The next generation of adults—those who are teenagers now—are challenged like no generation preceding them. This is the first generation of young people who could possibly have grandparents on crack cocaine. The significance of this is that every generation preceding them had another generation to rely upon should the preceding one fail to meet their obligations. Consequently, we have a generation of young people, many of whom are in foster care, fumbling through life without a guide. Addiction rears its ugly head in many forms, transcending age, color, gender, and all other categories. So what is the common thread running through otherwise unconnected families dealing with addiction? It’s easy to deny the existence of addiction because when we think of it, we often only think of drugs and alcohol. Well, let’s look a little deeper.
The American Medical Association formally identified addiction as a disease because it has the same characteristics and attributes as some other diseases. For instance, addiction is describable, predictable, and fatal if left untreated, just like diabetes. Heredity is also an attribute of addiction; many are genetically predisposed to it, meaning they are more susceptible to the disease because their parents and/or grandparents were addicted. However, some individuals with the predisposition never develop an addiction, and so it seems they have escaped the trap–or have they?
Addiction has many facets: eating, gambling, money, crime, power, control, and the obvious—drugs and alcohol.. In talking with many of the youth who have already found themselves in the judicial system, I find that they are trapped by their need to be gratified instantly. A work ethic requiring them to work all week and wait to be compensated with a paycheck at the end of the pay period is unheard of. Addiction to crime is ever present, with many involved in carjacking, car theft, armed robbery, home invasion, and larceny, as well as drug dealing. The juvenile justice system is filled with young boys and girls accused of committing these crimes, as well as domestic violence and assault offenses. Many describe feelings of gratification and euphoria while committing crimes. Others justify their behaviors by blaming their parents for not meeting their needs. Our youth are dying at a rate never before experienced, and many of them are convinced that they will not live to be adults.
Is there a solution to this dilemma? It certainly is no surprise. The Bible speaks in Jeremiah 9:20-21 about a time when death will have crept into our windows and killed off the flower of our youth. It goes on to say that children no longer play in the streets and young men no longer gather in the squares. The Lord has spoken that “bodies will be scattered across the fields like dung, or like bundles of grain after the harvest. No one will be left to bury them.” If indeed these are the times we are living in, the answer to the dilemma is also written in this scripture reference: Listen you women—open your ears to what the Lord has to say; teach your daughters to wail; teach one another to lament. It is time for the women with heavy, weeping hearts to come together to pray for our youth, and in so doing, we will receive further direction as to how God would have us to deal with the situation at hand.
Leading by example is what we need in this season. More than 21 years ago, I was addicted to crack cocaine, and during that time, exposed my sons to a lifestyle that caused the oldest to enter a life of crime. When I surrendered my life to God and begin learning how to live a new way of life through a 12-step program, I wanted my son to turn around too. He did not change his direction until three years ago. He is now 35 and finally doing well. Through prayer and lifestyle change, I know I made a positive difference in my children’s lives. Change starts with you—it is never too late.