Saturday, March 21, 2015
The day before.
Tonight, a dear, dear friend of mine celebrated her 6 months of sobriety. God has done amazing things in her life in the time since she stopped using drugs and alcohol, and she is a walking testimony of his power, mercy, grace, and ability to redeem. Tonight, I and others who have walked similar paths as hers celebrated this milestone in her new life. It his truly something to celebrate- the prodigal son- the lost sheep- who is welcomed back into Jesus' arms with as much love and acceptance as the one who was never lost. A life restored, and given new hope. If ever there was a reason to celebrate, it was tonight. Six months without using drugs or alcohol may not seem like much to a non-addicted person, but for addicts, it is a lifetime. When you try for years to stop- when you have horrible consequences, lose everything important to you, and are facing death because of a substance, yet still can't go without it for a day despite doing everything you can to loosen its power over you - six months without it is an incomprehensible and seemingly impossible goal- until the day you wake up and realize that by the grace of God, you have gotten there.
As she was getting ready to say a few words about her six month anniversary to a room full of people, I asked her if she knew what she was going to say, and without really thinking about it, I told her to think about her life six months and one day ago- the day before she stopped using. As soon as I said it, I started thinking about where I was at in my life the day before I quit. For an addict, it usually takes something truly hellacious for them to get serious about quitting. At least, for addicts like me. The worst kind- the kind that have had 500 rock bottoms that seem like they can't get any worse, yet somehow do every time. The addict who is so afraid to stop using that they will go to prison, lose their children, sacrifice their health, betray those that they love (as much as an addict can "love"), live like a beggar, and be on the edge of death- and do it willingly- as long as it means that they can keep using. It takes a lot for an addict to truly stop- so much that a majority of us don't make it out alive before we reach our "enough."
I started to think about my "enough" moment 7 years ago. The moment that I was finally so broken, that I was desperate enough to surrender and give God control of my life. Not that I thought that he would want anything to do with me- or that I was redeemable- or even that I truly believed God existed. But I was so hurt, so lost, so tired, and so desperate to stop- that it was my last resort. I prayed for a death that never came- a death I would have gladly welcomed. When it didn't come, I was desperate enough to have just a tiny flicker of faith that MAYBE, just MAYBE God could help me. Because nothing else could, and it was my last hope- if he was really there. And that maybe was enough for him to work with. That tiny amount of faith- and surrendering to him- allowed him to transform my entire life, and the 1 day sober that seemed impossible has turned into seven years, and God has turned my life has been turned into something wonderful- something far beyond I ever dreamed was possible while in my addiction.
Thinking about all the things that have happened in my life since "the day before" I found God and sobriety, I am in awe, and very grateful. I remember where I came from, and I am reminded why I never want to go back there. Sometimes it is easy to forget how horrible things were when things are going well. But as addicts, for us to forget is dangerous. The minute we start to forget the pain, the desperation- where we were when God lifted us out of the slimy pit and the miry clay (Psalms 40:2)- is the minute our addiction can start playing tricks on us. It will convince us that it really wasn't that bad. That we can handle it now. That God would never let us end up in that situation again. It's how people relapse. They forget the pain, and going back to it- just once- can seem harmless, appealing, painless.
It is good to be reminded of the pain sometimes. I have a wonderful life now, but I never want to forget. Seeing the new people that come into CROSSroads- so full of pain and desperation- helps me remember. I hurt for them because I know exactly how painful, lonely, and hopeless that they feel at that moment. Emotional, spiritual, and physical pain beyond comprehension- where death looks like a welcomed break. I hurt for them, yet I also rejoice. I rejoice in the fact that maybe, just maybe, this time will be the time that it is painful enough for them to give it over to God. Painful enough to believe that God is real because it's the only option left. Painful enough to be their day before. Painful enough that they will look at their lives six months and a day later and be in awe at what God has done in their lives. Painful enough to remind them why they never want to go back, and painful enough to remind them that they are utterly hopeless without God. Painful enough that they can testify to others that the word of God is true. That there is freedom in the pain, if only we look to the one who has the answer.