Sunday, January 31, 2016

Addiction: the modern day leprosy?

The weather today has been absolutely beautiful.  I was driving through town with the windows down, my short hair blowing every which way, when I heard something that caught my attention on the radio.  The radio host announced that today is National Leprosy Day.  Did you know such a holiday existed?  Neither did I.  Leprosy is recognized on January 30th, or the Sunday closest to it.  While I was driving, I got to thinking (I do that a lot.  Might be why my van is always short one side-view mirror.)  We don't hear much about leprosy these days.  In fact, it isn't even called that anymore.  It is called Hansen's disease.  I began thinking about what I have learned regarding leprosy throughout my thirty-four years on this Earth, and I realized something.  Society often treats addiction like leprosy and the addict like a leper. 

I came home, did some research, and found an article by Dr. Alan Gillen that intrigued me.  I learned that leprosy starts somewhere in the central nervous system, outside the brain, and the effects spread like wildfire throughout the entire body.  What starts on the inside is eventually manifested on the outside as well, and is noticeable to the naked eye.  Addiction is much like this.  It often starts out where it can be hidden, but it eventually conquers the person's entire being.  As much as I hate the idea of determining that someone is an addict based on outward looks, the effects of addiction are also often noticeable to the naked eye.  Before long, it cannot be hidden, and rumors of the diseased person spread far and wide.  

But, here's the most interesting thing I learned.  This literally blew my mind.  Ready for this??  Due to extensive nerve damage caused by the disease, the leper cannot feel pain.  Wow.  After sitting in treatment with close to one-hundred different girls, one thing became clear...most of us had become addicted to cope with some type of pain.  The drugs numbed us from the pain, and, even though the pain was still there, we could no longer feel it.  In his article, Dr. Gillen wrote:

Some leprosy patients have had their fingers eaten by rats in their sleep because they were totally unaware of it happening; the lack of pain receptors could not warn them of the danger. 

Reminds me a bit of myself.  My addiction was changing me, tearing away at me and at everything I loved, and I just slept, blissfully unaware that I was being eaten alive. 

In the old days, lepers were shunned.  Most of them were required to live outside of the cities in communities made for sick people.  In fact, some were even required to live in the town's dump.  Why were lepers shunned?  Because people were absolutely terrified of this ravaging disease.  They were afraid to catch it, but probably even more so afraid that they did not know how to cure it.  They didn't know how to help, so they steered clear of these affected people.  Of "those people."  I cannot count the number of times I have heard addicts referred to as "those people."  The outsiders, those who need to be put on the outskirts of our safe little towns, the ones everyone should be terrified of, the ones no one seems to know how to help.  Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Guess what?  I am one of "those people."  And, guess what?  You are too.  We ALL are one of "those people", each in our individual way. 

Finally, as I thought about what I knew about leprosy, one crucial thing came to my mind.  Though the doctors in the old days didn't know how to treat or cure leprosy, one man arose who had the remedy.  That man was Jesus Christ.  With one touch, he healed the lepers.  He made them clean again.  The same is true in addiction.  Any spiritual program you find will point you to your Higher Power, God, to find freedom.  In fact, after Step 1 has us admitting of our powerlessness over our addictions, Step 2 says, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

There is hope.  There is a real and powerful solution to make us clean.  No matter what you think you know about addiction or addicts, remember one thing:  we do recover...even if we don't have any fingers left. 

Biblical Leprosy:  Shedding Light on the Disease that Shuns.  Dr. Allen Gillen.  Published June 10, 2007.


  1. Could you imagine the look on everyone's face when Jesus walked by them on his way to the Leper? Not only that, he could have healed the man just by speaking the words. Instead, he touched him, something no one had done in years. How long has an addict waited for that touch? For someone to fully accept them as they are at this point in time. To guide them as they trudge the road to happy destiny?

    1. That indeed would have been a sight to see! Jesus is not the least bit intimidated by how dirty or sick we appear.
      I have been lucky enough to find people who weren't afraid to 'touch' me. My prayer is that every addict gets the chance to encounter someone like well as Jesus.

  2. Misty, Thank you so much for sharing your story. Every-time we share our story of Hope and healing through Jesus , the enemy loses!! God bless and keep sharing

    1. Thank you for reading my story. And yes, I truly believe we overcome by the power of our testimonies. When we shed light on what the enemy tells us we should keep in darkness, we find such freedom!!