Chapter 1. Jesus and Recovery
I will be quick to mention, if you the reader understand the concepts presented in this chapter, there will be need to read the remainder of this book!
If whether you’re an addict or the loved one of an addict, if you’re wanting a quick fix to the solution to addiction, you’ve come to the right place. The battle or winning the fight against addiction can be accomplished in a moment and in fact, is achieved in such a small length of time, or, it can be made to fit according to whatever time-frame you think sufficient and will suit your comfort level. In short, it really is up to you! There is no magic pill, (no pun intended), in overcoming addiction to substances but it does not have to be what the conventional practitioners who have determined a length(y) time is needed and others who state there is no cure for addiction. Where is the hope in such a statement or recovery plan?
I will state emphatically, right now, if one does not have a worthwhile, workable, devoted life to God, you can rest assure yours is a most difficult way to go if there can be any success at all! For those who do know the Lord, your success will often be, as stated in 1 Cor. 15:52 (KJV): “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…and we shall be changed.”
Why should it take any longer than this?
Healing at Bethesda
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. John 5:1-9 (KJV)
This factual account demonstrated someone “stuck” in their long-lived situation and when offered an opportunity to find relief, was unable to move from having become comfortable in the environment they’ve become accustomed. This man, who lived in this place, witnessed others receiving what he himself desired but had gotten to a place thinking it was forever out of his reach. Day after day, being cared for by the generosity of others, his own sad state became his way of life. Others expected to see him this way and he did not want to be a disappointment to them, for this was considered the best he could do.
The same for those of us trapped in the bonds of substance abuse. We’ve become to believe the lie we are not able to do any better while all around us we are seeing evidence the water was “stirred” for someone, but just not for me. Day after day, become year after year, we’ve learned not to disappoint those who feel an obligation to bring their alms to us. They don’t expect any better and neither do we as addicts, yet, living within view of the phenomenal power which can provide the healing! We’ve come blind to the stirring being stirred for us, giving up hope. Others have told us and we’ve begun telling ourselves, our time will never come.
How many of us have suffered addiction for ten, twenty, forty years? You are no better than this man no matter how different your mat may appear.
When asked by Jesus, “Do you want to get well?” so stuck in his own misery, could not form the very word, “yes” from his mouth, instead offering excuses as to why he could not be made well. “I have no one to help me.”
As a former addict I learned to use such as excuse, many times, too. I would have liked to be pulled from my misery but truthfully had waddled in my mess for so many years, did not know how, although knew it was possible, if “someone could help me—first.” Many of us drove away those who tried. How many family and friends tried to show us a better way, yet we still confess, “I have no one to help me.” Then we go to the homeless shelters, soup lines and mission houses, taking the comfort for the moment and never fully utilizing the services offered because we cannot see further than the next supply of whatever it is which has us bound! In fact, cannot even conceive life without it and when told this is what I am, and will always be, well, okay, this is the best I can do all because I took a hit, a snort, a drink one day for whatever reason at the time.
This man who laid near the pool of so-called believed recovery was blind to the One who causes the water to be stirred. It becomes difficult to accept anything other than what we’ve seen and believe must happen in the same way for us. So, when someone come who can bring us the desired state we doubt and refuse what we want because it does not follow in the method we have viewed and desired by others. Besides, we’ve become comfortable being among those who suffer as we are. Certainly the adage is true, “misery loves company”, for there is comfort in misery.
I had an experience years later since began writing this chapter when a fellow believer asked if I would be willing to have a phone number added to my phone list, a requirement when in prison, for the purpose of acquiring patches which would help him to overcome his addiction to smoking cigarettes. The logic of fighting nicotine with nicotine did not seem reasonable so I offered to do what we believers have been ordered to do, and that is to “lay hands and pray” for those who are sick among us. He showed reluctance and countered by saying he needed to pray about the matter and would get back to me! I need to mention his denomination’s belief regarding spiritual healing are greater and in common practice than my own! I was coming outside of my conservative comfort box to do what I believe I was ordered to do, by God. In short the brother decided to pursue his plan and walked around with two patches adhered to his body and this has been going on for more than four months! Later, after having some success was seen smoking again, blaming the environment. Ludicrous when I think he could have been healed and free from his addiction already.
The key words Jesus spoke to this man after basically ignoring his objections was to “take up his bed and walk” away from what he perceived was the cure to his problem, without getting any closer to the cure, in fact, to walk away from it. How many addicts will no longer be addicts if they could walk away from the rooms of recovery, the so-called pools of Bethesda! Why sit around waiting for something to stir when the only stirring which takes place in those rooms are the fostering of other addictions, more specifically, caffeine in those cups! It’s no better.
A friend of mine made a statement almost forty years ago which ring in my ears today. “If we would be serious about what Jesus said about ‘greater things we would do’, then what prevents us from putting hospitals out of business? Why is it we don’t go, right now, and heal everybody? Why aren’t we in the graveyards raising people from the dead?” Why are there people, me involved, former addicts not, “out there” pulling addicts out of crack-houses, bars, recovery centers, from missions, into a newness of life free from addiction?
And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Luke 17:11-19 (KJV)
A greater comparison between secular and spiritual healing is demonstrated in the factual account of the Ten Lepers.
It does not distinguish between the ten lepers regarding how they were afflicted nor the length of time each were. We find a group similar to how addicts are grouped not accounting for individual circumstances. The point being made, God is not limited in terms of healing, or what degree of healing, but what is demonstrated the condition of man who, if wanted, can do better.
All ten were told to go forward and present themselves for verification due to a ruling given from God Himself several hundred years earlier. It was not for God’s benefit for He knows what He has done, but for man who seem to have a greater difficulty in accepting what God does and requires proof before receiving a stamp of approval.
I’ll cite another personal example. Several years after my own healing I received a call from a cousin who pastored a church which had a “drug ministry” consisted mostly of being allowed inside the county jail to bring a message of encouragement to addicts. My cousin was offering me the opportunity to come and share with these individuals. When he asked me how long I’ve been clean, I refused to offer a number. In his persistence he suggested it would be good because it would encourage them to know what could be their experience by having someone like them, living it. I countered my cousin’s reasoning to try to help him understand time is not a proven method of prevention of falling back into addiction. One will state five years, another seven years, and there are those who believe there is no such amount. I tried to help my cousin see if someone has one day clean, he definitely has a message worth hearing, but if he felt I had to tell them my “years of sobriety” he would be better in just stating, “2,000 years” is when my victory was won! At the cross of Christ my personal battle was fought and won. Needless to say, I did not get the invitation to speak!
After being told, by Jesus, what to do they learned by examining first each other, then surprisingly themselves they were in fact healed! Put yourself in their situation. This man they heard had the ability to heal tells them to go show themselves as proof, and while they were on their way, the evidence became, well evidence of what they wanted was in fact taking place. One of them was put into a dilemma. Do I break from my comrades and show my appreciation or do I go forward to claim what I’ve always wanted and return to my life? After all, the Man did tell me what to do. One man made the difficult decision to delay his acceptance into the society he longed to return so he could be appreciative of the gift, he himself not needing verification because he accepted already receiving the gift of healing.
When having this second encounter with Jesus, this man at the risk of delaying his return to society, received something far greater than his fellows, and this situation marks the actual difference between secular and spiritual recovery. Jesus asked about the other nine giving us an understanding they, too, would not have been rejected had they thought out what truly happened to them just as this single man had and because of his action he would not only receive the desired healing but would be given the greater gift of being made “whole” or complete.
Secular recovery can only offer a semblance of healing but spiritual recovery offers the greater ability to be made, “whole”, complete. In other words and I’m stepping out on a limb here, the other nine could always have a relapse, a re-occurrence, but in the matter of this man, he would be forever free because he was given a complete healing which protects from further contraction of at least what previously ailed him!
Yes, there are those who continue to participate in the rooms after ten, twenty years or more, still claiming to be addicts or alcoholics, yet never moving from the first day of attendance, and I think there is something wrong with this picture. Why not live life, free, if you are free? Enjoy an extra hour with your family, hobby, pet or even watching television instead of going back to where it all began. You see, Jesus sent them away to be accepted whereas secular recovery requires them to, “keep coming back”. Sure, come back and show your thanks, but then, go forward!
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 , No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. John 8:3-11 (KJV)
Our next candidate for healing deals with the addiction of sexuality. Who can claim having a substance abuse history and not have some type of sexual overtones associated which makes addiction all the more difficult to overcome? Substance abuse comes from without which awakes another addiction which comes deeply from within. Her substance was a man, her addiction was the feeling. If she were a prostitute we could agree she was at least getting paid, but her addiction came “pro bono” and this was enough. She was so involved with her addiction others would know when and where to find her and in this case, to bring her to an accounting.
You know the story so it is not necessary to get into the purposes of Jesus from a theological perspective. Let’s look at this matter from an addiction recovery point of view. When Jesus helped this woman to her feet and healed her past life, who was around to hear it? The blind can see, the leper’s skin is cleared, and the crippled can walk. What is the evidence of this woman’s healing and what’s even more interesting is where Jesus tells her to go! The implication.
Secular recovery warns those who want to be sober against: people, places and things, for these will trigger you to return. This woman had nowhere to go but back to where they brought her from. The interesting point here, too, those who brought her left earlier due to their own shortcomings so no one was around to hear this woman’s second chance given by God, so what was she going back to face? More ridicule, disbelief and the shaking of the head or wagging of the finger. Probably family were still not keen having her around, so she was pretty much on her own except she was cured from doing what she did. Her life would be the only evidence of having a life-changing encounter with God.
No matter how much a former addict will claim to be clean, there are those who will eventually invite you back, but pocketbooks and other valuables will be secured prior to your arrival. Loose change might be kept out as a form of testing, but regardless of your experience of receiving a spiritual healing, the truth of the matter is, your family and friends weren’t there. They did not hear God’s words over and in your life. You are on your own and your life will serve as the only evidence of ever having an encounter with God! So, live your life regardless of the shaking heads, wagging fingers or ridicule apparent. Live your life being the only evidence possible. There are no amount of colorful key rings which will guarantee other’s acceptance of you or prove the fact you’ve been healed!