The Secret of Self-Control

Here was a man who had spent two hundred hours in trying to help an alcoholic get control of himself. Then the alcoholic decided to get on his knees, surrender to Christ, and let Christ control him. He got up from his knees a free man. He never touched alcohol again. He found self-control through Christ-control.

I tried the Christian life as self-control. Every day I would start out with the thought and purpose that I would keep myself from sin that day. And every night I came back a failure. For how could an uncontrolled will control an uncontrolled self? A diseased will could not heal a diseased soul.  Then Christ moved into the affections. I began to love Him. Then the lesser loves dropped away.

Professor Royce, in his philosophy of “Loyalty,” says, “There is only one way to be an ethical individual, and that is to choose your cause and then serve it.” This central loyalty to a cause puts other loyalties in their places as subordinate. Then life as a whole is coordinated, since the lesser loyalties are subordinated. To the Christian the “cause” is Christ and His Kingdom. We seek these first, and then all other things, including self-control, are added.

But not automatically. We have to cooperate. We have to throw our wills on the side of being disciplined. There are many who throw their wills on the other side – indiscipline, sometimes called freedom. A junior-high-school girl had on her belt this declaration of wants: “We want more holidays, less homework, more TV, and later hours for bedtime.” Her crowd wanted to be free to do as they liked, not to be free to do as they ought. The result is inward and outward chaos. People who try to be free through indiscipline are “free in the sense that a ship is free when it has lost both compass and rudder. “The undisciplined  person may sit at a piano,” says Trueblood, “but he is not free to strike the notes he would like to strike. He is not free because he has not paid the necessary price for that particular freedom.” Freedom is the byproduct  of a disciplined person. Then you are not merely “free from;” you are “free to.”

Heavenly father, help me to be the kind of person who is “free to” – free to do the very highest I am capable of doing.Amen.

– E. Stanley Jones

A Day I’d Like to Forget

December 28, 1979. A day I’d like to forget. The state trooper asked me if I’d like to call anyone. He asked me this at the conclusion of a three-hour interrogation. I’d been accused of a serious crime. A felony. Something I denied repeatedly during the first two hours of questioning. Somewhere around the beginning of the third hour, I felt my defenses shifting. The “wall” started to crumble. No doubt the trooper could see it happening. I was sweating. I could not stop trembling. And I was about to start crying. I ultimately confessed to burglary and arson that day. I was sentenced to three years in state prison as part of a plea agreement.

I could not believe I was in this situation a mere eighteen months after graduating from high school. I was a good student. Loved high school. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, including drama, AV, photography, yearbook, radio broadcasting and the debate team. I played on the high school tennis team. One of my more favorite projects involved local history. I loved to write, had a flare for photography, and was fairly comfortable with public speaking. I came from a Christian family, and had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was thirteen.

How in the world did I end up abusing alcohol and drugs? Where did this obsession come from? I drank alcoholically from the very first drink, finishing my first-ever case of beer by myself in two days. Marijuana became my best friend. I smoked so much weed that I had trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy. Somehow, I convinced my family doctor that I needed Valium to combat severe anxiety. I came to find that mixing alcohol, pot, and Valium leads to impulsive behavior and a complete lack of care for God, parents and the law.

I have not had a drink or a “hit” of marijuana since 2008. Unfortunately, I struggled with an addiction to narcotic pain medication for several years after that. It took being entirely honest with myself that I was an addict as well as an alcoholic in order to get clean. I started attending NA meetings in addition to AA meetings. Through improving my relationship with Jesus, I was able to stop obsessing over getting high on oxycodone to escape severe back pain. Truly, I was using the medication to escape everything. Not just physical pain, but spiritual unrest, anxiety, depression, feelings of personal failure, and a past history I’d just as soon forget. I had a lot of shame and guilt. I felt truly lost.

Today, I see my past history not as a liability, but as an asset. It is only through experiencing what I did that I’m able to reach out and help others who are wrestling with the demons of addiction and mental illness. After much prayer, and speaking with my pastor and several Christian friends, I was able to hear God’s call on my life. I have returned to college to complete my undergraduate degree in psychology in order to prepare for a career in addictions counseling. I will be working primarily with teenagers and young adults. As much as I’d like to forget December 28, 1979, it is a part of my past that has led to me finding my purpose. What a joy it is to get out of bed each day and be grateful for life. To love being clean and sober. To understand why I’m here.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” (Mark Twain)