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Freedom from Addiction: It Starts Today: John Elmore

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 24, 2024 5:15 am

Freedom from Addiction: It Starts Today: John Elmore

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 24, 2024 5:15 am

When you're stuck in a relentless loop, it's tough to see a way out. From porn and pills to food, money, alcohol, social media, body image, status, and even anxiety—addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Take John Elmore: He battled alcoholism to the point where doctors warned him he'd die if he didn't stop. Fast forward to now: 15 years sober, and he's leading the world's largest, weekly recovery gathering, guiding people toward healing through faith in Christ. If you're struggling with addiction, tune in for John's story of hope.

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Connect with John Elmore and catch more of his thoughts on Facebook and Instagram @john_a_elmore.

And grab John's book, "Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time" in our shop.

Or we'll send it at no cost to you with a donation of any size this week, as our way of saying a huge "Thank you!" for partnering with us toward stronger families around the world.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about Addiction by listening to "Addiction–and Our Marriage's Happily Ever After".

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

This guy walks up to me and he says, uh, he asked this question and he says, Hey, will you commit to staying sober for the next 24 hours? And I'm like, you don't know what's going on in my life, bro. Like I'm falling apart at the seams. I'm living on a couch.

Like maybe you didn't hear what I shared. I don't need a day. I need like a lifetime of help.

I need something serious. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. Okay. So we had an interesting drive home, four hours in the car, and you decided to make a phone call out of nowhere. Oh, you're talking about- To my sister. Yeah. You're talking about our visit to see my dad and we started talking about your family. Are you sharing this today? I figured, you know, this is where we're headed today.

So go ahead and tell them I didn't know this was going to happen. Well, a lot of you know that Dave has a background where both parents were alcoholics. There was a lot of abuse, adultery.

It was pretty painful. And as a result of that, out of the four kids that are still alive, none of you really touch base with one another. We talk about once a year. Maybe. Well, with one brother once a year, the other's not so much.

Maybe once every three. Okay. You don't have to make it so bad. Anyway, we were talking about you have no memories of growing up. And so I was like, oh, we should call your sister. And I didn't even have her number. So I Googled her and looked her up because she's a therapist and we called her and talked for two hours straight.

Yeah. The bottom line, the reason I'm bringing it up is, you know, and ask my sister, Pam, tell us about, you know, growing up and the divorce and she starts sharing things. I don't remember any of this. I was one to six years old. And you have no memories of your childhood. Just abuse, neglect, two drunk parents almost every night, parties.

All I know is I was listening to a story almost of a family I didn't even know existed, but it was my family and my parents who were addicts. And you were really quiet during the whole conversation. Why were you so quiet? What was going on? Are we going to do a counseling session now?

I'm just curious. I would think I was in trauma. I was like, I can't believe this was my life, you know, listening to the fallout of addiction. And today we get to talk about that because not my family so much, but a lot of families have similar stories in some way and there's hope and there's actually help for people to go through that. So we've got an author and a speaker and a pastor with us today who wrote a book sort of dealing with addictions. John Almar, thank you for coming to Family Life Today. Welcome. This is all my honor. I'm so thankful to be with the two of you. I said recently, these are like longtime friends that I've just met. I'm so thankful.

Yeah. Well, you're sitting over there with a smile on your face when you're hearing this. What was the smile? The smile is the redemption that Jesus brings. The smile is thank you, Lord, that you pulled me out of my wreckage before I had children. The smile is that you all are sitting here having an honest conversation because everybody's got something they're dealing with and not everybody's talking about it. The smile is the fact that you guys are using your platform here at Family Life Today in your lives so that others can have hopes, that others can start talking about their pain and come out of the freedom that is available there in Christ. And so there's a whole lot behind that smile and I'm so thankful. Yeah.

It's good to have you here. I mean, a lot of people don't know that you lead as a pastor at Watermark Church in Dallas. You lead one of the biggest recovery ministries in the country, right?

In the world. Called Regeneration. On Monday nights, over 1,200 people show up. I mean, I didn't know the details on that until I read your bio as a speaker and a pastor and a father and a husband and a father of three kids, right?

Yes. So you've got a lot going on, but I mean, I pastored for 30 years and I believe the recovery ministry is one of the most critical ministries in any church. It's like the front door that people don't realize.

That's where a lot of people step in to get exposed to the gospel and the church. And so we want to talk about your story a little bit because you wrote a book called Freedom Starts Today, Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time. And this isn't just somebody else's story. This is your story. So tell us a little bit about your story.

I wrote the book that I needed when I was zero days sober. So I had heard two things when I was a kid. I heard that sin leads to death and I heard that there's freedom in Christ and I thought there were both lies. I thought there were scare tactics and control tactics by youth pastors. Sin leads to death. I was like, no, it doesn't. Nobody, nobody gets drunk, gets high, sleeps with a girl and dies.

They don't drop dead. In fact, they're having a lot more fun than I am. And then I heard freedom in Christ. I'm like, there's not freedom in Christ.

It's bondage. He keeps me from doing everything I want to do. And so I rejected all of it. I walked away. I think I was more of a deist.

I thought God existed, but he had nothing to do with me. I got the money. I got the girl. I got the job.

I got the fraternity office, like whatever it was, it was my hard work that efforted towards it. It was like Jacob in the old Testament, like throwing sticks in water, thinking I was the one doing it when all along it was God sustaining me and helping me. Now, when you, when you say you heard these, these, what you thought were lies, is that because you grew up in a family that took you to church? I mean, where'd you hear these kind of truths? So yeah, I call them truths, but at that time you thought they were lies. They were truths.

Yeah, for sure. They were truths. It was a time to come face to face with them and the reality of it. So we grew up going to church, this old Presbyterian church in Springfield, Missouri. My parents sent me off to a Christian summer sports camp.

Every summer, they'd save up their money to do that. I heard the gospel and loved me, loved my son, loved pleasure more than I loved God, loved the popularity, became a chameleon, like just chased after the world. And so at the age of 30 with a loaded 12 gauge shotgun to my head, I realized sin leads to death.

It just sometimes has a really long fuse, but it absolutely led to death, relational death, financial death, physical death. I had three doctors tell me, if you keep drinking like this, you're going to die. But that point in my life, I was like, I hope I do. Like I don't want to commit suicide and hurt my family, but if I die because of drinking, then that probably will hurt them a little less. That was foolish in my own thinking, really selfish, but that would have been an escape.

Yeah. I read, I read last night actually, as I was going through your book, I turned to Anne. I said, Hey, let me read you what John wrote in the introduction, which you just mentioned. But at the end of this introduction, you said, I was drinking with two homeless guys in Austin, Texas. I was lonely. I told them to come sit with me and I would buy them whatever they wanted. This was a new low for me and my family knew it.

Five hundred dollars and eight hours later, my big brother was on a one way flight to Austin to put me in my own car and bring me to Dallas for a family intervention. So that's where you start the book. But I'm just curious. So you grew up like, no, I'm just a deist. What happened in between that part where I'm rejecting God and I have a gun to my head? Like when did this problem, you thought I have a problem and I'm guessing it took awhile.

Yeah. The rejection of God was a slow cooker thing. I think as an eight year old, you know, I may have trusted in Christ, but what happened is I thought he saved me eternally and then I had to follow all the rules this side of eternity and that became this crushing weight that I couldn't, I failed over and over and over again.

We all do. But as a kid, I was like, I can't keep all of your stupid rules. Like I'm just a colossal failure, whether it was girls or obedience, but I failed again and again and again. And so finally I was like, all right, I guess the problem's not you.

It's me. So I'm done and just walked away. I thought that he just saved us from hell when we died. So that became this drift of like, I can't do this. And the weight of the law was, was crushing me. It was to reveal the holiness of God and the sinfulness of me and should have pushed me more to a daily walk with my savior. But I didn't know that or grasp it until I was 30. You just gave in to all of the temptations, to all the desires.

Yeah. I was like, I'm done fighting this and failing, so I'm just going to like go for it and maybe I won't go to hell when I die. Cause of some prayer I prayed when I was eight, I think I probably would have.

And you know, I'm hesitant to share this part of the story often because I, my sin is what got me to the place that I was make no mistake about that, but it didn't happen in a vacuum. So I met a girl at a party. We got married soon thereafter. It felt like love. Everyone told me, you'd know when you felt it, it was just infatuation.

You know, we're having sex. It was euphoria. So we got married quickly and two years into that marriage, she began having an affair with one of my friends. And at that point in my life, because I built my world on money, status, my career and advertising, my things, our cars, our house, our lake property, I'll just, just world. Which the world would say, wow, you have it all. Which is why no one ever thought I had a drinking problem. They're like, you don't have a drinking problem. You're doing amazing.

Getting written up in advertising magazines and like you're doing well. I was not doing well. And go figure that someone would have an affair. I mean, I was a train wreck of an alcoholic husband, you know, bringing weed pills into the relationship, even brought porn to the relationship. I mean, of course I was running for the world and she was probably running for love. And so when I found out about that affair, I went from a functional alcoholic to a dysfunctional alcoholic and I loaded my shotgun.

I called my buddy probably a hundred times in a row hunting him. It's like, you're dead. Then I'm dead. Murder, suicide.

Like I'm not going to spend life in prison. I have nothing else to live for. I'll kill you. And then I'll kill myself. I want out. I'm done. I feel like a dog chasing my tail.

Is this really all I'm going to do is just work for the next 40 years of my life to like get up, work hard, eat, drink, get drunk, try to escape the crushing anxiety of the pressure of the world, sleep, get up, go to work, get drunk, like I'm just not going to do it. And so the reason why I say I'm hesitant to share is because some people might hear that and be like, Oh, well, my husband, wife has been unfaithful, so I'm going to go that path too. It worked out for John.

It'll work out for me. I saw it after her with the gospel, probably 12 times to ask her forgiveness for being married to an alcoholic. They ultimately got married, had kids, that door was forever shut.

I would never prescribe someone to chase down that path of divorce. It was so destroying us. What God used is the anvil to just crush me, turn me over to my son, let everything unravel. And there with that gun to my head and doctors telling me I was dying of alcoholism, he got my attention. I realized sin led to death. And I also realized when I heard there's freedom in Christ, I didn't want freedom because I didn't know as a slave to sin at the age of 30 and alcoholics sleeping on a couch, losing everything. I was like, I need freedom. I am desperate for freedom and I can't get free from this, that it's bigger than me. And he did not treat me, Psalm 103 says, as my sins deserved.

There's no timeout. There's no penance. He just grabs you, wraps you up like a father that he is, pulls you out of the fire and doesn't make you better. He did not make me better. He made me new, altogether new. Well, you know, as you were telling that part of your story, I'm sitting here looking across the table thinking, man, that is not who you are. That's who you were. You know, I can almost not even believe it, you know, because I had lunch with you and read your book and I'm like, this is not who this guy was, but it really was the life you were living. But take us back to how the transformation took place because you show up with your brother showing up and saying, there's an intervention. You're still wallowing in your sin, what that intervention looked like.

Yeah. So those homeless guys, I'm going to still can see myself sitting there, Stephen F. Austin intercontinental hotel on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. And he found out, put me in my car, drove me back. And this isn't like a formal intervention, like the TV show. This is just like them. I don't even think they knew what they were doing. This was motivated out of love. I don't think they knew they were following Matthew 18 of like, if your brother sends shown was fault. If he doesn't listen, take two or three others.

They were widening the sphere of influence. I get to Dallas, my parents are there waiting and they say, we love you too much to let you do this. You're hurting yourself. You're hurting us. And you're not going back. I mean, what'd you think when you walked in there?

Do you think I'm fine? This is ridiculous. I still didn't think I was an alcoholic.

Really? It's like when you're drinking friends tell you, you drink too much, you have doctors telling you like you are. But I just, no, I didn't because you know, when you're in sin, you're usually hanging out with people who sin. Like it was normal. My life was normal for the people that I was with. But John, like sitting on a street with the homeless guys, you didn't think like, okay, I'm kind of at a low here. No, I mean, my buddies came and joined me eventually. They're like, oh, this is cool.

We'll come, we'll come hang out too. I mean, it was, it was normal. Wow. Which tells you how far gone I was. And I just wanted them off my back. But family, I mean, I was going through detox in my brother's house. It was like horrific demonic nightmares. I was an insomniac.

I'd stopped eating paranoid. Like it was just, I mean, truly, I think God was like, I'm going to turn you over to it until you yield, until you surrender. And which is the story of the prodigal son, right? Like that's what he, the father says, okay, you can go. And we overlooked this part. We're often like, he would long to eat the pods the pigs were eating and then he came to his senses and it's like, no, he didn't come to his senses.

He came to his senses because of this line that we leave out. No one gave him anything. If someone would have gave him something, he just stayed in the distant land. That's all he wanted. But it was that turning over to depravity.

Like I have nothing that moved him to return. And so in that nothingness, not even thinking I'm an alcoholic, I was like, Hey, I'll go to AA. I don't even know what alcoholics anonymous was. I just wanted them off my back. And so I did.

And I walk in that first night and this guy that I thought he was drunk, I thought he smelled like alcohol is probably me. But they asked me this question that I thought was so simple. It was stupid. I'm like, this is so worthless. Like how is this going to help? We're going to sit around in a circle and tell each other our old war stories about drinking and somehow this is magically going to make me a better person. This is worthless. I'm so out of here.

AA, you can go there for sobriety, but not theology. So anyway, I'm like, I'm so done. And this guy walks up to me and he says, he asked this question and he says, Hey, will you commit to staying sober for the next 24 hours? And I'm like, you don't know what's going on in my life, bro. Like I'm falling apart at the seams. I'm living on a couch. Like maybe you didn't hear what I shared. I don't need a day. I need like a lifetime of help.

I need something serious. So you did share it group. Yeah. I think the Holy Spirit moved me. I was sitting in this AA circle and they asked, the moderator said, is there anyone here that will commit to staying sober for the next 24 hours?

It was, I mean, heart pounding through my chest and all while I'm just looking around like these people are idiots. This is stupid. Get me out of here. I'm just going to go. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

I don't belong here. Yeah, totally. But it was like the Holy Spirit was compelling me out of my chair. Like I have to walk forward.

And then there was the bait and switch question. He said, Hey, so you want to quit drinking? So you walked forward. I did.

Did anybody else? No. No. So you walked forward. I walked forward and he says, so you want to quit drinking?

I was like, well, you didn't ask that. No, I don't want to quit drinking, but I know that if I don't, I'm sitting on a time bomb and the moderator was like, Oh yeah, sorry. Will you commit to staying sober for 24 hours? I'm sure.

Just like whatever. And this guy afterwards, he said, Hey, so if you're going to do this, if you're going to commit to staying sober for 24 hours, you're going to need somebody to walk through with. You're going to need to call me tomorrow.

Talking like the big Lebowski, like Austin, Texas, like of all the people that could help me, like it's you like, Oh, yes, yes, who am I to point the finger at anyone at this point? But, but you were, so I did, I committed to staying sober for 24 hours and he's like, Hey guys, what time is it? I'm like, it's six. He's like, great. Call me tomorrow. It's six.

And he's like, Oh, pray and ask God to help you stay sober. Okay. Whatever. So I do next day.

So you do pray that. Yeah. But super flippant. Yeah. Super. Like, I don't even know if you're listening or if you'll do anything next day. Call this guy.

He's like, Hey, so did you do it? I'm like, dude. Yeah. Stay sober. If that's what you mean.

Was it hard? Yeah. Just be sober for 24 hours?

Yeah. So I leave and my phone starts blowing up like it does every night. Like, Hey, let's go down to the pubs. Let's go down to fourth street. Let's go down.

Let's go downtown. Like I'm like, nah, I'm not. And I sat at this all night diner and I read the first hundred pages of AA, big book.

I read a different book these days. So he called the next day. I call him and he's like, just stay sober. And I was like, yeah.

He's like, so you didn't drink. I was like, no. He's like, by God's strength. I'm like, I don't know. He's like, well, did you pray? I'm like, yeah.

It's like, great. It was by God's strength, do you want to go in on the 24 hours? I was like, Hey, um, Charlie, I know you mean, well, like, I really think you're trying to help me, but how long are we going to do this? Like 24 hours, 48 hours, like I need real help and kind of go off on a rant at him.

And he's like, yeah, you done right. Will you commit to staying sober for the next 24 hours? And I was like, fine, Charlie, because you're thinking I need more than 24 hours. This is a long-term. Yeah. I'm like this, this is, I've been drinking since junior high when I would make mixed drinks before I, after I got home from school by myself, like, and you had gone a month right before.

Yeah. When my, one of my parents would put on the pressure or my drinking friends would tell me I'm drinking too much. I'd dial it back and prove to everybody that it wasn't alcoholic because I don't keep a fist of vodka in my desk drawer. I could muster the effort. And then every time I started drinking again, it was worse than the first.

So yeah. I'm like, I'm not an alcoholic. This is stupid. And what good is one day going to do me? I don't need a day.

I don't need two days. I need a lifetime. What I didn't know that in that moment, God threw this guy, Charlie, who didn't at that point believe he's now, he's now a believer. Yes.

The big Lebowski. He's now a believer. Like he's, he sends trust in Christ too. Wow.

It's crazy. He's so God's so good. I didn't know that he was teaching me what Paul wrote to the Galatians way back when in Galatians five 16, if you walk by the spirit, which is an all day ongoing, present tense, continuous verb, you just walk with God all day, every day.

That's our part. Then there's a promise. You will not gratify the desires of the flesh. And so what he unbeknownst to him, God was using him to teach me to have a daily dependent walk with God that I just jettisoned from as a kid. Like he'll save you from hell forever, but he'll also save you from health today.

Just today. Here's daily bread. I'll see you tomorrow. Cause if he gave me weekly bread or annual bread, let's be honest, he would see me once a week or once a year, once a lifetime, which is why I was so spiritually starved in the first place. I thought it's like, all right, you gave me lifetime bread to bust me out of hell. And I guess now I just follow your rules.

He's like, no, no, no, it's daily. I saved you. I keep you safe. And so this daily sobriety led to daily dependence on God. I knew from my childhood, this phrase, Jesus saves. And so I got on my knees beside the couch that I was living on and I said, I've squandered everything you've given me, but whatever I've left, it's yours. You get my body, my mind, my soul, my days, my time, my relationships, where I live, what I do, my computer, my phone, my money, you get it all.

I'm a really bad God, be God of my life. And it was like, ah, I finally knew what it meant to be born again. I like, I was like, I remember thinking I had had enough Christianese and like been around that world enough. I was like, that I'd heard that phrase. I was like, this is what they meant. All of life snapped into focus and I was like, this is it. Like, oh my goodness, all of life is to know him and make him known. That's it. Like there is nothing else.

The rest is details. At the age of 30, I thought my life was over. I thought I had squandered. I was so far gone.

I just thought I was so done and I had ruined it beyond repair. And God is like, no, give me it. Give me your divorce. Give me your alcoholism. Give me the sexual abuse you experienced as a little kid, like give me it all and I'll take those broken parts and I will do something amazing. And soon thereafter, I was going to spend the rest of my life telling everyone that Jesus is real.

You are never too far gone and he can change everything. And that's what I live to do now. So thank you for giving me an opportunity today. Well, we're just all crying in the studio. That's so inspiring. I think we all feel it. We see your passion for Jesus. We see that he has saved you. And I think we feel the same thing, like, but for his goodness, you know, what he has done for us, he saved us and he has set us free, all of us. And yet there's some people listening that are maybe married to someone that's really struggling, or maybe they're feeling like, I am so in bondage to pornography, to food, there's so many different things, to drugs, to alcohol. And we want to talk more about how we can be set free.

Yeah. And I would just say, thank you, Joan, because I'm thinking there's someone right now, that's where you were. They're at the end of the rope. Maybe they don't know it. Maybe they just realized that in the last 20 minutes, this is, I'm John, I need to surrender. And I want to say to that listener, the reason you're listening right now is God put this program in front of you and he's calling you home to himself and to the power of him that can set you free. Freedom starts with Jesus.

John, your story is a prime example. Ours are similar, but different, but the same answer. Jesus is your answer. So I want to close in prayer.

I'm going to invite a listener right now to, and I would say, I don't know where you are. If you're in a family room, wherever you are, I would do what John did. I would say, get on your knees. You don't have to get on your knees. That's not the most important thing, but that posture is a posture of submission and surrender.

I still do it every day. Do you really? It's surrender. It's humility.

I'm a really, if I'm God of my day today, I'm going to wreck it. So it's yours. There's no other way to live. Once you've tasted that.

Yeah. Well, let me pray. And if this is your day, I want you to get on your knees and pray with me right here, right now. Father God, I give you my life. I give you every part of my life. I give you my sexuality. I give you my addictions.

I give you my struggles. I give you my future. I give you my family. I give you my children. I give you everything.

It's not mine. I give you my money. I give you the title to my life and every part of my life. I surrender to you and Lord Jesus, I cannot do this apart from you. I cannot overcome my lusts and my sin.

Only you can. So I'm inviting you to come in and transform me and give me a power I don't have, your power to live the life you called me to live. I surrender all, and I ask you to make me new and give me a new life starting right here, right now. In the name of Jesus, the only name that saves.

In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen, Amen, Amen. Addictions often aren't something that's, you know, always down the street or in someone else's home or a struggle that's far away. In many cases, addiction is right in our living room. It's within the walls of our own home and sometimes we don't even know that it's there. I personally am someone who's wrestled with addiction in my life, specifically with prescription drugs and it can seem absolutely impossible to overcome it when you're in the thick of it.

It can seem like it's impossible at least. So this conversation today was incredibly relevant to me as it may have been for you too. And I'm really super grateful that we talked about it.

I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John Elmore on Family Life Today. John has written a book called Freedom Starts Today, overcoming struggles and addictions one day at a time. And often that's really what it takes, one small step every single day in order to overcome the addictions that we have in our lives.

This book is really a powerful message of hope and transformation, not only with John's wrestles with addiction, but also giving hope to others who are struggling with it as well. And this book is gonna be our gift to you when you partner with us today at Family Life. You can get your copy right now with any donation. You simply go online to and click on the donate now button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today.

Or you can feel free to drop us a donation in the mail too if you'd like. Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. Now how do we deal with the real life that happens every day? Often that real life isn't pretty. Well, Pastor John Elmore is gonna be back tomorrow to discuss being real as part of the answer of dealing with real life. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-24 07:34:27 / 2024-04-24 07:47:46 / 13

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