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Breaking the Cycle

FRANKLIN FURNACE — She grew up in a home where drug abuse was not the exception, it was the rule — and it ruled absolutely everyone there, Mom, Dad, the siblings and eventually, “Susan” too.

“My mom and dad were both addicts,” she said.

The substance abuse that enveloped her parents would enslave her as well, in time.

Addiction caused her to lose her kids, lose her freedom and could have taken her life. But now, this area woman is back from the brink thanks to a faith-based program that tackles drug abuse one person at a time.

Drugs and family

Susan, 31, was addicted to Oxycontin in her mid 20s. But she has known what substance abuse is from a very early age.

“I saw my parents do drugs,” Susan said. “But I didn’t realize how far drugs can take you.”

A brother died of a drug overdose. Her mother remains an addict to this day. Susan said she turned to Oxycontin to deal with the heartache after her brother molested her daughter.

Drugs made the pain less painful. But before long the crutch that helped her deal with her emotions began to rule her, Susan said. And her life spiraled out of control as the addiction grew worse.

But when she began looking for help with her problem, she found she didn’t have far to look.

Help for fellow man

Drug abuse is one of the common problems addressed by local medical entities, law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system.

Local authorities estimate that 80 percent of the felonies committed in Lawrence County are somehow tied to drug abuse and the stories from defendants as they file into and out of court each week bear this out.

With this in mind, several area churches are offering help for those battling addiction, all with a common theme: Faith is stronger than any addiction.

Among them, Sharon Baptist Church offers Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program aimed at curing “hurts, habits and hang-ups.”

Franklin Furnace Independent Baptist Church is now part of Reformers Unanimous International, an organization founded by a former drug addict that battles addiction of all varieties through a program of 10 Bible-based principles.

Franklin Furnace Pastor, the Rev. Dennie Hankins, said he has seen the effect of drug abuse on this area. RU is his congregation’s effort to address that problem.

“We are surrounded by the drug scene,” Hankins said. “We want to be a beacon to those around us.”

Meetings are at 7 p.m. each Friday at the church. It is open to anyone and everyone. Franklin Furnace’s church operates a van that picks up RU attendees, if necessary.

Many of the attendees each week are from the nearby STAR Community Justice Center.

Each meeting is broken into an opening session and a brief discussion on one of RU’s 10 principles, followed by small group meetings, a short sermon and fellowship time.

Hankins may seem a solid sober individual today, but he is frank with his RU crowd: He had a drinking problem himself years ago when he was younger. Faith in Christ helped him overcome it.

“They have to understand that God can do what we are unable to do,” Hankins said.

RU founder Steve Currington was a substance abuser as well. In telling his own story, Currington recalls first drinking, then smoking marijuana and then falling in with the wrong crowd because of his substance abuse. He lost jobs. He nearly lost his life in a car accident.

Recuperating in a hospital, he dried out, cleaned up and vowed to break the chains of addiction. He used his own experiences and lessons as the basis for RU.

A need to reform

The drugs that led Susan away from her family eventually took her to the STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace.

It was there she learned about Reformers Unanimous from people at STAR and from her dad, who reached out to RU to battle his own addiction. His success with RU was a sharp contrast to the life he once lived. Susan figured if it worked for Dad, maybe RU would have some hope for her as well.

“He was the biggest encouragement,” she said.

Susan said RU offered her help through structure, education and friendship. Through RU, Susan said she is learning to understand who she is and why she became addicted. She has also learned to forgive herself now that knows God forgives her.

“One of the hardest things is learning to forgive yourself for the choices you make,” Susan said. “It’s hard to turn it over to God when you know you’ve done so much wrong. That was the hardest thing for me.”

Hankins said Susan’s story is a familiar one: Self worth is one of the things that the addict loses as the addiction takes hold.

“They lose touch with the inner person, the ego is forgotten. They lose the ability to reason and just give in to addiction,” he said.

Susan said RU has taught her to watch for the pitfalls, for the paths that could lead her right back to where she never wants to be again.

“It’s somewhere I can come and not feel like people are judging me, I don’t feel singled out. But I feel the seriousness of it,” Susan said.

Changes

Susan has been clean now for 15 months. She has a job at a local fast food restaurant and her supervisors say she has management potential. Susan has regained custody of her daughter and would like to reunite with her son.

Life may not be perfect but it is better than the life she once lived.

“I feel like with God, anything is possible,” she said.

Susan is one of RU’s local success stories.

“She is a wonderful, intelligent young lady and the sky is the limit,” Hankins said of Susan. “I’m so proud of her.”

Reformers Unanimous 10 principles

1. If God’s against it, so are we.

2. Every sin has its origin in the heart.

3. It is easier to keep the heart clean than it is to clean it after it has been defiled.

4. It is not possible to fight a fleshly appetite by indulging in it.

5. Small compromises lead to great disasters (or little sins lead to big sins).

6. Those who do not love the Lord will not help us serve the Lord.

7. Our sinful habits do hurt those who are following us.

8. It is not possible to fight a fleshly temptation with fleshly weapons.

9. We lose our freedom of choice after we have chosen our actions. The consequences of our choices are inevitable, incalculable and up to God.

10. God balances guilt with blame.

When we accept the blame for our actions, God, by our repentance and confession, will eliminate the guilt.

— I John 1:9