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FIRST-PERSON: Empathizing with addicts

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Since we began writing these articles more than four years ago, we have received many responses from readers.

Some have expressed thanks for helpful insights while others have contributed constructive criticisms. Many have contacted us seeking further information about helpful resources that might aid them in their struggles to overcome chemical dependencies.

A few of the correspondences we have received have contained comments that reflect unacquaintedness with our own past personal struggles with drug-addiction. Some have curiously inquired about whether we ourselves have experienced drug-addiction. And, some have ignorantly assumed that we have not.

In response to last month’s column in which we advised against methadone maintenance for opiate addicts, one reader naively wrote, “It is very easy for someone that has never had this affliction to say ‘Just get over it’. How lovely that would be if it were that easy!”

We believe that it is important for us, at this point, to familiarize readers with our testimonies. Neither of the writers of this column is, as some have suggested, unfamiliar with the trauma of addiction. Quite to the contrary, we have both, by the grace of God, overcome overwhelming addictions. This is, in fact, our primary qualification for ministering to others who struggle with drug-abuse. Unfortunately, we are intimately acquainted with the complications of drug abuse.

Ted’s affair with amphetamines in the 1970s resulted in a prison sentence of 15-25 years. Charged with six armed robberies and attempted murder — crimes committed while he was high on speed — Ted served four and a half-years in prison before being paroled. During his incarceration, Ted recommitted his life to God. Since his release more than 25 years ago, he has spent every day in efforts to rescue those trapped in the isolation of addiction.

One of those whom Ted has helped is Philip Barber. The two were first introduced to one another eight years ago, in June of 1997, by a Dallas police officer. Officer Wes Smith had been dispatched to Barber’s home on the east side of the city to intercede in a dispute between the young man and a neighbor. When the officer arrived at his residence, a shirtless and tattooed Barber was strung out on speed, belligerent and armed.

Smith did what any Christ-committed, Kingdom-building, evangelist would do. He shared the Gospel of Christ with the young drug addict. For an hour and a half, the officer explained the plan of salvation to Barber and then invited him to his church. Reluctantly, Barber braved the unfamiliar territory, hungry for more of the hope that Smith had given him.

So, at Mimosa Lane Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, a Dallas police officer introduced a drug addict to a convicted felon. That humble introduction began a mentorship that would save the young man’s life.

Philip’s drug abuse began at the age of 12, starting with marijuana and eventually leading to heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine addiction. There was a time in Philip’s life that the only way he knew what day it was would be by looking at the newspaper on the way out of the pharmacy, where he got his needles. At times, he even pulled his car over to draw water up out of a puddle in order to shoot up.

Both of the writers of this column have experienced firsthand the complications of withdrawal and recovery. We in no way insinuate that it is painless or pleasant, but it is possible.

The information conveyed in our articles is the product of more than 25 years of combined drug addiction, 38 years of combined post-addiction sobriety, and more than 30 years of combined experience ministering to those who suffer with addictions. Our articles are written from a position of empathy. And our aim is to encourage fellow sufferers to receive newness of life in Christ and to achieve complete freedom from enslavement to drug addiction.
Ted G. Stone and Philip D. Barber share their ministry in church pulpits and through books and articles, such as this monthly column. For further information or advice, contact them through Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C., 27702, or call (919) 477-1581.

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  • Ted Stone and Philip Barber