Three Highs to Chase (in an Epidemic of Opioids and Obsessions)Abigail Long | July 2, 2018
What is your favorite feeling?
Is it a feeling of connection, like holding someone you love or belly-laughing until your smile hurts?
Is it a feeling of meaning, like making a difference for another or conquering that elusive goal you never thought was possible?
Is it a feeling of escape, like a buzz or a long stint on Netflix?
We all have those favorite feelings, and most of us have them in both the healthy and unhealthy categories. And these categories are not universal – what is healthy for one person (e.g., running) may be an unhealthy obsession for another (e.g., over-exercising).
Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are chasing synthetic feelings.
We are living in an opioid epidemic.
In 2017, the president asked the acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to declare a public health emergency addressing the national opioid crisis.1 Misuse of these prescription medications, whose addictive powers far exceeded what the medical community originally expected, began the spiral to the crisis levels we see today.2 Tens of thousands are dying from overdose annually.2 Recently, use and trafficking of the dangerous synthetic opioid Fentanyl is spreading rapidly, often supplied from Mexico and China.3 And when it comes to illicit drugs, the dangers are like sinister icebergs – lack of regulation means you often have no way of knowing what you are truly buying. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, with an amount similar to a few grains of salt potentially lethal for more than 95% of Americans.3
The case of opioids is rightly named an epidemic.
But we are also living in the age of the obsessions epidemic. This epidemic reaches far wider and its roots are far deeper.
One look at Instagram, and the smorgasbord of vices from which to choose becomes immediately clear. These vices range from the oft-discussed money-drugs-sex to the more deceptive obsessions with the latest health trends, number of followers, or the very idea of a projected public image.
Just like a credit card statement, social media feeds reveal what people treasure.
The reality is that anything (yes, even something good) that takes first place in your life can lead to an unhealthy obsession hindering you from the truest love and purpose – that which is found only in Christ.
That being said, rather than writing this post to condemn the fixation on opioids and other obsessions, I will leave that to the experts. I have chosen to instead focus on three healthy and natural “highs” that are worth chasing, in the hopes that we can begin to trade these for our unhealthy fixes and focus on what matters once again.
High of Accomplishment
Whether you run or not, you’ve probably heard the term “runner’s high.” This refers to the euphoric feeling after a run, which can also be applied to other sports and activities. Just the other day in Central Park I witnessed a group that takes the idea of a runner’s high quite literally. These groups are comprised of individuals working to overcome addictions through running and accountability, recognizing the power of physical activity and accomplishment in healing.
Anyone who has worked to achieve something that was once only a dream, such as a first half marathon or a certain diploma, understands what it means to feel euphoric after striving towards this goal. This can be applied to everything from solving a tough puzzle to thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
This is the high of making a goal a reality.
High of Service
Serving others is one of the best ways to climb out of any slump. When we take our eyes off ourselves, we literally set aside our problems and reset our focus. We are reminded of what truly matters and are able to re-engage in community that we crave, yet oft abandon when we need it most.
I will be the first to say I am so guilty of turning inward when life gets tough. My parents are so gifted at taking those extra few minutes to recognize and love on those who need it, and I’ve learned practical ways to reach out from their example. Authentic, rightly-motivated service of others is never wasted time and never regretted.
This is the high of being others-focused.
High of Wonder
One of my favorite feelings is the all-consuming sense of wonder that comes from standing on the peak of a mountain. Perhaps it is the view, perhaps the relief from making it after hours of hiking and climbing, perhaps both. There is nothing quite like that lightness of soul you feel when you gaze for miles over a patchwork landscape, soft blue peaks in the distance, time seemingly stopped in reverence for that holy moment.
We may not realize it, but this sense of wonder is really an awe at the Creator who marked off the heavens and weighed the mountains in scales (Is. 40:12, English Standard Version).
I often wonder if perhaps the reason we are so affected by nature and by stepping into those holy moments is because God created this special sense of wonder in us in direct response to His Creation, for the purpose of pointing us back to Himself.
This is the high of meditating on the glory of God.
Many other healthy pursuits can be added to this list as well. Next time you are tempted to turn to a distraction or vice, remember that the only authentic, sustaining, guilt-free high is the one that comes from chasing the redemptive purpose of God for the world.
Practically speaking, where can you trade an unhealthy obsession for a healthy high?
May we always seek Christ first before running after anything the world has to offer.
- “HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis.” S. Department of Health & Human Services, 26 Oct. 2017, https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2017/10/26/hhs-acting-secretary-declares-public-health-emergency-address-national-opioid-crisis.html.
- “What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?” S. Department of Health & Human Services, 6 Mar. 2018, https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html.
- “FAQ’s-Fentanyl and Fentanyl-Related Substances.” United States Drug Enforcement Administration, https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/fentanyl-faq.shtml
Photo courtesy of Pixabay under the Creative Commons license