The Best Thing You Can Do for a Drug Addict

According to government studies, nearly 22 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or drugs. These addictions destroy families, wreck lives and break loved ones’ hearts. Jerry Nance, director of Global Teen Challenge, points out that the world is in an epidemic of addiction. No matter where he goes—India, the Netherlands, Vietnam, America—he has found that drugs are the modern method of drowning out pain and hopelessness. God offers a different solution, though, and Teen Challenge works to help addicts find hope in Jesus Christ.

Gary Wilkerson: Well, welcome to the Gary Wilkerson Podcast, I'm Gary Wilkerson and I'm here with a good friend and a great man of God who is ministering in ways that impact the world. You're going to be excited to hear what God's doing through your life. Jerry, welcome glad you're here on our podcast-

Jerry Nance: Glad to be here, absolutely.

Gary: Jerry is the director of Global Teen Challenge. You're leading something that's impacting the world and 1500 centers around hundreds of nations and yet you care about the one, and so. I think it's somewhat when somebody is interested in the drug crisis in America or around the world, it can become statistical and numbers and programmatic and stuff, but it's very personal. We've been talking about the broad spectrum of addiction, but on a personal level, somebody's listening to us that has a friend or family member or maybe themselves struggling with addictions? What is it, and I don’t want to throw you under the bus here with a difficult question, but what do you think it is that starts causing addictions? Have you tracked that over the years and working with all these addicts, are there certain things you see that lend themselves towards that?

Jerry: Yes, and it's historically true globally. No matter what nation it comes from hurts primarily. There's an occasional person that started having too much fun drinking with their buddies and then they started trying drugs at a party and then become an addict. A lot of parents out there, that's their child, that they were a good kid. They even went to church. They even doing good in school. They were good athletes, but then they start playing around a little too much, and then someone introduced them to cocaine and then crack cocaine and then it just, they went off the rails. Most of the girls from 11 to 17 and boys coming into our program, its abuse, physical or sexual abuse. It's when you have dual… and divorce, I cannot tell you how many little girls that will testify when my mom and dad divorced, then I started doing this, this and this. Most people that begin to choose to use drugs it's because of hurts. They've been abused in their family. We had a little girl named Danielle that came into our program years ago. Her father had molested her when she was five, horribly. Mom divorced him, remarried, but the mom didn't report dad, so mom remarries, and then this man within a year started sexually molesting her. When she was eight, she witnessed her stepfather shoot and kill her mother right in front of her. Well, the state took her and put her back into the care of her real father who then-- Now she's 11 or eight, nine, she then from that time on until she was 14, was molesting her.

Well, how's does a kid like that have a sense of what's a normal family like and that internal hurt, that feeling of self-- just they loathe themselves because they feel like somehow, it's their fault or what could I have done different? Or is this normal for people to treat me like this way? So, the hurt, she came to us when she was 16 from a mental institute, would not look up at anybody. Only thing that she'd ever had in relationship to a man was abuse, and so helping peel the layers of that onion back is a process. That's why the 12 months really does help because we can help people deal with those internal abuses and about 85% of the adult women that come into Teen Challenge have been sexually molested.

Gary: 85%?!

Jerry: Yes, and about 50 plus percent of the men. I never thought of that as a male that would be a big issue, but in fact, it is a huge issue that males are being, as children, being molested. Then that begins to mess with their world and they're more prone to the use of drugs.

Gary: It's because drugs are a tool in the sense somebody uses to try to come and heal the hurt, to mask the pain, to compensate or something, is that--?

Jerry: I would say yes to that, but I would say a lot of times it's finding acceptance. They feel somewhat unique, and they're looking for others that can feel the same way they feel and find comfort in their peers, so they're looking for a peer group. It's not always because they had a bad home, it's just sometimes kids feel inferior. They feel insecure, they're not as smart or in their mind they're ugly. A lot of different things can happen to cause them to gravitate to a crowd that is perceived to be the wild crowd in school or whatever.

A lot of times, and so I say I think the number one thing is hurts. They've been abused or physical, verbal, there's a lot of hurts. There's a lot of broken families and then it's a stepdad, stepmom, this or that, that they never loved me, they never wanted me, and so I gravitated to this over here. That's a lot of what we hear as kids come through the door today and then adults as well.

Gary: It seems like maybe both those ways, the actual drug itself and then the drug culture are two ways to like, "okay, so I'm in pain and I want to escape that pain, and so I'll go to this party life, seems fun for a while." Then the addictions kick in and you end up losing your friends and you become even more alone and stuff, so it's a vicious cycle, the addictions and stuff. What are some of the ways, so maybe somebody is listening, they're struggling with an addiction or they have a family member, what are some of the first steps somebody would take to start wanting to escape this lifestyle?

Jerry: Well, for the person that's abusing drugs, admit it. Admit that you have an issue and that you want help. You have to come to the place that says, you know what I'm tired of being tired, I'm tired of this, I've done it long enough, I hurt enough people, I've destroyed jobs and my income, my relationships--

Gary: That happens so much, doesn’t it? That people are in that state, they're that addicted and yet they still are in denial. They're not believing that I only have a few drinks at night, or I just shoot up every once in a while. It's like, so the first thing is to admit.

Jerry: Admit it.

Gary: That's a problem and whatever it is you're doing right now to help-- I have not met anybody addicted that hasn't tried to stop on their own while--

Jerry: Yes, I was going to say that. A lot of people think well I can do this myself. One more time, "Mom, dad, give me one more chance," I'll stop this time. Well, this is 23rd time, so it's mom and dad's going like, 'No, I don't know if I believe this." A classic enabling mom or a classic enabling dad is “Okay, I'll help you one more time.” They say that the next time and the next time and all— In my opinion, the Bible says you reap what you sow. That's the law of the harvest is you reap what you sow. If a parent reaps what the child sowed, then the child keeps doing whatever they want because the parents try to take the responsibility of the child's actions.

You may, as a parent, need to leave your child in jail overnight because if they don't have any consequences for their actions, then they never learn because mom and dad's causing— They're just taking all the pain away. If you take the pain away, then they'll never learn. You're taking all the pain as a dad and as a mom, and you're trying to take all the responsibility because you feel guilty that something you didn't do in your parenting skills, I did this, or I could have done that. I just say all those excuses or all those feelings of failure as a parent. A lot of parents come to us, they feel like parents, here's my child, can you help me? I feel they failed somehow. Well, sometimes it was their child, maybe there are some things they could have done differently. I think more than anything for the addict again, admit that you need help, and then seek a place of help, get someone to help you, get the right help that meets your need. There's a lot of different programs, Teen Challenge is one. We have some short-term programs, long term programs now. For the parents, or the loved ones of an addict, I would just say that to them, one, there'll be some that Gary won't even know where their loved one is. They won't know where their child is, and right now as they're listening, they are feeling desperate. I don't know even where my child is and how can I help them if I don't know where they are?

Well, there's a prayer for that. God, you know where they're at and I've prayed this with hundreds of families. Lord, wherever they're at, make them miserable. That's the prayer I pray, make them miserable in their life, and draw them back into where they know they got to find help. Get them to a quick rock bottom so that they know they need help and then be willing to not enable them again, but get them and say, no, you can't come home. No, I'm not giving you money, but I will get you into this program or I will help you get into this program, that's what I'm willing to do. That's the best thing parents can do because until someone wants help, you can't make them help themselves.

Gary: Denial, come out of denial, that's first step. The second one is, seek help. It's one of the things, I always teach is that addictions are usually a relational problem. Something went wrong like I just said earlier. One of the things that the Lord spoke to my heart recently was that all wounds are relational like the little girl who you were talking about, Lotta. That was a relational wound that ended up her life in addiction. All wounds are relational and Holy Spirit spoke to me that all healing is relational.

Jerry: Wow. That's good.

Gary: What happens is, a lot of times we're wounded relationally and then we want to get healed individually, our pride, our fear of people, our being wounded before by people. Therefore, I'm not going to go to people to get healed, and so I'll try to do this on my own. That's where you said, I'll never do that again or in the church life you go to the altar and they called the altar call, you go forward and you pray and you repent, I'm so sorry, I used again and I'll never do that again. Then you end up using again because you're trying to do it on your own. I think your second step there is so important that you look for help and Teen Challenge, and we’ll give the number to people listening today as well and a link to Global Teen Challenge but if it's not Teen Challenge, then there's things like Celebrate Recovery that a lot of churches have.

Jerry: Exactly.

Gary: They're good. There's another one that I think was born out of Teen Challenge, that's a-

Jerry: Living free.

Gary: Living free.

Jerry: These are outpatient programming where an individual needs to work. They just can't afford to not keep working and they want to take care of their family is get into Celebrate Recovery, get into Living Free. There's 2,000 Living Free groups across America. There's 35,000 Celebrate Recovery Groups across America. For somebody to say I can't get help, there are some outpatient opportunities to get help. One of the greatest recovery tools for helping people stay free is community and relationships. You said it that relationships.

Gary: That's great vision and I think that’ll help them with moving through that first step.

Jerry: Amen, well and my prayer Gary is that those that have not considered getting help, some of the outpatient programs should be enough for them. They don't need residential care and destroying their career or their family because of needing to be away for 12 months, but if they can get help early on, it will keep them from needing 12 months or nine months or whatever it is of care in residential settings. But the issue is about love. It's about the great commission is really to put hope and to care Jesus talked about. He was just to share the good news that there is a way out. You don't have to live the way you're living for the rest of your life. There is hope and it can be found in Christ.

Gary: That's been the mainstay of Teen Challenge really since it began is that Jesus is the answer, Jesus is the cure for the addict and stuff. I remember a conversation I had with my dad a while back in the early days of Teen Challenge they were saying and preaching and proclaiming Jesus is the only cure for a drug addict. Then he was challenged by that by some secular and even other religions saying like, "Okay our Muslim base faith has this program and they're getting set free from drugs as well."

He had to change his philosophy a little bit like Jesus isn't the only way to get off drugs, but Jesus is the only way to find abundant life. Jesus is the only way to be healed. Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of your sins. Jesus is the only way be in right relationship with God. Jesus is the only way to truly be restored to a loving relationship with your spouse or your family because the addiction is, as they say at Teen Challenge and other programs, it's more the fruit not the root. Jesus being the answer is the holistic answer. It's more than just--

Jerry: Gary, I would challenge the listeners to think about the fact that the statistics show I mean of all the 60 to 70 years of history of statistics on recovery, that longer term programs are better programs. Now you have much even if it's not a program of faith if its 12 months there's up in upwards of 40 to 50% success rate because of that year of getting away from their addiction and community, but these 28-day programs the average is four to 10% success rate.

One of my friends called me one day and he said, “Jerry, I put my son into a program in Malibu, and I paid them $115,000 for one month.” He said, “Ten days later, he was smoking crack. What do I do?” I said, “Well, would you want to bring him into Teen Challenge? Where is he?” He was a few miles from one of our centers in Florida. I said, “We'll go. I’ll send a staff—who is a graduate, by the way, was a drug addict himself—to your house to pick him up, and we'll take him into Teen Challenge.”

Some people pay an enormous amount of money for short-term programs. The challenge with short-term programs is you can maybe get off of drugs in 28 days or 30 days. You're not using heroin, but you've got prescriptions and all of this. They've not changed the heart. They've not changed the behaviors that created the desperation or the feel of need for drugs. That's why the recidivism— people will say recidivism is a part of the process of recovery.

Doesn’t have to be. That's why we say, “Jesus is the cure” because we have such a high success rate in programs because faith has a true impact on ability to bring recovery to an individual's life and because in the church you got community, you can even get employment through relationships with church. Employment, community, all of those things really are part of— It's all a part of knowing Christ is knowing the family of God and the friends that you develop that are now not taking you back to the old bars to have a beer or whatever.

You're around people that are encouraging your recovery, and so faith is an important part. Most if not-- most secular organizations would say that faith is an important part of a lot of people's recovery, but they don't promote it themselves as a tool in their program but we still believe, as your dad did, Jesus is-- he's not the only solution but to get somebody off of drugs. Look AA has worked for a lot of people and NA in some of these others, they’ve really been consistent helpers of people.

But to have that transformation and that new life and have hope and understand their purpose in life and not to have to go to a meeting every week for the rest of your life and say I'm standing today as an addict. Well, we do the everything in Christ you're a new creation, old things have passed away all things have become new. You're not a drug addict anymore. Yeah, you had an issue in your past but you're free you know you're free, you're new and clean.

Gary: You are talking about a total change of identity a new person and in Christ and that's one of the great things having grown up around Teen Challenge is just because the problem itself can be so overwhelming and so heartbreaking heart wrenching that you just feel like giving up. Just like there's so many addicts that aren't going to make it and there's such a vast problem but then to see what they call it the testimony. People getting up and saying I once was but now I am and these amazing multitudes of stories. Right now, we talked about the number 1,500 centers if you think of if that each center has anywhere to between 10 and some large center would have maybe 100, you're talking.

Jerry: About 22,000 residents global at any given time in Teen Challenge.

Gary: Right now, while we're talking there's 20,000 people who are getting a life-transforming story that once were lost but now am found. I once was addicted, now I’m being restored to my wife, my husband, my spouse, my family, my job, my career, my hope, and so I love those stories that come out.

Key Questions from the Podcast

  • What is it that leads people into drug addiction?
  • What should I do if I have a friend or loved one addicted to drugs?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

I've prayed this with hundreds of families. Lord, wherever they're at, make them miserable. That's the prayer I pray, make them miserable in their life, and draw them back into where they know they got to find help. Get them to a quick rock bottom so that they know they need help… - Jerry Nance

The Bible says that you reap what you sow. That's the law of the harvest is you reap what you sow. If a parent reaps what the child sowed, then the child keeps doing whatever they want because the parents try to take the responsibility of the child's actions. They're just taking all the pain away. If you take the pain away, then they'll never learn. – Jerry Nance

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Jerry Nance

Dr. Jerry Nance is known for his passion – a passion to see Teen Challenge extend its reach around the world to help thousands of more people find freedom from addiction. He has served as President and CEO of Global Teen Challenge since 2007.

Dr. Nance is a servant leader at heart, having begun a career in ministry as an associate pastor and senior pastor of a local church and later, Crusade Associate for Teen Challenge founder, David Wilkerson. His education uniquely qualifies him for addiction outreach and recovery. He holds a B.S. in Religious Studies from Southwestern University, a Master's Degree in Counseling from Barry University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Leadership, Education with a specialization in Counseling from Barry University.

Beyond his leadership expertise, Dr. Nance is valued by friends, clients, and colleagues for something more than can be learned in a classroom - his compassion. He cares deeply for people who struggle with life-controlling addiction and is always ready and eager to develop the resources and programs necessary to facilitate their full recovery. From 1991-2017, he served as the Executive Director of Teen Challenge of Florida, leading the organization to an expansion of 21 centers across six states: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri. He has extended residential services to over 1,200 men and women, boys and girls. Today, it is his privilege to serve Global Teen Challenge, assisting international leadership in 125 nations and working with them to put hope within reach of every addict.

Dr. Nance and his wife, Libby, reside in Georgia and are the proud parents of three grown children and grandparents of nine grandchildren. 

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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