror, and after two-plus years of sobriety, Linda was transformed. She became our CrossPointe Community official greeter. Years passed. I visited her before she moved to Florida. I looked in the bathroom and there I saw not only the mirror, but also the wall surrounding it, covered in index cards.
In the last five years the stories of transformation have increased amidst the heroin epidemic. God has truly been at work. It’s a hard struggle, but there is hope.
One mature man came back from death’s door to become a leader in our community working full-time for several years now. A young couple who continue to overcome (fail forward) are experiencing new life today with their two children. Two more men in recovery are walking out a new life through Christ. These men serve on our worship team each Sunday.
Along with increased transformational stories there has been funerals of precious lives I have personally mentored. Each of them had invited Christ into their hearts. But just like cancer which has gone into remission; some cancer returns and people die. In each case there have been months of sobriety followed by a one-time relapse and death. For this pastor with a big heart, the pain of loss is very real but nothing compared to that of the parents and family.
So I share a more recent transformational story to emphasize there is hope in the midst of the heroin epidemic. On Jan. 28, 2013, a young man walked into my office. I had prayed for him after meeting his parents five months earlier. He came as a homeless man with his parents to a Families Anonymous meeting. I shared my own personal story as a young person. He told me later, “That sounded just like me.” I was not a church going guy nor was I impacted by any religious people.
At the conclusion of my story I asked this young man the same question I was asked 40-plus years ago: "Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart and life?" Without hesitation, he said, "Yes!" I prayed. He prayed. Two weeks ago he graduated magna cum laude from Spring Arbor University with a double major in pastoral ministry and philosophy. He has received a full scholarship to Princeton Theological Seminary and is getting married this summer.
There are multiple stories of hope being written in the lives of recovering heroin addicts. Yes, relapses are a reality in this battle with heroin. Twelve-step programs are a significant contributor to this hope of which I write. Along with the 12 Steps, a relationship with God and a loving, positive, accepting and nonjudgmental community are essential. When relapses happen the addict can spiral into negative, defeating thoughts. Failing forward is a term we use to encourage those who relapse to continue to press on.
I refer to heroin addiction as cancer because some go into remission, some go in and out of remission and some die. To beat cancer is a blessing from God. To beat heroin addiction is a blessing from God. There is hope! I would encourage anyone to pursue treatment, positive uplifting relationships and a transformed heart through Christ. Don’t ever give up!
Pastor Nelson and Camille Blount begin their 17th year as pastor of CrossPointe Community.