Editor’s note: Mike Doggett, UGM’s Aftercare Manager, addressed the recovery participants at a recent phase-up celebration in UGM Women’s Recovery. Mike has a critical role in UGM’s efforts to support people through at least 5 years of active recovery so they’ll have the greatest likelihood of lifelong recovery. Here's what he said.
What If I Gave Everything?
By Mike Doggett
“When I grow up, I want to be an addict!” said no child ever. None of you purposefully made the decision one day that you were going to spend the rest of your life looking for that next fix, retrieving that next hidden bottle or accepting that daily bruise from the next love in your life. I know you. I know who you are. I know this because I am you and I’ve got some things I’d like you to know.
I have sat in classrooms with you and have heard the horrific stories of abuse and neglect perpetrated by those who are supposed to love you. And I ask myself, “How would someone not use a substance to cope with the unimaginable pain of their past?”
For some of you that very first sense of euphoria or courage came from a pill prescribed by a doctor to treat an injury. And there are those who grew up in a house with loving, God-fearing parents, and of the 5 kids you are the one who finds themselves in a treatment center battling to stay clean from a substance that is sure to kill you. It doesn’t really matter what brought you to this place today, does it? What matters is that you listened to that “still, small voice” of God and are seeking the life that you deserve...a better life.
We sought freedom from the pain in our life, and we found that a needle, bottle or a pill offered immediate relief. This temporary freedom has led many of you to a lifestyle where you quite literally lost everything: Living in abandoned houses or under bridges with only the clothes on your back, begging, borrowing and stealing to get that next fix. The insidious lure of this substance has led to homelessness, prison and overdose.
Some have shared the heartbreak of choosing a temporary high over a child, and this loss led to a stronger desire to cover up that pain. Then there are some who perhaps still have a family, a job and their freedom, but they are hanging by a thread.
Regardless of where you are on this addiction spectrum you find yourself in this place where you have a daily battle of the mind: “Do I stay or do I go?” Many times a day, you entertain the thought that you have another drunk or high left in you. The concept of “forever saying goodbye” to the love of your life, your drug of choice, seems impossible.
Sometimes you convince yourself that God has obviously created you to be an addict. Why else would you like it so much? Or perhaps you are rebelling against God, angry for the life you have experienced, questioning His love for you. You try to make sense of your addiction, bargain with it, saying maybe if I only drink after 5 p.m., perhaps I can be a normal drinker.
Alcohol kills approximately 88,000 people in the United States each year, with middle-aged women showing the highest rate of increase. Recent government statistics show that drug overdose deaths rose to a record 70,000 in 2017.
In August 2018 a dear friend finally found the freedom she had been seeking in the bottle, dying from alcoholism. Jill loved God and was one of the most spirit-filled people I have ever been around, when she was sober. I would wake up to messages of hope and encouragement, scriptures and praise on my phone.
But over a two-year period, I knew that there would be many weeks where Jill would disappear back into her addiction. Jill always felt she had another drunk left in her, convinced it would be followed by another successful recovery.
Jill became a part of my recovery journey, reminding me that we are dealing with a cunning, baffling and powerful disease that kills a lot of people. Addiction is not a respecter of economic status, color, age, sex or religion. It is an equal-opportunity destroyer, and for some of us we will have to be forever vigilant. You can’t make sense or bargain with addiction. Satan is the author of lies and confusion, whose aim is to steal, kill and destroy. Jill loved God and I am confident her life eternal is with God, but her life here on earth was destroyed by her addiction.
Each of you has become a part of my recovery journey too. I teach an addiction class because I have 20 years of experience in being sober, but what you don’t know is that you are teaching me every day how to stay sober.
Over the last several years I have seen so many of you go through this program and in the end decide you too have one more drunk or high left in you. You convince yourself that you’ll be able to stop after one drink this time. Just a couple of weeks on meth to lose these extra pounds and you’ll stop this time. Weed isn’t your drug of choice, so nothing to worry about this time. He abused you because you were an addict, and now that you are clean he won’t abuse you anymore and it’ll be different this time.
The list of “this times” is vast, but the outcomes are always the same, leading you back into the darkness you swore you would never enter again. 2 years clean and sober, a good-paying job, reunified with a child, and the enemy plants in our heads that it will somehow be different this time. And it is, until it isn’t. The enemy has returned bringing with it seven demons that not only pick up where you left off, but propels you into even darker places.
I try to convince myself that this is normal, that relapse is a part of recovery. I retreat to my corner each time one of you relapses, put on my coat of armor and tell myself there is nothing more I could have done. It is not quite that easy though. You have become a part of my recovery and in doing so have established a connection that is not so easily forgotten. You have reminded me of the strength of our addictions and have taught me the importance of never giving in to the idea that “things will be different this time.”
You have also been an example to me of God’s grace and mercy, and without that I am nothing. You will always occupy a place in my recovery and my desire is that each of you would be able to stand here 20 years from now and say the same thing to those coming up behind you.
In meeting rooms we have a saying: “It works if you work it.” I have seen God’s healing power here at UGM for people whose lives had seemed completely lost. There have been amazing reunifications of moms with kids that only God could have planned and carried out. Tears fill my eyes when in church I look across the congregation and see one of you lifting your hands in praise; once lost, but now found.
You, like me, have been given this gift of addiction. Yes! I said gift; and it is up to each of us to apply the lessons that God will teach us through this. Recovery is not a destination; recovery is a journey. Like all journeys, you will have mountaintop experiences where there is no doubt God is right there with you. You will also have those times when you are in the valley and God seems so far from you. Through the “gift of addiction” I have learned that I can’t do this on my own, and I have to have healthy people around me to get through these valleys.
You are learning the tools that, if used, will help you live a life of sobriety and recovery. My charge to each of you, regardless of where you are on your journey, is that each day you will wake up and thank God for another day of sobriety; that you will be patient and hope-filled in your waiting; that you will apply the tools that you are being provided; you will continue to work on your recovery; you will welcome accountability; and you will especially maintain your connection with God. Such a simple and sometimes silly-sounding way of ending a meeting, but there is so much truth in that saying, “It works if you work it.” And you are worth it.
I’ll end this letter with the words from a Casting Crowns song that asks a question from each of you:
So why am I still standing here?
Why am I still holding back from You?
I hear You call me out into deeper waters
But I settle on the shallow end
So why am I still standing here?
What if I gave everything to You?
I thank God today for another day of sobriety and especially thank God for bringing me here to UGM where He has put His children, each of you, into my recovery journey.
Whether you have experience in recovery like Mike does or not, if you're a mature believer you can make a huge difference in someone's journey by volunteering as a mentor. Click here for more information on our Aftercare program.