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Clean and Sober for the Right Reason

After living for years as a slave to his addictions, Gregory Madison discovered the true path to freedom

During the 23 years that Gregory Madison was “hooked” on crack and other addictions that went with it, he participated in about 15 Christian and secular programs. The longest time he remained sober was for 17 months. He would move from one place to another, going from one program to another. In between, he would live on the streets and with friends. Things got so bad that he decided he would never quit using drugs. After spending two years in Florida in search of the best cocaine, God began to convince Gregory that His way is best and that Gregory’s actions were highly offensive toward Him and his fellow man. He returned to Cleveland, Ohio and sought out the help of his family and the faith community. 

“My long and difficult road finally led me to study the link between addiction and idolatry,” he says. “Now the things that are most important to me are hearing God and being used by Him each and every day.” Here he explains what he found to be the true motivation for a life free of addiction. 

What is your main reason for not drinking and/or drugging? Is it because it was ruining your life, or because you recognized it as being wrong in the sight of God? If we do not abstain out of reverence for God, then our motives will be less than pure. It’s really a question of what we value. Do we value God, or do we value things like family, possessions or reputation more?

Jesus Christ told His followers that they had a decision to make. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39) To abstain from an addiction out of love and respect for God is an act of worship. When we say, “God, you are worthy of my abstinence,” we open ourselves to God’s wisdom and direction. We agree to live by His standards.

When we don’t have the right motives for staying clean and sober, we are living according to our own standards. I determine what’s right and what’s wrong. Who’s to say that I might not change my mind about whether it’s right to drink or do drugs? What’s to keep me from doing other things that are not in my best interest or the interest of others (as well as displeasing to God)? We, in effect, design our own program. At best, we possess a form of godliness. This type of sobriety is of a lower nature. As we lean on our own understanding, we leave so many important issues unaddressed.

We can take courage in the fact that God recognizes and rewards those who are seeking a greater degree of reverence. 

“Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.
 (Ps. 86:11)

 Much change that is offered today in counseling—even in the Name of Christ—neglects the basic reason why a believer must change to please God. Reasons for overcoming addictions, such as pursuing better health or improving a marriage, while not wrong in themselves, are quite wrong when, in the words of psychologist Jay Adams, “they are not subordinated to the greater purpose of pleasing and honoring God.”

Gregory Madison resides in Memphis, TN.

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