Monday, February 25, 2008


One of my addictions (no pun intended) is A&E's show Intervention. It follows an addict--usually drugs or alcohol, but also occasionally people with eating disorders, or who cut themselves, etc. The producers pretend that they're shooting a documentary on addiction--which in truth they are. But the kicker is that there's an intervention at the end, and the producers will pay for the addict to go into treatment.

It's a brutal show, every bit as gut wrenching as Reservoir Dogs or Fight Club. It's also fascinating and incredibly revealing.

One of the hardest things to watch, one of the most brutal things to experience in media today, is the family that is torn apart by addictions, or the addict who is struggling against his / her demons.

Tonight's show: young man, Iraq war veteran. Alcoholic; drinks constantly. His family is co-dependent, their love for him and their sympathy over his experiences in Iraq and the ways life had mistreated him led them to enable his addiction.

They had the intervention. The kid agreed to go into treatment, but he left after three weeks and started drinking again. The parents refused to enable him, wouldn't let him live in their house or drive their vehicles. So he's been living with friends and drinking every day.

Couldn't beat the demons.

I've always thought that addiction was a great model for understanding sin and its effects on us. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and "Wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Mt 5.3 and Romans 7.24, respectively) point us to our powerlessness over sin.

It's not that we can't do good things on our own power; I'm not a Calvinist, I don't believe in total depravity. Rather, it is that we can't consistently do what's good. Like alcoholics who can keep a handle on things for a while, function in their jobs for a while, we can for a time keep a lid on things by superhuman effort. But we eventually fall off the wagon, unless we admit our powerlessness and our need for the Spirit to obey in us from the inside out (Rom 8.1-11).

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