“I’m my own worst enemy.”
Ever utter those words?
Chances are, at different points in our lives, we will
do our own unique versions of self-destruction. We
self-sabotage. It’s not necessarily because we want to
ruin our lives.
Perhaps, rather, it’s because we want to control them.
And, for those of us in recovery: alcohol, drugs, food,
gambling, shopping, anything under the sun, really,
it seems to be all in a day’s work. What’s the famous
slogan? “Relapse is a part of the recovery process.”
Oh, good, so let’s do some recovering then.
Scripture illustrates the relapse/self-sabotage principle
long before any 12 Step Programs or support groups
“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his
folly.” Proverbs 26:11
My husband and I don’t have dogs; we have cats. And
so, I understand this Proverb in real life feline terms.
With our cats, there are hairballs, usually coughed up
at two in the morning. I should know because that’s
usually the time I’m awakened to that one of a kind
retching sound. Either that, or I step in it. Both are fun
Nevertheless, on more occasions than I care to experience,
our cats, if left to their own devices, will eventually
attempt to consume their just regurgitated hairballs.
It sounds gross and pointless to us, doesn’t it? After all,
this hairball, supposedly, was giving the cats enough
trouble for them to vomit it up in the first place, right?
Why go back to square one?
Is anyone recognizing themselves yet? I know I am.
To start, there’s an independent streak, usually very
contrary to most 12 Step Principles like…
“We admitted we were powerless over a substance –
that our lives had become unmanageable.”
“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves
could restore us to sanity.
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him.”
“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another
human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
“We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these
defects of character.”
“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Pretty straightforward and thorough, isn’t it? But is it
fun and gratifying to our will and cravings? Eh, not so
much. We tend to insist on a declaration of our own
little independence, don’t we?
That often involves such great decision makers like
pride, isolation and excess.
So, let’s see what might happen with these approaches.
First, there’s pride.
“Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before
a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
We’re not the first to dawn upon that cute notion. In
fact, it goes back a little ways, beyond a decade or
even a century. Try a real-l-l-l-y long time ago, with one
particular little fella.
“And he said unto them, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall
from heaven.’” Luke 10:18
“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of
the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who
once laid low the nations!” Isaiah 14:12
Oh, good, this will go great.
Indeed, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But it wasn’t
without cause. You see, Satan thought he could do
things all by himself. He could be just like God. No
But there was a problem, a big old independent pride
of a problem. And Satan got puffed up, greedy and
“But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will
raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on
the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will
ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself
like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:13-14
And then there followed God’s “nevertheless” response
to that attitude…
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the
recesses of the pit.” Isaiah 14:15
Yeah, that’s not good…
“Those who see you will gaze at you, They will ponder over
you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms?’” Isaiah 14:16
So much for big, bad and independent, huh?
It’s not about calling ourselves Satan. It is, however,
about recognizing the slippery slope of willfulness…
stubbornness…pride…independent arrogance… and
a great big fall.
We’re all capable of that. How many “rock bottoms,” really,
have you and I already lived through? Do we really
want to take another swan dive?
But, I guess, a-diving we often go, employing good ‘ole
isolation to the stubborn mess.
Whether we want to indulge our cravings or are
ashamed of that indulgence (or both), many of us decide
we need to drop off the planet and self-medicate/
party. We stop talking to our loved ones. We can stop
going to meetings, calling our sponsors and going to
church, school and work.
Scripture, as usual, provides its perspective on this
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.” Proverbs 18:1
What’s the opposite of wise? Foolish.
But, c’mon, we reason such things as…
“This is fun.”
“It’s only one time.”
“I have this under control.”
“I’ll get back on the horse Monday morning.”
“Besides, no one understands my pain or what I’m
Said any of these gems? I have. Yet, they never work;
they never fix anything. And, eventually, we’re wallowing
in situations that went way further than we ever
expected they would. That’s what sin does.
But it’s not about condemnation, because, after all…
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which
are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after
the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
Yet there’s also a reality check side to the condemnation
issue. And again, it deals with our flawed selves.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the
world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because
their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
It’s not flattering. At different times, I’ve been in a
critical moment of decision: should I indulge in my own
way here and now or choose the healthier approach of
going to a support group meeting, calling someone,
going to church or, heck, even praying? Unfortunately,
I’ve often chosen the first option, even when I “knew
better,” even when I glimpsed the consequences of
that less than healthy choice.
Why did I do this? Well, the Apostle Paul says it much
better than I EVER could:
“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will
to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.”
And that’s where the healing of supportive people
comes in. After all, if God stated being alone wasn’t
good for us, why would that change?
“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man
should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.’”
Now, I know this scripture is trotted out when it comes
to finding a spouse and that’s a part of it.
But it also speaks to the connection- the communion with
supportive loving people in our lives. They can be
in recovery groups and churches; they can be sponsors.
But the common denominator is that they have to be
individuals outside of our “me, myself and I” tendencies.
God didn’t create hermits. We do that to ourselves. And
there’s no blessing to that decision, only more delusion,
deception and destruction. We cannot go it alone.
And that reality is not minimized by yet another reality:
the pursuit of our cravings. We are often captivated
by excess. We want to be with our chosen binges and
diseases, don’t we? Again, we’re cautioned not to do
“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge
themselves on meat.” Proverbs 23:20
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with
carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that
day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” Luke 21:34
But those cautions aren’t so much fun. They aren’t attractive,
compelling, glimmering with our God substitute
of an answer to pain, stress and life. Indulgence is
more of a party than self-control.
But, because God is a good God, yes, He has given us
the capacity for that attribute.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
We just need to put it into practice.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill
the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
And c’mon, we view the word “practice” as work, not
Nevertheless, it is possible. We just need to remember,
it’s not about our strength or brilliant ideas. We know
what some of those things can do. Self-control is tied
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me
and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you
can do nothing.” John 15:5
Whether it is stumbling blocks of pride, isolation or
excess, God still wants to be in our lives and recovery
programs; He wants to instruct and guide us.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should
go: I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is
the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand,
and whenever turn to the left.’” Isaiah 30:21
Often, God is not even saying something super spiritual
to us. It could be “Go to a meeting,” “Call your sponsor,”
“Don’t shop on the internet,” or “Put that drink down.”
In that moment, it often comes down to a question: do
we trust God?
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on
your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge
Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
That question is not easy to answer. Neither is recovery.
Let’s get real- often, it feels like a war.