This is the table of contents and an excerpt from the study guide posted on our web site for your review. You may download and print this document, and use it within your family or ministry, but you may not use it for commercial purposes.

Table of Contents

Jim’s story 3
Anatomy of the Brain 6
How Brain Cells Communicate 8
Alcohol 9
Nicotine 10
Marijuana 11
Inhalants 13
GHB Date Rape Drug 16
Heroin 17
Hallucinogens 19
Ecstasy 21
Cocaine 24
Methamphetamine 26
Mood and Emotion 30
Perception 31
Motor Activity 32
Appetite and Alertness 33
New Connections 33
Recovery 34
What’s God Got to do With it? 35
Worshipping Pleasure 36
Who Is God, Anyway? 36
What is Worship? 38
God Gets a Lot of Bad Press 38
What About the Bad Things that Happen? 39
But God Didn’t Answer My Prayer 40
What About The Things You’ve Done? 42
Rowing Against the Wind 42
OK, So Now What? 43
Changing Thought Patterns 45
Changing Relationships 46
We Really Need A Father 47
This Is Not A Boy-scout We’re Up Against 48
The Bible is a Powerful Book 49

 This is a diagram of the connection between 2 nerve cells.

This diagram is a gross oversimplification of the way it really is. It shows 2 cells with about a dozen connections. A cell in the periphery of the brain has about 20,000 connections with other brain cells. A cell in the midbrain has 100,000 connections with other brain cells.

A midbrain cell is covered, front, sides, top, and bottom with synapses. It is covered with synapses like you are covered with skin. Any chemical that affects the chemicals in the synapse, affects the entire personality, not just two cells.

This diagram is a detailed picture of the synapse. Cell A is on top, sending its axon down, cell B is the receiving cell on the bottom. The gap in between is the separation between cells. Cell A has chemicals in its terminal called neurotransmitters. When cell A fires, it releases its neurotransmitters into the gap between cells, and they go into the receptors on cell B. Cell B receives the signal, and sends back a feedback signal to cell A that says, “I got your message, you can stop now.” Cell A sucks its neurotransmitter back up into its terminal and the signal ends. Each cell always uses the same neurotransmitter each time it fires. It’s metabolically expensive to make these chemicals, so we don’t waste them. We recycle our neurotransmitters.

Diagrams used with permission copyright Eric Chulder PhD

It took about 3 minutes to explain all that; it takes a microsecond for it to happen. This process is very, very fast. Click, click, click. The cell always uses the same neurotransmitter each time it fires. So how do you know what the cell is saying if it always uses the same neurotransmitter? The information is encoded in the interval and frequency of the clicks, like Morse code. You can tell whether you are hearing Eminem or Madonna based on the interval and frequency of the clicks.

The brain uses about a dozen different neurotransmitters in different areas of the brain. They have different functions depending on where they are being used. Some are sedating, some are excitatory. Most of the drugs of abuse affect one or more neurotransmitter systems.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter used in the midbrain pleasure centers. Drugs that increase dopamine in the brain, like cocaine, cause an intense high. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex that affects your moods. Drugs that increase serotonin, like ecstasy, make you feel happy and energetic. GABA is the one in the brainstem that relaxes you so you can sleep. Glutamine is also in the brainstem, it excites you so you can wake up.

What is a synapse?

What is a neurotransmitter?

How is information encoded by the brain cells?

Nicotine

Addiction to nicotine increases your risk for addiction to other drugs. 25% of the general population smokes, 80% of alcoholics smoke, 95% of cocaine and methamphetamine addicts smoke, and 97% of county jail inmates smoke.

Nicotine is also neurotoxic to cells in the fasciculus retroflexus, the midbrain tract responsible for self control, willpower. Nicotine at normal doses does not actually kill the cells; it just damages them so that they don’t work very well. One to one and a half packs a day is enough to do measurable damage to this tract in the brain. You can see it under a microscope and measure it electrically.

Fasciculus retroflexus is your center for control of cravings and drives. It has two major tracts. It is like an interstate highway headed to Nashville; a good job, a loving family, a successful life. You can put shoes on your kids’ feet and a roof over their heads; you can start a business, get an education, and have a good life. It’s a bright sunny day and you’re on the interstate doing 65 headed to Nashville.

When you start smoking, all the sudden the right lane has speed bumps every 2 or 3 feet. Now you’re not going very fast, you can only go 3 or 4 miles per hour with these speed bumps every few feet. But that’s OK, you just get in the left lane and pretty soon you’re doing 65 again, headed for Nashville. You can’t stop smoking, but you can still hold a job, pay the rent, be faithful to your spouse, and have a good life.

Then you start drinking, using cocaine or methamphetamine, and the left lane is washed away in a flood. Willpower evaporates, cravings control your life. You’re not getting to Nashville on this road. You try to drive on it, get off drugs on your own, but you can only go 4 miles per hour because your left lane is gone and your right lane has speed bumps every 2 or 3 feet. It’s a lot easier to quit drinking or quit a meth or cocaine habit if you also quit smoking. You get the right lane of your fasciculus retroflexus back.

What does nicotine do to the fasciculus retroflexus?

Is the effect reversible?

Methamphetamine

 Ice, Crystal, Glass, Speed, Crank, Chalk, Go-fast

Methamphetamine is an artificial form of cocaine. Everything cocaine does, meth also does. Methamphetamine affects the midbrain, the mesocorticolimbic tract, the fasciculus retroflexus, the prefrontal cortex, and the parietal lobes, all parts of the brain that you already know about.

Methamphetamine also affects the lateral habenula, the substantia nigra, the ventral tegmental area, and the raphe nuclei. These are midbrain structures that make up your personality, your identity, who you are as a person. Your disposition, your attitudes, your temper, your optimism, your pessimism, your ability to nurture and protect, your sex drive, your sleep cycle, and your appetite are all controlled by these structures in your brain. They are all affected by methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is extremely toxic to cells in the fasciculus retroflexus, like cocaine only more potent. A single dose of methamphetamine can be enough to destroy 50% of the cells in this tract of the brain. Each additional dose destroys more of the cells resulting in a deepening addiction. Cravings become intense and uncontrollable as the cells in this tract are damaged.  It’s not a matter of willpower anymore. Willpower is gone.

Methamphetamine causes a high by releasing huge amounts of dopamine into the midbrain. It disables the transporter molecule that releases dopamine as the nerve fires. It gets stuck in the ‘on’ position. It’s like you took off the lid of the fire hydrant and all the water comes gushing out. Methamphetamine also disables the enzyme that breaks down dopamine, so the high lasts for 12 to 20 hours. Methamphetamine has a minor effect on serotonin transmission causing mood swings and distortions of reality.

When the dopamine content of the cell is completely exhausted, you go into the crash. You feel achy, tired, depressed, irritable, grouchy, and mean. You feel restless, confused, shaky, hungry, empty, and craving. Your fasciculus retroflexus is already damaged. You’ll do any thing to get more meth. You don’t care who you have to lie to or rip off. You don’t care about anybody’s needs but yours. Your kids don’t matter, your job doesn’t

matter, the law doesn’t matter. You are blind to everything but drug, and you want it right now.

Remember cell A and cell B, and how they communicate with click, click, click? The interval and frequency of the clicks sends the content of the message, like Morse code. The cells have been communicating like this for years, and now methamphetamine comes along and dumps 100 times more dopamine into the synapse than these cells have ever seen before. It’s an intense high, as the pleasure centers in your brain get 100 times more stimulation than they have ever had before.

Instead of click, click, click, the cell is used to, cell A is screaming at the top of its lungs. What would happen if you screamed at the top of your lungs for 20 hours? Your vocal cords would rupture. That’s what happens to cell A. Its transporter is broken, and normal signals that used to pass through that connection are lost. Cell A is not talking to cell B anymore.

Cell B, on the other hand, can’t stand the noise. It sends its feedback signal to cell A saying, “OK, I heard you, you can stop now.” But it’s not cell A doing the screaming. It’s methamphetamine doing the screaming, and the feedback signal doesn’t work. If you scream in my ear for 20 hours, and you won’t shut up, I’m going to hang up the phone! That’s what cell B does. It cuts off its receptor. It disconnects the telephone. Cell A and cell B are not talking to each other anymore.

Remember, in the midbrain there are 100,000 connections to each cell. The cells are covered with synapses like you are covered with skin. All those connections are broken by methamphetamine. The midbrain is the command and control center of your personality. The brain parts that used to be connected in the midbrain are no longer connected. You no longer have control over those parts of your personality.

As receptors are destroyed, tolerance develops. It takes more and more methamphetamine to get a high. As dopamine is depleted, and receptors are destroyed, the high gets less intense with each use. Eventually you don’t get high any more, all you do is stay out of withdrawal. Now you have a $200 to $300 per day habit, just to feel normal. It’s not much fun anymore, is it?

Gradually, over 12 to 18 months off drug, the receptors start recovering. When cell B trusts cell A not to scream in its ear, it forms new receptors. When cell A replaces its broken transporters, it can send signals again. The repair process is slow and gradual.

The new connections are not exactly the same as the old connections. Wired into your brain is a craving for methamphetamine. It is triggered by anything that reminds you of your drug experience. The memories trigger the craving, and the craving is uncontrollable because the fasciculus retroflexus is disconnected.

How does methamphetamine cause a high?

What happens to the transporters on cell A?

What happens to the receptors on cell B?

How long does it take for the connections to heal?

See the PET scan picture of the three brains. The top brain has normal red transmission through dopamine pathways in the midbrain. The middle brain is a methamphetamine addict that has been off methamphetamine for one month. There is no dopamine transmission through the midbrain, no red transmission.  All the phones have been disconnected. His central personality has no control over the rest of his brain.

Now look at the third brain. This guy has been in jail for 14 months. He has not had any methamphetamine for over a year. You can see the red transmission through the dopamine tracts in the midbrain. They are not exactly the same as in the normal brain, but there is transmission through those tracts. What else is wrong with this picture? Do you see the holes? These are not just the normal fluid collections in the brain. These are holes where brain tissue is supposed to be. They look like ecstasy holes, don’t they? Ecstasy has meth in it.

Used with permission copyright society for neuroscience

I call this the Battery Acid Effect. You can’t metabolize methamphetamine to carbon dioxide and water like you can everything else. God didn’t make this stuff, and you don’t have an enzyme to get rid of it. Methamphetamine is made out of battery acid, Red Devil Lye, anhydrous ammonia, anti-freeze, and kerosene. Your body turns it back into battery acid, Red Devil Lye, anhydrous ammonia, anti-freeze, and kerosene. These are caustic chemicals.

The chemical names for the metabolites of methamphetamine are listed in the table. These chemicals are all hydroxyl free radicals. This is the same class of chemical white blood cells use to kill bacteria. White blood cells have the machinery to handle these chemicals. Brain cells don’t.

Hydroxyl free radicals are caustic chemicals. They destroy living tissue. If you took a dropper full of one of these chemicals and dropped it on your hand, it would eat a hole in your hand. When you put these chemical in your brain, they eat holes in your brain. You can work around those holes, you can use other parts of the brain, but those holes are permanent.

The  early signs of brain damage from methamphetamine are personality changes. They include anxiety, insomnia, moodiness, irritability, excessive talking, excitability, violent and aggressive behavior, the superman syndrome, loss of appetite, loss of interest in family and friends.

If you have been using for more than 6 months, you have holes in your brain. You need time and extensive rehabilitation to recover function, and rebuild your personality.

What is methamphetamine made out of?

What is a hydroxyl free radical?

What do hydroxyl free radicals do to living tissue?

Can you recover from this brain damage?

 Mood and Emotion

The mesocorticolimbic tract allows your central personality to control emotional output from the prefrontal cortex. When those tracts are interrupted, emotions are exaggerated and uncontrolled. Fear, an appropriate response to a dangerous situation, turns into paranoia. Innocent gestures are interpreted in the worst possible light, totally inappropriate to the true meaning of the situation.

Your son answers the phone and talks in grunts like teenagers do, and you think he’s plotting to turn you in to the police. Someone parks next to you in the grocery store parking lot and you think they are agents of the drug dealer that you owe money to. You’re convinced the lady in the car next to you at the stop light is going to kill you. You are reaching for your gun. Next thing you know, the lady is dead, and you are in jail. You react with violence to defend yourself against attacks that are all in your head and have no basis in reality.

Uncontrolled anger turns into rage and violence. My brother Jim had a cat. He’d had that cat since he was 10 years old. He loved his little cat. One day he flew into a rage and beat that cat almost to death. He saw what he was doing. He knew he was killing his cat, and he couldn’t stop. He was completely out of control. What if that is your child? What if that is your wife? You have no control over your rage.

Uncontrolled anxiety turns into panic. There are two types of panic attack. A catatonic panic attack is a withdrawal panic. Jim was in a catatonic panic attack when he came to live with me. He sat in the corner of his bedroom with a sheet over his head and would not come out. He was crying and shaking uncontrollably, and his eyes were bloodshot. He was terrified of something and couldn’t even tell us what he was afraid of. He wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t talk to anybody. He just sat there and cried for 4 or 5 days.

The other kind of panic attack is the manic panic attack. You can’t hold still. Gotta go, go, go. Get behind the wheel of a car and do 200 miles per hour, run people off the road, slam right into a tree. You talk a mile a minute and make absolutely no sense to anybody. Can’t sleep, can’t eat. This kind of panic attack can also last 4 or 5 days.

You can develop a generalized anxiety disorder that is long lasting and may be mixed with depression symptoms and even psychotic features, hallucinations and delusions. It is usually called bipolar or manic depressive disorder. It responds to medications, but it can be a life long mental illness and you may have to take the medications for the rest of your life.

Can you recall a time when you were paranoid? What were you thinking?

Have you ever lost control of your temper and done something you regret?

What are the two types of panic attack?

Have you ever had a panic attack?

Perception

Hallucinations and delusions are common and long lasting. They can progress to outright schizophrenia, like Jim had, that may not respond to medication. Methamphetamine psychosis is triggered by stress and anxiety. Simple things like getting too tired or too hungry can cause hallucinations or delusions. This is a life long mental illness caused by methamphetamine. We treat methamphetamine psychosis with medications, but you may need to take them for the rest of your life.

Jim had delusions that ‘the drug dealers’ could read his mind and knew where

he was and what he was doing. He thought they had framed him for the murder of a man that died while doing meth at a party he went to. The cops were going to find him and arrest him. They were going throw him in jail, and the other inmates were going to torture him, rape him, and kill him. His delusion was complex and ridiculous, but he believed it and no one could talk him out of it. He got a little better on antipsychotic medication, but when he quit the medicine, he got sick again.

Flashbacks are common on methamphetamine, and these are not pleasant flashbacks of pretty colors and geometric designs. You wake up in the night in a cold sweat, reliving the time you were arrested. You can feel the cuffs going on your wrists, the cop’s knee is in your back, you’re being thrown into the squad car all over again. You relive being beaten by a gang of thugs, being chased and shot at. You re-live being raped. You can feel it again, just like the first time. Your heart is racing, you can’t breathe, and you can’t get away, just like the first time. There’s no going back to sleep after that.

Suicidal thoughts and homicidal thoughts are injected into your head out of the blue. You hear voices telling you to kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself. Voices tell you to kill your child, over and over. They tell you ‘you have to kill your child. You know you have to kill your child.’ These voices can become intolerable, like they did for Jim. He couldn’t live like that anymore. It was like a bad dream, but he couldn’t wake up.

Delusions are not based on reality. Flashbacks are vivid memories of things that really happened.

Have you had any delusions while on drugs?

Have you ever had a flashback? What was it like?

Motor activity

Methamphetamine causes loss of control over your movement centers in the parietal lobe. It starts as little twitches and tremors, lip smacking, tongue protrusion. The tremor can become generalized to a diffuse whole body tremor called Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is caused by damage to the midbrain structures substantia nigra, caudate nucleus and putamen. The normal function of these structures is to control motor activity and allow you to have purposeful movement. They suppress the extraneous electrical activity in the parietal lobe, so that your movements are smooth and controlled. When they are damaged, you lose control.

I met a man in the jail that has a constant chatter in his teeth. It never stops. He puts gum in the back of his jaw at night so he can sleep. Another man in the jail has a spasm in his back that pulls his arm back and out to the side. He gets a fork full of food half way to his mouth, and then a muscle spasm pulls his arm back and spills his food on the floor. He asked me, “Doctor, is this ever going to go away?” How long have you been clean? “8 months.” I don’t know. If it doesn’t go away by 18 months, it’s not going to go away.

People with advanced cases of Parkinson’s are paralyzed by the tremors. They are confined to wheelchairs because they can’t walk. They need someone to feed them and take them to the bathroom. There are medications for Parkinson’s disease, and most people respond well, but they have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

Tremors and twitches are caused by damage to which brain structures?

Is this damage permanent?

Appetite and Alertness

Methamphetamine causes damage to the midbrain areas in the basal ganglia, the lateral habenula, ventral tegmental area, and the raphe nuclei. These areas of the brain control things like appetite, the sensation of hunger, the sleep wake cycle, attention span, motivation, attitude, and sex drive. Most methamphetamine addicts have persistent problems with these functions even after they quit using. Recovery is slow and sometimes incomplete.

The loss of appetite causes malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Your hair falls out, your gums get infected and your teeth fall out. You get infections and can’t fight them off. A simple sinus infection turns into pheumonia. You get anemic and you’re tired all the time. You have sores where you’ve been picking at your skin and they don’t heal. You lose weight and muscle mass.

You can get chronic insomnia with recurrent nightmares and flashbacks. Chronic insomnia causes irritability, emotional hypersensitivity, crying spells, inability to concentrate, anxiety and mood swings. You have memory loss and loss of motivation that are hard to measure, but easy to see in your job performance.

Problems with sex drive are very common. The pleasure centers in your brain are damaged by this drug, and sex just doesn’t feel good anymore. Performance usually isn’t affected, but enjoyment certainly is. You lose interest in it. All of these symptoms improve with time after you quit using methamphetamine, but sometimes recovery is incomplete.

What happens if you don’t eat well for a long time?

What happens if you don’t sleep well for a long time?

New Connections

But wired into the new connections is a craving for meth triggered by things that remind you of getting high. The smell of pot, the taste of alcohol, the sight of a spoon, or tin foil, your grandmother’s insulin syringe, the sound of the music you used to get high to, the friends you got high with, are all triggers that will elicit an intense craving for drug.

I met a man in the county jail that had gotten out of jail once, after a years sentence on methamphetamine charges. His friend picked him up from jail, and on the way home treated him to a beer and a joint in the car. He got an intense craving for methamphetamine, and ended up back in jail that very same night with 4 new charges against him because he didn’t know about triggers. He didn’t know pot could do that to him. He’d been clean for a year. He thought it was over, the cravings had gone away. He didn’t think he’d ever have to worry about ice again. He was wrong.

Another common trigger is pornography. It stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. The brain recognizes that sensation of arousal as a trigger to crave drug. Pornography lights a match next to that nerve. It stimulates the same neural pathway that methamphetamine does, and triggers a craving. I’ve met more than one man that is back in jail because of pornography. They didn’t know it could do that to them.

What are your triggers, what makes you crave methamphetamine?

Who in your life influences you to use drugs? Can you avoid them?

 Are there places and situations you know you have to avoid?

Recovery

Every addict eventually quits using. It may be in the morgue, it may be in the nursing home when you can’t walk anymore because of your Parkinson’s, it may be in jail, but every addict eventually quits using. How about now? How about now while you can still think and walk and talk and feed yourself. You still have some function in your fasciculus retroflexus, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be able to read this book. It is not too late for you.

You need professional help. If you are reading this book and you do not have a counselor, it is essential that you get one. There are treatments centers, outpatient programs, support groups like Narcotics Anonymous, and these things are important for a complete recovery. This is serious brain damage and you need to take it very seriously.

It takes enormous courage to quit a drug habit. You have to be willing to tolerate withdrawal symptoms that might last for months. You have to tolerate a long lasting depression until the pleasure center of your brain heals, and that may take a year or two.

You have to break off the old relationships that drag you back into drugs even if that means you never see your brother again, even if you never see your best friend from high school again. I know a woman I’ve delivered two babies for; they are 2 and 4 years old now. They have never met their grandmother, and they never will. Her mother is an addict and she does not want to get better. This woman knows that if she ever goes home again she will get sucked back into it, and she doesn’t ever want to get trapped in that dungeon again.

You are extremely fragile in your recovery for the first 2 to 3 YEARS after you quit any addictive drug. You are susceptible to relapse for the rest of your life. You can never consider yourself cured. You will always be ‘in recovery’. There is no counselor, no support group that can be there for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when you get a craving, to help you resist. There is only one Person who can do that and His name is Jesus Christ.

All the 12 step programs talk about the Higher Power. The first step is admitting you are helpless and calling on your Higher Power for help. The Higher Power is a Person, He has a name, and He prefers to be called by His name. You don’t call your friends Human Being, do you?

 What’s God Got To Do With It?

Drug abuse is a form of rebellion against authority in general, and God in particular. God designed our brains to experience pleasure in measured amounts, and in response to truly good gifts that He has given us. Take for example sexual pleasure. He knows it feels good, and He wants us to experience that pleasure. But He put controls and restrictions on it for our own good, to prevent us from abusing a pleasure and turning it into a source of evil and pain, both to ourselves and others.

Getting high is an abuse of the pleasure centers in our brains. God put them there, and designed them to give us pleasure without taking over our lives or damaging our relationships. When we rebel against His authority and manipulate our pleasure centers with chemicals, we damage our brains, destroy our relationships, and lose the real joy He intended us to have.

When we abuse drugs, we lose our capacity to feel joy in the simple good things in life because we have damaged the pleasure centers in the brain by over-stimulation. The cells are damaged by the chemicals used. Nothing feels good anymore.

Rebellion against God is not a real good idea. We end up suffering the consequences as our lives spin out of control. When He gives us a command, it’s not just a helpful suggestion. He‘s telling us how life really works. His laws are not arbitrary, they are like the laws of physics. If you violate the law of gravity, you fall on your face.  If you violate the law against adultery, you lose your family and cause deep pain to your children. If you violate the law against drunkenness, you lose your mind.

What are the things that gave you pleasure before you used drugs?

Do they still give you the same pleasure?

Worshipping Pleasure

Drug addiction is a form of idolatry, the worship of something other than God. The use of chemicals to experience pleasure is an expression of devotion to pleasure for its own sake. It divorces pleasure from the good things that cause pleasure, and makes the high itself a god.

What do we mean by ‘worship’? Worship is devotion, adoration, continual attention to the object of worship. The thing you think about, meditate on, long for, plan for, organize your life around; that is the thing you have chosen to be your god.

People worship money, possessions, sex, and their appearance. People worship by filling their closets with fancy clothes, by accumulating more and more money, by going into ridiculous debt to buy more stuff, fancy cars, and bigger houses. People worship money by lying and cheating in the marketplace. If you sell a car for full price knowing it’s really a lemon, you are worshipping money. If you sell drugs knowing that they are killing people you are worshipping money.

People worship drugs when all they can think about is their next high, how to get the money for another high, how to make more drug, buy more drug, steal more drug. Getting high is the most important thing in life and nothing else matters.

What is your favorite idol?

How do you worship it?

God Gets a Lot of Bad Press

We need to take a good look at who God really is. He gets a lot of bad press. People think He’s a big mean bully ready to punish us for the slightest infraction. It is almost universal for us to think God is just like our parents.

It’s natural to think like that. When you’re two years old, your parents are god.  They are big and you are little. What dad says goes. If he says you are bad, you are bad. If he says you are good, you are good. You define yourself based on what your dad told you about yourself, for better or worse. You tend to become what your dad called you. If you hear, “You are stupid. You’ll never amount to anything”  every day for 20 years, after a while you believe it’s true, and you act like it’s true.

If you spend any time reading the Bible, you will find that God is not like your dad. Dad was more interested in his TV show than he was in you. He left you every day to go to work. Even the kindest human father could not love you the way you needed to be loved. It’s impossible.

Some of us had fathers that abused us, beat us, humiliated us, and condemned us. Some of us had fathers that left our families and abandoned us, rejected us. Some had fathers that manipulated us with their temper, threatened us with bodily harm, ruled with their rage. It is very hard to believe in a loving God if your father was abusive and cruel. You’re afraid of God. You’re pretty sure He’s going to slap you up the side of the head like your dad did.

You have to get that image of God out of your head. Look at God in the Bible, the doting Father that led his children out of Egypt and fed them, taught them, and disciplined them, and gave them a new home. Look at the Psalms and see the God that comforts his children, listens to them pray all night long if need be. Look at the gospels and see the Father that loved so much He ran to meet the prodigal son and embraced him and took him home.

Look at His record of forgiveness, compassion, provision, and care. You say, “How could God possibly love me? I’m a drug addict and a criminal.” His love has nothing to do with who you are. It has everything to do with who He is. He loves because it is His nature to love, and you can’t talk Him out of it.

What was your dad like?

What did he tell you about yourself?

What do you think God is like?

We Get Addicted to Drugs to Numb the Pain

All of us have been wounded, some of us have been brutalized. Getting high is an escape from the hurt, a way to cope with the pain and anger you feel when you have been abused. Even if that abuse was years ago and everybody else has forgotten about it, you are hurt and angry.

When your daily reality is torment and teasing, you are hurt and you are angry. When you have been abandoned by your father or mother you feel worthless, like there must be something wrong with you. When you have been beaten and molested by someone who was supposed to love and protect you, you feel betrayed and humiliated. Some of us don’t even remember what it was that hurt us so bad. We’re just angry. We’re mad at the whole world and everybody in it, and we don’t even know why.

We take our anger out on ourselves, with self destructive behaviors. We take it out on other people that had nothing to do with our abuse. We get depressed, we feel worthless.

We ask, “Where was God?” Where was God when your husband was beating you senseless? Where was God when your brother humiliated you every chance he got? Where was God when your ‘friends’ betrayed you, rejected you, when your wife left you for another man?  Where was God when the kids in school were tormenting you, slamming you up against the locker, flushing your head down the toilet? Where was God when your step-father was molesting you every night for years and years and nobody cared? Where was God when a bunch of church people told you that you weren’t good enough for Jesus? Where was He? Did He not care? Was He not paying attention? Did He not notice?

He was hanging on a tree, stripped naked, beaten, bloody, spikes in his hands and feet,

publicly humiliated, and abandoned by all his ‘friends’.

You are angry. You were hurt and you are angry. You’re not the only one that is angry about what happened to you. God is angry. God is furious about the things that were done to you. He vented His wrath upon Himself in the person of Jesus Christ hanging on a tree. It’s called ‘the atonement’. The cross is ugly and obscene. What happened to you was ugly and obscene.

What is your pain? Who betrayed you? Who humiliated you?

How do you express your anger now?

Can the person that hurt you atone for what he did?

You don’t have to live the rest of your life with pain and anger. It’s not really living, it’s a kind of death that goes on and on, every day. You can take your pain and your anger and take them to the cross of Jesus Christ and give them to Him. Justice is satisfied in Him. You know He didn’t survive the wrath of God. He died on that cross in absolute agony and humiliation. The penalty was death, and death is what He got.

But He didn’t stay dead. Jesus Christ is pure and holy and He did not stay dead. He is risen from the dead, and so are you. You’re not dead anymore either. You can leave your pain and your anger there at the cross, and you can live again by believing in Him.

The church people call it rebirth. You are born into the most incredible joy when you really understand what Jesus did. It is an amazing and powerful thing that He did.

I can tell you what Jesus has done for you. I can tell you that you are precious to Him. I can tell you that His heart throbs for love of you. But I can’t realize it for you. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. Pray and ask him to help you realize that you don’t have to be angry any more, you don’t have to be dead anymore. You have been reborn by believing in Jesus Christ.

Can you take your pain and your anger to the cross of Jesus Christ?

Can you leave your pain and anger there and walk away without it?

How does it feel to not be angry anymore?

Don’t be surprised if this step takes some time. You’ve lived with anger and pain for a long time. This is a healing process and it takes some time. Come back to this again and again, until it sinks in.

What About The Things You’ve Done

When you are angry, you lash out at people. When you are addicted to drugs, you lie and cheat and steal. Who have you hurt? Who have you abandoned, who did you walk out on? Who have you screamed at? Who have you tormented and teased? Who have you lied to, ripped off? Who have you taken advantage of sexually? Who have you humiliated? Who have you slapped, beaten, or killed?

The same cross that atoned for the sins committed against you atones for the sins you have committed. You can take your shame and your guilt to that very same cross of Jesus Christ, and give it to Him.  He bore the wrath of God against you, too. He died for you, too. He bore it in His body on the tree. The wrath is gone, the guilt is gone.

Can you see the depth of His love in the cross? He suffered the disgust and condemnation of God that you deserve. He hung there naked and bleeding, in humiliation and agony because that was the penalty for your rebellion. If anyone else had hung on that cross it wouldn’t have done you any good. They just would have suffered the wrath of God for their own sins. Jesus could suffer in your place because He was pure and holy in His life. When He took the wrath of God, He took it for you.

So you tell Him the truth about what happened. He’s not stupid. He’s been around awhile. He’s seen a lot, and you can’t shock Him. When you come to Him and confess with an honest heart, He forgives you. That’s what that cross was all about. He died for the right to forgive you.

He excuses that part that can be excused; He explains the part that can be explained. The part that was somebody else’s fault is somebody else’s fault, and you are not responsible for it. It’s the part that’s left over, the part that says, “I did it, and there’s no excuse for it.” That’s the part He forgives. But He can’t forgive it if you won’t admit you did it. You have to come clean with Jesus.

Once He has forgiven you, the guilt is gone, the shame is gone. That huge weight of guilt that was crushing you is lifted off of you. You will love Him so much, you won’t want to do anything that might offend Him or disappoint Him. You will long for Him and spend time with Him. You will study Him and organize your life around Him. You will want to please Him, honor Him, and live the way He wants you to live.

Can you write down the things you’ve done that you’re ashamed of?

Can you atone for what you’ve done?

Can you let His death be for you, too?

Allow yourself to be forgiven by Him. How does it feel?

Rowing Against The Wind

Jesus was a happy friendly guy. Everybody wanted to be close to Him. People followed Him everywhere He went. One day a couple of His friends got in a boat to go across the lake, it should have been about a 2 or 3 hour trip. But they were rowing against a strong headwind and they weren’t getting very far. These were big strong fishermen. They knew how to run a boat. But they couldn’t row against that wind.

It was getting dark and they still weren’t there. It was getting late, and they still weren’t there. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, the fourth watch of the night, and they were just about exhausted. They thought they were all alone. They thought they were helpless against that wind.  Then they saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water. They called out to Him. He got in the boat with them, and the wind died down, and the sea was calm.

Does that sound familiar? You are battling a drug addiction. You are doing the best you can. You’re not getting anywhere against the powerful cravings. You might be a big strong fisherman with a lot of willpower, but you’re no match for that craving.

What are some of the things that trigger a craving for you? How can you avoid them?

What do you do when you feel a craving for drugs?

Is it harder to resist when you are tired or hungry?

Jesus knows what you are up against. He knows what happened to your brain. He knows how powerful that craving is when you see a trigger. Jesus has the keys to that dungeon under the old castle. He is willing and able to give you the courage and the strength to fight that craving. He is willing and able to make the wind die down for you and help you avoid the triggers, change the way you live, change the way you think. He strengthens your personality and gives you courage.

You have to call out to Him. He didn’t force His way into His friend’s boat. “He was about to pass them by.” He makes Himself available to you, but He doesn’t force His way into your life. You have to invite Him in. You have to yield to His way of doing things.

You say something like this. “Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me, too. I believe you live again. I believe you have forgiven me, and I believe you can help me defeat my addiction. Come into my life and fill me with Your Spirit. Help me organize my life around You. Give me the    courage, wisdom, and strength I need, one day at a time.”

OK So Now What?

OK, so now you’re a Christian, and you’re an addict. The brain damage doesn’t go away when you accept Christ. He doesn’t take a magic wand and make it all go away. That’s just not how He does things.

Are you going to have struggles? Sure. Are you going to fail sometimes? Most likely, yes. Falling back into a drug habit is not any better or any worse than falling back into any other sin. But when Jesus is in your boat, He still loves you, He still forgives you, and He pulls you back into the boat. Say you screw up and get high once. That doesn’t mean you have to spend the next 6 weeks tweaking. Come back to Him and He will give you a new start.

Sometimes you don’t really fall out of the boat. Sometimes you jump out of the boat. You knew what would happen if you went to see your old friends, and you did it anyway. Will He forgive you for jumping out of the boat? He will if you admit to Him what you really did. Don’t try to pass it off as a simple mistake. He knows better. You can’t play games with Jesus.

I met a man that said, “This is my third time through rehab. He can’t possibly forgive me again.” Oh yes He can. He told us to forgive 70 times 7. Do you think He’s not willing to do the same? He’s not surprised when you mess up. He knows you’re human. He knows you’re going to fail sometimes. He loves you. He’s not going to throw you away, not anymore than I throw away my 2 year old when she wets her pants.

I’ve been a Christian for many years. Do I screw up from time to time? You bet I do. Do I still love Jesus? With all my heart. Does He forgive me? Absolutely.

You might get discouraged, but you don’t despair. You raise your hand, admit what you did, and He pulls you back in the boat. You never lose hope because He never stops loving you. He doesn’t care how wet He gets. As long as you really love Him, He will always pull you back in the boat.

How do you feel when you make a mistake?

How do you think God feels when you make a mistake?

Do you believe He still loves you?

There is power in His love. There is power to resist temptation, power to avoid triggers,

and power to change the way you live. As you grow closer to Jesus, as you spend more time with Him, you become more like Him. Don’t we all come to act like the people we hang around with? When you are with Him, you are not leaning on anything. He is a pillar of strength within you. You can stand tall like a man.

It takes courage to quit a drug habit. No one has more courage than the Man that carried the cross to Calvary. It takes self discipline and strength of character to resist temptation. No one has more strength of character than Jesus. It takes wisdom to stay out of trouble. No one has more wisdom than the God that said “Let there be light,” and built the universe.

Jesus knows what it is to resist temptation. He faced the most intense temptation anyone has ever faced in the Garden of Gethsemane. He faced the temptation to use His divine power to spare himself the suffering and humiliation of the cross. He said, “Don’t you know I could call down 12 legions of angels and get myself out of this jam? But then how could bear the wrath of God for all people? How could the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

He resisted that temptation by the power of prayer, intense anguished prayer, and this Guy knew how to pray. He was on his face before God. He resisted by sheer force of will to obey the God that He loved. He resisted by deep understanding of the Bible. When He comes into your heart He brings His courage and strength and wisdom with Him and makes it yours.

In a relationship with Jesus, you build up the parts of your personality that help you stay sober, and you become a new person. You become honest and sincere, loving and compassionate, strong and courageous. You build up such a strong identity that you can walk through life even without your fasciculus retroflexus, the center for self control. You can get to Nashville after all. You have built a new highway to replace the one with speed bumps in the right lane and a gully wash in the left.

What personality traits do you feel would help you stay off drugs?

What did Jesus do that helped Him resist temptation?

How do you get to know Jesus better?

Would you like to be more like Him?

Let Us Pray

Lord, your forgiveness is a mighty power. With it you hold your lambs close to your heart, and lead the weak, the vulnerable, the addicted, and the brain damaged into the holy presence of the Father, who loves them. All glory and honor are yours, Almighty God, forever and ever. Amen.

References

Reduced Cerebral Grey Matter Observed in Alcoholics Using MRI Dernigan T, Butters N., Alcoholism: Clinical and Exp. Res. 1991 15[3]:418-27.

Selective Neurotoxic Effects of Nicotine on Axons in Fasciculus Retroflexus; Further Supporting Evidence that this is a Weak Link in The Brain Across Multiple Drugs of Abuse. Carlson J. and Armstrong B. Neuropharmacology 2000 39[3] 2792-98.

Current and Former Marijuana Use: Preliminary Findings of a Longitudinal Study of Effects on IQ in Young Adults. Fried P. and Watkinson B. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2002 166[7]:887-91.

 Abstinence Symptoms Following Smoked Marijuana in Humans, Hanley M., and Ward A.S. Psychopharmacology 1999 141:395-404.

 Residual Cognitive Effects of Heavy Marijuana Use in College Students, Pope H.G. and Turgelun-Todd D. Journal of American Medical Association, 1996 275[7]:521-27.

 Mechanism of Cannabinoid Inhibition of GABA Synaptic Transmission in the Hippocampus. Hoffman A.F., and Lupice C.R. Journal of Neuroscience 2000 20[7[:2470-79

 Cannabinoids Inhibit the Formation of New Synapses Between Hippocampal Neurons in Culture Kim D. and Thayer S.A. Journal of Neuroscience 2001 21[10]: RC146

 Cannabis Sativa Effects on Brain Function and Ultrastructure in Rhesus Monkeys. Heath R.G., Fitzjarrell A.T. Biological Psychiatry 1980 15[5]:657-90.

 Activation of CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors Inhibits Neurotransmitter Release from Identified Synaptic Sites in Rat Hippocampal Cultures. Kim D. and Thayer S.A. Brain Research 2000 852[2]: 398-405

 Marijuana Withdrawal Among Adults Seeking Treatment For Marijuana Dependence. Budney A.J. and Norg P. Addiction 1999 94[9]:1311-22.

 Enhancement of Anandamine Formation in the Limbic Forebrain and Reduction of Endocannabinoid Content in the Striatum of THC Tolerant Rats. DiMarzo V. and Berrendero F. Journal of Neurochemistry 2000 74[4]:1627-35.

 Neuropsychological Impairment and MRI Abnormalities Associated With Chronic Solvent Abuse. Rosenberg N.R.  and Grigsby J. Journal of Clinical Toxicology 2002;40[1]:21-34.

Evaluation of Discrimination Stimulus and Reinforcing Effects of Gammahydroxybutyrate [GHB] Beirdsley P.M. and Balster R.L., Psychopharmacology 1996, 127[4] 315-322.

Gammahydroxybutyric Acid as a Signaling Molecule in the Brain. Maitre M. and Mampandry C., Alcohol 2000 20[3]:277-83.

 GHB Patterns of Use, Effects, and Withdrawal American Miotto K., Darakjian J., Journal of Addiction 2001 10[3]:232-41.

Unifying Perspectives of the Mechanism Underlying The Development of Tolerance and Physical Dependence to Opioids. Taylor D.A. and Flemming W.W. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 2001 1:11-18.

Flashback and Hallucination Persisting Perception Disorder: Clinical Aspects and Pharmacological Treatment Approach  Lerner A.G., Gelkopf M, 1st Journal Psychiatry Relat. Sci. 2002, 39[2]:92-99

 LSD-Induced Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder Treatment With Clonidine: An Open Pilot Study  Lerner A.G., Gelkopf M. International Clinical Psychopharmacology 2000, 15:35-37.

Long Lasting Alterations in Behavior and Brain Neurochemistry Following Continuous Low Dose LSD Administration  King J.W. and Ellison G. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 1989 33:69-73.

Positron Emission Tomographic Evidence of Toxic Effects of MDMA [Ecstasy] on Brain Serotonin Neurons in Human Beings. McCann U.D. and Szabo Z. The Lancet 1998 352[9138]: 1433-37.

 Cognitive Performance in 34 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA, Ecstasy] Users: A Controlled Study McCann U.D. and Mertle M. Psychopharmacology 1999 143:417-25.

 The Pharmacology and Toxicology of Ecstasy and Related Drugs. Kalant K. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2001:165[7]:917-28.

 Electophysiologic Evidence of Serotonergic Impairment in Long Term MDMA [Ecstasy] Users Croft R.J. and Klugman A. American Journal of Psychiatry 2001 158[10]: 1687-92

 Altered Serotonin Innervation Patterns in the Forebrain of Monkeys Treated with MDMA Seven Years Previously: Factors Influencing Abnormal Recovery. Hatzidimitriou G., McCann U.D., and Ricuarte C.A. Journal of Neuroscience 1999 191[12]:5096-5107.

 Reduced N Aceylaspartate Levels in the Frontal Cortex of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA] users: Preliminary Results Reneman L. and Majoie C.B. American Journal of Neuroradiology 2000 23:231-37.

Continuous Amphetamine and Cocaine Have Similar Neurotoxic Effects in Lateral Habenular Nucleus and Fasciculus Retroflexus. Ellison G. Brain Research 1992 598:353-356.

Long Term Alterations in Benzodiazepine and Muscarinic and Amino 3 hydroxy 5 methylisoxazole 4 proprionic acid [AMPA] Receptor Density Following Continuous Cocaine Administration KeysA. And Ellison G. 1999 Pharmacology and Toxicology 1999 85:144-150.

Intracranial Hemorrhage Associated with Cocaine Abuse: A Prospective Autopsy Study Nolte K.B., Brass L.M., Neurology 1996 46[5] 1291-96.

Evidence for Long Term Neurotoxicity Associated the Methamphetamine Abuse: HRMS Study Ernst T, and Chang L. Neurology 2000 541344-49.

 Hydroxy Radical Formation Following Methamphetamine Administration to Rats. Kita T. and Takahashi M. Pharmacology and Toxicology 1999 85: 133-7.

 Studies of Amphetamine or Methamphetamine Psychosis; Relation of Methamphetamine Psychosis to Schizophrenia Yui K. and Ikemoto S. Ann NY Acad Sci 2000 914:1-12.

 Low Level of Brain Dopamine D2 Receptors in Methamphetamine Abusers: Association with Metabolism in the Orbitofrontal Cortex Volkow N.D. and Chang L. 2001 American Journal of Psychiatry 158:2015-21.

 Susceptibility of Subsequent Episodes in Spontaneous Recurrence of Methamphetamine Psychosis. Yui K. and Ishaguro T. Ann NY Acad Sci 2000 914:292-302.

 Peroxynitrite and Nitrate Induced Oxidation of Dopamine: Implications for Nitric Oxide in Dopaminergic Cell Loss La Voie M.J. and Hastings T.G. Journal of Neurochemistry 1999 73{6}:2546-54.

 Loss of Dopamine Transporters in Methamphetamine Abusers Recovers after Protracted Abstinence Volkow N.D. and Chang L. Journal of Neuroscience 2001: 21[23]:9414-18.

So Help Me God: Substance Abuse, Religion, and Spirituality A CASA White Paper Nov. 2001