“Hello Mr. Q. I will be over in 30-minutes to take your bandage off.”
My visiting nurse was on the phone. It was June of 2012, just short of a week after open heart surgery. Instead of sewing up my chest with Frankenstein-like stitches like the old days, they used glue to close the incision in my skin and covered it with wide, semi-clear tape, sort of like packing tape.
“Is it going to hurt?” I asked her before she hung up.
“Oh no, it won’t hurt. See you in a half an hour.”
About 30-minutes later, I answered the door, only to see a different nurse. “What happened to my regular nurse?” I asked.
“She got stuck at her last call. I am here to take your bandage off.”
A few minutes later, she had worked her fingers under the top of the bandage and was getting ready to pull it off. “Are you ready?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Is it going to hurt?”
“Of course it’s going to hurt,” she replied matter-of-factly. “That thing has been stuck to your chest for a week.”
With that, she tore the bandage off with one quick motion.
It hurt. A lot.
Getting sober and recovering from addiction hurts. A lot. I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way, but for me it was. I prayed to God and asked Him to “take it away” but He didn’t take it away all at once. I had to go through the withdrawals, the relapses, the doubts, and the losses. I had to face them and feel them. I had to fall down and fail and get back up again.
I had to experience the loss of the “medication” that I had used since I was a little boy to soothe and comfort me in the face of emotional and relational fears that I didn’t want to face. I had to deal with the turbulence brought about by my brain chemistry being turned upside down. All of this while dealing with rejection, divorce, and living alone.
I don’t want to give the impression that I was the only one suffering. I was and am responsible for my actions. I had hurt countless people, most of all my wife of over 34 years. Divorcing me was the right thing to do. It most likely saved both of our lives.
“How long will it take? How long before I experience freedom in recovery?” The conventional wisdom is two to five years. I remember my reaction when I first read that: No, it can’t be. That is awful. That is such a long time. Isn't there an easier way? I can’t do it.
I am sure the timeline varies based on the depth of the addiction, your particular circumstances, and support systems. And I am sure it doesn’t have to take that long. There men in my 12-step group that went through discovery, got help, and made huge progress in just the first year. Knowing them, I can see that the change is real and they are not just “white-knuckling” it.
But it always looks easier from the outside. I have seen and heard of people that quit smoking or drinking and the desire to go back was immediately gone. I have not yet seen that with lust addiction.
I am not saying that immediate deliverance is not possible. In fact, I believe that you should ask God for exactly that. “Ye have not because ye ask not.” “With God, all things are possible.” Jesus Christ commanded us to ask, seek, and knock.
However, if the Lord doesn’t answer that exact prayer, don’t take it as a No answer. And don’t think that it is not His will or that He doesn’t care. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Think of it like this: you can choose your actions, but you don’t get to choose the consequences. Painfully obvious to you I am sure, as you reap the destruction of your addiction.
In the same way, you can pray and trust God to heal you, but you don’t get to decide the means He will use to do it. All you can do is the next right thing: confess to God, get help, get in a safe 12-step group, get a sponsor, work the steps, get involved. Trust Him and His grace to lead you and get you through the process.
It will likely take longer than you want it to. And much of it will be brutal and painful. As you progress, there will be more times of joy and satisfaction. With the help of God and others, you can do it. If I can do it anyone can.
Let’s look at it this way: do you plan to be alive two years from today? How about five years from now? The time is going to pass anyway, whether you get sober or not. Regardless of what you do, the days are going to come and go. You may as well get started on your recovery if you haven’t already. It will never be easier than today. If you have already started, don’t quit, keep going.
Don’t worry about how long it’s going to take. If you do what’s right day-by-day and trust God and the process, it will happen. It will hurt. It will be worth it.
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