Twenty years ago, if you told me that one day I’d be sharing with others about how God redeemed all the mistakes and bad decisions I was about to make–I would’ve dismissed you as just another person I knew better than. In those days, I had all the resources I needed to live life on my terms (or so I thought). I didn’t need or want God’s input and the advice of my parents was usually taken lightly. I was flying high on hormones, confidence, and the ways of the world. Like many teens, I started partying here and there during my freshman year of high school. Then I quickly made my way into the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll crowd–while staying friendly enough with the jocks to be invited to their keg parties. At first, we were drinking and getting high once or twice a month and it was mainly a novelty or thrill. My parents were there for me if I needed anything, but I began creating an elaborate filter for them to see me through. They thought I was a great kid who just pushed the envelope sometimes, but that I wasn’t developing any real issues. The truth was–I had a taste of sin and I was becoming dependent on that taste. My appetite for destruction was getting bigger and bigger as I realized how much I enjoyed escaping reality by drinking and getting high.
As my teenage years progressed, my reliance on alcohol followed suit. The partying became more frequent and more intense, typically ending with me blacked out somewhere pretty unsafe. Eventually, I drank myself into pregnancy & disease scares, alcohol poisoning, and a DUI–all by the age of 19. When I wasn’t experiencing the severe consequences of my lifestyle, I was still drinking to get drunk every weekend. My parents remained supportive, but also in the dark because of how I manipulated things to “protect” me and my beloved sin. They encouraged me to stop drinking and they offered to help me before things really got serious. They warned me about the long term and growing effects of my lifestyle. I’d pay them lip service, pretend to be remorseful, and sometimes change for a little while. Although there was no biblical foundation to my parents’ advice, they did what they thought was best at the time—I simply didn’t want to stop doing what I was doing.
Over the next couple of decades, I would wrestle with addiction and anxiety. The two issues were strongly intertwined in me and they’d feed each other constantly, creating a turmoil that was pure hell most days. I was always operating out of a fearful and earthly worldview that was made worse by abusing substances. I believe God was allowing me to live through the consequences that He clearly warns of in His Word, but I struggled to learn anything from them. The idol of addiction that started off so tamely had now entangled and enslaved me. Like a clueless house fly, I found myself stuck in the suffocating web that had spun up around me. If I wasn’t drinking or using prescription drugs–I was completely anxious. When I was completely anxious–I wanted more alcohol and drugs to cope. This disfunction went around and around as my parents and others watched the vicious cycle. Today’s passage, from Proverbs 23, sounds like Solomon had prophesied my life thousands of years beforehand. The bloodshot eyes, random bruises, strange sights, gluttony, and strife all become so commonplace to me.
Up until the last five years, I didn’t know what God had to say about addiction or anxiety or any of the things I lived with. I did know that I had a mother who was praying for me and my recovery. I knew that I had been warned by my parents about some of the things I had spent years wrestling with. I finally reached the point where I came to know how much I need Jesus. I realized that I was great at creating my problems–but I was hopeless at solving them. My best efforts were never enough–I needed a Savior and thank God there is One.
After accepting Christ as my Savior, the addiction and anxiety became less severe but remained just as sinful and debilitating. Although my self-medicating was a lot less public at this point, it was just as real and just as dangerous. By now, my lifestyle began to jeopardize my marriage and family. It hit me hard that I could lose my wife and kids, possibly even forever…
One major difference now was that the Holy Spirit was working in the midst of all my chaos. He was prodding me and convicting me of the sin in my life. It eventually hit me that I had asked Jesus to be my Savior, but I neglected Him as my Lord. I basically said “I need You to keep me out of hell, but I’ll continue to struggle through this world on my own strength.” In my mind, the gospel was meant for my past and my future, but I’d have to power through the present by myself. Then I came to understand that making Jesus your Lord means you obediently yield to Him as your Master. It means you turn from those sin masters that your parents warned you about and you follow the Person who destroys all strongholds.
So six months ago, I decided that it was time to stop protecting my pet sins and to do business with God. I decided to give my life—past, present, and future–to Him for His purpose and His glory. The false idol of addiction and the burden of anxiety did nothing but steal, kill, and destroy for years. Now I was ready for the abundant life that Jesus offers us. The catalyst for all of this was the Colony of Mercy at America’s Keswick. During their four month residential recovery program, I was able to get enough time away from the distractions and temptations of life to be made well in Christ. The grace of God became a reality for me and my wife. The Holy Spirit changed my perspective on life and everything in it. I finally experienced the destruction of my chains and unhealthy habits. My bondage to addiction, among other things, was ended by Jesus Christ. I learned to stop putting my faith in drugs and alcohol. I understood that the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loves me and gives Himself up for me.
These days I still experience trials and problems every day, but my response is totally different now. I claim the authority and promises of God over my temptations and fears. I’m not always trying to control or manipulate the difficulties I face because I know who my Father is in Christ. I’m privileged to be working in ministry now and I’m excited for what God wants to do with me and my family. As we submit to His Word, He blesses our obedience beyond what we could have imagined. By the grace of God, I surrender to Jesus one day at a time.