Quite possibly the most secure prison in the world is the prison of addiction. It is easy to get into but very difficult to escape from. You can check out anytime you want, but sometimes it feels like you can never leave. If you have never had any issues with addiction, then consider yourself lucky.
The damage addiction does to a person’s life depends on what it is they are addicted to and how much they are able to keep it under control. Addiction to alcohol and drugs is in my opinion the most devastating of dependencies. It destroys not only the person but also everyone connected to that person. This includes children, wives, parents, brothers, sisters, and the list goes on. Once all of these relationships are destroyed, a person often finds themselves on the street. The sad thing is that addiction can lead to homelessness and homelessness can lead to addiction. Either way, once addiction has you it does not want to let go.
Drinking and being an alcoholic are two different things. One can lead to the other but not in every case. I say this because it is easy to stereotype everyone with a beer in their hand and say that they are alcoholics. A homeless person with a beer in their hand may or may not be an alcoholic. A homeless person that is always falling down drunk most likely is. An alcoholic cannot stop drinking. If they do their blood alcohol level drops and they experience withdrawals which leads them to their next drink. Alcohol also changes who a person is while they are under its influence. A friend of mine told me that calling it spirits is accurate because evil spirits have free access to a person while they are intoxicated. I do not know if that is true but it does make sense. It has been my experience that if a homeless person has an addiction problem it normally involves alcohol.
Addiction to drugs is similar to an addiction to alcohol. Your life expectancy is generally much shorter with a drug addiction. Heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth users seldom last two decades. Once a person becomes addicted to drugs they will most likely be dead in 15 to 20 years. Drug addiction is also different in that drugs have to be purchased illegally from not so nice people. The checkout lady at Wal-Mart and a drug dealer are two different types of people. Drug addictions are also more expensive. They also lead to a person doing desperate things to get drugs. Drug addicts can be dangerous to themselves and others for various reasons. Be careful how and when you interact with an addict. Everything you say and do should point them to a program and to Christ for help.
Drug addicts and alcoholics both need to be in a rehabilitation program that can help them get off drugs and alcohol and stay off. This involves a change in the way the person thinks. A Christ centered program is going to be the most effective one in my opinion. The Water Front Mission has an excellent program that has a good success rate. Your job is to get a person to see that they need help. Sharing the gospel with them and encouraging them is the best way to do this.