How Did This Happen?

Don’t Let Them Hit Rock Bottom!

Dr. Ellis discusses the danger of waiting for an addict to “want to go to treatment.” A Hazelden Betty Ford Addiction Center interview of recovering addicts and alcoholics asked them “what set you on the road to recovery.” 77% said a friend or family member cared enough to intervene. A caring intervention harnesses the incredible and divine power of love to help the addict become willing to get well.


The sooner we rid ourselves of the notion that faith should have been an insurance policy against addiction the better. Faithful people get sick, have accidents, and die. Faith does not make anyone perfect and immune from the world's ravages. And yes, faithful people can get addicted.

Both the addict and the family and friends will likely throw up their hands more than once and ask, "how did this happen?" In The Sun Also Rises one of the characters, formerly very wealthy, has gone broke. Someone asks "how did you go bankrupt?" The answer, "Gradually. Then suddenly."

That's how addiction works. Most people can drink safely all of their lives, but for many of us the disease creeps up stealthily. That's the way it was for me. Little by little and then all at once, I grew dependent on alcohol, absolutely eaten up with a gnawing compulsion to drink and an exhausting obsession to think about when I would get my next drink. It is pure misery.

I was raised in the church. Seldom missed a Sunday or Wednesday service during my growing up years. I had no real rebellion against going to church, for mostly I enjoyed my friends and felt that worshiping a loving God was both good and helpful. In seminary I learned more about grace, earned two degrees, taught while completing my doctorate, and have derived a great deal of joy from being a pastor for more than 30 years. Faith and the church have been an overwhelmingly positive influence in my life.

Alcohol drained my spirit. Gradually, then suddenly, alcohol became the king of my life edging out every other affection, commitment, and duty. It was thoroughly mystifying when I had the clarity to consider it. But the addiction was so ravaging that soon I merely accepted the daily insanity, and even sought to preserve it.

Alcohol drains the spirit, soul, and life of an addict. Things that once were of paramount importance, matters such as faith and love, lie muted under a deepening haze of addiction. You, as the caring person, are completely baffled at the radical change and feel hopeless. But no one is without hope.

There remains a sliver of the real person in every addict. Somehow, some way, we must get through to that tendril of the former life. It is possible. You have hope, and the way forward is through love and grace.