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Last summer I attended the Women of Faith Conference in Dallas, TX. Phenomenal. Amazing speakers. Speakers who challenged me to continue to "mature in my faith" (code for grow up and die to self). In addition to each speaker presentation they reserved time to answer a few questions previously submitted by attendees.
One woman asked, "Will I always struggle with my addiction?"
Patsy Clairmont's answer took me by surprise. I wish I could remember what she said word for word, because it wasn't what I describe as a "typical ministry answer." "Typical ministry answers," in my opinion, don't allow for the all-too-human varying degrees of healing. It can take years for a person to "get to the root of an addiction" and years to "take the axe to the root of it."
Sadly, we the church, tend to showcase ONLY the testimonies of those who've healed quickly--never to drink or use drugs again.
But what about the larger percentage of people who don't overcome their addictions in a single prayer-filled bound? Their stories are no less relevant for the cause of Christ. If you've invited Him into your story--your story is relevant.
Relapses are a reality. We must be careful not to minimize the redemptive work in a recovering person's heart. And this is where Patsy's answer comes into to play:
"Sometimes healing from addiction takes a long time. If you can, try to at least upgrade your addiction." (The American Airlines Center filled with laughter!)
Then she shared a story about a loved one who once drank booze all day long. When he finally stopped drinking booze he switched to diet Pepsi. She said he drank it by the gallons. But Pepsi never got him drunk, so it was an improvement. He'd upgraded his addiction.
I love this! My beloved husband, Michael, has been drug and alcohol free for years now, but to this day, moderation is not his strong suit. (I'm smiling as I write.) Thankfully, now he's determined to exercise and make healthy food choices. He takes vitamins. I never thought in a million years, I'd say to him, "Can we please not talk about body fat percentages until I've had my coffee?!"
The Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous tells a story about a man who drank for years. When he got sober, he drank coffee by the gallon and chain smoked. His wife made a big deal about this not being good for him, and when he'd had all he could stand of her lectures, he got drunk. He re-established his sobriety date and of course, took responsibility for his relapse. (No one MAKES anyone drink.) But his wife lightened up after that, appreciated how far he'd come and gave him space to be himself as God continued to work mightily in his heart, and in his family, and eventually in his lungs.
The point is, I bet the woman who asked that question felt like a failure because she still struggled with her addiction. Patsy ministered to her right where she was. When humor and human reality intersect with hope in Christ, we give others room to breath. What if we all took a deep breath in Christ?
How about you? If you struggle with an addiction, do you beat yourself up for not healing as fast as others? Perhaps you have a loved one who's on the journey to recovery and healing. Do you pressure them to walk a line that overwhelms them and is therefore, counterproductive to sobriety?
A tip for you, based on personal experience: If there are measurable milestones that confirm a loved ones progress, put your measuring stick away and repeat after me: Progress, not perfection.
God in heaven, humble our hearts and lift our spirits. In Jesus' name, amen.
Published on Monday, July 23, 2012 @ 7:20 PM CDT