I started abusing drugs at the age of 16.
I had lived in the same house my entire life in a small, rural town surrounded by extended family and close friends. None of those people had any idea of the pain and anger and shame I carried inside me every day. No one knew I was molested by a cousin from the ages of 4 to 12. No one knew how emotionally abusive my mother was to everyone in our home.
How could anyone know? I was the proverbial "good girl." I coped through control. I was involved in lots of activities. I excelled in school- I cried and cried the first time I got a "B." I restricted my eating to an unhealthy extreme. I counted a bottle of pills I had hidden under my bed every day. Just in case I couldn't take it anymore.
Then we moved. We left our hometown full of family and friends and headed to an affluent suburban area several states away. To a place where I knew no one. And no one knew me.
This is how I started my junior year of high school. Suffering to the point of exploding. And explode I did. With no safety net or accountability, I finally lost control. I went into self-destruct mode.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. -Proverbs 25:28 ESV
I fell in with a group of kids who were as emotionally damaged as I was. We fed off of each other's debauchery and rebellion. Drugs were the magic potion that loosened my inhibitions. When I was drunk or high, I didn't feel pain. I felt happy and free, like I was the life of the party.
My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. -Psalm 38:5,8 NIV
Soon I was becoming a slave to the very thing that had seemed to be my ticket to freedom. I spent all of my paychecks on drugs. I missed so many classes in college that I stopped going altogether. I was failing at life. Terrified of what I might do to myself during one of my lows after a binge, I dropped out of college to attend a 60-day rehabilitation program for cocaine addiction.
I wish I could say I turned my life around then, but I didn't.
Within 6 months of being home, I relapsed.
A year later I was addicted to heroin.
By the Lord’s providence, a move across the country provided me with an opportunity to get clean. Sort of. I stopped doing hard drugs regularly and instead relied daily on the use of alcohol and marijuana to numb my feelings. I was no longer the life of the party. I was completely dead emotionally. Though I wasn't actively self-destructive, I lived in a stagnant haze for years.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. -1 Timothy 1:16 NIV
Amazingly, God loved me in all of my wickedness. When I look back, I can see His hand at work in my crazy, messed up life. I ignored His call for far too long until the pain of my sins became more than I could bear, and I finally surrendered my life to Christ. The Holy Spirit has been working on my heart ever since.
Even though I didn't party like crazy anymore, I knew the way I used alcohol and marijuana was wrong. Substance abuse was an idol in my life.
I felt convicted to give up drinking for Lent. I started again right after Easter, but I was miserable. I hated it, but didn't know how to stop. I would plead with God to take the desire from me. About six months later, my husband and I got into a huge argument, and I felt so angry that I was losing control of myself. I went off alone and prayed away my anger. I cried out to God to rebuke these demons. I didn't want to invite any more darkness into my life. I went to bed empty and exhausted.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. -Romans 6:18 NIV
The next day, I had no desire to drink or smoke at all. I didn't do anything to make that happen. Though I had been asking God to take the desire from me for a long time, that wasn't necessarily what I had prayed about the night before. The thought "I could really use a drink right now," would continue to cross my mind throughout the next few weeks, but would never even materialize into a temptation. Soon those thoughts disappeared altogether. After 13 years of bondage, the Lord freed me from my slavery to the sin of substance abuse.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. -Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
I have been to a 60-day rehabilitation program, gone to countless AA meetings, attended out-patient rehabilitative therapy, and most of all tried to white-knuckle my addiction away. None of it worked. All of my struggling couldn't save me. It's funny... for the first part of my life, I tried to control myself to an extreme. Then I gave up control but to the wrong master. It was only through releasing my control to the one true God that I have been saved.
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41 NIV
Learning coping mechanisms and strategies can help manage your behavior, but they won't change your heart. If substance abuse is your struggle, I wish I could tell you there's a secret formula to getting sober once and for all. There are definitely safeguards you can and should put in place to prevent you from using, but nothing will take the desire away except complete surrender to God. With the Lord you can experience complete victory in every area, even with your toughest addictions. Ask Him to soften your heart and to give you a willing spirit. If you ask according to His will, He will hear you!
Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. -Ephesians 3:20 GW
In addition to the Bible verses referenced above, read:
My name is Trisha, and and I write about my journey as a new believer, wife and mom over at truthinlovemama.com. If you'd like more help overcoming sin in your life, grab a free printable of Bible verses to inspire you HERE.