In the earliest years of my recovery, I was very discouraged. I had assumed that when I stopped using, my problems would go away. Little did I know. When I stopped using, my problems actually got worse.
Addictions mask as many problems as they create. Over time, addiction becomes our primary way of coping with life’s stressors. On many occasions, I told my wife that I could not quit using until my life was less stressful. Of course, it never did get less stressful.
Whenever we medicate the pains of life, one side effect can be lowered tolerance to pain. Stress is no exception. When we use a substance to help with stress, our threshold for how much we can take continues to gets lower over time.
When I stopped medicating disappointing circumstances, I began to use anger to resolve those disappointments. Without my drug(s) of choice, I had no coping mechanisms for handling stress. Anger is a natural option when we run out of other options.
In those early years, my wife commented many times that I was easier to deal with when I was using than after I stopped. My using had robbed me of the ability to deal with stresses of life.
About three years into my recovery, my life was in crisis because I was alienating more people in my sobriety than I did during my addictions. One night, I very nearly gave up and returned to my addiction as my wife and I were locked in conflict over some disappointment I was experiencing.
Instead of going out to use, I recall screaming at God, “There must be a way to deal with this life or You are a liar!” With that rather hostile challenge, I went to my office and sat down to look into the Bible. Just prior to this event, a Pastor had recommended reading the Book of Job, so I opened to it and started reading.
Within just a few moments, I was reading, “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10 NASB). As soon as I realized what I was reading, I burst into tears. With a mix of embarrassment and joy, I knew that what I was reading was the answer to my frustrations. Honestly, I had never considered simply allowing disappointments to come my way. I then realized that God had delivered on my angry challenge.
Over the next few weeks, I examined many places in the Scriptures regarding suffering. My world was being turned-upside-down as I read in numerous places that suffering could be a good thing. I had never imagined such a thing. 1 Peter 4:1 actually states that if a person willingly suffers, he will never do wrong!
This realization taught me that refusing disappointments was the heart of all my angry behavior. By learning to hurt well, my anger went way down and my relationships began to mend.
For this principle to make sense we must believe that God is in control of every situation and that He means only good (Romans 8:28) for us in whatever He brings our way; even if someone else means us harm (Genesis 50:20).
Here at the UGM of Salem, this principle is woven into the fabric of our programs. We teach and model how to suffer well. Time after time, I watch as men consider for the first time that it is okay to feel disappointed and do nothing about it. In addition, we can even find joy in those trials when we realize the Lord is transforming our hearts through the hardships.
The key is – trusting Him. It is truly life changing!
Restoring hope . . . Restoring lives
by Aaron Eggers, VP of Ministries