Recovery by surrender: How prayer can overcome substance abuse

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“I can’t get through this!” yelled the addicted young man at his mother, as she insisted he stay home and not get into his car. “I’ve got to get some stuff . . . right now cause I can’t get through this!” His mother looked her addicted son directly in his eyes, took his car keys, and asked the burning question, “Can’t or won’t get through it? Which is it?”

She had clearly defined her own boundaries just days prior to this confrontation that left her shaken. She would no longer stand by and enable him to continue making self-destructive choices while living with the family. No longer would he be allowed to eat, live, and sleep at home if he continued to make unhealthy choices concerning alcohol and drugs. While he appeared to have been less committed than she was, she exerted her will from a position of strength. After all, she was desperate after having observed her nephew’s self-destructive path. He now lies buried near the grave of his grandparents.

Growth in healthy directions is often uncomfortable to say the least! Whether it involves eliminating self-defeating behaviors, such as ineffective study habits, poor eating patterns, imprudent spending habits, or destructive choices regarding alcohol and other drugs, it is painful to take the first step in the change process. It is also grueling work. Often, the patterns associated with alcohol abuse, have replaced family and friends. Substance is an enemy disguised as a friend, giving the addict the false sense of having an ever-present, loyal supporter. The reality is it is an enemy who is always ready to steal time, energy, and money. While the blinded individual consumes the substance, it consumes every part of life until the individual is disconnected from family and everything he originally valued. The drug becomes his sole priority.

The mother’s burning question focused on the will of her son. “Can’t or won’t get through the pain of making a change?” Would he care enough about himself, his future, his family, and his life to make getting through his craving his top priority? She did not know his answer to her questions, but understood it had to be his top priority and will. She knew exactly what her own will, role, and boundaries were.

As we experience the Lenten season, we would do well to reflect on how our Jesus approached His greatest challenge: His passion. He began by placing His own will directly under the will of His heavenly Father. As He cried out in pain, His focus remained on accomplishing his divine mission. It was through His focused, subservient will – maintained by His continuous prayers to the Father – through which our atonement became reality.

“Okay, I’ll try.” surrendered the addict, as his mother’s hands, still holding his car keys, trembled. “Okay, I will stay home. I’m not sure how I will break through this, but I will do it,” whispered her son. “And I am unsure of exactly how this will work, but I know with prayer and support, you will get through it. However, son, you will have to put your entire will into your actions! There can be no compromising of your will, no hesitation – just think about our Lord’s will throughout His passion.”

That was the unscripted conversation that brought a new beginning to an entire family suffering from the ripples of one man’s substance abuse problem. It put an end to the fear of waiting for a drunk to arrive home safely; the shame of an arrest, the chronic worry about the drain of money; the discomfort of facing neighbors who saw too much; and the lack of the man’s contribution to the family. With professional assistance, this young man learned to intensely focus on his will, and put his energy into addressing the problem.

Today, he has turned away from self-destructive behaviors and is on a self-enhancing path. He reports that it was only through daily meditative prayer that he was able to submit his will to God. He has a new perspective on the First Commandment; and has set new educational, career, and personal goals. His energy is focused on attaining them. His mother reports that it was only through ceaseless prayers that she maintained her courage in confronting the unacknowledged elephant in the living room. Her softly whispered prayers, fueled by her unwavering will, gave her the strength to stick to her boundaries. She surrendered her need to rescue, and began praying for God’s will to be done. As a counselor, I give thanks for the special graces, great mercies, and new beginnings that are afforded to those who are willing to surrender everything to the will of God.

From a Counselor’s Heart to Yours

My name is Dr. H.C. Adams. I lived in many cultures, traveled globally, and bring over 35 years of experience working as a counselor, educator, and professor to this column. Hopefully my column leads readers to explore their own values, priorities, and ideas. My approach is to increase awareness and options, resulting in more satisfying choices and an increased quality of life. My perspective on complex topics is usually simple, as I break large obstacles and intricate issues into basic concepts, involving steps and techniques that are clearly understood and can easily be applied in facing daily challenges. It is my hope that this column brings insights and blessings into your life.

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