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Last month, I received my first-ever invitation to speak at a graduation ceremony. As I told the graduates that day, I guess this puts me in a class with Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton.
Well, not quite. Turns out they deliver their speeches at prestigious and expensive universities and I delivered mine to the 10 graduates of the Substance Abuse Program (SAP) at the Grant County Detention Center. I doubt that Oprah, Bill or Hillary would ever show up for this graduation but for me, there is no place that I would rather be.
SAP is one of those rare programs that works because it manages to find the right balance between the law enforcement obligations of criminal incarceration and the necessary spiritual healing process of addiction recovery. The SAP program administrators and the jailer work as a team with a common interest – to ensure that criminal offenders do their time while receiving the best treatment possible that will give them a hope shot of beating their addiction and becoming productive members of society when they get out.
Make no mistake – using addicts and drinking alcoholics are dangerous to family, friends and society and we all need to be protected from them. But free from the grips of their addiction, these same persons are capable of great acts of redemption and renewal.
Thanks to the SAP, those 10 graduates have been given the tools they need to find a new way to live and to leave the life of addiction – of lying, cheating and stealing – of jails, institutions and death – behind them forever. But as I told them, they are now moving from the zoo (in jail) into the wild (life outside jail) – and that’s the most dangerous place for an addict or alcoholic to be. So let’s keep them in our prayers – they’ll need all of God’s help they can get. And the good news is – they know it!
(Bob Silvanik is the pastor of Dry Ridge Christian Church. He can be reached at 823-1303 or by e-mail at email@example.com)