I was on a mission trip to Russia fifteen years after I gave up drinking alcohol. I was there helping with a Leadership Training Institute for Global Teen Challenge. The last day of school, we had a special communion service. In Russia it is customary to use real wine, unlike in America, where we often use grape juice. The communion cup came my way; I drank it and immediately knew it was alcohol.
I felt the warm feeling in my chest, which I had once longed for as an alcoholic. Because I was a guest, my hosts brought me the wine that remained after everyone else was served. Not wanting to offend them, I drank it. The warm feeling got even warmer.
There are many people who are classified alcoholics and live their life sober, confessing that they will always be alcoholics. That trip to Russia confirmed what I have believed for fifteen years: that I am no longer an alcoholic. I am a new creation. There are many clinically diagnosed alcoholics whom the communion in Russia would have sent back to drinking. Were I not a new creation, I would have been in a bar in Moscow that night.
But that day in Russia, God showed me —as He has many times before—that I am free.
To restore formally to former capacity, standing, rank, rights, or privileges…
This is the definition of rehabilitation (Dictionary.com). It means to restore someone to what they once were. For anyone who is struggling with addiction, rehabilitation is the worst thing that could happen. He or she does not need to go back to a former state, rank, or privileges. A twenty-eight-year-old who needs help does not need to return to age twelve just to make the same decisions again. Something new needs to happen. That person needs to die and another one needs to take its place.
And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19–20)
Rehab is for someone recovering from a stroke or knee injury, and trying to get his or her physical body back to its former state. Addicts around the world need a spiritual heart transplant. They need the heart that has been battered and made hard by the world replaced with a new heart that is soft and teachable. They need a heart that will follow after God.