By Brandon Sutton
I have been attending recovery meetings since I was sixteen years old. This was not by choice. Sixteen was how old I was when I first got arrested for underage drinking. Part of my punishment was I had to attend outpatient drug and alcohol treatment classes and attend AA meetings. Since I didn’t finally get sober until I was twenty-one, I kept getting arrested, which meant I kept attending court ordered recovery meetings. It was kind of like Cheers. Everyone knew my name at these meetings.
One thing that was imbedded into my mind early on is that my addiction is a disease. More than likely, I inherited my alcoholism and drug addiction tendencies from my ancestors. Three out of my four grandparents were alcoholics. They must have passed down their genes to me, at least that’s what I believed.
After becoming a Christian, however, I began to think about my drug addiction and alcoholism a little differently. A disease is something we can’t control. My mother, who died of cancer, couldn’t just wake up one day and decide not to exhibit cancerous symptoms. Once diagnosed, she was stuck with that disease and all its wonderful side effects. That’s not the case with the alcoholic/addict. We can decide to stop using, which is the most devastating symptom in terms of addiction. Unlike cancer patients, we do have a choice.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand and believe that there is something different about the addict’s mind. For some reason, we have an obsession to use drugs and alcohol. And when we begin using, getting us to stop is nearly impossible. We just keep going until we find ourselves in jails, institutions or dead. But none of this alleviates us of personal responsibility. With a disease, it’s not your fault if your body is sick. But when it comes to addiction, you are responsible for using, and if the addict is going to get better, he/she must take personal responsibility for their sin.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His first sermon started like this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Like John the Baptist before Him, Jesus called people to repentance. To repent means to change one’s mind and direction. We go from a state of rebellion and justifying our sin to turning to God for forgiveness. We acknowledge that what we have done is wrong. We put an end to our sinful actions, thoughts and words and we trust in Christ for salvation.
This is absolutely necessary for the addict. If we are going to recover and build a strong relationship with the Lord, we must repent. In order to repent, we must take personal responsibility for our sin. We have to own it. No longer can blame our problems on a disease. We can’t be the victim any longer. We can’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “This is just the way I am. I have a disease. I can’t help my actions.” That may be acceptable in the eyes of the world, but it will not be acceptable to God. When we stand before Him, our sin will not be excused under the guise of a disease.
I realize many people reading this article have been hurt by other people, and that pain may have contributed to some of your poor choices. I want to say that what others have done to you in the past is not your fault. You are not responsible for their sin. But you are responsible for how you respond. We can’t blame our addictions on a disease, and we can’t blame our addictions on other people.
We must take personal responsibility. When we do, God will show us mercy and grace. When a sinner acknowledges his sinfulness before the Lord and agrees with God that His ways are right and our ways are wrong, God delights to forgive such a person. The Lord doesn’t begrudgingly forgive sins. He does so with joy. God loves to restore. He loves to lift up the lowly.
No matter where you’re at today, no matter what you have done or what you have been told about your sin, the best thing you can do is own your wrong doings. Take ownership of your sin and ask Christ for forgiveness. He died for sinners and has the power to save. Jesus truly did pay it all. Go to Him and receive His grace.