Because I’m active in the fight against human trafficking, and involved with local law enforcement, I see a lot of substance abuse. In fact, I count myself both fortunate and unfortunate to have an in-depth look at these issues that are surrounding us today. I’m fortunate because I am now able to understand this issue that’s so prevalent and witness the effects of these addictions, not only for the individual engaging in the abuse, but also for their families. I’m unfortunate because I see the negative impact that these issues have and the generations that are impacted by them.
I have a few friends right now who are sobering up and as I walk with them through this process, I see just how hard this journey is, how fast you can get hooked to drugs or alcohol, and how long it takes to get away from it. Depending on the substance, it may never cease to tempt you, always pulling you back in for more. Some people are unable to forget the feeling they experienced the first few times they used, and as a result they’re continually thinking they need that high again. I see the internal battle that my friends are facing—the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other—as they desperately want to stop but still crave the feeling they once had.
Substance abuse comes in all forms and it comes quickly if you’re not careful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the occasional drink, but one doesn’t have to turn into five or six. It’s fine to have a glass of wine or a beer at the ballpark but you have to consider your motive. Alcohol can easily become a huge part of sports. For most ball players, it’s a regular thing to have a drink after a game to unwind—it’s a convenient way to get a good night’s sleep. But when your body becomes accustomed to it and the effect isn’t working as well as it did at first, you may begin to think that more is better. My fear is that when guys get out of the game, they feel like they still need multiple drinks before bed so they continue or even worsen their habit. That’s how addictions start.
A few months ago I was speaking to a group of kids at a skate ministry in Colorado. All the kids that I came to talk to were addicts, many of whom had obviously been using that day, but they wanted change. They came to this incredible ministry because they wanted something greater. As I was speaking, a girl asked me, “Have you ever struggled with an addiction?” I didn’t expect that. It completely stumped me. I told them, “I chewed tobacco, which is a terrible habit, but I know that doesn’t compare to what you all are going through. I also have many friends who have struggled with addictions.”
But as I got home that night I was hit with the realization that something did in fact have a grip on my life. It wasn’t a street drug, it wasn’t very dangerous, but it had determined my lifestyle for many years. For the last fifteen years, I had been on medication for ADD. I needed something to help my brain function properly—something that would allow me to focus. I began taking Adderall about four years into my baseball career and continued ever since. Never would I consider this to be drug abuse because it really was necessary and helped me lock in my focus, but just like any drug, it can become addictive and abused. I thought about how I needed to up my dosage at one point because my body grew accustomed to it, and how my daily rhythms are dictated by when I needed to take my pills. I realized that what was meant for good, and truly was good for me, had started to take control of me. Right then, I threw out all the leftover meds I had. I decided I needed to get it out of my system and reset.
Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not saying that Adderall or other prescribed medications are wrong. I certainly needed help with my ADD, but I realized that at this time I was, in a way, saying that I didn’t think God could take care of this issue for me. No longer did I want to try to be the one in control, believing that my ADD was too big for God to handle.
We can become addicted to anything. Everyone’s situation is different but for me, I really felt like this was an area of my life that I wasn’t surrendering to God, instead I was telling Him that I didn’t need His help. If I could go back and talk to a younger me, I would just warn myself to keep an eye on my priorities—to be aware that it’s easy to abuse the resources that are right at my fingertips.
Anything that we put ahead of our relationship with Christ is a sin and I’m guilty of that in many areas. During baseball season, I would often say that I was committed to chapel or Bible study, but in my heart I was putting baseball first and God second, third, or even fourth. During hunting season, it’s easy for me to become obsessed with chasing whitetails. But the more aware I become of the things that threaten to take my focus away from God, the more I can recognize them quickly and set my gaze back on Him. This is a fight that we will fight daily to the end, but even though this fight doesn’t go away, it can get easier if we are armed and ready to set our minds, hearts, and priorities before God.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” —Colossians 3:2-5
Adam LaRoche is a former MLB player and a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.