Dear first year me,
You’re going to love university. And by that, I mean you’re going to love everything but the actual school part. You’re going to make awesome friendships, grasp what it means to be in relationship with Christ and grow a lot, and also be a part of Christian community unlike anything you’ve encountered.
While the next three years are going to include a whole lot of awesome; there is something I want to warn you about. You’re going to notice some signs that point to the fact that you don’t have the normal relationship with alcohol that you see most of your Christian friends having. But you’re going to ignore them because you think a “good Christian” trying to live a Spirit-directed life shouldn’t struggle with alcohol.
That initial response of turning a blind eye is going to take you down a path of struggle, hiding, and self-dependence. Trust me when I tell you, it’s going to be miserable.
Not long after graduation it’s going to come as a big surprise to you (despite all those warning signs) that you’re an alcoholic. You’re going to be hard on yourself, you’re not going to understand how you let things get so out of hand, and you’re going to keep this shame-filled secret in the dark for far longer than you should.
You’re going to feel like the worst Christian ever, and like you’re the only one struggling with sin. In those moments, it will be so easy to start believing the lie that your salvation is based on your own works.
Which is why I need you to trust me when I tell you that bringing sin into the light—especially when it looks and sounds like addiction—is one of the greatest surrenders. It will bring such relief, and allow redemption, forgiveness, and truth to enter into all of the secrets, shame, and lies you’ve been keeping.
This struggle won’t automatically end with confession and forgiveness. But it will be the beginning of a new daily surrender, a new daily reliance on the Spirit, and a far greater understanding of just how badly you need the gospel.
I wish, first year me, that you could see Jesus and the cross the way you do right now. It’s taken addiction (a word I’m still learning to accept), and the process of recovery to understand this; there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from the love of Christ, and no sin is too big for God’s forgiveness.
First year me, this journey is not meant to be lived out alone, and you’re going to encounter some things that are too big to tackle by yourself. So don’t let your fear of judgment or rejection stop you from reaching out for help from brothers and sisters who are there for you, and want to see you living in the light. Don’t let those signs of disobedience and sin slip away with small confessions. You are at war against your fleshly desires, and God is with you and loves you in your struggle to remain faithful.
If you’re struggling with addiction, habitual sin, or with what you think could be addiction; reaching out for help will be one of the hardest, yet best decisions you will make in your journey towards recovery.
Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery (Christian-specific recovery program), and Narcotics Anonymous are great resources if you’d like to be in a recovery community and learn from other addicts. If you’re feeling at all hesitant, begin by talking with your pastor, mentor, a trusted adult, or a counsellor. Know that reaching out for help will feel incredibly hard, but be so worth it.
Some other resources I’ve found helpful in understanding addiction from the Christian perspective include:
*Photo by Pawel Kadysz
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