Rev. Pablo Diaz on Hope and Recovery

The Reverend Pablo Diaz addresses addiction, its effect on communities and the role hope can play in overcoming it.


Guideposts Video: Inspiring True Stories


Pablo Diaz: I want to share with you about believing that recovery is possible through hope. Addiction affects people of all ages, nationalities, professions, class, race. Addiction not only impacts a person who is addicted, but impacts their family, loved ones, their friends and co-workers. In the United States, there are 21 million individuals battling addiction under the age of 12. If not treated properly, addiction will destroy your family, marriage, business, a community, and even a country.

According to the Surgeon General’s report of 2016, every 19 minutes, an American dies of an overdose. One in seven individuals will face substance abuse. Let’s begin. Count.

Audience members: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Pablo: One in seven—that’s staggering to think that 1 in 7 of Americans will face substance abuse. Now, let me give you the economic impact. The economic impact is $442 billion a year as a result of drugs, alcohol, and addiction in this country—staggering.

But the reality is that addiction is more than statistics. Addiction is about people. For every person addicted, there’s a name, agenda, a family, a history. The sad part of it is that when you battle addiction, you lose, ultimately, the opportunity to exercise the great potential given to you by your creator. You lose the opportunity to express the greatness that you have as an individual. And ultimately, you can lose your life.

Pastor David Beddoe, whose story was in the “Guideposts” January issue of 2018, who battles addiction himself, said the following. “Addiction is not about good or bad people. Addiction is about people who are suffering and want to be made whole.”

I know firsthand the impact of addiction on a family. My wife’s family battled addiction for many years. They lost four siblings connected to the drugs and alcohol. No one overdosed, but the impact of it over long haul—even my father-in-law, a career vet, 29 years and 10 months in the reserve, struggled with his own experience of war and drank quietly, for he was a reserved man. I remember asking, can I marry your daughter? He said, yes. And that was the end of the conversation—quiet. At the age of 62, he passed away.

You see, when you’re battling addiction as an individual—as a family, you feel alone and isolated. You can feel defeated, depleted, in despair. It is in these moments that we must remember the words of that great prophet in the “Book of Lamentations,” in the Hebrew scripture. “Lamentation” is comprised of five different poems that speak about the anguish, the agony, the pain, and the suffering the community, the people of God were experiencing as the Babylonians had invaded and destroyed their land.

Chapter 3, the following verse—”Yet I dare to hope. Yet I dare to hope when I remember the Lord’s faithful love. His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness—his mercies anew every single morning.”

Hope, hope, hope—a four-letter word that has power that infused the human spirit, that brings optimism, that breaks through with possibilities, that breaks through with a sense that all things can change. Hope—hope is that light that cracks through the darkness and paves a wave to say, here’s a role that you can take that is different and that can give you the recovery that you need.

Hope is the small whisper in the heart that doubts—quiets the doubts of the mind and the voices of despair and defeat. Hope is the courage that comes to us and the strength that comes within us to say, I am going to hold on one more day. That’s what hope is. It’s that light at the end of the tunnel—hope.

Sometimes, like Jimmy Santiago Baca, author and poet writes, “You must hold on to the ledge of hope.” Or as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We must accept the finite disappointment, but never lose the infinite hope.” No matter what your circumstances are, recovery is possible.

I remember a young man named Charlie. Charlie came to church that Sunday morning. I was a pastor serving this congregation. And Charlie walked in and attended service. And I got a chance to meet him. He looked fragile, worn out, tired. As we sat, he said, I’m tired of living a life of drugs. I feel ashamed for all the pain I’ve cost my beloved, wonderful mother. I don’t want to be an addict. I’m exhausted from treatments and relapses and from all the drugs that I’ve taken. I want to be a loving, caring father.

I befriended him, and we journeyed for quite a while. I provided pastoral care. He agreed to get treatment and go for counseling and get the care that he needed. And together, we journeyed. And the family that loved him was there to support him. The weeks and the months went by. And the years went by. And Charlie was able to overcome a drug and alcohol addiction.

Now, I also remember the words of that young Jewish girl in World War II who kept a diary in hiding, who didn’t live to see her future, but whose words continue to inspire us. Ann Frank wrote, “Where there is hope, there is life. It fills us with courage and makes us strong again.” Hope—that four-letter word that I love, hope.

When a young person walks into a recovery center rehab because they want to break the addiction, hope is present. When resentment and anger and bitterness and loneliness is no longer ruling the heart, hope prevails. When a person is clean from their addiction and free from what bounded their heart and their bodies and their mind, hope wins.

How about when a mother and a daughter are reunited because the daughter’s made whole again, and the mother holds the daughter in on her arms and says, that’s my little girl. She’s come home. She is the young girl that I once knew.” Or the father embraces a son and says, here’s my son. He’s no longer bound by addiction.

So let us not lose hope, the infinite hope in us. Let us hold onto the ledge of hope—loosely, tightly, but never letting go. For as long as we have, hope we have life. As long as we have hope, we have courage. As long as we have hope, we become strong again. As long as we hold onto the ledge of hope, and we hold onto it tightly or loosely, the possibilities of recovery, of redemptions, of being made whole again, becomes real. Hope, for today gives me faith for tomorrow.

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