Beyond Bad Behavior: Get From Sobriety to Recovery to Redemption

Young woman praying, from sobriety to recovery

Every addiction is a whole-person “disease.” The “thing” might be alcohol, pornography, sex, gambling, video games, or a multitude of other substances or behaviors. The dopamine hits in your brain get and keep you hooked. But every addiction has not only physical components, but emotional, relational, and spiritual dimensions also. How do you get beyond bad behavior and move from sobriety to recovery to redemption?

We have both a sin problem and a brain problem. We’ve all sinned (as well as having been sinned against). We must have forgiveness! But we have all also experienced the fallout of both our own and others’ sins in our bodies and our brains.

When John proclaimed of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) he was talking about more than forgiveness. Taking away of sin also means the very core of our being must become changed, transformed. Jesus has not only dealt with our past by making forgiveness possible; He’s also made a way for transformation of our present, as well as making future glory possible.

This means we must get beyond bad behavior, as important as behavior is. Transformation means moving from sobriety to real recovery and full redemption.

Sobriety

If you’re drinking alcohol problematically, you need to stop. If you’re watching porn, you need to stop. Whatever the “thing” is that you’re a slave to – it needs to go.

“Yeah, right. Tried that, done that.” You may have been “trying harder” for a long time. Perhaps you’ve even found some success. Awesome! This is an important step, although it’s just the beginning.

This is where an escape plan comes into play. You will be tempted again. It may be the enemy directly coming against you. But it may just as likely be your own messed-up brain pathways. Old trauma, ways of coping with tough stuff, vulnerabilities you were born with and that developed based on your past behaviors – they’re all real. And God rarely works by “zapping” those old brain pathways away.

Your escape plan provides a way to deal with that. It’s the “way of escape” Paul talks about (1 Corinthians 10:13). But this escape plan is something you will have to intentionally develop and put into practice. What will you DO to keep yourself less vulnerable? And what will you DO when temptation comes?

Sobriety is possible, but by itself it doesn’t last. The recovery community has done an amazing job of helping many people break out of various addictions, and from that community we hear how nobody enjoys being around a “dry drunk.” The behavior needs to stop. But if your insides don’t then become different you’ll just switch out one dysfunction for another.

Recovery

The idea of recovery addresses rebuilding new brain pathways. It addresses the lies you’ve come to believe, the wounds you’ve accumulated, and the empty places unfilled in your heart.

You replace lies with the truth. You may have believed lies such as, “I’m the only one who’s this messed up.” “Nobody will understand me.” “I’ve got it harder than anyone else.” “God doesn’t love me.” “I need sex to be fulfilled.” “I deserve this (addiction, substance, activity).” “I’ll never be able to change.” “The world is out to get me.” Some of these lies have a sliver of truth, just enough to give them plausibility, but they’re all lies.

You’ve been wounded, and your addiction may have started as a way to soothe your wounds. But now you’re choosing to bring everything into the light (in appropriate places) and take healing into your being. Your past can truly loose its sting.

And you’re learning to feed yourself, coming to understand what kind of nourishment your soul needs and intentionally seeking it and taking it into your being. That includes deeply connecting with a few other humans. My friend who has found long-term recovery from sexual addiction often says, “The opposite of addiction isn’t abstinence, it’s connection.” You keep doing the work until you become capable of and find those healthy connections.

And yet there’s more.

Redemption

This is the unique perspective and opportunity we have as followers of Jesus. Sobriety and even a lot of recovery can come through human effort, at least for a long time. But the Holy Spirit, the most powerful Person in the cosmos, is available to you. In fact, if you’ve said Yes to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to make His home inside you.

Some have seen the Holy Spirit as a type of magic that you can conjure up to give you goosebumps. Not at all. The Holy Spirit is the way by which we can experience true and lasting transformation.

And the even more amazing thing is that He doesn’t just stop at changing you to increasingly become like Jesus, which is truly miraculous. He then also takes the pieces of your story, all of them – the good, the bad, even the ugly – and redeems them. Nothing in your story need be wasted when you make it all available to Him.

The places in which you were most wounded or most broken become the very places of value, beauty, and glory through which others are blessed. Your junk is miraculously transformed into bread by which others are fed. And that truly is a miracle!

Beyond Bad Behavior

I hear from many discouraged people who say, “I’ve prayed, fasted, had others pray for me, and I still keep failing.” Don’t stop praying! But you need to put in place your escape plan, and do the hard work of recovery in connecting with others.

And many others say, “I’ve stopped this behavior, but my heart is still empty.” Perhaps they’ve stopped their porn use, but their marriage is worse than ever. They’re not drinking, but their old trauma continues to control their thoughts. You may need to do some healing work. And you will also need to learn how to experience Jesus with the emotional parts of your human “system.”

Don’t settle for less. You need it all. Moving from sobriety to recovery, healing, and redemption is worth whatever it takes.

Your Turn: Where have you felt stuck in dealing with your bad behavior? Which of these 3 – sobriety, recovery, or redemption – have you been lacking?  Leave a comment below.

Want More? This week’s podcast is a conversation with Lyschel Burket about her story after betrayal, and her perspective on why sobriety isn’t enough.

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