Alcoholism and the Art of Intermediate Mat Dragging

By:  Jana Greene


Addiction is addiction is addiction.  If you cannot control it, and it interferes with your relationships (especially your relationship with God), it is addiction.   Alcohol, heroin, crack , porn, online shopping….all reward the reward centers of the human brain, but differently in different people.  Which dopamine receptors scream the loudest determine which drug-of-choice a person might invest in.  Mine happened to be alcohol. But all scream loudly.  I long for the blood of Jesus to replace the toxic flow in my system that not even active recovery can replace.  In constant touch with my limitations, both as an alcoholic and someone who experiences chronic health issues, I need a transfusion of the Blood of Christ every day.

When I first started dealing with chronic pain and fatigue,   I had the “I gave at the office” mentality;  as in thanks for considering me, God….really, it’s an honor just to be nominated…but you see, I’ve already been through the ringer, so to speak , with alcoholism and whew!  I’m glad I got that suffering out of the way.  Except that it has become apparent that I might battle illness the same way I have with addiction.  One day at a time.

Popular among evangelical Christianity is the issue of deliverance.  It is not so prevalent in AA or other recovery programs, where it is considered dangerous to court the disaster of referring to your disease in the past tense.  Everyone has a sticking point when it comes to dogma, and this would be mine.  After eleven years sober (as of this writing), I think I’ve identified the root cause of this stickiness:  I’m jealous.    I envy people who have experienced the very real and one-time-only-ness of deliverance.   God can most assuredly deliver us from a plethora of evils, addiction being the least of them, but not everyone experiences recovery or healing that way.  For years I believed that there was something wrong with my walk with Christ because I still struggle at times, I still live One Day at a Time in recovery.   So foreign was the concept of total deliverance from addiction to me that the first time I met someone claiming it, I thought he must be drunk.

“Sober five years now,” said a middle-aged man at the AA meeting, when it was his turn to speak.  “I just woke up one day and God said, ‘You’re delivered’.  Never touched drugs again.”

I was amazed.  Aghast.  “Really?”  (I didn’t mean to engage in ‘cross talk’ at the exclusion of other people, it just came out).

“Yes.  Really.  He is so good.”

Yes, I know He is so good…I really do.  But this is supposed to be a program of rigorous honesty, after all.  Don’t pull my leg!  This guy  must be high.   He must be high RIGHT NOW; making claims like that!   This man had spent a considerable amount of his life as a junkie, had lost everything because of his drug habit.  His startling statement made me think of the paralyzed man in scripture, the one who Jesus healed on the spot and told to “pick up your mat and walk”.  And the man did.  Just like that.  Astonishing.

I still have a ton to learn about God (no surprise there) but I have learned that He does modern-day miracles like this all the time!  He heals in all ways – maladies of the spirit and the body, every day just like that.  Tumors vanish from x-rays and breast lumps from mammograms.   Sufferers of depression alleviated from sorrow, sometimes instantly.  When I hear of such deliverances, the Child of God within me says, “PRAISE YOU, JESUS!” but the “child” within me worries, “You love him better than me.”

Behold !  I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.

But I still have to drive this clunker.

I want to pick up my mat and walk.  I do not want to be a mat-dragger all my life.  But I am also reminded of the scripture that describes Paul, whom endured unspeakable acts of abuse and torture, had a “thorn” in his side.  The Bible never says what his malady is, and perhaps this is a purposeful omission.  In scripture, different translations describe this “thorn” as an “obstacle”, a “handicap” or a “trouble in the body”.   Or, I imagine, trouble in the mind.  The Message translation of the Bible says in 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10:

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. “

Paul knew God could remove the issue, and he believed in deliverance.  He had seen miracles throughout his travels, and if anyone has ever “given at the office”, it would be Paul.

“My grace is sufficient,” Paul was told.  So he had to stumble about with his thorn and live life to the fullest “undelivered” from it.

The thorns of addiction, chronic pain and anxiety?

I am starting to understand that the Lord cares more about whether or not I trust Him than my perceived limitations.  He is limitless-ness.  He seems to tolerate my childishness when I envy those differently-blessed, simply because I am his child.  And although I’m learning to take things in stride, the “with good cheer” is a work in progress.

More of Him; the antidote for the venom of anger, resentment, fear and  unforgiveness.  I don’t know how it works, I just know that it does.

I very well may be a mat-dragger, but I have to remind myself to consider this:  I am walking, sometimes with a little limp, but moving nonetheless.  Toxic thoughts and aching bones, pain and restless worry?  The remedy is the same:  Grace Transfusion, because His grace is more than enough.

One Day at a Time.