Ministering to Those in Addiction

“Deaths of despair” is the appropriately grave moniker for the plague of premature deaths that has expanded across the United States over the past few decades. Middle-aged and young adults are dying at such record rates that the average life expectancy has declined each year since 2015. The last time the United States saw a decline like this was in 1918, when World War I and especially the Spanish flu decimated large swaths of the population. But this time, the epidemic is not fueled by a virus or a war. Rather, elements much more pernicious and vexing are to blame: drug overdose, suicide, and liver failure due to drugs and alcohol. They are truly deaths of despair. The fact that these deaths are entirely preventable and rooted in human behavior adds a layer of maddening frustration. As a psychiatrist who specializes in treating addiction, I am keenly aware of the frustration. Through my work, I have personally known scores of people who died too young.  When I graduated medical school and ... Read more

The Recovering Addict in Church

When Patience walked into Neon Reformed OPC in Neon, Kentucky, she was two years and four months clean of drugs and alcohol. Her addiction had begun at age thirteen, when a close relative started smoking pot with her. They lived in a small coal town in West Virginia, right across the Big Sandy River from Kentucky. At around eighteen, Patience was given her first line of heroin, again from her relative, who wanted a using buddy. Next, Patience tried thirty-milligram oxycodone tablets, or “thirties.” “I would use just anything and everything to alter my state of mind and the way that I felt, both emotionally and physically,” Patience said. After a few years, Patience needed something stronger, so her boyfriend taught her how to intravenously inject heroin, a cheaper and more potent choice than the thirties. She would shoot up in hospital parking lots because, as she figured, overdosing was a matter of when not if . When she was twenty-three, Patience’s boyfriend took her for a drive and ... Read more

In Memoriam: David E. Haney (1963–2019)

David E. Haney was just twenty-six years old when, in 1989, he began employment with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as the controller for the fledgling Committee on Coordination that had been created just five years before. A graduate of the University of the Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, he had been rising through the ranks in the Prudential Insurance Company, which seemed to point him toward a career as an executive in the insurance industry. But when the opportunity came to work for his church in his field of finance, he applied for the position. His pastor-father, the Reverend George E. Haney, who served at the time as general secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, beamed with pride, but recused himself from voting on the matter. Once on the job, David introduced a computer accounting system, restructuring and reorganizing how accounts were handled, and presented to the Committee on Coordination a clear picture of the finances of the church. In the early ... Read more