I drank like an alcoholic for years in my teens up until my early thirties. I used Marijuana daily too. Toward the end of my addiction, I tried all sorts of methods to stop…unsuccessfully. It wasn’t just the drugs and alcohol I was powerless to quit, in fact they were just band-aids. I also could not control my anger, rage, anxiety, panic attacks and low self-esteem. You could say those other emotional issues were the underlying cause of my addictions. But the fact remained that none of those things would ever get better while I was in my addiction.
I tried to quit on my own many times, even pleading with God to take away my addiction. The problem is it was the only way I knew how to cope with my emotional turmoil, and the alcohol did make me feel better in the moment. So, I did what most people do. I tried to bargain with my addiction. One attempt went something like this:
“Lord, if you will strike me sober, I will throw away all my heavy metal CD’s!”
That is how the conversation with God went 18 years ago when I desperately wanted to quit drinking. There I was in my swanky little apartment filling two big black heavy duty trash bags with the likes of D.I.O., Danzig, W.A.S.P., Alice Cooper, Queensryche, Grim Reaper, and Zodiac Mind Warp and the Tattooed Beat Messiah. Yes, they were an actual band. Believe it or not, they were pretty good. I slung those bags up and over my shoulder and hurled them into the dumpster with force, confidence, and an air of victory. Then, I went inside and waited for the magic to happen.
I was drunk again the next night.
“God, what happened?” “God, I thought we had a deal?” “God, I’m still drinking, and now all my music is gone.” Just in case the garbageman decided to skip our apartment that week, I went out and looked. Yep, gone.
I’m sure God appreciated my heart as I rid my place of all that ‘devil music.’ However, it was hardly a path to sobriety. You see, I wanted the easy way out. I wanted God to pull out His magic wand and fix my problem so I wouldn’t have to do the hard work it takes to recover. But, the hard stuff is what I had to do. I’ve been sober now for 18 years and I can say that I don’t miss the alcohol. Sometimes, I do miss my CDs though. I would like to note that Alice Cooper and Blackie Lawless (the lead singer of W.A.S.P.) are both born again Christians.
My life had to get a little uglier before I summoned the courage to call a sponsor, get sober, work the steps, and start the process of helping others do the same thing. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Anything worth having takes a lot of work. When it comes to addiction, there is usually no easy way out. Everyone in my family that didn’t quit drinking is six feet under, including my brother Casey who died in 2015.
That day, the Lord showed me the only way out is through.
What kind of testimony would I have if God would have granted my request? How would I have been able to help others? Imagine me getting on stage to share my story: “It was really easy everyone. I just prayed and God took it all away. The end.”
Now, sometimes that does happen, but it is very rare. Also, people who experience that kind of recovery are often very immature as they have not done the hard emotional and spiritual work to understand why they were drinking or using in the first place. Addiction is a Band-Aid we use to cover emotional pain or sooth anxiety.
So when I say recovery, I mean recovery not just from the obvious things like alcohol or drugs; but from anger, control, manipulation, food, gambling, or insert that ‘thing’ here. Let me relate this to the 12-Step model of recovery for a moment.
Step 1 in the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says “admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Narcotics Anonymous says “admitted we were powerless over drugs (or our addiction), that our lives had become unmanageable.
In Celebrate Recovery we may say something like “admitted we were powerless over anger, lust, food, other people etc., that our lives had become unmanageable.”
What I like to say is “admitted we were powerless over sin, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Now this is in no way designed to heap shame on you. I don’t believe that addictions are simply the cause of a moral failure. Oftentimes, they are birthed out of childhood trauma, attachment disorders, underlying mental health issues, and other things beyond our control. However, if we look at the original sin model, we see that the bible tells us all of creation is groaning under the power of sin. This means everything is corrupt in one way or another, even our biology. This means the entire world is in this quandary:
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:20-23)
Can you see how substituting the word sin for this powerlessness pretty much puts it into perspective? Everybody’s got something they cannot manage by themselves. The bible shows us over and over that this is in fact true. When we study it we see the depravity of the human condition run on self will. This is why we need Jesus Christ as our savior because no-one else overcame sin for us and has the power to heal us in this life and give us eternal life in the next. The below passages in Corinthians explain our limited power:
“The first man Adam became a living being: the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit…The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).
As long as we are running on our own self will, we are constantly fighting against the enemies of our soul; the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Surrendering to that life giving spirit, the Holy Spirit, is where real healing and deliverance can begin. It is not so much our difficult feelings that are the problem as it is our constant fight to avoid them.
When left to our own devices to sooth our “hurts, habits, and hang-up’s,” we often end up trapped in the cycle of addiction as pain management. The book Serenity-A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery describes the cycle of addiction as follows:
- Reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain.
- Temporary anesthesia
- Negative Consequences
- Shame and guilt, which result in more pain or low self-esteem.
Admitting powerlessness and self-defeat is how we break that cycle. It opens the door to life transformation and victory through recovery. We allow ourselves to yield to a greater power, which is the power of God through Jesus Christ.
The reason we need a power greater than ourselves to give up our addictions is because the longer we give in to them the more they dominate our lives until they become more powerful than our ability to manage. In addition, trying to quit is so challenging because these things do provide some measure of temporary comfort, relief, and power in some cases. For instance, anger ‘levels the playing field’ so to speak. If I start yelling and raging it shuts everybody down. Drinking can make me feel better in the moment and provide a short respite for what I lack the courage to do. Things like dealing with a difficult emotion or talking to my boss. Unfortunately, when I wake up the next day I still have those emotions, the problem with my boss is still there, and I’m hungover, so now I feel even worse….and the cycle continues.
If anger, drugs, drinking or the like are the only coping strategies we know, it makes them near impossible to give up.
If we experienced childhood trauma and we start drinking to deal with the fear, shame, or difficult emotions, giving up the alcohol feels like giving up our only lifeline for survival. It feels that way to us even though everyone else can see how destructive our addiction is. This is why it is so important to get help and learn new coping strategies. The bible gives us clear instructions for living, and God will put people in our lives who can help us too.
A good counselor, sponsor, mentor or coach can help you recognize your triggers and develop heathier coping strategies. I have an MS in addiction counseling and offer tools and support for those struggling with addictions and life controlling habits.
Since God created us, He is the only one who truly understands our condition and is eager for us to surrender our will to Him. In Matthew 9:36 when Jesus saw the multitudes he was “moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.” God is moved with compassion for you. Compassion is not sympathy or empathy, compassion is action. When God is moved with compassion this means that He is actively involved in alleviating our suffering when we submit to Him and allow Him to do His work.
Philippians 2:13 tells us:
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”
When we turn toward God and admit we are powerless over our addictions or life controlling habits, we will stop avoiding the pain and come to terms with it. We will break the cycle of addiction. We will feel the Holy Spirit guide us in the way that we should go and God will provide us with the help we need along the way.