A few weeks ago, during our addiction recovery group, Ginger brought up the term “California recovery.” She explained, “That’s where you quit using drugs and alcohol, except for pot.” It’s probably a cheap shot at the people on the west coast, but still you can probably picture it happening there:
“My name is Joe. I am an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in six months, and dude, it’s got me, like, totally stressed. Let’s go fire up a couple fat ones.”
And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So, the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. (1 Sm 7:3-4)
I heard about it again at the annual Alcoholism Awareness retreat. Nathan was telling the story of his recovery from alcoholism and said, “The first counselor I had told me, ‘My wife and I smoke pot to relax, and I don’t think that would be a problem for you.’ Then, my probation officer told me pretty much the same thing; she said, ‘You’ll have to give us a urine specimen every week to see if you’ve been drinking, but if marijuana shows up, “I’ll let that slide.’”
Apparently, “California recovery” can happen right in the heart of Wisconsin!
Fortunately, Nathan didn’t listen to his counselor or his parole officer. He listened to God, as God urged Nathan to trust Him with his will and his life and not to trust himself to a drug.
Nathan, and all other addicts trying to start a new life, are faced with the same temptation the people of Israel faced when they started their new life in the promised land. They prayed to the Lord for help, but they hedged their bets by throwing in a few prayers and sacrifices to the local deities like Baal and Ashtoreth.
You can just imagine some of the Israelites saying, “Sure, I trust God and all that, but just to be on the safe side….”
But Nathan and the rest of the people I get to deal with, as they learn what Christian recovery is all about, are giving up their safety nets and side bets and turning it all over to God. It’s not easy dealing with your feelings without the aid of a mood-altering drug when that’s how you’re used to handling emotions.
There’s an old saying in addiction recovery circles: “Does recovery make you feel better? Sure. You feel anger better, you feel sadness better, you feel depression better….”
That’s a scary proposition for an addict. It’s a joy seeing people like Nathan and Ginger resist the temptation to entrust those feelings to a bottle or a pipe, and instead, entrust them to the God who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).
What a privilege it is sharing the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ!