When I finally had a string of time after my last drink, I was able to look back on my life with greater alcohol-free clarity. I could see how my entire life had changed that teenage day when I decided to give in to peer pressure and drink. The trajectory of my life was altered with that one decision. From that day forward, alcohol would choose my close friends, my habits and routines, how I spent my money, how I picked my jobs, and alcohol even selected my romantic partners. Instead of living the way God intended, and planting seeds that could flourish as I matured, my life was instead “corrupted… by deception” (Ephesians 4). Not to sound harsh, but in many ways my life became a spiral of selfish desires, false rewards, and sinful seeds. I had even gotten myself into many dangerous situations, and I had stopped trusting myself.
Now I can see that I had put alcohol in charge instead of God, and my entire reality was affected by this choice. There finally came a day when I realized I could not continue on this path; I was so unhappy. I had also discarded very special friends, meaningful relationships, and valuable experiences because of alcohol and my choice to put this bad habit above God. The irony is that I never connected the dots until I was freed from the psychological slavery of alcohol. Suddenly I could see that all of the problems in my life were related; it was the drinking! I had given my power away to this ridiculous substance, and it wasn’t that I had “bad luck” or was a victim, or that “things just didn’t work out for me.” Nor had God abandoned me. I had abandoned God!
Although this was an overwhelming revelation, the good news is that God’s promise is one of immediate renewal and rebirth. After years of breaking promises to myself and making mistakes, I had become a very negative judge of myself; I was incredibly critical to the extreme. However, just because alcohol empowered a “sinful nature” in the past, we can immediately choose a different path and find freedom. Not just freedom from alcohol but we also don’t have to beat ourselves up for the rest of our lives! Ephesians declared that you can “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life” (4:22-24). Forgiveness of self was unimaginable for a while, yet it is one of those amazing not-obvious-at-first rewards that appear because of our decision to follow God’s plan and go alcohol free.
God offers us the chance to start anew. The slate is wiped clean when we take that step, and we can experience immediate forgiveness. There are vast layers to the freedom that is experienced by placing God above alcohol. I have decades of right living to look forward to now, and there is a newfound freedom and joy that comes with this choice. When I took that first step on my alcohol-free journey, I could witness firsthand that I could be renewed, and that I never had to go back to that place of judgment again. Forgiveness truly is one of the greatest gifts you can receive when you take those necessary steps towards freedom and the plans God has for you!