- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32, King James Version

There she was, to the left of first lady Laura Bush and in front of D.C. Mayor Tony Williams while President Bush gave his third State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Her name is Tonja Myles, and her bright smile was disarming, the opposite look of despair often found on the people she hopes, and prays, will heal from their troubled addictions.
Mrs. Myles is a recovering addict, clean for 17 years. "God," she told WBRZ-TV, "set me free from addiction. And one of the things I told the Lord is that I'd go to my grave trying to help as many people as I can become free from addiction or never do drugs."
So, vis-a-vis faith, the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, La., and her husband, Darren, Mrs. Myles holds weekly meetings for a program called Set Free Indeed.
Theirs is a program rooted in faith, the kind of program the president has talked about since taking office two years ago and drew attention to again on Tuesday in his address to Congress. "I urge you," Mr. Bush implored our Republican and Democratic lawmakers, to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America, one heart and one soul at a time." He rightly called drug addiction "another cause of hopelessness," and said that those already addicted are in a "fight for their own lives."
Of course, one's personal fight to overcome addiction means that those around him or her are struggling, as well, whether they be spouse or parent, child or sibling, or even an aunt or uncle. Employers are in the battle, too, because of the abusers' poor work habits.
Society has come to call such drug abusers functional addicts. They usually show up for work and often carry out many of their responsibilities at home. But, when their jones comes down, when all that's on their mind is getting that monkey off their back, then everything else everything else is pushed aside.
Boozers don't want to admit they are alcoholics because they only drink after work, on weekends and on holidays perhaps to relieve the stress of work. Coke fiends, meanwhile, deny their addiction because they only snort when not at work which is most of the time. Addicts also wreak havoc on family budgets that is, if they still have a family and a home, if they haven't lost their jobs, if they aren't spending the family grocery money for a fifth of Jack Daniels or hustling food stamps for a fix. To be sure, there are as many ifs and excuses when it comes to substance abusers as there are substance abusers.
According to the Office National Drug Control Policy, there were 16 million Americans abusing illicit drugs in 2001. That number, however, does not include alcoholics, and it does not include people abusing prescription drugs and over-the-counter cold medicines. Who knows how many grandmothers are walking around high on Valium, an anti-anxiety prescription? Who knows how many teens and young adults are downing bottles of Nyquil on a daily basis, because it is 25 percent alcohol? And steroids? Well, we know today's bulked-up athletes didn't get that way by eating Cheerios and hamburgers alone.
Substance abuse is a devil that knows no age, color, economic or religious boundaries, which is why helping people to battle their demons is often placed in the hands of faith-based organizations. The Salvation Army has some of the most successful programs in the country. Temple Shalom, in Aberdeen, N.J., is helping Jewish addicts, rightly saying that "addiction affects Jews in the same way that it affects non-Jews. We are not immune." In Washington, D.C., Union Temple Baptist Church helps substance abusers through its Akoma Project, a comprehensive treatment program that also offers mental-health services. And, 3,000 miles away, Mrs. Myles and the Healing Place Church help addicts, their families and potential abusers steer clear of drugs.
Now, let us pray that Congress comes to accept the fact that faith, indeed, is a key.

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