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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Alexander

Why Sobriety is Not Enough

The Nature of Addiction

Why is it that people use drugs? Well, after careful study and research of what drugs do to the human body's reward system (serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, etc.), I would be lying if I didn’t tell you the truth: drugs produce temporary gratification. People use drugs because there is pleasure involved. If this wasn’t the case, why in the world would someone lose their family, give up their job/career, or even risk their life for drugs? Yet this happens all too often. Obviously, a great short-lived enjoyment is involved. That is undeniable. However, once the body is physically, chemically, emotionally, and mentally addicted, it is extremely difficult to detach oneself from the endless cycle of this addiction. Once addiction takes root, the body naturally begins to build up a tolerance for the drug being abused. Tolerance means that a person’s body no longer responds to the same dosage of the drug. Consequently, to feel any effects from the drug, a higher dose is required to achieve the same effect. Over time, the amount of pleasure produced from the drug decreases while the craving for the drug increases; the person no longer gains the pleasure they once obtained from the drug. Inevitably, they begin using high doses of the drug in order just to feel ‘normal’. Without the drug, the body’s natural reward system no longer knows how to properly function. In this condition, addicts find themselves stuck in this vicious repetition of using drugs but then desiring to be sober. When sober, they want to be high; when high, they want to be sober. This is tormenting and what we often call the 'cycle or insanity of addiction'. If they have stepped out of denial, then there is some desire to get clean and be free. The addict wants to stop using but cannot. And yet they continue to be completely dependent upon the very drug that is destroying them. So what is the solution to break such a stronghold? Is it sobriety? And if so, is sobriety alone the end goal?

Is Sobriety the Answer?

In the recovery community there is a term commonly known as sobriety. If anyone has ever attended an AA or NA meeting, there is always an accounting or celebration of how long a man or woman has abstained from drugs or alcohol. The majority goal of most recovery programs and meetings is sobriety. They desire to see men and women drug free and living a life without any chemical or mind-altering influence. And they celebrate this (as they should!). However, should sobriety be the end goal of recovery?

I remember going to California and entering a 45-day rehab, searching for an answer to save me from my drug addiction. The first week I was there I attended many recovery meetings that completely changed my view on sobriety. I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting and listening to a man stand up and say, “My name is John. I’ve been 45 years sober from alcohol. Yesterday it was all I could do to not pick up a bottle. Every day is like this. I just want to drink so badly, but by my own will power, I make it through.” I was speechless as tears rolled down my face. The poor man was 45 years sober from alcohol and yet, the alcohol still controlled his every thought! He was still held captive to it. In his sobriety he was still trapped in so much misery. I soon found out that John was not in the minority, but rather, that a majority of people in long-term sobriety felt the same way. They were sober -- and miserable. So I thought to myself, Is it possible to be sober and happy? Is there a way out of addiction altogether?

Although sobriety should be celebrated as a victory, the sad reality is that many in sobriety are still held captive. The drug still calls their name and they still hear it. Although they are clean from the drug, they are still obsessed with it. Their sobriety has helped them get back on their feet, but their sobriety is also a cage holding them back from doing something that they (to some degree) want to do. Sobriety, in an of itself, is not enough. I'm not saying that a recovered addict won't struggle with using again, because they will battle temptation. However, is there a greater freedom and healing that can be offered beyond sobriety?

In my journey as a recovering addict, I realized that what I needed was a Savior who could create new desires deep in my heart. I needed a transformed mind and purpose beyond sobriety. Sobriety could not change my heart, or my taste buds, or my perceived love for substances that gave me temporary pleasure. Sobriety simply could not transform my life. In fact, sobriety was more of a barrier, a law, a 'party crasher', that held me back from doing what I wanted to do. Although I sought sobriety for so long, I finally realized that sobriety alone was not the ultimate victory; it was only a launch pad to clear my head and discover life’s purpose and meaning.

Our Heart’s Longing

It wasn’t until turning to Jesus Christ that I found what I was searching for. In every human heart there is a longing and a deep searching for such contentment and purpose. Unfortunately, we look in all the wrong places and find ourselves still empty. That is because created things cannot fulfill this longing; only the Creator, namely God, Jesus Christ, can do so. God provides something that sobriety cannot offer: everlasting life, the forgiveness of sins, a cleansing from all guilt, divine love, eternal purpose, a living hope, a changed heart, and adoption into His family. True peace and freedom, in every sense, is found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Do not misunderstand -- celebrate sobriety! But realize it is only the starting point for a man or woman to discover something far greater, far more glorious, and far more powerful than sobriety: the free gift of grace provided in Jesus Christ by His death, burial, and resurrection. By Him we have hope. Through Him we are saved. In Him we have life. His promises of freedom from addiction are not just ideal thinking; they become a reality if we are willing to trust in Him.

As a ministry we celebrate any degree of sobriety, but we celebrate an even greater victory: those who experience the life that Christ offers. If you are in addiction, or sobriety, it is our goal and hope to come alongside you in this life's journey. No matter where you are in your recovery, we are eager to help you move to sobriety, beyond sobriety, and into a life that can be fully enjoyed -- without drugs, with the living God.

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