Clay was fine with not drinking, except when he went to the race with his buddies. Since he was a child, he had watched his dad stand right there, about halfway down the 1/4 mile track, and drink beer while watching the his favorite cars, the late models, rip down the asphalt track at insane speeds. This was where Clay had tasted alcohol for the first time. Then only twelve, he and his now best friend had stolen a Pabst Blue Ribbon from dad’s cooler and drank it out past the row of car haulers. That first time it did not even taste good and Clay could not understand why his dad did not just drink Coke or Gatorade. Little did Clay know just how destructive the stuff would be in his life.
Twenty years later, Clay had suffered greatly due to drinking. The “brown bottle flu” had cost him a few jobs. A drunken fist-fight at a town festival had seen him put in cuffs, but not officially charged. After nearly losing his life in an accident, he had sworn off drinking. But, six months later, a trip to the track had started him off with “just one” and ended with him trying to make it past the disappointed gaze of his wife when he had to be dropped of by a sober friend after “just one” became a dozen with a few shots of moonshine his cousin brought back from vacation in the mountains.
Strangely, if you asked Clay why he drank, he would tell you that he did not really want to. He hated what the alcohol had done to him, his marriage, his driving record, and his finances. But, when he got around the track, something stirred in him. The friends, the sounds of engines revving at the starting line, the smell of nitrous oxide burning in his nostrils, the heat waves rising off the asphalt, and all the other little things. They drew him to drink. They were together, and sometimes separately, his triggers. He could even see an advertisement for the most popular brand of tire used by the race community and his mind would wander to drinking. These were his “triggers.”
Clay was not unique in having a trigger that created the urge to turn toward his addiction. For Trish, it was conversations with her mom that almost always ended with her nodding off somewhere, having spent the last 3 hours calling old boyfriends trying to score some heroine in order to escape “that woman” and the memories of her trauma-filled childhood. For Dave, it was the 6 month swings on night shift that consistently turned him back into a chain smoker. For Lynda, loneliness sent her over the edge of a food binge on countless Friday and Saturday nights in front of the TV. It could be anything, it could be almost nothing, but to the person struggling against relapse, triggers are real.
Addicts are taught to identify the people, places, and things that motivate them toward relapse. While some triggers are unavoidable, like work stress, the person who is serious about being free from addiction will do all they can to manage their exposure to things that are likely to derail their sobriety. Avoiding the trigger, they avoid the relapse.
In the scripture, Jesus tells us watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. James tells us that we sin when we are drawn away of our own desires. Paul tells Timothy to flee from “youthful passions”.
It would seem that for believers, we have “triggers” that ought to be avoided. When we recognize that putting ourselves around certain people moves us in a sinful direction, we modify our social circle. If we know that listening to certain kind of music stirs up impulses and memories that are not healthy to our walk, we find a new kind of music. Whatever it may be from a person, to a place, to an activity, if it stirs temptation within us, we should avoid it. While it may prove impossible to eliminate all temptation, that does not lower the call toward avoiding all that we can.
Jesus did not just tell us to avoid sin, He told us to be alert and even to pray that we do not even enter into temptation. This is not to say that the temptation is sin, but wisdom tells us, the person who avoids the temptation will avoid the sin.
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