Today is a big day for me. Today marks 4 years that I am drug free. I usually refrain from posting about myself, but I thank you for bearing with me.
For years and years Israel was in slavery to the Egyptians. It was terrible. Not only were they forced to do labor for the Egyptians, but the Egyptian Pharaoh persecuted them as well. He passed harsh and unheard of decrees that lead to the persecution of the Israeli people. When things were at their worst, the Israelites were given an absurd quota of bricks they would be forced to make or move from one place to another. If they failed to reach their goal, their children would be murdered in front of them and the bodies would be mixed into the brick mortar.
Needless to say, this was a terrible time.
However, after a series of plagues sent by God, Pharaoh had no choice but to release the Israelites from captivity. After 400 years of slavery they were finally free.
During their travels, and a long series of events that I will refrain from telling you about here, they get lost and begin to wander in the desert. And during this time they begin to grumble and go so far as to say things like, “At least when we were in Egypt we had food and a place to stay. Here we are wandering around the desert starving.”
So what does God do? He provides food. What do the Israelites do? Complain that it’s not the food they want…
At this point, you may be wondering to yourself, “What does this have to do with you being sober?”
The reason I told you that story wasn’t to give you a look at Israel’s history, it’s to get the point across that drugs are my Egypt. That’s what had me enslaved. It wasn’t for 400+ years, but it did steal roughly 8 years of my life. And remembering the “Egypt” I came from is important on days like today. It’s important for me to celebrate the Lord liberating me from this slavery. Otherwise, I could be like the Israelites and begin to complain about “how good things used to be.” Ridiculous.
Before I knock the Israelites too much, they do something that is fantastic in the book of Joshua. I won’t get into it all but just know that the Lord led Joshua into some great missions, all of which the Lord was faithful to bring him through. One of the most fantastic is their crossing of the Jordan River.
After these missions Joshua, as instructed by God, has 12 men get 12 stones from the Jordan River to place at the next campsite. This is important because it was a reminder. These stones serve as a reminder to the Israelites of God’s faithfulness, a reminder of God delivering them from the hands of the wicked.
I preface with all of that to get one point across. Isn’t it important for us to do the same thing? Shouldn’t we set up reminders for ourselves to remember all of the great things God has done for us too? Shouldn’t we have these “stone reminders” to ensure that we don’t forget of His faithfulness in our lives?
When my wife and I got engaged she gave me a glass vase with the words “God is faithful” hand written on the outside. She then handed me a small bag of pebbles and a permanent marker. Her instructions were simple, “When God answers a prayer, or does something miraculous in your life, write it on a pebble and put it in the vase.”
Today I get to drop a pebble in the jar that says, “4 years sober”. This is a day I don’t want to forget…
People often ask me what the secret to getting and staying clean is. I’m afraid there is no shortcut or quick answer to this. There is no cookie cutter formula because everyone’s situation is so extremely different. All I can do is share with you what worked for me, and what I’ve seen the Lord use to work in the lives of others.
• Long Term Treatment – Check into a long term, in house treatment facility. There are several good ones that I’ve come across. But be sure that it is away from your town and is LONG TERM. It took years to get to be a junkie, I’m afraid it’s going to take more than 30 days to not be one anymore…
(A great one that I believe in is Teen Challenge)
• Accountability – This is the numero uno rule in a recovering addicts life. You must have people in your life that have your best interest in mind. The people who will ask you the tough questions. People who give you real advice and then love you enough to hold you accountable to following it. Find a Celebrate Recovery in your town, be around people who understand your sickness, not people you can deceive. Proverbs 18:1 says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire”. And for addicts, this means getting high. Isolation=relapse.
• Finding a new home – After treatment, this was vital for my sobriety. Thanks to my uncle John taking a chance on me, I was able to have a fresh start in a new town. I got to be the new “me”, not the “me” that everyone used to know. We see in Mark 6 that even Jesus couldn’t do a mighty work in His hometown because their lack of belief in Him. I think this is true for an addict as well. They need a new start, and for most of us this means not going back home.
• Replace how you spend your newfound free time - Using drugs is a full time job. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has ever been strung out. You have to hustle up your money (stealing, lying, etc). Then you have to find a dealer who has the stuff, arrange to meet them somewhere, only then make the actual deal (the whole time looking over your shoulder hoping to not get arrested or robbed). Only then do you actually get to use. Then begins the lying to family and friends about how you’re not high, or you did something else with the money. After this, you are forced to immediately start the process all over again; the process to be repeated day after day after day. Obviously, once you are sober, you have A LOT of free time that you didn’t have before. You know what they say, “idle hands is the devil’s workshop”. Find ways to be positive with this time. Get a hobby, volunteer helping others, JUST STAY BUSY!
• Surround yourself with positive people – As an addict we like hanging around people that make us feel better about ourselves. We hang around people who are extra scummy so that we don’t feel quite as bad about ourselves all the while thinking, “at least I’m not as bad as that guy”. Ironically, we inevitably end up being just as bad as they are in the end. Instead, hang around positive people. Try to be like them. Do what they do. They will also be able to hold you accountable.
• You must have a new mind – If you are going to have a new decision making process this is a must. Sound crazy? Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Simply put, this is saying that when we present ourselves to God our minds can be changed; we can have a new way of thinking.
• You must be a new person – If you are going to have this new mind, you must be a whole new person. Sound crazy? 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” This tells us that when we come to Christ we are a new person; we aren’t the person we once were…
• Be involved in your local church – Serve, serve, and serve. Don’t just show up and take all you can get, that’s what the old person would do. Volunteer to set up, volunteer to tear down, don't just be a "pew warmer". Be a blessing to the local Body, not a burden. This will also add to your accountability.
• Be involved in discipleship – Not only should you have the people mentoring you and holding you accountable that I mentioned before, but you should find someone that you can teach as well. It is SOOOOO great for me to have the men in my life that not only teach me the Word, but the ones that expect me to teach it to them as well. It’s amazing what having someone that counts on you will do for your determination. Also adding to your accountability (see a pattern here?)
This is in no way an answer to addiction, but it is what the Lord has used to help me. And what I’ve seen work for others.
Days like today are the days I like to remember all that the Lord has delivered me from, the Egypts that He has brought me through.
What are your victories? Are you remembering and celebrating those?