What I’ve Learned After Five Years of Sobriety
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
There are moments in our lives when we decide to stop or start a certain behavior, or willingly change an attitude we’ve held onto for a long time. For me, today marks an anniversary of such a change. Five years ago, May 8th, 2014, was a day like any other. Except now, I would never drink another drop of alcohol for the rest of my life.
Many people believe those who struggle with alcoholism are weak. If you said that to me five years ago, I’d reply, “You are wrong.” From outward appearances, I was anything but weak. I had built an extremely successful business, I had a family, a nice home, I stayed in shape, I enjoyed fun hobbies and ate good meals. I even had a very large social media ministry. But underneath, when it came to my life without drinking, oh yeah, I was weak.
I simply could not picture myself enjoying myself without consuming my favorite beers or shots. Each time my unrenewed, immature mind thought about quitting, anxiety would hit me. The buzz from alcoholic beverages “made everything better.” Life would not be that great if I couldn’t experience being tipsy any longer. Even though tipsy times were mostly drunk times–not just tipsy–my main problem was this:
How do I perceive myself?
Now this is what makes everything better! Not drinking, but knowing our identity! When we struggle with thinking we need to drink, we have an identity issue. Not that our drinking causes our identity to change; as a Christian, that’s impossible. No amount of drunkenness, which is sin, can override the blood of Jesus. That perfect red liquid is much stronger than my Miller Lite and American Honey.
But I didn’t fully understand the gospel, yet, so I didn’t fully understand my identity, yet. As a result, I didn’t really know how to perceive myself. So I kept drinking.
When we know who we are–like, honestly know what the Cross has truly done to us–that’s it, game over. Our perception about ourselves changes our entire lifestyle. The legalist is focused on not sinning, but the saint is focused on expressing their righteousness. The legalist will yell, “You can’t just do whatever you want!” but the saint says, “Yes I can, because I want what God wants.” We actually believe this and live it out!
It’s clear to us when we don’t live it out because the Spirit bears witness to our spirit when we’re faking our identity. When we sin, we are being phonies. Frauds. We have literally died to sin. We have literally been taken out of sin and placed into the Spirit of Christ (see Romans 6:3-11, 8:9-11, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
Yes, literally–not figuratively–and I’m going to use that word again shortly. I am talking about your spirit, friend.
What’s more is all Christians are saints, equally. Saint simply means holy one, and that is what the Cross has caused us to become by grace through faith (see Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 10:10, Ephesians 2:8,9). When we know we’ve been recreated to not sin, to not get drunk, enjoying sobriety is an amazing thing! You’re not missing the booze because you know that’s like putting sugar in your gas tank. Yeah, some people can drink normally, but we can’t, and we know it. So we don’t. The power of sin influences us differently over this issue, and we’re at peace with that.
When our perception of who we are changes, anything that is not of faith won’t work for us. Getting drunk is not of faith. Not just getting drunk, but refusing to forgive others, flirting on social media as a married person, watching porn, constantly trying to prove your worth to others, cherry-picking “less than” sins, trying to follow the Law of Moses, codependency, people-pleasing, looking to church attendance for kudos from God, pastoral worship–even tithing to be blessed, as if God is a loan shark–all of this stuff was being purged up and out of my thought life by the Spirit within.
Today marks the five-year anniversary of a new beginning in my thinking about who I am. Thoughts are what cause us to drink. Change our thoughts, change our lives. It’s so simple it’s hard to fathom.
To be clear, when we stop drinking we don’t change. As believers we’ve been changed, once. Born again, once. Yes, our actions and attitudes change but not us–not our identity. Good, bad, or indifferent, we are not what we do or don’t do. Instead, we mature and grow into who we already are–into our sainthood. A sapling oak tree is an oak tree, just immature. It never changes, it grows. We are members of heaven, children of God, just very immature from the time of our supernatural rebirth. We are not changing but growing. As we grow, we break free from the sinful choices and attitudes which entangle us but we are not those sins. The Bible says the old has gone and the new is here! Even better, our full maturation will not be complete until we shed this shell of flesh, so go easy on yourself! (See Hebrews 12:1,2, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 1:6).
Many self-centered people will say we weren’t truly saved until we stopped drinking. But such is folly in the fullest and spits on the work of the Cross. We don’t stop sinning to get saved, so we don’t stay stopped sinning to stay saved. If this were the case, every human being would be doomed because all of us die with sin we still struggle with. If we say we don’t struggle with any sin, that’s sin in itself compounded with lying–which is sinning. A healthy amount of repentance would do a person good with this kind of mindset.
Others will claim, “You got delivered from a spirit of alcoholism!” No. Sorry. That didn’t happen either. No demonic spirit has had permission to touch me since the time I was saved as a young boy. The Bible is clear that no demon can have any contact with my body or spirit, all they can do is accuse me in my mind of not being who I am (see 1 John 5:18, Revelation 12:10). We have to stop giving the devil so much credit. He was de-clawed, de-toothed, and disarmed at the Cross.
The only thing the demonic realm can do to me is lie to me about my holiness, they can’t possess me. I’m literally possessed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He’ll never share me with a demon. So “deliverance from alcoholic spirits” makes no sense for a Christian. For an unbeliever? Yes, and those spirits after being cast out will come back with more evil spirits (see Luke 11:24-26). But we believers don’t need to worry about that. We simply need our minds renewed to who already indwells us–God. There’s not a single passage in the Bible about a believer having demon cast out of them–even a spirit of addiction. We are sealed up with the Holy Spirit forever and He guards the door! (See Ephesians 1:13).
I’ve learned a lot in the past five years, most of the common alcoholic phrases have been deciphered through the Spirit within me. I wish I knew then what I know now, but that’s okay. God takes us from glory to glory as we learn more about who we are as His kids. Here’s what I’d say to myself if I was sitting across from myself, on this day, five years ago, when I was 32:
“Hi buddy. I know you’re scared and anxious. I know you’ve tried a thousand times to quit, but this time you won’t just quit. You’ll begin living the life you were meant to live all along! Be aware, the bad thoughts will come, the temptations will come, and the pain will come too. Feel your pain. Feel it. Feel it, and lean into the comfort of Christ. Scream. Cry. Hurt. Feeeeeeel! You must feel. When you do, you will become weak. But this is where your strength will come from–through your pain, through your weakness. Soon enough you’ll feel weaker than you ever have before, but that weakness will be the greatest thing you’ve ever felt before. Your mind is about to be renewed to the truth of who you are, which will be very painful to your old thoughts. Over time this will make more sense, so be patient as the Spirit guides you. Your weakness is where His grace will rest the most as He teaches you new thoughts to have about yourself, Him, and others. Weakness is good. The Spirit is your friend who holds nothing against you. Let Him love you and don’t fight it.
Please remember that on your very worst day of pain you’ll still be able to say, ‘But I didn’t drink.’ Imagine that! I’m so proud of you! If you could only see five years down the road! You are about to do more than you’ve ever done before–and for the right reasons! You’ll begin to do absolutely everything from a state of rest! I know you don’t understand that yet, but you will! You’ll write those books! Five of them so far! Bestsellers! You’ll reach millions each week through your social media platforms! You’ll learn how to have the deepest, most fulfilling marriage with Jennifer! She’ll see you completely different than she does right now! Grace will get the best of you! She is such an awesome 14-year-old! You’ll enjoy the little things you keep overlooking! But more than anything, you’ll learn about the New Covenant. Oh if you only knew now! Your perception of who you are is about to change! False humility is going to be an afterthought–you’ll never talk bad about yourself again! Stressing out about spreading the gospel and saving the world will be no more! You’ll enjoy being a branch and you’ll stop trying to be the Vine! Religious headstones will be kicked over left and right by you! Legalistic people will be mad, but you’ll learn how to show them love and respect! This is what will change their hearts toward the truth! Gentleness! Who would’ve thought?! THE JOURNEY YOU’RE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON, SOBER, WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! Who you truly are is about to be revealed to you on levels you could’ve never imagined before. So don’t worry, don’t be afraid, this is just the beginning.”
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, look at what we’ve done! You and me together is an amazing force! Thank you for helping me make it this far! I’m so grateful for your strength and for teaching me who I am! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who are stuck in an addiction, set them free in their minds. Guide their perception about themselves into the right direction. Teach them about the power of Jesus Christ. Reveal the New Covenant in even greater ways. In His name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Get your copy here!