In his book Rational Recovery, recovered alcoholic Jack Trimpey describes a night of drinking.
I remember sitting alone in a Detroit bar one evening, my first drink, a double martini, before me. I felt pleasantly excited as I looked at it, but then I had second thoughts. "This stuff is ruining me," I thought.
I looked at my hand and imagined it moving to the glass, taking it to my lips, and sipping it down, and then I thought about the future. I saw myself in the proverbial gutter, then in the literal gutter along a street in downtown Detroit. I thought, "Is this what's going to happen to me?"
I felt afraid for a moment and then quickly took the drink and drank it down. Then I thought, "So this is how we are. A disease that makes us powerless over the desire to drink alcohol." The alcohol took effect, and I thought, "Well, there are worse diseases than this!"
For Jack Trimpey it was substance abuse, for others it might be an addiction, a bad habit, or an otherwise destructive lifestyle choice; we can all point to at least one thing in our lives and say: I wish that were different.
Despite our seemingly best efforts, the bad habit is unwavering. Often, this is why: we want to change our behavior, but at the same time we don't really. We like doing it. And making a real, long-term change is very hard. Giving up something we like is very hard.
I know what the right thing to do is, what the thing that will most benefit both me and the people around me is, yet sometimes I do the exact opposite because my awareness of how destructive that behavior is does not match the pleasure I get out of it.
A tortured soul by the name of Paul describes this dilemma when he writes in Romans chapter 7 of the Bible: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 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."
The problem is, it is almost always easier to do the thing we are not supposed to do. And with all its negative consequences, the thing we are not supposed to do also has positive consequences— namely pleasure, relief, and instant gratification. That immediate relief or pleasure is what we are thinking about when we repeat the behavior we want to stop. We feel giving it up is too big a sacrifice to make.
Not doing the things we shouldn't do is hard, yet the only way to stop it is to decide to make that hard choice every time we are confronted with it.
This is what Jack Trimpey finally decided to do, and this is how he permanently beat his alcohol addiction. "Anyone can quit for good, and I had better bite the bullet and get my recovery over with."
It is difficult, and it sucks, but making the right decision is worth the sacrifice. Ultimately, it is what will truly be good for us and improve our lives.
Rules are in place for the good of those around us, but also for our own good.
The Ten Commandments are written in the Bible not to punish us, but because honoring our father and mother, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and abstaining from murder will help us have a better life.
Jesus died so when we did screw these things up, when we did do the evil we did not want to do rather than the good we wanted to do, we could be forgiven and start afresh every time.
It takes hard work and it takes extreme sacrifice, and it is not easy. But once you bite the bullet and get it over with yourself, you might find it is completely worth it. •