Surrender: The Place to Start with Our Addictions

Jeff Olson —  February 27, 2013 — 5 Comments

Several years ago, I remember how I first reacted after learning the controversial news that there was a possible link between the overexposure to aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.

As it turns out, further studies have not been able to confirm this link.

At the time, however, the news grabbed my attention. My doc had told me that I was already at risk for this disease (because I suffered a severe concussion as a young child). So once I understood the potential risks, it was relatively easy to cut out aluminum.

I didn’t care how well it kept my body odor from stinking up the joint, there would be no more deodorant containing aluminum for me.

Oh, that it would be that easy when it comes to stopping an addiction! But anyone who has ever battled an addiction knows that it’s never that easy.

One of the maddening things I’ve noticed about addictions is that we can’t seem to resist them, even when we know that they threaten to ruin us (and others). And it’s one reason why we absolutely need Divine help.

Over the years, I’ve noticed something else. Most of us start seeking God’s help for an addiction by asking Him to take away the urges. But what if that’s not the best place to start?

When the urges come, what if it’s best to start with the simple, yet profound, recognition that we can’t resist them without Him (John 15:5)?

Humbly surrendering to God and admitting our own powerlessness as a starting point keeps us from going down the well-worn path of trying to resist our addictions in our own strength. Ironically, the more we struggle to break free on our own, the more entangled we become. But as we stop trying so hard and accept that, in and of ourselves, we lack the power to resist—well, that is when we start to tap into God’s power to resist.

Perhaps this is what Paul was getting at in his own life when he wrote: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19).

When we come to this point of appropriate helplessness, that’s when we see how much we really need Jesus’ help (Romans 7:25). Or, as Paul would put it in another place, it is when we acknowledge our weaknesses that Jesus is strongest in our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

There is much more involved in walking away from an addiction, but we won’t get very far until we first surrender.

Jeff Olson

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eff is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Michigan and has worked for Our Daily Bread Ministries as a counselor and a writer since 1992. He has authored a number of Discovery Series booklets ( on such topics as addictions, grief, depression and marital abuse. He also maintains a part-time private counseling practice in the West Michigan area. Jeff and his wife, Diane, have been married since 1986 and have raised two lovely daughters. He is an avid outdoors man who also enjoys sports, music, boardgames, books, and movies.

5 responses to Surrender: The Place to Start with Our Addictions

  1. You just described the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon (for friends and families of alcoholics) and other 12-step programs:
    1. We admitted we were powerless over (alcohol) – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

    When someone with an addiction of any type applies the 12 steps, the steps become “God in action.” They can make a believer out of an unbeliever when someone realizes nothing else has worked.

  2. I recently made a new friend who is struggling with a heavy addiction and is being bonded by a life of sin. Even after my friend’s baptism, there was not proper nourishment from the body of Christ. I was very encouraged to read this because even for friends who are helping friends, STILL apart from Him we can do nothing. I, as another human being, am powerless without power of the Holy Spirit and only through His death and resurrection can we be renewed daily.

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  5. Carolyn, there are definitely parallels to the 12-Steps in this post…thanks for pointing that out …Even Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA learned the importance of coming to the end of oneself from a childhood friend Ebby Thatcher, who herself learned this and other aspects we now refer to as the “12-Steps” from an Oxford Group that was founded by a man named Frank Buchman in the early 1900’s…It’s been a powerful movement over the past 100+ years.

    One of the most aspects of surrender that sometimes doesn’t get emphasized enough in AA type groups (imho) that I tried to emphasize in this post is that it’s not only important to become aware and admit to ourselves that we are helpless, but to also admit this to our Creator God, Lord of heaven and earth.

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