My sister has been inactive and into drugs and gangs now for over half of her life. Seeing as she is only 26 years old such a statistic paints only a portion of the challenges that have faced our family for years. From right before the time I left for the mission field to the time I came home my sister only lived at home for a period of 4 months total. During my two years mission she was arrested 4 times or had run away from home multiple times. A majority of her actions while I was away were kept from me at the request of my parents hoping to keep my mind on the work and not on "sister issues" that were out of my sphere of influence.
Years have gone by and other incarcerations have continued as well as a brief 8-9 month stint in a "troubled individual" facility in southern Utah. Today we are now faced with yet another bout with addiction and incarceration. Most who have known her from a child have maintained the line, "this is not who she really is, she is a better person than this." While I agree that this is the case with most people, I have been powerfully challenged in this thinking as of late. At what point does someone's acts truly define who they are; not their potential, but who they are?
I believe addiction is a choice. People chose to become addicted by the very nature of the activities they chose to engage in. I also believe that addiction is something that people can overcome. People can change should the chose to. People say addiction is a sickness. I suppose there is some merit to this except many people have sicknesses that they did not chose to have. Sometimes people just get cancer, or they get a cold, etc. Addiction doesn't happen by accident. I realize that addiction is difficult. In fact, during my time at LDS Family Services as a service missionary I came to have a love and respect for those who are choosing to overcome their addictions. They are some of the strongest people I have met. I do not envy these tests in life.
During my jail visits I can't help but have the scripture enter my head time and time; its from John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." One of the aspects of addiction that so strongly echo's the influence of the adversary, Satan, is the idea that addiction isn't a choice, that this is something you have no control over, and that you were never going to become addicted in the first place. These lies are what keep people in addiction. A different set of lies are what got them there.
With so many addicts ending up homeless, jobless, and without family relations because of drugs, it is no wonder that we also find some of the greatest, most noble individuals among their ranks. The elect of God are the ones that are the greatest challenge to the work of the adversary and so they also tend to be challenged with his most entrapping tools. May we not forget to pray for those in addiction of whatever kind. Even though addiction is still a choice, we all still have a responsibility to help one another to over come these tremendous challenges.