Use the Pain
2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
When I was in treatment, I came to hate the place. I needed it, but it felt like prison to me. Those around me, having been to prison, assured me that I was a cupcake and that treatment was nothing like prison. Still, as I was accustomed to doing whatever I wanted, being away from my family, confined indoors, seemed like a prison to me.
It was in the confines of treatment, that I started to use my imagination to escape to a beach to talk to God. One day, I told a fellow addict of my habit of using my imagination to get away. I said I wanted to always remember the pain so I could use it as motivation to never return. He wisely suggested that just as I used my imagination to escape treatment, that I use my imagination to return there once I was out.
His point was, that as the pain of my mistakes lessens with time, so too may the impetus to change. In the consequences of my addiction, I was forced to come face to face with the disaster of me. It hurt. The hurt was necessary. Without the pain, I would never have been desperate enough to change. Change hurts too. It was only in my desperate misery that I became willing to go through the misery of change. It was only in my pain that I understood how badly I needed God.
The grief of my self-inflicted disaster, Paul said, can have this effect on me. It can push me towards God or it can push me away. The choice of what to do with my pain is mine. That day, three years ago, when life came crashing down, was not the first time I felt the grief of my own failure. I was grieved every time I used. Instead of using that pain to drive me to God though, I turned it into an excuse to use more. In agony over my own toxic behavior, I sought relief in pain-killers. I found grotesque comfort in the very thing that was killing me.
Pain and grief then, can push me either way. They can motivate me towards God or further into destruction. I was not willing to turn to God until the pain of following me became worse than the pain of change. This was my rock-bottom, the point at which I became willing to use the pain to transform me.
I accepted change only when my family and career hung in the balance. Even so, the decision I made back then, to turn from self to God, does not necessarily get me by today. That rock-bottom decision, born of pain, was not a once-for-all choice. It is a choice that I must continue to make. Inevitably, in making good decisions, the pain lessens. As the pain lessens, there is always the danger that complacency sets in and I am again tempted to turn back to self.
It is in that place that I may once again, call upon my imagination to relive the misery of rock-bottom. In remembering the pain, I can use it as motivation to daily deny self and follow Christ.