The Journey to Freedom – Dan Johnson

This is a book about breaking free from addiction.  The subtitle is “Walking Away from Your Past.”  The addictions he discusses most are alcohol, drugs, and pornography, but what he writes really applies to any addiction.  He uses as a framework the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.  Just as Israel had to do things and go through stages to reach the Promised Land, so the addict has to take steps and go through the wilderness to reach ultimate freedom.  And all of it has to be in God’s strength and leading.

He begins by defining an addictive habit – A sinful behavior to which an individual has an intense attraction, which started as a way to reduce pain or experience pleasure, but eventually causes increasing pain, and from which an individual cannot escape without the power of God (a little cumbersome, eh?) – and then discusses the process whereby one descends into addiction.  He gives seven steps to addiction:

  1. We are born with a sinful heart (that’s consumed with self).
  2. We believe a lie (my way is better than God’s way).
  3. We make the wrong choice.
  4. We experience pleasure or relief.
  5. The pleasure or relief fades away.
  6. We try it again.
  7. We develop a well-worn path.

He then states a basic truth upon which the rest of the book is based – God wants to meet your needs and help you resolve the issues of your life in ways that work and produce real fulfillment.  From that he presents what he calls “12 Principles of Freedom” (not sure if having 12 is coincidental or if he intentionally apes 12-step programs).  The twelve principles are:

  1. I will face the reality of my addiction with a real desire to change.
  2. I will cry out to God because He alone can lead me out of my bondage.
  3. I will accept the bondage-breaking power of forgiveness made available to me through Christ.
  4. I will fill my emptiness and desires with supplies from God instead of with the habits of my addiction.
  5. I will gain strength by patiently waiting upon God when progress seems slow and giving up seems easy.
  6. I will develop a truth-based relationship with God.
  7. I will seek to restore broken relationships and build positive ones.
  8. I will choose to follow God courageously from a life once focused on where I was to a life now focused on where God is leading me.
  9. I will learn to use the story of my life as a source of personal motivation and encouragement to others.
  10. I will discover strategies to overcome unexpected temptations.
  11. I will identify places to go and people to turn to for help when I am weak or if I fall.
  12. I will determine to devote the rest of my life to the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose for my life.

He spends a chapter on each principle and expands on it and uses the Exodus story to explain it.  Each chapter then ends with a set of questions the reader is supposed to answer (these are entitled “Questions Only I Can Answer”).

Overall, I really liked the book and thought it was really helpful.  It’s very straightforward and logically laid out and shows how much experience the author has with counseling people fighting addictions (he heads up an organization called NewDay Recovery [no space between ‘New’ and ‘Day’] in Indianapolis).  It’s also a fairly quick read.  My only criticism is that the way he wrote about the last few principles seemed a little simplistic.  Principles 11 and 12 especially were explained without examples and his scriptural references seemed a little forced.  I still don’t really understand what he means by finding a safe place for when I’m weak or after I’ve fallen.  Does he mean a literal, physical location?  Some examples would have really helped here.

That’s a minor criticism, however.  I would recommend the book to anyone fighting addiction or dealing with someone who is.  I’m glad I read it and will keep it as a reference going forward.

The following are some notable quotes from the book:

  • Sin is a preoccupation with self.
  • Addictive habits develop when people try to find pleasure, resolve pain, solve problems, or simply live life in a selfish way.
  • Admitting that your habit is stronger than you is a critically important step. As long as you think you can beat it whenever you want (and in the strength of just your own willpower), you’ll remain trapped.
  • You are not strong enough to defeat it on your own. However, once you begin to see your struggle as a battle between your habit and God – you will be able to begin moving toward victory.
  • At times you may be tempted to think that ongoing feelings of guilt mean that your pursuit of [God’s] forgiveness somehow didn’t work. This is not true.  Feelings of guilt are a natural consequence of sin, and they will eventually fade as you persistently forsake sin.
  • Think about the last time you indulged your habit. Did you consider what God thought about it?  Did you know God wanted you to resist temptation?  Even if you knew He wanted you to resist, you went ahead and did it anyway.  Why?  Because what you wanted was more important to you than what God wanted.
  • One of the greatest challenges on the journey to freedom is to learn to yield to God’s will instead of to your own. Doing that requires being able to see God clearly – as He really is.
  • Your ability to function in life [while addicted] may tempt you to think that you’re not as bad as a real addict or alcoholic. It may also be Satan’s way of keeping your idol in control.  Satan knows that if you lose your ability to function in life, you might try to overcome your idol.
  • The multi-generational impact of an idolatrous addiction should be one of your strongest motivations to overcome it!
  • It is important to understand that freedom is more than just sobriety. Sobriety is not indulging your habit.  Freedom is a lifestyle sufficiently filled with good things so that the lure to go back to your old habit is fading.
  • Throughout the Bible, God teaches people to serve. This is a very important part of remaining free because it fulfills one of your core needs (purpose), it consumes energy you once used to indulge your addiction, and it prevents you from spending too much time thinking about yourself.

I think the book is only available on the NewDay website – I don’t think it’s on Amazon or other bookseller websites.  The NewDay site is newdayrecovery.org.

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