Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rooting for the underdog.

I have always had a soft spot for the underdog. I can remember being six years old and feeling bad for a piece of carrot cake in a bakery window because I knew it wouldn't be desired and chosen like the frosted brownies sitting next to it would be. I was the kid that defended the kids who were picked on in school and would fight the bullies for them. I'm the person who wants to take home the ugly kitten that no one else will want, the person who sits next to the outcast in the cafeteria, who embraces the unkempt,  the person who believes in those that other people don't. Oh- and I'm a Cubs fan (if that's not true underdog devotion, nothing is!) I think that I root for the underdog because there have been so many times in my life where I have felt like the underdog myself. Rejected, told that I wasn't capable, that I wasn't worth anything, that my mistakes were too many, and my chances too few. Outcasted, talked about, constantly reminded of my failures and how I didn't measure up to what I should be. Labeled as an addict who would never amount to anything in life- who was incapable of change.

Through the experience of being a former drug addict myself, being married to a former drug addict, and working daily with recovering drug addicts for years, I have come to recognize that drug addicts truly are the underdogs of society. They wear a scarlet letter that conveys the message that they are low life, unethical, untrustworthy people with no self control- Alchy, junkie, crackhead, doper, lush, addict.  People justify throwing their past mistakes in their faces constantly, making it impossible for them to move on. They are told that they have gone to far and done too much wrong to ever change. The high rates of relapse that comes with addiction just reinforces this societal ideal. People remember the million and one other times they "quit",  just to end up relapsing again and messing things up even more, causing more chaos and heartache, and making themselves out to be a liar yet again. People start to look at the as lost causes- as people who can't change. There is no rooting them on, no encouraging their success, no vote of confidence that maybe this time they will be successful. After so many failed attempts, people lose hope that they can win the battle (much like people doubting the Cubs since they haven't won a world series since 1908).


Drug addiction doesn't elicit sympathy the way that other social underdogs do. Abandoned children, battered women, the kid that is bullied in school, the sports team that can't get it together enough to win a game- are all looked at as victims of their circumstances. They are pitied, and people rally around them to encourage, support, and help them. They are told that what has happened to them was unfair, and that they don't deserve to be treated so horribly. People stand up for them, fight for them, rally for them. They have someone in their corner supporting them, even if the rest of the world might not. They have advocates, people who want to right all the wrongs done to them in their lives. People who fight for them to have the best life possible, and to include them back in with the folds of society.

Drug addicts, on the other hand, don't elicit sympathy. People don't think they deserve sympathy. Didn't they do this to themselves, after all? Why should we help them fix consequences of actions that they brought on themselves? Why should they be shown mercy when they have done such horrific things in their lives and never given a thought to how they hurt other people? They are seen as worthless, cancers on society. They destroy their families and commit crimes and cost the taxpayers money and endanger public safety. People don't want them to be "integrated" into their communities. There are "not in my backyard" protests and rallies against facilities aimed to help these people being built. People want them to get help- as long as they get it somewhere else. They are looked at with scorn and contempt when they desperately try to seek medical help to get off the drugs that have ravaged their bodies. Insurance refuses to cover residential treatment because they don't want to stick money into a lost cause- an addict who will never recover. Society's answer isn't to try to build them up and encourage them to change, but to turn a blind eye and hope they go away.  I can't count how many times I have heard people say "just let them kill themselves off- good riddance," or "lock them up and throw away the key."

 People don't recognize them as victims. But let me tell you, they are. Sure, we all have free will and choices that we make in life. They made the choice to do drugs. To take that first drink, do that first line, pop that first pill, and shoot up for the first time. But, if you really understood addiction, you would realize that after that first initial time that they used, their choice was gone. Addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful brain disease which takes over an addict's entire life. The craving for drug's in an addicts brain is in the same area of the brain that tells you to breathe. Addicts literally feel like if they don't have drugs, they will die. The cravings are so strong that no amount of self-control, of will power, of trying to make "the right choice" will be able to stop it once the addiction is activated. If you truly knew the suffering and the horror that an addict lives through, your heart would break. Imagine doing horrible things that you never imagined yourself doing for drugs- robbing, lying, prostitution, cheating, killing, losing your kids, your job, your sanity, your self respect, your friends, your marriage, your health, your freedom, your free will, YOUR LIFE- and being powerless to stop it. Wanting desperately to be normal, to have what everyone else has, to be loved- but your brain not allowing you to. ALL you can do- despite the horrors you face day in and day out as a result- is continue to be dependent on the one thing that has destroyed your entire life.
Then imagine being mocked, ridiculed, persecuted, slandered, and judged on top of it. Being told that your life is worthless, and that you have only yourself to blame for it. You did, after all- use that first time before you realized it would destroy everything you ever loved. People who incur the kind of horrors and losses that a drug addict does as  result of , say, a brain tumor- would be met with compassion, support, and empathy. People would feel badly for what they went through. Sol, why is drug addiction any different? Not only is it a brain disease, but a spiritual sickness. No one, NO ONE dreams of growing up to be a drug addict as a little kid. No one sets out to destroy their own life. Our greatest natural, primal instinct as humans is for survival and self-preservation, and addiction over rides that.  If that doesn't show you how powerful addiction is, nothing will. If you could really see inside the soul of an addict- the hell that they are trapped in- your heart would break. They are tormented, desperately hurting souls tirelessly searching for something to ease their tremendous pain. The devastation, depression, and hopelessness is so strong that many pray for death to come as a way out of it. If you understood the underlying issues of what usually prompts addiction to begin with- child abuse, molestation, anxiety disorders, depression, the pain of having a spouse walk out or a child die, and being told that the world is better off without you- you couldn't help but have compassion on the underdog of society.
Maybe you don't agree with me. Maybe you don't see them as people who deserve to have an advocate. Maybe you think they "get what they deserve" for partaking in the lifestyle that they have. All I can say to you, is that I pray that you never have to go through witnessing your child, or grandchild, or parent, or spouse go through the hell of addiction, because then your eyes will truly be opened. You will realize that they are truly good people, but the drugs have turned them into monsters. It's easy to judge something that you haven't been through. I pray that you are never put in the position of having to understand. Even if you don't root for them (and everyone isn't going to- if they did, they wouldn't be underdogs),  understand that  Jesus loves them, and he is their advocate. He forgives ALL sins- you sins, the sins of the drug addict down the road, the sins of your pastor- and sees them all the same. He desires to give them a new life, a new hope, and a new future. He can redeem, restore, and renew them as easily as he can anyone else- regardless of what society thinks. And his blood makes them valuable. Something is made valuable based on how much you are willing to pay for it, and Jesus paid for them with his life.

Jesus loves the underdog. The very ones that society outcasts, are the ones that God will use to do miraculous things in and through. He redeems their irredeemable past to give glory to his name, He changes the unchangeable, and elevates the lowly so that his power is displayed. He will be their defender when satan tries to use their pasts against them or whispers lies that they aren't worthy or that no one is on their side. The King of King and the Lord of lords- maker of heaven and earth- is rooting for them and believes they are valuable. Oh, how great it would be if we mere humans could do the same, and root on the outcasts like Jesus. To be able to give the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that has so freely been given to us. Instead of condemning and judging, maybe we should take the time to realize that "there but for the grace of God go I", and to know that anything is possible with Jesus' power- even the underdog coming out on top. I know, I have seen it with my own eyes. Those least likely to succeed in life are radically transformed through the power of God, and the support of people who believe in them. I am a vehement advocate for the underdog. I will do everything within my power to defend someone who is met with opposition while trying to get their lives on track and are in the process of change. I have been there, and I no what it feels like to have someone in your corner for the first time in your life.

1 Corinthians 1:27: "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."