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FIRST-PERSON: Permanent recovery: A realistic hope for the hurting

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Memo to those who hurt because of drug-related problems: “You can get well. You are not required to wear those sad nametags ‘alcoholic’ or ‘drug addict’ the rest of your days.”

We pray for the day when you will be able to boldly proclaim, “I used to be a drug addict, but I am no longer a drug addict. I used to be a recovering individual, but I am no longer recovering. I am recovered forever by the grace of God, and that same hope can belong to you.”

There are a few who fortunately grasp the keys to recovery overnight and become public evidences of miraculous cures. Steve Cobb, the dedicated young pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, N.C., is living proof of this possibility. During the early 1980’s he was locked into a self-made hell of party life. He lived for the booze and the vast array of illegal “feel good” substances that dominated his tragic lifestyle.

Steve was searching for a way out, and when his parents suggested a conversation with a former drug addict turned crusader, he reluctantly grasped the opportunity. The next day he attended church to hear the stranger share his story of his downfall and all the terrifying consequences associated with the drug world. But what most attracted the interest of the young druggie was the speaker’s constant assertion that he had achieved permanent recovery from his addiction with the help of the Lord. When invitation time came, Steve came forward and explained to the caring pastor of the church, “If God could do it for Ted Stone, He can do it for me.”

The Asheville, N.C. resident broke free from his tragic habit. He had wisely substituted a complete dependence on Jesus for his former addictions, and his life was changed forever. His commitment to the Lord became obvious from this moment, and his daily testimony led countless friends and strangers to follow his example. He accepted God’s call to the ministry and graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Today God is using this devoted Christian servant and his fellow church members as beacons of hope for the lost and hurting in North Carolina’s coastal region.

The co-author of this article, Philip Barber, often relates to listening audiences. “Until I heard Ted proclaim from a church pulpit that he once was a drug addict, but that he was no longer a drug addict, I had no hope that I could ever get well,” Barber said.

For Philip and many others the road to recovery proved painful and bumpy. The eventual recovery did not come overnight, but for these who struggle through relapse after relapse, recovery can also become permanent. The temporary falls can become lessons well learned, steppingstones to eventual recovery, as in Philip’s past history. The once recovering individual, as he learns to rely more on the strength of the Lord and less on his ability to run the show, wakes to discover that he, too, is finally recovered by the grace of God. Without the light of hope ever visible at the finish line of the race, there would have been little reason to continue the race.

References to the addicted state as a disease, caused by physical and mental makeup and family history, are false and misleading, and detrimental to the assumption of personal responsibility for one’s actions. Certainly a person who wanders deep into the addictive lifestyle will become sick, but there is nothing in the system of a healthy individual that cries out, “You must be a drug addict,” or “You must be an alcoholic.” In the vast majority of cases of substance abuse, the afflicted person made the initial choice to participate, and certainly the addicted one in every case must make the final choice to discard the dark lifestyle. The struggle for sobriety need not be a lifelong battle, even though the weaker ones must forever remain vigilant. The adoption of sobriety and self-control as the best road to success, happiness, and inner peace will help nurture a deeply ingrained will to remain free from drug abuse, and a return to the unhappy past will no longer be an option. We can learn from our mistakes!

As those of us who have obtained permanent recovery, whether by overnight miracle or through a long struggle, rejoice, we must never forget that there remain others who hurt and desperately need the encouragement of those who have crossed the victory line. The promise still rings clearly from Revelation 21:7, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
Stone and Barber, of Durham, N.C., are coauthors of two books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Ted G. Stone & Philip D. Barber