Question:

I've been a member of the church of Christ for about a year now, I know I have a lot of desire to live for God. I love learning about Christ and trying to do what he wants of me, but my addiction to weed is bringing me down. I want to stop because I know I should, and I don't want to end up in hell for it, but at the same time I still want to smoke. Even though I pray that I won't want to anymore, it's all I think about. I usually end up stopping a few weeks until I can't take it anymore and end up smoking again and then stop again. Each time I want it to be the last, but I just feel like I can't live without it. I feel like I'm going crazy and like my mind is always fighting a war.

I have smoked almost every day since I was a teenager. I'm26 now. Practically everything reminds me of smoking somehow or makes me want to smoke: from the places I used to smoke, to the music I would smoke to, and everything else in between. Sometimes I just remember feelings of being high or start smelling it for no reason. I just feel like giving up sometimes on God and on life because of how I feel.

I've talked with my preacher and it helps for a short while, then I go back to feeling depressed. I also read and study God's word a lot and feel great for a while, but as soon as I stop my thoughts and feelings come back.

Iknow the facts about pot -- the bad and the good. I've studied it a long time, and believe there's really nothing bad about it accept for being illegal and addictive, so I can't convince myself that it's really bad for me. I just feel confused and trapped. I've thrown my pot away so it's not here to tempt me, but I still feel tempted and miserable constantly. I really try not to smoke because, even when I do I feel miserable and guilty.

I guess my question is: Does the Bible have any advice to hopeless addicts like me? I know Jesus says to stop living in sin or else we'll die in our sins. But is it really supposed to be that easy to just stop sinning?


Answer:

Stopping any sin is never easy. For example, in discussing sexual sins, Solomon says, "For a harlot is a deep pit and an adulterous woman is a narrow well" (Proverbs 23:27). What he means is that it is easy to fall into sexual sins, but it is really hard to climb back out of them. In fact, often you will need the help of someone else to succeed. Drug addiction is no different. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. ... My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:16,19-20).

Another thing to consider concerning sin is that if a person isn't convinced that the sin is wrong, they are not likely to stop. Let's again use fornication as an example. If a guy isn't totally convinced that sex outside of marriage is wrong, he won't actively avoid tempting situations. He will come up with a series of excuses, such as "I'll do it one more time and quit," "The impulse was too strong," "I couldn't help myself," etc. Even friends can't help prevent it because no one can be monitored 24-hours a day. If a guy is determined to drop his pants, he is going to find an opportunity. In the same way, the difficulty you are running into is that while you know it is wrong, you aren't totally convinced. You shut the door, but you leave it cracked open. Notice the difference in what you are doing to who the Corinthians overcame sin: "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11).

While you have looked at the issue of marijuana, I know you have discounted the growing evidence of marijuana's harm. Would you take a look at these?

You even mention that marijuana usage and its withdrawal symptoms are severely impacting your moods and controlling your impulses; yet, you continue to say it isn't that bad. You even said you contemplated giving up on life -- isn't that a significant impact?

Another reason you are having trouble is you see marijuana as the cure for marijuana's withdrawal symptoms. That is one the nasty games sin plays on people. See: Round in a Circle. The very reasons you take marijuana are to dampen the withdrawal symptoms caused by using marijuana. The only way out of the cycle is to stop using marijuana. The initial ending is going to be painful, but it is endurable if you are prepared for it.

What makes quitting marijuana particularly hard is that the active ingredient gets stored in your fat cells. It usually takes about three months before enough marijuana is out of your system that you can notice an improvement in your thinking. It takes about six to nine months before you are back to normal (less the permanent damage it may have caused). You gear yourself up to quit, but you aren't prepared for that long of a fight. This is where friends can play a role. You are going to feel fine and then the craving will suddenly flare up as another set of fat cells release some more THC into your blood. That is the source of your sudden cravings or you "smelling" marijuana when it isn't there. You need trusted friend who can talk you through those cravings. At first they come hard and fast, over time they trickle down. What I usually suggest is that during the first few months, you stay with someone who can help you through the cravings whenever they hit.

There is always a way out of sin. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (I Corinthians 10:13). In other words, your situation is not hopeless. But this doesn't mean the way out is always pleasant or easy. In fact, you might just need to experience the pain of getting off marijuana to finally realize just what evil hold it has had over your life. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:11-13).