Every time I took a drink it seemed like disaster occurred. Inevitably, one drink would turn into two, and then three, and then four. My drinking wrecked seven cars. I found myself in treatment five times, and even ended up in jail twice. Everyone I knew agreed: I had a problem with drinking.
In spite of my countless efforts to “just stop,” as my friends and family urged, I could never manage to “stay stopped.” Over time, I came to see the truth: drinking wasn’t really my problem. Yes, it looked like the problem. However, the outer manifestations of inner issues usually look like the problem. Others around us are often so concerned with our actions that they resort to saying things like, “Shape up. Just stop. Try harder.”
On occasion, trying harder would work for a while. But after repeated relapses, it became painfully clear that behavior modification only deals with the symptom of an underlying disease. Now, chemical detox is often needed for those with drug or alcohol dependency, but that is not where recovery should end. We’ve all got a spiritual hole, a soul sickness, that compels us to seek temporary relief until we come face to face with the root cause. Until we know what cause really is, we cannot repent and turn to go the other way.
As long as I thought drinking was the only problem, I could white knuckle it and attempt to turn from that. But the true source of my problems, the reason behind my desire to drink—whether it be fear, insecurity or approval of man—would inevitably draw me right back to my coping mechanisms. I learned through pain that treating the symptom only brings temporary relief.
What do you perceive as your greatest struggle right now? Are you willing to consider that your problem (alcohol, pornography, etc.) may only be a symptom—and that your real struggle may be something deeper (abandonment, pride, lack of trust, trauma, unbelief, etc.)? Thankfully, Jesus has the power to truly transform; not just remove the symptoms but to change you from the inside out.
While I haven’t had a drink in many years, it’s those deeper, core issues that I have to still surrender to Jesus daily. If I don’t come before Him with my fear, pride, and dishonesty, those old coping “band-aids” could entice me once again.
Recovery is a daily battle. And yet, as I surrender my regrets of the past and fears of the future, my heart starts to change. Exhaustion and failure are replaced by peace. My actions inevitably change as well.
We get it backwards, attempting to change actions and hoping our heart will catch up. But God changes us from the inside out. And when hearts change, actions follow.
- Joy K.