Ed: This book is different from any other you’ve written. What was the process of writing it like?
Rob: I’ve had the privilege of counseling people wanting to experience sobriety from drugs and alcohol since I surrendered my life to Christ. Most ask me for resources or books to help them experience freedom. Unfortunately, I’ve been hard pressed to find a resource that is both practical and biblical in recovery.
My goal in writing this book was to provide encouragement and hope for anyone personally battling addiction and the family members who are affected. When I was in the midst of my addiction, I was weary of anyone giving me advice, especially someone who didn't understand what I was dealing with. In Recovered, I walk the reader through my journey of taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Also, I showed the role my parents played in my recovery. Even when they were unbelievers, they extended the grace of God to me in their unconditional love and support. My prayer is that parents will read this book and be encouraged to never give up on their children, knowing that God is working even during the worst times.
The lessons I learned along the way have helped me remain sober for the past 17 years. In addition to sprinkling those lessons throughout the book, I’ve also included an entire chapter with a step-by-step process for staying sober.
Ed: Our country has been in a much-publicized opioid crisis for several years. Having walked through this yourself, how do you think this book can speak to this issue? What would you say is a missing part of this conversation nationally?
Rob: More people die from drug overdoses than car crashes in our country. One group analyzed preventable injuries and deaths in 2017 and found the odds of dying by accidental opioid overdose to be 1 in 96, while the odds of a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 103.
Every person knows a friend or family member battling some form of addiction today. The missing element in recovery programs today is Jesus. Sobriety without Christ is a dead-end street. An individual may experience momentary sobriety through treatment, rehab or weekly meetings, but long-term victory is difficult.
Like any sin, we need Christ to set us free from the bondage that shackles us. We are incapable of truly healing ourselves in our own power. This is why so many people turn back to drugs after seasons of sobriety.
Another missing element is discipleship. Even though my addiction was drugs and alcohol, I believe the principles I’ve learned can be applied to any form of addiction. The missing element, which I explain in the book, is a discipleship relationship for accountability and stability.
Ed: How do you counsel addicts and former addicts with whom you speak on a regular basis? What would you want others who haven’t struggled with addiction to know?
Rob: I offer many practical suggestions in the book for experiencing victory over addiction. Two that come to mind are: “Bad company corrupts good character” and “Stop enabling those around you to continue to use drugs.”
Most Christians have life verses. These are verses that summarize their lives, have helped during a difficult time, or have provided much needed direction. 1 Corinthians 15:33 encapsulated all of those for me: “Bad company corrupts good character.” In other words, sinful people will corrode our values.
This is especially true for those of us with addictive or compulsive personalities. You’ve heard the adage: “You are who you hang with.” If that's the case, then we can determine our future by taking a photograph of our closest friends. I’ve told young people from time to time, “You can’t soar with the eagles if you keep hanging out with a bunch of turkeys.”
If you trace the root of a perpetual drug problem, you can always find an enabler. Normally, it’s the addict’s parent or spouse. In my case, it was my dad. No parent sets out to contribute to the downfall and eventual death of a person. In their minds, they are helping them by paying for bills, providing money for gas, or giving them a place to stay with no strings attached.
Love is the driving force behind the help; however, in cases like these, kindness can do more harm than good. An addict can prey on that kindness to keep getting access to drugs.
During my addiction, I was a master manipulator who would say or do anything to get money for drugs. “Robby, I thought you paid your cell phone bill two weeks ago,” my dad would say. I’d come back with, “Sure, Dad, but this bill is for overcharges. I need it now! I can’t wait.”
Nothing got in the way of feeding the insatiable desire I had to get high. Family members believe they are extending love by helping, but what they are doing is perpetuating the drug addiction. Addicts will never desire help unless they have hit rock bottom. You create a bottom for them by cutting them off, kicking them out, and not paying their bills. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s the only tactic for getting the attention of a person consumed with an addiction.
The reason this works is because addicts will always try to find another avenue to get high. When you cut off all roads, seeking help becomes the only choice. When my parents kicked me out, it saved my life. It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that. But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself. Eventually I turned to Jesus.
Don’t forget this: If you keep being their savior, Jesus never can be. Give them over to
God and trust him.
Ed: You talk a lot about your family in this book. What message do you have for families of addicts that can provide some hope?
Rob: My parents never gave up on me. Mom did exercise tough love on me, which ultimately saved my life, but she did it because she loved me. Even though she cut off physical contact with me, she never disconnected from God. She prayed fervently for God to bring me to a place of surrender to him. God can turn any situation around in a moment, no matter how far gone your family member or friend may be.
Commit to praying for God to do something miraculous in their lives and yours. Remember, God uses everything to bring us closer to him. This present situation is God’s instrument to bring you into greater intimacy with him.
Ed: How do you hope this book equips pastors, small group leaders and church leaders to better minister to those struggling with addiction?
Rob: I tried to be as authentic as possible in sharing the struggles I experienced in my addiction. My hope is that pastors and leaders who have never struggled with addiction will be able to better understand how people struggle to experience sobriety.
I wrote it as a tool to be given out to people struggling with an addiction of any kind. I share the gospel on three different occasions in the book. Prayerfully, God will use it to bring people closer to himself.
Ed: What do you hope readers learn from it? How do you hope they are changed from reading it?
Rob: Addiction is synonymous with hopelessness. Family members fighting for the lives of their loved ones know this well. I’m praying God will encourage those in an addiction now. I always tell people who come to visit me for help: “If there is breath, there is hope.”
The final chapter of your life is yet to be written. If you surrender your life to Christ, he can do more in a moment than anyone can manufacture in a lifetime. While you may have wasted away years of your life, don’t let your past discourage you from moving forward. God allows trials in our lives to refine us, not define us. Trust in Christ and let him lead the way.