SUMMARY: Realizing your powerlessness over addiction is the first step toward freedom, restoration, and reconciliation in life as a man. In this series of Resolute Podcasts, Vince Miller is joined by Joel Carlson, a man who is moving from addiction in his life to true freedom. Hear the stories of his life as he guided us through steps to freedom from addictions that keep us in bondage. In this podcast, Joel suggests that coming to the end of ourselves and realizing our powerlessness is the first step toward healing.
Vince: This is Resolute and the Resolute Podcast, where we make men better. I am Vince Miller, your host – and today we’re in a new series, we’re entitling, “From Addiction to Freedom.” And today we’re in the first lesson in the series. The topic today is, “Powerless.”
So welcome back to the program. If this is your very first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Resolute exists to make men better. Because we know men today face unique challenges in their quest for Godly manhood. Therefore, we desire to help men grow, by providing them with a spiritual game plan that will launch them toward being better men, fathers, husbands, and leaders.
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And now, let’s dive in. Well, guys, today I’m joined by Joel Carlson and a good friend of mine – who had – in his own life, has been moving from addiction to freedom, recovery, and restoration. And as he has moved toward freedom in his own life, he has felt compelled to share with us some of his learning’s along the way. And today we’re diving in with him. Joel, welcome to the show.
Joel: Great to be with you Vince, thank you.
Vince: Well Joel, you use this phrase with me, “I can’t, He can – and I’m going to let Him.” And that absolutely captured my attention. “I can’t, He can – and I’m going to let them.” And over the next few podcasts, I want to tackle some of these subjects that – that you’ve talked with me about specifically. And today we’re beginning with this idea of powerlessness, right? Powerlessness. Now I know that you probably had a moment that you realized that you were completely powerless over alcohol or addiction in whatever case or whatever form it came to you in. Tell us about that moment when you realized that?
Joel: Well Vince, it’s kind of a long-running story that really took place over many years, many situations – many decisions that led me to the point where I finally got to the stage where I knew that I couldn’t do this anymore, and I was powerless.
Vince: And so you felt that. You felt what it felt like to be. I mean, there’s a sense of – a feeling of powerless. Can you describe that feeling?
Joel: Well in the addiction world we talk about hitting rock bottom. And at some point, you have to hit rock bottom before you can start the climb. At this stage of my life, when I felt that powerlessness – thank the Lord I hit that point. I was actually very isolated physically and emotionally. I was very alone.
And I was drinking – for those of you that are familiar with a liquor bottle, the biggest bottle’s a 1.75 liter. And I was drinking almost a full bottle of that on a daily basis. Because that was my way of healing. My way of medicating myself, and my way of getting out of reality. And it was getting to the point where it was becoming almost a disaster for me health wise, and certainly was emotional.
I was living in a townhouse, and I was sitting on a porch – where I loved to sit and drink, and it was overlooking a pond. And at this point, I have 4 children and my ex-wife was saying to me, “Joel, if you can just quit drinking, I’m going to let you talk to the kids more.” Because at that point of my life, I was talking to my kids, who lived 2000 miles away. Once a week – on speaker phone, so she could be listening to what I was saying. Because she couldn’t trust my words.
And she said, “If you can just quit drinking, I’ll see about letting you talk to the kids more and more and getting them back into your life.” My kids are wonderful, wonderful people. I love them dearly, and I wanted to be the best father to them. But I was dealing with a right brain, left brain issue here. My right brain knew what I had to do, but my left brain couldn’t stop.
And as I was sitting on that porch that day overlooking the pond, I was recapping the conversation that I just had with my ex-wife. And I was saying to myself, “Joel, just stop drinking. Just stop drinking. You can talk to your kids more if you stop drinking.” As I’m saying this to myself, in my left hand, there’s a drink – and I’m drinking that drink, while I’m telling myself to not drink. And that to me is the definition of rock bottom. When you know what you want to do, but you just can’t do it.
Joel: And that’s powerlessness right there.
Vince: Yeah, and so that – that sense of powerlessness in some way must’ve moved you. There was something about that moment that transformed this addiction to a move toward what you say – freedom, restoration, redemption in your own life. What hap– I mean that rock bottom moment, we hear so many people talk about it. Like how did you then make the move? What does that, what does the powerlessness look like?
Joel: The best thing about it is that it was a fantastic feeling to hit rock bottom. ‘Cause I can see now that that was the turning point in my life. And I equate it to being a parent of a child. That you’re watching make a mistake over and over again. And for a parent, sometimes we just let it sit back and we watch them do that. And then at some point as a parent, we come in and say, “Okay, enough’s enough.”
And what I felt at that moment of powerlessness was God as my Father, coming to me and saying, “Joel, alright – enough’s enough.” And he really turned on that light bulb for me and said, “There is a better way, and I am now going to take the charge here, and I’m going to help you get to that point.” So it was within a week that I was in treatment -voluntarily going without anyone forcing me. It was me saying, “I need to go.” And that was really the beginning of the journey of getting to the point of restoration, which continues today.
Vince: Okay, so I – I think that’s very inspiring. And there are a couple of things that I found very inspiring about what you’ve said, Joel. The first thing was the fact that you said – you’re sitting there with a drink in your hand, but at the same time you cognitively know that you want to do something – but you don’t feel like you can do it, right?
Vince: And it sounds to me like hitting rock bottom to you was a place of great joy and peace. It was a place where you actually gave up and you realized that you couldn’t do it on your own, and you needed help. I would assume that many of the people that you know that deal with addiction in your life, have to hit that rock bottom. Because it’s the place of powerlessness where they stop trying to do it on their own, and they reach for the strength and the power of the spirit through an almighty God that works through us to give us the strength to take the next step, right? Is that what you felt happening there?
Joel: It is. And I’ve – was raised in a Christian home. My father was a minister. I had the foundation of God in my life. But I never had Jesus running my life. I often tell people that I’ve been a Christian for over 40 years, but I’ve just been following Christ for about the last 4. And I, and I think that’s a pretty powerful comment because I – I had the– I was book smart about God, but I didn’t have the life skills – the knowledge to know how to really live a life with Jesus running the show for me.
And so I understand that having to hit my rock bottom, was key. But fortunately, when I hit that rock bottom, I knew that I had God down at the bottom there, picking me up and saying, “Okay I caught you at this rock bottom point, and now it’s time for me to start building you back up. Are you going to let me do this, Joel?” And I could feel God saying, “I’m going to do this. Will you let me?”
And down the road here, in our discussions, were going to talk about that period of surrender. And that is so crucial. I could’ve gotten caught by God, but I could’ve just brushed his hand aside and let myself keep falling. But the fact that he caught me is the key. And for me having that foundation of Christ in my life, even though I didn’t let him run the show – I let him catch me, and I let him start to rebuild me. So for me, hitting that rock bottom, that powerlessness point – absolutely was a very great shining moment.
Vince: Okay so I – as you’re sitting here talking, I’m thinking about these words from Romans 7, verses 15 through 20. Paul says, “I do not understand what I do, for what I do – for what I want to do, I do not do but what I hate to do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. And as it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do. No, the evil – I do not want to do this, I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Okay, so those – that probably describes that moment, right Joel?
Joel: It’s a perfect description of that moment. ‘Cause you can even see in these writings, it’s this right brain left brain thing working there, trying to figure it out. And that’s a really difficult thing – when you know, and when I knew what I had to do. And it goes beyond the not drinking. There were so many other things in my life that we’ll discuss later – that I knew I had to do–
Joel: But I didn’t see any other way out. I didn’t know how I could get through a day without a drink in my hand. I woke up each morning with a bottle next to my bed. And from 6 am until midnight, there was a drink in my hand. Because that was the only way I thought I could get through my day. But all that time, I knew that there was a better way. I knew what I had to do. I just couldn’t do it. Talk about complete powerlessness.
Vince: Yeah, yeah. You know what I love about this text? I love about this text, Joel – the fact that this is Paul, the apostle. One of the greatest men of the new testament, other than Jesus Christ. And he’s self-admitting that he has moments in sin. And his sin probably wasn’t alcoholism. It was probably something else.
Vince: But he – just like you, just like me – struggled through some sin that continues to beat us up over and over repetitively, right?
Vince: Where we feel – as you say – this left brain, right brain thing. Or maybe Paul might say here, this battle between flesh and spirit.
Vince: That – that powerlessness over the flesh, that kinda keeps eating you alive. It keeps destroying the spirit, and there’s a moment that you give in – that powerlessness, where the spirit takes over – and God consumes your life. Because sin lives in us, unfortunately in this day and time we live in. So as we – we close off our time, Joel – for all the guys that are listening out there, there’s got to be some actionable around this powerlessness that you – you would sum up in a sentence. What would you tell these guys to do in the face of a sin? It’s not just alcoholism, but a sin – that repetitively beats them up. What is the point that you want to make to these guys about the sense – this word, “powerlessness?”
Joel: For me, my sins were so out there and exposed and obvious to others. That it was easy to say, “Well Joel is collapsing in so many ways.” I had to get to the point of identifying that myself. But each of us, we struggle with something that might not be known by everyone. It might be a prideful thing, or a dishonest thing, or a deception thing. It could be so many things that you’re trying to keep hidden.
The key to getting to the point of powerlessness really goes into the next phase that we’re going to talk about. But it’s being very, very true and honest with yourself and saying, “What is it about my life that is causing me to feel sick, that is causing me to feel not real as to who I am?” Identify it. Inventory who you are, and say, “This is the one thing or the 2 things in my life that are really taking charge of me and not allowing me to become the man that God wants me to be.”
It becomes a series of honest steps that you have to take. And if you can do that, and admit it and be honest about it – and recognize that you are, not in control – and you are powerless over whatever that issue may be. That to me is the beginning point of this whole process. And when you can admit that, that’s when all the positive progress can begin in your life.
Vince: Well thank you, Joel, this is perfect. It all begins with that sense of powerlessness. Whether we are willing to admit it to the world or not, we’ve got to come to the end of yourself and realize that we can’t, but He can. Thanks Joel for being with us.
Joel: Thank you, Vince.
Vince: So as we close, I want to remind you that none of this would be possible without you – your prayers, your financial support, and your encouragement. They keep us going. Therefore, we would be honored to have you consider a monthly donation to Resolute. Even a small gift makes a huge difference for men around the country. Just head to the website, beresolute.org. Click the word “store” on the menu bar, and then find “donation,” and you can give a gift there if you like. All gifts are tax deductible.
And men, as a reminder – and as I always say – I hope you enjoy this podcast. But please know that the time that we spent today together is worthless unless you act on it. So do something today. By getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time on another episode of the Resolute Podcast.
Vince Miller is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to speak to men’s audiences and has a deep passion for mentorship and God’s Word. He has authored ten books and small group content for men. He is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Reach out to him today if you need a men’s speaker or content for your men’s small groups.