By Kristin B. Sizemore, with Pastor Jonathan Sizemore
Completely immersed in a life of drug abuse, drug dealing, & drug manufacturing, Jonathan had lost everything; his home, his business, his future…After years of bondage & desperation, he found hope in Christ. Shortly after Jonathan turned his life over to Jesus and became clean from drugs, he married me. Neither of us knew just how long and hard the journey ahead would be. Even though Jonathan had truly received a miracle, it would be years before he was completely free from the effects of his past.
The Lord has placed a burden in our hearts for couples that are facing situations similar to our own. As we reflect on our past, we both feel that our experience could have been smoother, faster, & less isolated had we found spiritual guidance from someone who understood that there can be a long road from deliverance to complete freedom… We have a burden for you, because we are you. We are here to tell you that through Christ, all things are truly possible, no matter how hopeless things seem at this moment. If your home is affected by the journey from deliverance to complete freedom, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and use the topic “Deliverance” in your subject line. We are prayerfully waiting to help you.
-Excerpt from Our Story: From Deliverance to Freedom, by Kristin B. Sizemore
FIRST THINGS FIRST
So, now you’re saved! Through faith, you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, received His precious gift of salvation, and proclaimed yourself one of His own. This is the most important decision you’ve ever made. You’ve committed to live for Christ, leaving the past behind, including your addiction. You feel new and different because you are new and different! You’re a new creature in Christ! You’ve been delivered and redeemed. Now what? Will the cravings for your drug of choice just stop? Will Satan, your new mortal enemy, just decide not to use the powerful tool of your addiction against you? Sadly,this will probably not be the case. Even though your chains have been broken, there’s a difference between deliverance and complete freedom. In some cases, every trace of addiction is gone. In many cases, however, we have to be refined in the fire.
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. -Job 23:10
We have to choose the future, rather than the past, not just by words or intentions, but in our lives. We have to choose life for the long haul. This conquers the flesh in this area once and for all. You will be stronger than you ever dreamed when you finally reach complete freedom, but buckle up. The road may be rocky.
Christianity is never about standing still. You’ve taken the biggest step of your life, but you’re far from finished. This is a race and to make it to Heaven, our ultimate goal, we have to endure until the end.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. -Matthew 24:13
If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. As a former addict, you have some obstacles to clear along the way. The long-term goal of a heavenly home will seem overwhelming at times. You never need to lose sight of the finish line, but you will need manageable goals to keep you focus and moving forward on your journey. I once advised a friend who was struggling with an addiction to a harmful relationship in her past to set her goals backward; to write down “Heaven” and work her way backward, listing all she needed to overcome to make it there and then begin tackling her goals from the bottom up.
The very first thing you need to do is define your vision.
Where there is no vision, the people perish… -Proverbs 29:18
Who do you want to be in Christ? My husband, Jonathan, was a meth addict, as well as a dealer and manufacturer. At one time, he had let go of everything to hold on to his addiction. He had tried to serve the Lord multiple times. He would try and succeed for a while, but then the devil would come at him with cravings or thoughts of failure and he would cave. Finally, he tried one final time to lay his burdens down at the feet of Jesus. This time, there was a different determination. He defined his vision and zoned in on it.
Jonathan’s vision may seem very simple to some, but to us, it would be miraculous to attain. Jonathan wanted to be a vessel that God could use. His goal was to live in faith, looking forward, stable in Christ without desiring meth. To those of you unaffected by addiction, Jonathan’s vision no doubt seems almost too easy to accomplish. Those of you who are former addicts or live by the side of a former addict probably have tears in your eyes. Those things are all you want. You can have those things. You can receive complete freedom through faith. Just settle in for the journey and keep those goals in your mind and in your heart at all times.
FOR THE ADDICT
There are going to be days when your vision seems like unattainable fantasy. You are going to feel like a failure. You are going to be afraid to get out of bed and put your feet on the floor, because you don’t trust where your feet may go. You are going to feel unworthy and unable. In those times, force your mind back to your vision. Remind yourself of your goal over and over again.
You have to constantly assess where you are. When you know you are succeeding and moving forward, in the good times, make every spiritual advancement you can. Read God’s Word. Get as much Scripture in your mind and in your heart as possible. This will allow God’s Spirit to bring His words to your mind when you need them most. Although the entire Word of God is equally important, for new Christians, we advise reading the Gospels and Acts first because they arm you with the clear message of the Gospel and explain all that is available to you in Christ. Pray as much as possible in the good times. Talk to the Lord honestly and openly. Don’t be afraid to take your struggles to Him. Go to a church that believes in and strives for a move of the Holy Spirit. Attend every service, event, and program. You will need the strength you receive there. For a long time, Sunday got Jonathan to Wednesday and Wednesday got him to Sunday. Some in this very modern age want to discount the importance of physically gathering in a house of worship with other believers. This is one of the most harmful attitudes that a former addict can adopt. Get your butt in that pew! Trust us!
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. -Hebrews 10:23-25
Basically, in the good times, gain as much ground as you possibly can. According to Jonathan, you must replace your addiction. Those who have no experience with addiction may not understand this concept. Jonathan became addicted to the Lord. The addictive personality was already in place. He was already prone to addiction. It was natural for him to become addicted to feeling the power of God, to getting into God’s presence. To a former addict, the feeling that accompanies salvation and worship is much more than just a feeling. It’s confirmation that they’re making it, that God is still working in their lives, that they can find joy.
The bad times are going to hit. They’ll hit hard. You’ll fight cravings, feelings of failure, and depression. There were times when Jonathan couldn’t get out of the bed for days. He was struggling so intensely that he feared that if he physically moved, he would go back to his old life. He says that during these dark times, you have to remember your vision. You have to remind yourself of your goal. You also have to realize that struggling doesn’t mean you’ve messed up. It actually means you’re holding fast through an attack, or there would be no struggle. These periods will get farther apart as you advance farther in Christ. Each time the storm hits, you’ll be more prepared to face it. The storms will become less frequent and less intense, the more of them you maneuver through. Encourage yourself in the Lord and force yourself to focus on your vision. Over time, we began to face these hard times only about once every three months. From there, they became less and less frequent. Jonathan no longer retreats to the bed or is the victim of depression at all. In fact, he is successfully pastoring a church! He is spiritually stable and constantly advancing in the faith. You can make it!
FOR THE SPOUSE
Love is your strongest tool. Now that your spouse is saved and beginning his/her journey toward freedom, you need to begin praying for the Lord to strengthen and increase the love you have for your spouse. No matter how much you love them, you’ll need to love them more. Then, find out what their vision is. Become obsessed with it. Get that vision in your mind and your heart, then set forth in love.
There are times your spouse will need tough love. There will be times they need compassion. There will be times when romantic love will see them through. Most of the time, you won’t know what they need. You’ll have to rely on the Lord to guide you. Sometimes, you’ll be in total tough love mode and the Holy Spirit will check you and lead you to abandon your current approach and crawl into that dark bed with them and just hold them.
Love never means enabling a former addict. You have to encourage and support, but you also can never participate in looking back. They need to know that you are just as focused on their success as they are, if not more so. True love means believing in them and what they can achieve through Christ. Never agree with them when they want to take a “break” from church or miss a service. Always keep the vision in your mind and heart, understanding what it will take to reach that goal. True love will never cause you to abandon the vision they have set out to achieve.
During the good times, gain as much spiritual ground as you can. You’re going to need the momentum. Read, pray, and worship the Lord faithfully. Enjoy your spouse during these times. Pray and ask the Lord to help you live in the present. Try not to look back to last time of struggle and try not to look to the one that may be just around the corner. Let your spouse love you and love them in return. Try to have fun together. During these times, you can work on your marriage and gain a little ground, just like in your walk with the Lord.
During the dark times, hold on with all your might. Hold on to the love you have for your spouse. Hold on to what you know his/her potential is. Hold on to that vision. Hold on to the Lord with all your might. Hold on until the storm passes. Pray for God’s direction. As I mentioned earlier, a struggling former addict needs different things at different times. The Lord knows what he/she needs. The enemy is waging a full-scale attack, be ready to fight. He wants to steal that vision. Be vigilant and watchful. Remember, that Satan, not your spouse, is the enemy. This is harder to keep in mind than you may think.
Your spouse will not be able to comfort you during these times. They’re barely hanging on. They’re in survival mode. You’ll be heartbroken. You’ll be angry. You’ll be lonely. You’ll have to turn to the Lord. He will become your peace and comfort. You’ll want something tangible, but your faith will grow as you feel the Lord’s arms fold around you. If you can have just one person to confide in, it will help. For me, this was Jonathan’s sister. She’s a close friend, as well as family. Because of our friendship, she loved me. Because of the family connection, she loved Jonathan and had loved him for her whole life. She could hear everything and still love both me and Jonathan and help me pray. This isn’t always available. Many people will do just what you’re afraid they’ll do; judge, condemn, and lose confidence in your spouse. Even if a trustworthy confidante is available, you still have to learn to rely on the Lord. If it isn’t available, Jesus will be your portion. He will be enough.
You’ll fail. You’ll fail a lot. You’ll yell when you should whisper. You’ll think selfishly at times, desiring what your spouse just can’t give you in return at that moment. Looking back, I failed more than I succeeded. I’m tender-hearted and dramatic. During these times, it felt like we were falling off the edge of the earth. I wanted him to respond immediately when I offered encouragement. When I reminded him of his vision, I wanted him to get up, get himself together, and march toward it. When that didn’t happen, I would have to fight feelings of anger, discouragement, and rejection. I had to constantly remind myself that it wasn’t personal. I had to reach a place where I was determined to love him, even when he couldn’t offer love in return. The good new is, no matter how many times you fail, love never fails. Even when you don’t do everything right. Even when you can’t fix it. Even when you’ve said too much or said the wrong thing. Even when all you can do is walk out of the room and weep, love will win in the end. No matter how many battles are lost, when love endures, it wins the war.
Love never fails… -1 Corinthians 13:8
The biggest weapon Satan has is fear. Your spouse is so afraid. He/she is afraid of failing. They’re afraid of not making it. They’re afraid that their faith isn’t strong enough. They’re afraid they’ll have to fight these cravings and desires forever. They’re afraid they’ll never achieve their vision. Even though you’ll catch a lot of blame and accusations at times, they’re really afraid that you’ll stop loving them. They’re afraid they’ll drive you away. They’re afraid they can’t be what you need. You’re afraid too. You’re afraid they’re going to give up or quit. You’re afraid that one day you’ll come home and they’ll be gone, off to chase the past. You’re afraid that they’ll stop loving you because you aren’t doing enough to help them. You’re afraid that they’ll hate you when you have to resort to tough love. You’re afraid that they’ll stop pursuing their vision. But, there’s an answer to your fears; love. Perfect love casts out all fear. We can’t love perfectly in ourselves. Our love will fall short at times. Often, the fears I mentioned will attack the love we have to offer. Perfect love can only abide in Christ. He’ll love through you and for you when you don’t have the strength to love any more. Not only will He love your spouse perfectly, He’ll love you perfectly. He’ll love you when there’s no one else. He’ll love you when the vision seems far away and out of reach. Cast your cares upon Him and receive His love for you and your spouse. His perfect, abounding love will cast out all of your fears.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. -1 John 4:16-18
During both the good and bad times, remind your spouse of his/her vision. Remember, keep that vision on your lips, in your heart, and in your mind. When you can’t go on, praise God for the future that you and your spouse will have in him. Praise Him and listen for that still, small voice. The Lord laid a statement in my heart in the very beginning of our journey. When I didn’t know what to say, I would speak it, to myself, to Jonathan, to the adversary. It encompassed our vision in a very simple way. “Jonathan Sizemore, you are a mighty man of God.” It was a statement of faith. During the bad times, he didn’t feel like a mighty anything, let alone a mighty man of God. If you would have walked into our dark bedroom, you would have seen my big, strong, husband huddled up in a tiny ball under the covers. You may have seen me literally sitting on top of that huddled up ball, holding his eyes open, forcing him to look at me. When you heard me say, “Jonathan Sizemore, you are a mighty man of God!” you may have considered putting me in a loony bin. He may not have looked like a mighty man of God under blankets, unshaven, dark, and almost unresponsive, but that mighty man was down in there! During the worst of times, when it seemed all hope was gone, that perfect love would kick in. When he felt like nothing, I could see the vision so clearly. I would picture King David and his mighty men in my mind and I could just see Jonathan walking across a battlefield, victorious, free, and strong. In his lowest points, I could see that mighty man of God inside him. I didn’t see it through carnal eyes, but through eyes of faith. I didn’t see it because I was anything special. I saw it because the Lord was reinforcing our vision. Although I had failed many times, said too much, or took the wrong approach, when I could just exercise my faith, the Lord of Hosts would come on the scene, winning the battle and securing Jonathan’s vision with His perfect love.
If you are a former addict who still deals with this cycle, be encouraged! If you are the spouse of a former addict who still deals with this cycle, be encouraged! Love and faith will prevail. When your love fails, the love of Christ can flow through you. When your faith seems weak, the Lord can increase your faith. In the end, it’s worth every mile you’ll travel, even if you have to crawl. Hang on to your vision with all your might. I’d like to leave you with the lyrics of a song that the Lord constantly brought to my mind during our most trying times. This song always reminded me that I wouldn’t regret a mile.
I don’t regret a mile I’ve traveled for the Lord. I don’t regret a time I’ve stood upon His Word. I’ve seen the years go by, many days without a song. But, I don’t regret a mile I’ve traveled for the Lord -Howard Goodman