The Struggle to Keep Going in Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

The decision to make a significant life-style change is important, but not as important as the plan for change and the resolve to continue following the plan when it becomes a grind. The experience of Nehemiah is both insightful and encouraging for all who find themselves stuck in the recovery process.

Under the wise direction of Nehemiah the Israelites had organized a Herculean effort to rebuild the walls of their beloved city. The city wall, which was the primary defense against marauding bands of thieves, had lain in ruins for a generation. For our discussion, the city wall represents self discipline.

As Solomon said,28Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.’ (Proverbs 25:28).

Our story begins some time after the reconstruction efforts had begun. Nehemiah lists in detail the various sections of the wall with the names of the families who worked on them. The people worked hard and rejoiced as a new wall arose from the rubble: 6So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.’ (Nehemiah 4:6).

But suddenly a series of events threatened to frustrate their efforts. Local warlords were unhappy with the project and plotted to attack the city. There was also a serious problem that surfaced among the people: 10Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10). So much of the rebuilding effort involved moving and removing the rubble and debris that littered the unprotected city. Unfortunately, the efforts to rebuild our lives resemble Jerusalem, a city knee-deep in rubble. Restoring the walls invariably involves the hard work of organizing and sifting through the rubble. Much of it will actually be used in re-building the walls of self control! Let’s see how Nehemiah helped the people address the threats from without and the struggles within.

1. Acknowledge your fears and your feelings. Don’t minimize or ignore the sense of being overwhelmed or the feelings of futility and hopelessness. The enemy will whisper his potent lies in the privacy of your thoughts. How you address these lies will determine if you will continue to build or give up. Listen to the members of your support group, your family and friends who express concerns about your emotional withdrawal, your anger, or about your return to harmful patterns. They speak with loving concern. However, I encourage you to regard your pre-occupation with the addictive behavior as a cry from your heart for help and refuse accept the debilitating messages of shame and guilt.

2. Take steps to address the threats. Nehemiah organized the people to address the danger posed by those who opposed his efforts. 12Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.’ (Nehemiah 4:12-13). Review your action plan in light of your current threat. What modifications are needed to ensure success? Do you need to speak with a pastor or a counselor? Do whatever it takes to meet the threat!

3. Don’t think success rests on your own strength. 14After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome,’ (Nehemiah 4:14a). Through the prophet Zechariah God addressed the same situation in this manner: ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty.’ (Zechariah 4:6b). God is awesome and almighty! Through our weakness He allows us to experience His faithfulness and His power. Prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on God’s handbook for living are invaluable and irreplaceable power boosters for all of us in our times of trial! Remember and resolve to stand on His promise that no temptation will come upon us that we can’t meet with His help.

4. Remember your vision for sobriety and everyone who will benefit by your changes. ‘fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” One of Satan’s deadliest lies is that our struggles and efforts don’t matter. God’s purpose for godliness (God-likeness) is that we reflect His character to a lost world, especially those who are closest to us and have been most affected by our actions.

Satan’s invitation to partake in old, destructive habits is powerful, but not as powerful as the One who lives within us and calls us His children. To the world your broken walls might appear as worthless rubble, undeserving of the efforts it will take to change. But God has called your heart ‘holy ground’. No one but Him can imagine the glory your life will reflect by the time He returns to bring you to heaven.

How’s Your Plan Working?

For some of you reading this, Every Man’s Battle is still a fresh experience; you’re still on the mountain top, and your recovery is exciting. For others who may be a year or two removed from an EMB workshop, things have drifted back to the routine, and some of the ‘warm fuzzies’ of the workshop have faded. Whichever group you find yourself in, one thing is for sure: for your recovery to be successful and meaningful, it will be extremely important to stick to the action plan that you developed at EMB.

One of the hardest parts about sticking to the action plan, is that sometimes it gets a little mundane, a little routine. I can still picture Joe, in sweatshirt and jeans, flexing his muscles while reminding us that as guys, we’re more ‘hero’ oriented than ‘routine’ oriented. ‘Give me a burning house and a baby, and I’ll show you what a hero I can be,’ he’d say. ‘But ask me to take out the trash or get up 15 minutes earlier to put on coffee for my wife? C’mon, that’s a little boring.’ Yet that’s what recovery is all about, doing the mundane, doing the routine, and doing it consistently.

What’s the action plan that I am talking about? Well, by way of a little refresher, let’s go over the things that Joe and the EMB staff want us to do after we leave EMB. I am not going to go into the detail that Joe does, but I’ll hit the highlights. One of the things is to make sure to get an accountability partner and an accountability group. Find someone who isn’t afraid to ask you the tough questions, and who will see through if you’re trying to manipulate. This person does not have to be in recovery from sexual addiction themselves, although that is helpful, but they do need to be available, and willing to meet with you on a weekly basis; and they do need to be honest with you and demand honesty from you. If you’re married, it’s important that this person have full access to your wife, and can call her about anything that is going on in your life that is inappropriate.

Another part of the plan is for you to be seeing your pastor, or someone in leadership at your church. This will help you stay spiritually focused. And speaking of staying spiritually focused, starting off your day with some prayer and Bible reading is the best way to let your Heavenly Father know you’re grateful for all of the gifts He has given you.

Recovery is all about: doing the mundane, doing the routine, doing it consistently!

In all of the follow up calls I’ve done with EMB alumni, I have never once had a guy who was struggling or who had relapsed tell me that he was closely following his action plan. On the flip side, most of the guys who are doing well are doing most or all of their action plan. How are you doing with your follow up plan? If you don’t have a church home, call New Life–we may have a referral for a church in your area. And if you’re not spending any time with the Lord during the day, carve out 15 minutes today to do that. They may not sound like the most exciting things in the world, but it’s the ordinary things in life that we do consistently that keep us in recovery.