Sobriety Story

The following is an account of my journey leading up to my decision not to drink alcohol any longer.  – Tammy McDaniel

I didn’t hit rock bottom to find my sobriety.  Likely hitting rock bottom would not have made me quit.  Based on my rock bottom fantasies, I would have wanted to drink more, not less.

Honest attempts to quit drinking or control it with moderation failed.  I tried white knuckles, will power, an inpatient rehabilitation facility, self-education, and I tried professional counseling.   I finally accepted the fact that I was a heavy drinker and that was that!  Unless I had a serious health scare that could be directly linked to my alcohol consumption, I wasn’t going to quit.  I had no reason to. Drinking was something I enjoyed, it relaxed me, and I deserved the luxury.

By anyone’s definition, my excessive drinking, especially my drinking to the point of blacking out would be considered biblical drunkenness.  I could not hide from the truth that most of my drinking was a sin.  I was (am) a Christian.  How could I live with this daily recurring sin?  In one breath I professed my love of God and in the next sipped and slipped away with my chardonnay.

I heard sermon after sermon about addiction and seeking help.  Some messages more compelling than others.  I made broken promises to God.  I hated myself for those.  I tried everything.  I got to the point that I tried to justify my drinking as biblical.  God gave us wine as a blessing to enjoy! It’s in the Bible therefore I am justified in my drinking!  His first documented miracle is turning water into wine!  Leave me alone with all your advice about quitting! God is OK with my drinking!

When it was just me and God, I couldn’t hide.  I had a problem and I didn’t know how to fix it.  I wanted God to know I loved Him with all my heart and all my soul.  In those many sermons about conquering addiction I’d often hear:   “Give it to God” and “Let go, let God”.   What nobody ever tells you is “how” to do that?

How do you give something to God?  Here you go, God, it’s all yours!  What now?  I prayed. I continued to drink. I searched for answers.  I finally refused to ever make another promise to God about not drinking.  I couldn’t trust myself.  I couldn’t keep even the smallest of promises when it came to drinking.  I won’t drink today, God.  Just today, I promise, I won’t drink.  I was tormented with shame the next day after breaking my promise.

I prayed to God for understanding.  I wanted to know how to give my drinking problem to Him as I’d been advised to do.  One day, I felt the answer come.  The way to give something to God is so simple I was overlooking it and missing it.

I stopped fussing about it. I stopped “trying” to quit.  I gave my struggle to God.  No longer would I take responsibility for my drinking.  That last sentence might be hard for some to consider acceptable behavior and I can understand that.  But, that doesn’t change the fact that I gave my drinking to God and I let go of all the noise, confusion, and personal responsibility of my excessive drinking.

The day I did this, a huge weight was taken off of my shoulders.  I am a living testimony that God’s yoke is light.  It felt so good not to worry about my drinking any longer.  Did I decide not to drink any more that day?  No, not even close.  I continued to drink, no more or no less than before I gave my problem to God.

I did, however, change one behavior.  On my way to work each morning, I would not listen to the radio.  On my 20 – 30 minute commute to work, I would drive in silence and pray.  I started every Morning Prayer almost identical to the morning before.  I thanked my Heavenly Father for allowing me to give my drinking problem to Him.  I sincerely apologized for my drunkenness the night before and then with a transparent heart asked that He take my desire to drink from me.

If God were to search my heart, He would find that my every word was sincere.  My prayer continued with deep appreciation and thankfulness that He relieved me of my burden and took on the issue Himself.  I would then continue on with other prayers and praises.  Sometimes if I could remember the words, I would sing parts of a hymn I remembered from Sunday’s service.  Old hymns have powerful lyrics.  This routine would continue for almost a year when it happened.

I made the decision not to drink any more for reasons that began with a lot of subtly.  It was a build up of reasons.  The foundational reason surfaced after I gave my drinking problem to God.   I found that even though I could maintain a job, pay my bills, drive a new vehicle, own a nice home, and provide a normal outward appearance, something nagged at me.

As comfortable and at peace as I felt with my endless glass of wine snuggled up on the couch watching something mildly entertaining on the television, I longed for something more.  If asked at the time, I would have truthfully answered that I was fine and that I enjoyed my wine-filled evenings.

My desire for something else was buried deep.  If not for my final task of giving my drinking problem to God, I would have never been able to roll back even the first layer.

The earliest thoughts that began my slow journey into sobriety was that I started to look at myself more honestly.  One recurring theme was evident.  If I was to be involved in any event, I had to be able to drink at it.  Actually, be able to drink before it, at it, and after it.  Otherwise, the event became unappealing.

When I became honest with myself about this truth, it started some inner dialogue about the definition of normal.  I couldn’t enjoy myself or have any fun without having the assurance I would have access to wine.

I didn’t throw down the gauntlet or anything.  Nothing changed about me after this self-revelation.  It was just the awareness of this that entered my life – no real change.  It would take months of me thinking about this truth that would lead me to the second truth.

I was imprisoned.  I didn’t have control over something I very well should.  As long as I told myself the wine is what I wanted, I had a convincing façade of control.  I spent prayer time and other alone time dissecting the power that wine had over me.   I would meditate on Romans 7:15-24.   During my long dissection process, another harsh truth surfaced in my journey to be completely honest with myself.   I grew to realize that it wasn’t me controlling “it”.   “It” was controlling me.

Romans 7:15-24
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

I had only one choice.  I had to face the fact that I was in prison and wine was the warden.  I remained in that prison a long time.  Longer than I like to remember, but prison is where God would lead me to the discovery of Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT ©).  I posted the details leading up to my Big Plan here.

Using AVRT is the tool I used to make the decision never to drink again and have the utmost assurance I will never change my mind.   On I will share some of my AVRT education and my application of it.  God set me free from my prison by helping me to look at myself through His eyes and He also led me to AVRT.  AVRT is one way to find sobriety.  It is not the only way.  It might have been the only way for me, only God would know for sure.

Matthew 11:29-30 (The Message)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Take-Away:  If you’re struggling with a form of addiction, my advice is to give it to God and let go.  “For [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light”, Matthew 11:30 NIV.   Commit to meeting Him daily (or more often) for private prayer time.  Let Him work in your life.  Let Him help you find what you’re searching for.

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