On addiction, grace, and Demi Lovato

I don’t write much anymore. But when I did write a lot, one of my favorite things to do was take pieces of pop culture and see where and how they intersect with the Gospel.

Yesterday, after almost crying in a gas station parking lot, I knew I had to write again, if only for this one post.

That’s right: a song from Demi Lovato had me all up in my feelings outside of a Weigels.

Many of you, when you hear the name Demi Lovato, you think one of three things:

1. The girl from Camp Rock
2. That pop singer on the radio
3. Who?!

Demi Lovato is 25-year-old singer and actress who is a former child star. After getting famous at such a young age, she – like many child stars – developed a dependency on alcohol and drugs. She eventually ended up in rehab and celebrated six years of sobriety earlier this year.

Then she fell off the wagon.

She wrote about it in an incredible new song called “Sober.”

In this new song, she sings:

I don’t know why
I do it every time
It’s only when I’m lonely
Sometimes I just wanna cave
And I don’t wanna fight

Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore
And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor
To the ones who never left me
We’ve been down this road before
I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore

You see a picture of someone wanting so badly to beat an addiction who finally caved and gave in. It’s one of the truest – and most heartbreaking – depictions of addiction I’ve ever heard.

She takes it one step further in the next verse:

I’m sorry to my future love
For the man that left my bed
For making love the way I saved for you inside my head
And I’m sorry for the fans I lost
Who watched me fall again
I wanna be a role model
But I’m only human

We get a picture of this 25-year-old who is in the depths of her mistakes. She’s feeling the weight of all of it.

The guilt.

The shame.

The anger.

The disappointment.

The embarrassment.

I’ve never been addicted to drugs, but I’ve been in a similar spot to where she is now. That spot where you can’t believe you just did what you did. Where you feel everything you’ve been working to become has been thrown out the window and you have to start all over again.

Because of one mistake.

It’s a terribly lonely position.

Addiction does that.

Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food, sex, porn, gambling, smoking, or whatever your vice may be, addiction never stops coming for you. You can celebrate six weeks or six years being clean of it but tomorrow will be just as big of a fight as yesterday.

Addiction does that.

As I listened to Demi’s song, I kept thinking how I wish she knew the story of the apostle Peter.

On the night Jesus was arrested, Jesus told his closest friends that they’d all abandon him. Peter piped up and said if every else abandoned him, he wouldn’t.

Jesus looked right back at him and said “Truly I tell you, tonight, before the rooster crows twice, you’ll disown me three times.”

Fast forward a few hours. Jesus has been arrested and taken before the priests and elders and put on trial where he was condemned to death. Peter is out in the courtyard outside the high priest’s place.

On three different occasions, someone asks Peter if he knew Jesus. He said no each time.

Peter knew he wouldn’t do it.

He swore he wouldn’t do it.

Yet he still did it.

Feels familiar, right?

It was a moment of weakness.

We’ve all been there.

Luke’s Gospel finishes the story this way:

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Not only had Peter denied Jesus after saying he wouldn’t, but Jesus looked directly at him right after it happened. He knew what Peter had done. And Peter knew that Jesus knew.

He’d messed up.

He fell off the wagon.

He took the pills.

He looked at the website.

He did the very thing he swore he’d never do.

Thankfully the story didn’t end there. And yours doesn’t have to either.

Fast forward a couple days. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Jesus’ mom go to the tomb and see Jesus isn’t there. Instead, there’s an angel sitting there. He tells the women:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Jesus wanted it known that even though Peter had turned his back on him, he still wanted a relationship with him.

Denying Jesus in his most fragile human moment wasn’t enough to separate their relationship.

Jesus wanted to see the disciples and Peter.

So no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve screwed up when you promised yourself you’d never do it again, Jesus will still send an angel into your life to say, “Tell him I still want to see him. Let him know I’m still here.”

You have hope.

There is grace upon grace.

Your addiction does not define you.

Your screwups do not disqualify you.

The maker of the universe sees them and still says “I want to be with you.”

Say your prayers and take your vitamins.

Have a nice day.

-Jonathan

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