FREEDOM FROM ADDICTION
by: John B. Woodward. D.Min.
When our family was stranded along the side of the highway recently, I learned a bit more about the art of towing. The first tow truck that arrived could not pull our van, since our rear wheel was broken. As we waited for the flat bed truck (which literally carried the whole van to the repair shop), I had a chat with the first driver. He waited with us for the second truck to arrive.
I asked him about his towing. My curiosity couldn't resist asking him, “Did you ever get stuck with your tow truck and have to call for a tow yourself?”
“Almost never”, he said. “I can use the truck’s winch cable to pull myself out if I get stuck; or I can use the lift to push the truck forward.” (It sounded like he had to try this tactic on occasion.)
Imagine the frustration and embarrassment of a stuck tow truck driver! Now imagine the plight of the mature Christian who is stuck with an addiction. This believer has a working knowledge of Scripture and wants to help others, yet is bound by besetting sins in his own life. (The use of imagination may not be necessary...)
Many desperately need an effective Christ-centered, grace-oriented strategy to break addictions. For example, a study released in the March edition of The Journal of Affective Disorders concluded that internet addictions are just as strong and destructive as addictions to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Speaking of gambling, last year Canadians lost a record $8.1 billion to the gambling industry—a sobering testimony to the damaging effects of compulsive behavior. 1
How can we as believers say “no” to a stubborn habit? How can we be set free from addictive behavior? Are there answers beyond what secular, psychological, and legalistic methods offer? YES!!
In their book, Freedom From Addiction, Mike and Julia Quarles share their saga of Mike's alcohol addiction. Julia says her husband earned a D.D. (“Doctor of Drunkenness”) in his efforts to overcome drinking. Mike tried about 30 treatment strategies including: A.A., Christian 12 step groups, psychiatry, psychology, a secular treatment center, a Christian treatment center, willpower, Bible study, prayer, fasting, and the list goes on. After his stay at a residential Christian treatment center, Mike stayed sober for a while. He started counseling alcoholics, but eventually he fell back into drinking. He ended up counseling people addicted to alcohol while he was still battling the same foe! As things went from bad to worse, Mike lost his job and his marriage was in jeopardy.
How did Mike finally get free from this addiction? The path to his freedom began when he hit rock bottom; he was disabled by depression, had no money for liquor, and gave up on himself. He writes, “I had finally exhausted all my resources and options. At my point of spiritual bankruptcy, I was finally ready to let God do what He wanted to do all along. 2 Corinthians 1:8,9 says: 'For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.' Is there a price for freedom? I, and many others, have found the price tag is to completely give up on myself and come to the end of my resources and find freedom in Christ.” 2
This reminds us of James 4:6,7: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” God promises the needed grace if we let go of our pride and self-sufficiency. The apostle Paul kept encouraging the church with God's abundant grace: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
So why were the many methods of breaking addictions ineffective for Mike? Looking back, he points to four basic reasons that they failed:
- I tried to change my behavior instead of the underlying belief that determined my behavior.
- I focused on me and what I should do instead of focusing on God and what He had already done.
- I relied on my own efforts instead of trusting God and living by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- I accepted a failure identity instead of appropriating my true identity in Christ. 3
God set Mike free and equipped him for his present ministry as a spiritual counselor by leading him to the realization of the Exchanged Life. As he grasped his union with Christ, his new identity in Christ, and surrendered and rested in Christ, Mike experienced Christ as His LIFE. Christ set him free!
This freedom must be maintained by continuous abiding in Christ (John 15:5-8). Strongholds that rob the believer of freedom must be torn down and replaced with truth (John 8:31,32).