And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 20, Number
In this issue:
Today, June 26 2018, marks 12 years of sobriety and freedom from my addictions and old life. 12 years! You always hear “time heals” and I would attest that given enough time, yes things can heal. But getting to that point of healing takes a lot more than just time. A whole lot more.
Clean Break -- Cold Turkey
That’s how I left it behind me. I walked away.
It was a lifestyle of self-destruction. On some level, depending on whatever I had in my body and how it affected me and my mood, I was trying to either die, get caught, or just live in the moment before my thoughts and/or everything around me came crashing down somehow. It was the life of someone unhinged, uncontrolled, irresponsible, reckless, undisciplined, careless, hypocritical, and lonely (though surrounded by crowds and fleeting friends). I was chasing, always chasing, something yet never finding it. Most of the time it was chasing a high -- social, substance/chemical, adrenaline, or otherwise -- and nothing was ever enough. At the core of most of it I was running. Running from my problems, my pain, my sorrow, my guilt, my conscience, myself. Each action taken trying to get away only gripped me tighter and pulled me down deeper. I filled myself up with so much evil, so much bad, so much hate, so much poison that I consider myself fortunate to be alive now. Yet now, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t thank God for sparing my life and marvel at having just one more day here on His earth, enjoying His Creation -- and that my body was able to take what all I did to it and still works and is healthy (for now, at least -- it may all catch up to me later). I’m daily grateful to just be alive.
In all of this, I had moments where I laughed at death, moments where I just flat didn’t care whether I lived or died, and moments where I thought about ending it all myself. One such moment, in one of my lowest of lows, in an alcohol induced fog and who knows what else, along with intense feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction with my life at that point -- sitting alone, I wanted to end it all. I wanted to die and I had the means to do it. Yet, somehow in that moment something shook me from my thoughts of death and I had clarity. What was it? It was the truth my parents taught me from God’s word and it was my raising that changed my mind, in that still and quiet and scary moment, that burst through the substances and woke me up to the reality that if I were to end it, my soul would be lost for eternity. Forever in hell. Shame followed that I had allowed myself to come to the brink like that, but I was glad I made the choice to carry on despite the pain and the other intense feelings dragging me down. It was an eye-opening moment, terrifying actually, and one I haven’t shared before. It’s just not something we talk about... Sadly, however, this was not my turning point to pull me out of that life -- that wouldn’t be for another year or two -- and at times this same darkness would return, but it would then subside as I knew it was not an option for me and the thought would pass. Rinse, repeat. This was “living it up” -- this was the darkness within. Darkness. Yes, I know it well, and we’re fierce enemies. I know where it led me and I have to fight it, every day I have to fight it. Though I’m nowhere close to that kind of thinking anymore, it’s a reality of my past and the fact it came up as an option is reason enough to draw attention to it and make certain I never go there again. It’s simply NOT an option, it’s off the table, it’s never a viable “solution” to any problem we face. My heart hurts when I hear of people who either attempt it or have gone through with it -- where’s the light in their life breaking through the fog and overriding that thought? We’ll never know. But it’s a sobering reminder to me to be that light, shine that truth in the lives of others. And now, as a father, I need to teach my kids the truth -- like my parents taught me -- and pray that should they ever get so low as I did, the truth will snap them out of it and bring them back to solid ground and safety. The truth will lead them back to the light.
I manipulated so many people and played them for the fool by living a double life. I also led others, my gang of friends, and along the way many of them followed me down to the depths of darkness, and that is difficult to think about and accept. They trusted me and I failed them. Failed to lead. Some of them now are in bad places in their lives and I can’t help but wonder sometimes whether I played a part in their undoing. If you, reading this now, were one of those people, know that I am eternally sorry and ask your forgiveness. Knowing who I used to be, and could be again, I live in daily recognition and remembrance of my past -- not in the sense that it runs my life, but rather an awareness that keeps me where I need to be, reminds me what I came out of, gets my ego and pride in check, and helps me stay on that narrow path when I am tempted to stray. Constant vigilance, study, prayer, daily forgiveness, intense exercise, love for all, and discipline help me be what I need to be and who I need to be. When my foot starts to slip, when my discipline starts to grow weak, I remember. I always remember. And never again do I want to be that person. Never. And that remembrance drives me forward with boundless determination to be better, daily (Philippians 3:12-15).
Having a family of my own now and being so long removed from that old life, that old me, it’s like it was in a different world -- like someone else’s life, a bad dream, a nightmare. How quickly time passes, yet how beautifully it passes too. Twelve years ago I was a few hours fresh out of a horrible lifestyle and place in my life, I was weak, I was broken, I was humbled, and I was scared about my future and life in general. Only one thing mattered -- getting safely home to my parents. They were my support system as I dug out of that pit of darkness and addiction, and I am eternally grateful and indebted to them for being there for me through the difficult times as well as the good. Twelve years - time heals, yes, but that time to heal also requires a ton of hard work and determination and prayer. In a moment it can all be undone. Stay the course and press on.
Next Right Step
In recovery a guy came and spoke to the group about sobriety and about getting out of “the life” and putting those things behind us. A question was posed, “How have you stayed sober so long?” to which he replied, “I just took the next right step.” That simple sentence was, and still is, so profound and it perfectly encapsulates my journey of 12 years sober. I have used that sentence often in my life and have shared it with others as well. That’s how we get better in anything, “just take the next right step.”
Why do I write this? In part, to remind myself and to always be thankful. The other part is maybe my experiences, the lessons from my life, can help someone else overcome issues they’re dealing with, or give comfort to people whose loved ones are in a similar circumstance, and to help them leave the darkness behind.
Why now? Because 12 years ago tonight I was detained, sitting in a holding cell in Tampa jail surrounded by people just like me (or who I had become) hoping to make bail, praying fervently, singing in my head (and struggling to remember all the words to) “Be With Me Lord”, and reciting whatever Bible verses I could remember. I never forget how I felt then, it’s etched in my mind forever. I remember those words now and that hymn still chokes me up, but now on the other side of it it’s tears of overwhelming gratitude and joy that I’m freed from the bondage of that old life. The Lord saved and spared me. Why am I sharing it? Why not; I lived too long a life of secrecy, a life in darkness, a life that put on a mask around certain people and debauchery with others. I now live in the light, and have for 12 years, and I truly have nothing to hide. There’s something freeing and therapeutic about letting it all go. In short, I hope this can help others take off their masks too, come out of the darkness, and live in the light.
I thank God for so much: for forgiveness, for the blessed life He has given me (my wife and kids, my brethren, my family, my friends, my job, my home), for His mercy, for His Providence, for His patience, and for time (2 Peter 3:9).
We all have those still and quiet moments, let them be profitable and don’t let Satan beat you down. Get up, overcome, FIGHT! Take the next right step, and the next, and the next...all the way to Heaven. And don’t you stop until you get there.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: 14:15-20
I. PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPER, Lk. 14:15-24.
-Have we become comfortable with giving excuses for not obeying the gospel?
II. “MAYBE WE’RE EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF PEOPLE.”
A. Unwavering Commitment to Truth?
B. Pray Regularly?
C. Live Honestly?
D. Worship Enthusiastically?
E. Repent Whole-heartedly?
F. Obedient and Holy?
G. Hold Fast the Pattern of Sound Words?
Scripture Reading: Psalm 19:12-14
I. THE DECEPTION OF SECRET SINS.
A. “Nobody is Harmed.” Psa. 94:7.
B. Exposing this Deception: The Impact of Secret Sins on Others.
II. SOME OF THE SECRET SINS WE MUST FIGHT AGAINST.
A. Sin of Hate (Sins in Heart), 1 Jno. 3:11-12.
B. Sin of Fornication, Prov. 7:19-20; 6:25ff.
C. Sin of Pornography, Job 31:1-4; Col. 3:5.
D. Sin of Alcohol/Drugs, Prov. 20:1; 23:29ff.
III. WHAT MUST WE DO TO RESIST SECRET SINS? Psa. 19:12-14
A. Hold Ourselves Accountable, Psa. 51:3.
B. Seek Forgiveness through Repentance.
C. Ask for God’s Help, Psa. 19:13; Mt. 6:13.
D. Arrange Thoughts and Words, Ps. 19:13.
E. Respect God’s Judgment, Eccl. 12:13-14.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 07/02/2018
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA