Yesterday, we began breaking down the cycle of addiction and we met Joe, a fictional alcoholic who, after having too much to drink, acted abusively toward his children, then sobered up and came face-to-face with his enemy, shame. While at first it appeared that regret and guilt may have motivated him to a place of lasting change, they only set him up for the next step in the cycle, which is an emotional trigger.
After his outburst, Joe has a couple of pretty good weeks. He doesn’t drink, he’s more engaged with his wife, and he’s being much nicer to his children. Naturally, since they are used to his instability, they are not entirely convinced of his newfound sobriety, so they don’t reciprocate his efforts to engage. Even so, in the midst of his renewed hope, he has an idea. Since he and his wife haven’t been on a vacation for a long time, he decides, I’m going to take her to New York where we spent our honeymoon. With that, he starts saving up money so he can earn her love back. However, what he doesn’t understand is that by telling himself that he has to do that, he is still being motivated by the voice of shame. Nevertheless, he continues planning the trip and one night, he decides to work late so he can make some extra money to pay for it. Feeling good about what he’s done, he is shocked when he walks through the door only to have his wife yell at him for being late. In her panic (and knowing his propensity to drink), she has tried calling him and texting him multiple times, but he put his phone on airplane mode so he could fully focus on his work and then forgot to look at it. The misunderstanding between them leads to a huge fight and both of them go to bed angry. As you can imagine, when Joe wakes up the next day, he really wants a drink. Although he has been craving alcohol every day, today his appetite is nearly overtaking him. Why? Because the fight was an emotional trigger.
Friend, doing good works in your own effort won’t break the cycle of addiction, because it is an issue of the heart. While his intentions were all good, Joe was still motivated by the voice of shame and unworthiness. Trying to earn back the love of his wife and kids without internalizing the truth of his own value and identity in Jesus made it a futile attempt. The compounded pressure of his wife’s displeasure only heightened his sense of hopelessness, and the emotional trigger set him up for failure once again. I beg you, don’t be like Joe. No matter how big your mistake or how greatly you have messed up, let God love you. Confess out loud that you are His beloved and allow His compassion to make you vulnerable and open with others. Since He accepts you just as you are, you have nothing to be ashamed of.