Vague spiritual connection aids drug recovery

It's no surprise people seek some sort of higher power when overcoming an addiction, whether it looks like meditation, prayer or other rituals that help the process.

A piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tries to illustrate one man's recovery from cocaine and his spiritual journey, but it's certainly thin on the details. A dramatic opening shows that path of what led to the man's cocaine addiction and his eventual time spent in jail.

In no time, Nelson was facing charges in three counties and preparing to wake up on Christmas morning in a cell.

He went to a Bible study class with the jail’s chaplain, desperate for hope. “I am not a crying man,” he said. “But, oh my gosh, I just lost it. I lost it. I didn’t care that it was in front of all those men. I just lost it. I’m bawling like a baby and that’s my day — right there.”

That is the moment Nelson marks as his turning point. He says that is when he felt a deep, personal connection with God that was like nothing he ever experienced before. And he started to rebuild his life on that new foundation.

What's unclear about this spiritual connection is what took place after that. Does he consider himself part of a specific faith now? Does he go to a certain church? Looks like the reporter got caught up in the drug details that the rest fell by the wayside.

At the end of January, Nelson, 40, graduated from Fulton County’s drug court program with credit for 324 days of sobriety behind him and a new world in front of him. And he credits the program, along with his faith, with enabling him to recover his life.

Close to the end, you might get an "ah ha!" moment if you read closely enough.

A former bodybuilder, Nelson works full time at a gym in north Fulton County. But that’s just one part of what he’s up to. He’s enrolled in seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where he is taking classes online and on campus.

He has started speaking publicly about his addiction and has become sought after at schools, in prisons and in recovery settings. He said he has taken on a position with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that he hopes will become his full-time work. He is back to being the devoted father he had been during his long stretches of sobriety before he relapsed. And he says he has been open with his two older children about his addiction, his recovery, his failings and his faith.

He plans to focus on pastoral counseling as part of earning his master’s degree from Liberty. And he wants to put that degree to work helping other addicts stay stronger than the drugs. “I like to work with people who are broken and to work with the people who are not — to keep them from being broken,” he said.

Of course, Liberty University and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are pretty well known among evangelicals, but the average reader might not make those connections. The piece seems really about drug court, an option for offenders in Georgia that to do an intense recovery program, a program getting a push from the state's governor. If that was the original story idea, then kudos to the reporter for uncovering the faith angle. Still, it's the repeated descriptions of faith that feel too vague.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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