Craving Personal Significance – The Problem with Substitutes

Article Provided By: Anonymous

In my life, from as early as I can remember, I wanted to feel important and that I mattered. Having two older siblings, I was constantly competing for my parent’s attention, as they were already active in school, and taking up time from my parents.

What complicated the situation was that my mom was dealing with an alcoholic husband, and she was trapped in co-dependency. Dad was a daily drinker who could not stop this habit despite his attempts and going to rehabilitation centers a couple of times. On the positive side, our family did attend a church where I first learned about the life and love of Jesus.

However, alcohol and drugs are so powerful and so addictive. For many, as is often the case, the craving for alcohol was transferred to my older siblings, and they in turn introduced me to alcohol when I was only 14. In my generation, it was considered “cool” to drink.  Even though my dad died earlier that same year, the need for attention, the need for acceptance, and the need to be “freed up socially” increased, and so did the desire to use alcohol as a substitute to facing reality. I overrode and ignored the obvious problems that my family had experienced with alcohol abuse.

While my dad was alive, he gave me the attention I craved, even though he was often drunk.  When he was gone, I heard God calling me – literally.  However, since I felt God had taken away the person who made me feel important, I rejected Him, and I was very angry with Him. I shut my feelings and grief inside so as to not even cry. I just moved on to seek popularity and acceptance with my peers. Drugs, alcohol, and academic and athletic achievements were the only things I pursued with reasonable success. I sought anything to fill the void in my life, and it temporarily worked. Ultimately, I was always left feeling empty.

In my first year of college, I went from the high school jock and “most likely to succeed” to being cut from the basketball team due to an injury. The loss of my self-esteem was huge as my girlfriend left me as well. It was a difficult time, and I turned to alcohol repeatedly to find significance and to bury my hurt. Miraculously, Jesus was there, and in my freshman spring term I turned my life over to Him as NOTHING else was working.

However, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs had a strong grasp on my life, destroying two of my marriages because I could not quit. The drugs and alcohol also damaged the lives of my four children. I would never let the love of Christ fully enter me, even when He was always there waiting for me.

I continued this pattern of using drugs, alcohol and many other things as alternate substitutions.  I would engage with Jesus, but as life problems prevailed, I would take my eyes off Him and refocus on substitutions such as sex, music, and alcohol.  In addition to everything else, I pursued the almighty dollar trying to obtain extreme wealth through dangerous business ventures. All of this led me down a path of ultimate emptiness, bankruptcy, and damaged personal family relationships. Again, I would periodically try to reconnect with God at points of despair, but often, it was really a hope for Him to “bail me out” of the current predicament into which I had put myself.

God, through his persistent love, was always there, and now, in retrospect, I realize he walked with me through my sin and rebellion. God was waiting for me but with increasingly serious consequences as He is both loving and just.

In the midst of despair, I started going back to church.  Through chance encounters with various people, I was provided some Christian books to read. I was also challenged by a pastor to read the Bible daily for 30 days (the pastor actually said if it does not work after 30 days to stop!).

I accepted the challenge and followed through reading the Bible daily for 30 days, and I have not stopped reading almost every day 15 years later. It is because the Bible is living, active and God’s lifeblood to us.  Because of this DAILY interaction in his Word and with the help of mentors and friends, God began to restore my life. However, I made one more significant misstep and had to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is originally based on Christian principles that are expressed through their 12-step program.  I went through the 12 steps in AA, attending weekly meetings for two years. I then went through a biblically based program created by Celebrate Recovery using their “12-steps – 8 principles” as well. These programs are very helpful to many and they strengthened me in my recovery.  Nevertheless, I found that the real key to recovery and this new life was the personal relationship I was beginning to foster and grow with Jesus through the Bible. He is what I ultimately needed and not these former substitutes of substances, wealth or accomplishment.

So, I continued to learn more about the love and forgiveness of Jesus and continued attending a local church where I became active in Christian service. He restored most of my personal relationships (and those relationships are still mending). I am also now in a weekly Bible study.

God has now subsequently blessed me with a wonderful Christian wife and three young children, and although I still struggle, I have not drunk or done drugs for 12½ years. Unfortunately, my children from previous marriages have struggled with the same issues and battle alcohol addiction. However, they are seeing a change in me, and that is helping them with their own lives, abstinence and recovery.

I learned that it is and will always remain an individual decision to both receive Jesus and to make the acknowledgment that without Him, we are powerless over the pull of substitutes in life.

My hope would be that you might be able to relate to some of my past and the mistakes I have made.  Take heart in knowing that recovery and a much better life are available, and living can be done without using substitutes to fill the emptiness in your life.  Jesus is available to all to give us that attention, direction, and most of all the love that we all desire. When we recognize our hopeless condition as addicts, we can, through the power of Jesus, overcome the trappings that try to bury us; and we can rise up to live a new life with promise. God’s Promise of Everlasting Life.


Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on Febryary 7, 2014
Published on, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment and Assistance