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FIRST-PERSON: How far is rock bottom?

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–We often hear the remark that a person will never turn his life around until he hits rock bottom. For some, “rock bottom” is a light wakeup call; for others it may be a traumatic event with terrifying consequences.

Recently I had just finished sharing about my former drug addiction and all its sad consequences with a group of people. Then I recalled the guilt I had experienced during the early days of my Christian ministry.

“My father never could quite understand how a son of his could become a drug addict,” I told the group of 60, which included recovering individuals and their family members. “But he did not turn his back on me. He was there every step of the way to offer me encouragement. I was so glad that he lived long enough to see me turn my life around by the grace of God. He delighted that God had offered me a second chance at life.

“After his death in 1981, I could not get rid of the guilty feelings about the shame that I had brought to my daddy and the rest of the family. I would speak in churches across the country, and when I had left a church on Sunday night, I would drive along the lonely roads searching the heavens for the biggest star in the sky. For me that was my daddy, who was now in heaven. I would get out of the car and cry, speaking to that big star in the sky, ‘Daddy, I’m so sorry for all the pain I caused you. I didn’t mean to! Forgive me!’

“I kept repeating this process, night after night, until finally one day I remembered something about my daddy. Even in the darkest days, when I was locked up in prison, to my daddy, I was always somebody special!”

And as the time passed by, most of those guilty feelings began to take flight. Many of the people I was talking to were experiencing the same pangs of guilt.

One man in the crowd, in his 40s, volunteered to speak. He was one that I had attempted to help through the recovery process more than a year before. He told his eager listeners of the helping hand that I had extended, and thanked me.

“I was full of pride and anger when I rode the bus to North Carolina,” he confessed. “I was at the end of my road. Drugs, gambling, and every other sin had robbed me of my family, health, business and any semblance of the rich life I had once enjoyed. I didn’t understand how God could let it happen to me.”

He detailed his four months in treatment at two Christ-focused centers.

“The pastor … was such an inspiration to me,” he told the group. “Ted asked me to totally surrender my life to the Lord. I didn’t understand it all at first. But I do now. I think about the worldly things that I thought meant so much for so long.

“I have surrendered, and I have finally found peace inside. I live with my parents, and I thank them for all they have done to make my recovery possible,” he tearfully concluded.

The joy in the hearts of his parents, who sat next to me, was obvious to all in the room. This once wayward man had hit his rock bottom, and, by the grace of God, had found his second chance at life, and he was not about to throw it away!

The other day I talked with a father who is frustrated with a young son who has three times thrown away opportunities for a better life. The son has refused to follow the rules, even when a treatment facility offered him a second chance. The father is frantically searching for an answer to his son’s dilemma. However, this good man cannot provide the rescue net that he seeks. His son favors the deceptive feelings of heroin over the better life that only a complete surrender to Christ can provide.

Will the better life that I advocate require pain? Yes, because the son must endure the agony of becoming free from the addictive powers of his chosen drug, and by the parents, who must reluctantly let go and let God. This effort will require much more true love than would the act of bailing him out again. This young man has not yet hit rock bottom. And we continually pray that rock bottom will not be so disastrous that he will not be able to return. The choice is his and his alone!

The message from Jesus is plain. “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

Surrender is the answer!
Ted Stone and Philip Barber are Southern Baptist ministers who provide leadership to churches and individuals seeking avenues of hope for those involved in drug abuse. For information about speaking engagements or about the anti-drug HIS Way program, contact Ted Stone, Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C. 27702, or telephone 919-477-1581.

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