The Demon of Addiction

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.

I'm a recovering alcoholic in my 16th year. In my early stages of recovery, I was very touched by this story of the Gerasene demoniac in the gospel of Mark (5:1-20). It was already a favorite of mine because it is such a powerful story. But in my recovery, it struck me that this is a story about a drunk.

Actually, this man is possessed by a demon, but I saw him as a fellow drunk. The more I reflected on this story, the more I realized how perfectly it describes the life of addiction and the good news of the possibility of recovery. As I share with you my reflections on this story, I invite you to reflect upon your own addictions. We all have them, just different kinds. Most of us have more than one. We need all the help we can get to deal with them.

The story begins by noting that Jesus and the disciples came across the lake from the land of Israel, where Jesus' ministry has been, into Gentile territory, where the Gerasenes lived. Immediately we are introduced to estrangement and alienation, because Jesus and the disciples are aliens in this land. It's ironic that the first person they encounter there, in fact the only person described there, at least initially, is a man who is estranged and alienated-from himself, from God, and from his neighbors. He is a man without a home. His condition is hopeless. That is the point of the story. And we see as we move along in the story that all kinds of things have been done to try and save him.

This is an advent story, a story of God's coming. God comes into this man's life, just as God continues to come into your life and mine, always seeking us out.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1996
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