By Glen Doss, Major
“What else can I do? This life is all I know!” Billy blurted out, wiping away tears with the Kleenex I handed him. He explained he had been heavily drinking alcohol and using methamphetamines off and on for 25 years, much of that time spent behind bars. During every prison stint, he had vowed to stop practicing his addiction but once set free always returned to the lifestyle that ultimately led him back to prison.
Now, for the first time in his adult life, Billy had 30 straight days clean and sober outside prison walls, and stone-cold sober he was confronting the hurt, guilt, rage and fear that drove his addiction. It was greatly disturbing to him. Yet at the same time, he was denying the very emotions that were made so evident by his body language. “I don’t carry resentments anymore,” he insisted. “I forgave those people long ago. And I certainly don’t fear anything or anybody. Everyone who knows me will tell you I’m not afraid of anything.”
As we talked, the tears continued sliding down his cheeks, annoying him to no end. Repeatedly apologizing, he turned his head away, ashamed. “Chaplain,” he said. “What can I do? When I search my mind, I find nothing, nothing.”
After a pause, I replied, “Billy, you can’t see what’s behind your addictions—the inner misery compelling you to use mind-numbing substances—because you are unable to examine the hidden portions of your mind. That’s where the source of your troubling emotions lies. The solution is to accept Christ and rely on God for the direction and power to proceed. As your faith in God grows, he will provide you with the courage and power to look beyond the veil hiding your inner self from your conscious mind. I have learned there is an inverse relationship between our faith and our fear: the greater our faith in God, the less our fear to probe the inner parts of ourselves. As God strengthens us, we are no longer afraid of what we will find, and with his help we can uncover our hidden character defects that lead us to drink and use. Finally we surrender these over to him.”
I explained to Billy that the inverse relationship between faith and fear is shown in Christ’s repeated counsel to his disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40 NIV). The troubled father’s cry in Mark 9:24 echoes that of each of our hearts, “Lord, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!” When we truly believe in God’s tremendous power to deliver us, he will be there. He will help us to release our doubt and to finally examine ourselves and yield to him our compulsions.
In my classes I draw on the board an image of an iceberg and tell my hungry students: “This iceberg represents your mind. Just as the greater part of an iceberg is concealed beneath the surface of the sea, the source of our emotions is largely hidden from us as well. Our troubling behaviors are symptoms of things hidden that continue to disturb us. In order to modify our behaviors, we must first uncover the cause by examining these concealed portions of our minds. As God empowers us to look at areas we may otherwise be too timid to examine, we finally reveal the pain driving our addictions. Surrendering this torment over to God, we are freed from the power of our destructive compulsions. However, in order to do this we must first accept Christ into our hearts. He will then give us the power to proceed so we can finally be set free.”
Our new life with Christ our Liberator rests entirely on being reborn and filled by the Holy Spirit as we trust Jesus with our lives. Stepping forward in purposeful obedience to his commands, we continue our journey of repentance as day by day his Spirit transforms us increasingly into the image and character of Christ. Our recovery literature describes our conversion experience this way: “As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of his presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow, or the hereafter. We were reborn” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 63).