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Addiction is No Respecter of Circumstance

For many in recovery we have had a chance to think through some of the reasons why we have turned to our choice drug in the first instance. We quickly begin to see that we are what AA describes as, “iffy people.”[1]If it wasn’t for my upbringing,’ ‘If it wasn’t for the pressure at work I was under’ or ‘If it wasn’t for that difficult relationship, I was involved in,’ I wouldn’t have turned to the bottle or the needle.  Many feel that these ‘ifs’ are the cause of their addiction and yet, circumstances do not have to have the last word when it comes to being clean and sober. There is a danger that we not only blame our circumstances for our behaviour, but we attach our ongoing recovery to certain circumstances: ‘If life continues on this positive vein, I’ll stay clean and sober.’ 

And here is the warning: we cannot guarantee that circumstances will help us remain clean and sober, if anything, we can guarantee that life will not always be plain sailing, and we must learn how to stay resolute no matter what life throws at us.

This is a particularly helpful lesson to learn in those earlier months of recovery. When feelings and emotions start to come back, when relationships with those that we’ve hurt in the past start to mend, and when we start to live life on life’s terms, there will be times when the heat is cranked up a notch. None of us are immune to the world’s brokenness, and all of us can choose how we respond. We can deny, avoid, escape into our addiction again, we can allow the circumstance to weigh us down and paralyze us, and then give up the fight or, is there another option?

Here at Hope for Glasgow we are firm believers that “God’s power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) So what does this look like practically? Lane and Tripp in their book, How People Change offer us 5 tips.

  1. Face reality. – It is not wrong to feel grief, pain, hurt. We do not live a life devoid of feelings. Jesus himself wept; he knew what anguish felt like. Sometimes in the rough end of life these feelings are an appropriate response. A right response to hurts and difficulties does not always need to end in self-pity.
  1. Respond appropriately – As we respond to the difficulties of the day, we need to do so in such a way that avoids catastrophising! It is right to be sorrowful, to feel hurt and to express grief, and yet it must be seen in the wider context of all that God has and is doing in our lives. Paul, in one of his letters to the Corinthian church put it like this: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
  1. Be alert! Tim Keller reminds us that in a secular worldview, suffering apart from God is never seen as something meaningful, only as an interruption. However, from a Christian worldview, life’s hardships can be a way in which God is giving us a wake-up call. It is his workroom, where he sculpts us in his image. It looks to forge in us a response that calls us to deeper dependence on him and a fresh trust in his sovereign goodness and purposes. Whatever life throws at us, it is not out with God’s will to teach us and grow us to be more like his Son.
  1. Engage in constructive activity – In our moments of pain, sorrow, or hardship we can be quick to react in a way that might leave us regretting our actions. We may doubt the Lord, we may lose the plot, or we might hunker down and crawl under the blanket of self-pity. But as we are alert to what God might be doing in our circumstances, we are called to do what is good – we are to turn to God, to run to the body of Christ, to seek comfort from his Word and with faith and obedience do the normal things God has asked of us.
  1. Remember! The Christian life is one of remembering. Each day we are to live in the comfort and call of the Gospel – “First, God comforts us with his presence and power and calls us to trust him. We are to entrust to God the things that we cannot control. Second, God calls us to obey, and promises to bless us as we do. In good and bad circumstances, we must ask, ‘What has God called me to do and what has he provided in Christ to enable me to do it?”[2]

Our addictions are no respecter of circumstances. They might offer comfort, pleasure, courage, and an escape, but the Gospel of Jesus provides us with all that we need for the pressures of life in a broken world.

“I can admit my faults with no need to minimize, hide, or give way to paralyzing guilt. I can confess that I need to need to grow without beating myself up. I can cry out when life is hard but accept responsibility for the way I deal with it. I don’t have to cover my sin, polish my reputation, and keep a record of my successes. I can look at my tomorrows with enthusiasm and hope.  Yes, I am still a flawed person in a broken world. But my view of myself is not dark and depressed because the gospel has infused it with hope. Christ is with me and in me, and I will never be in a situation where he isn’t redemptively active. Though change is needed in many ways, I am not discouraged. I am in the middle of a personal transformation. This process is often painful, but always beneficial.”[3]

[1] Living Sober, p63

[2] Lane & Tripp, How People Change, p126

[3] Lane & Tripp, How People Change, p127