When I was asked to write on this subject, I had mixed emotions. Then, I thought, “Well, I do have a lot to write on that subject. I have been to seven treatment centers!”
I didn’t come from a broken home. Though my parents did not teach me the ways of the Lord, they were certainly loving and cared for my needs as a child. However, I got introduced to drugs at a very young age. My drug use was off and on through my teenage years, but I became full-blown addict in my 20’s. For over ten years, I experienced many horrible consequences of chemical addiction. I had no relationship with God. My relationships with my family, friends, and girlfriends were shattered. I lost jobs. I broke the law and experienced legal consequences. My finances were terrible. I became addicted to pornography. I had two suicide attempts. I was in and out of emergency rooms and treatment centers…And I could go on
Between 1997 and 2003 I went to seven treatment centers. Until the last one, I never experienced more than 5.5 months of ‘sobriety,’ but on February 19th of 2003, I surrendered. I admitted that in my own power, my life was unmanageable. Step 1, Admit says, “WE ADMIT WE ARE POWERLESS OVER OUR ADDICTIONS, BROKENNESS AND SINFUL PATTERNS - THAT IN OUR OWN POWER OUR LIVES ARE UNMANAGEABLE.”
What I learned:
- There are certainly benefits to a treatment center. Treatment centers removed me from unhealthy environments. It offered a safe place for me to begin to form new habits rather than relying on drugs. It stabilized my eating, sleeping, and working patterns. It allowed me to build friendships with others trying to get well. It helped me establish boundaries for healthy living.
- Treatment centers do not keep you sober. I went to seven of them. The last treatment center kicked me out. The good things I learned in a controlled environment didn’t always translate into daily living in an uncontrolled environment in the real world.
- Treatment centers don’t make you reach your “bottom.” I wasn’t ready to be well until I was ready to surrender to God. Surrender is a heart issue, not an environment or treatment issue.
- Many treatment centers or 12 step programs without Christ, fail to address the real problem. It wasn’t better friends, better boundaries, better habits that sobered me up. I had a heart problem. My purpose was to serve my own desires. Until my heart was broken and turned to the only one who could cure it, Jesus Christ, all treatment failed me. I needed a new heart with new desires.
- Only Jesus Christ can give you a new heart and new spirit.
Ezekiel 36:26, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
When I arrived back in Dallas in 2008, I began to see the deeper issues that were hiding in my heart. Though I wasn’t taking drugs, I was still overwhelmed by problems with girls, money, people pleasing, fears, etc. All these things left me feeling empty, too. I discovered that I had God shaped hole in my heart that only He could fill. As I turned my life over to Christ, began to read and understand the Bible, and allowed godly men to speak into my life, something radically changed for me—you guessed it, my heart. Today, the peace that surpasses all understanding is one of His gifts…not because my life is perfect, but because Jesus is perfect and He lives in my heart. Freedom in Christ is so much more than sobriety from my addiction. True freedom comes from a relationship with Christ and affects every area of life.
Sometimes, treatment centers provide a healthy environment for surrender to Christ, other times, they do not. But, any treatment without Christ at its center is just a Band-Aid for a mortal wound. Christ wants you to experience the fullness of a new life through a relationship with Him. It’s not where you surrender your heart to Christ that matters, but rather, it is the one to whom you surrender that makes all the difference.