“I can quit anytime I want.”
Have you ever heard someone say those words? For many people the problem is not so much “quitting” an addictive habit as it is staying the course. Trying to kick an addiction on your own is almost impossible because of both physiological and psychological challenges. It’s demoralizing to fight addiction alone; however, with support, miracles can happen, especially if the assistance you receive includes spiritual sources.
I know this from personal experience. If not for Jesus Christ and his salvation, I would still be an addict — hopelessly confused and out of control. But with God’s direction, I have turned my life away from the horrible path I was on.
At age 12, I started drinking at family events. I would sneak drinks of rum when the adults were laughing and having a good time. They never noticed. When I turned 14, a friend introduced me to marijuana, and I was hooked. I don’t know how I managed to still pass every class. At 19, I used meth at a party and was instantly addicted. I had to have more — and I did. At age 26 I hit rock bottom and went to prison for two years. In prison, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and followed the 12 Steps to Overcome Addiction. While incarcerated, I realized that my life was hopeless without Jesus Christ. Everyone else might fail me, but my Savior would never let me down.
During my time in jail I reflected on my childhood memories of being in church, praying, and singing to God. This helped me to endure the two years in prison, but I still fell back into my old habits after I was freed.
Two harrowing events finally convinced me to stop drinking alcohol. The first event was when my drunk driving caused me to flip my car upside down on a bridge. The second event was when I instigated a drunken bar room brawl that almost landed me in jail again. A Catholic priest, Father Brendan O’Neilly, rescued me from that brawl. He was my childhood parish priest in Southern California, and just “happened” to be driving through Lewiston, Idaho. If it had not been for the prayers of Father Brendan, I might not have discovered a spiritual dimension to sobriety. He showed me that God cared for me and had a plan for my life, a plan that did not include jail, drunken fights, and accidents due to poor choices. My life turned around, and I am now a living example of God’s grace at work.
If you are struggling with addiction, here are five things that helped me on my journey to being alcohol and drug free.
1. Stay positive and optimistic
If you look at the negative side of life, you will see dark clouds and temptations around every corner, with no hope of recovery. But by believing in a Savior who wants to save you from harm, you can be more optimistic about kicking your addiction.
Envision Jesus as your team captain. See him cheering you on as you face daily challenges to stay sober. Sure, there will be times when you feel like giving up and taking a drink to relax. But the danger is that you will get back into a dark place again. Remember that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If you feel negative and depressed, know that he does not want you to be overcome by these feelings. By being grateful for his goodness you are more likely to stay sober and be a blessing to others.
2. Get a sponsor who understands the journey
Surround yourself with friends and mentors who have dealt with the things you are struggling with now. They will be good examples and sources of motivation. Contact your local AA groups if you need help finding a sponsor.
There are many factors to consider when looking for a sponsor. They should be sober for a long time, some say at least a year, have a sponsor of their own, be the same gender, be willing to give lots of time, be honest, and stay positive. You want a sponsor you feel comfortable around, someone you’re willing to share your most vulnerable moments with. After the Lord, your sponsor is the person who will help you the most to stay on the straight and narrow path during your journey.
3. Stay healthy
After you decide to kick your addiction, you will start to feel more alert and healthy. You can increase this feeling by exercising regularly and eating properly. Replacing drugs or alcohol with fitness and good nutrition will make you feel better and give you something to do rather than indulging in temptations.
4. Learn new skills or find a new hobby
Just like starting healthy habits, finding positive and productive ways to distract yourself will help keep you from entertaining thoughts that, if acted on, will break your sobriety. Reading, gardening, or learning to play an instrument are good examples of productive hobbies. Look for anything that will make you happy and motivated and help your personal growth.
5. Find strength in God
This is very important in your quest for sobriety. Scripture says that all things are made possible through the Lord (Matthew 19:26). Let God guide you on your journey to sobriety so you can be healed in mind, body, and spirit. Make sure you’ve personally encountered Jesus, who wants to forgive you and transform your life. You may dislike institutional religion, but I encourage you not to write church off all together. Try attending church weekly and praying each day for six months. You will see exponential change in your life, and you will appreciate the life God has given you more. Church might just become a second family to you.
If it had not been for Father Brendan, my life might still be a hopeless mess. Perhaps there is someone who also helped you to see God’s hand in your life. Changing your life is difficult, but all things are possible with God. Remember these five tips for sobriety as you strive to live a sober life. Why not get started today, or start over again today? It’s not too late!
If you would like to reach out to me, please leave a comment in the comments section. Other people may be encouraged by your journey to sobriety. Let us know how we can help! If you want one-on-one coaching, connect with one of the free and confidential mentors on this site.