Joe & Lisa Johnson

Recovery & Redemption

“I don’t know at which point I lost the power of choice – to drink or not to drink, but I could not not drink. It was scary.”

“I come from a family where my dad was an alcoholic. I grew up saying that it would never be me, and sure enough it turned out to be me.” Joe says, “Alcohol was my solution to changing the way I felt about situations. Whether I was sad, I would try to use it to make me happy, and if I was happy, I would try to use it to make me happier.” Joe’s struggle took a toll on their family.  Lisa explains, “Things were really bad at home. I remember being in church and a lady was frustrated with her husband because they were fighting over the remote control. And I was like, ‘what…?’ Joe and I had fights. I just didn’t feel like anyone understood what we were going through. I didn’t know if there was any way to get out of this, or how to change it. It was as bad as it could be. We lived in that place for a really long time – hoping for something better, wishing for something better, but continuing to go back to the same type of behavior over and over again, feeling like we didn’t have a place to get help.” When things were at their worst, change felt impossible. Joe says, “Even when I wanted to make a change, I was in a cycle where I just kept doing the same things over and over. I think about Paul saying that ‘I do what I hate, and that I don’t do what I love (Romans 7).’ That was me.”

The cycle continued, and it felt as if their marriage couldn’t endure much longer. Joe says, “I felt it was at its worst when I knew there was a good possibility that my wife was going to leave me, and my kids were going to go with her. It got really scary, I just couldn’t imagine that… but I didn’t know how I could fix what was going on with me.” At what felt like their breaking point, God slowly but surely began to draw their family toward healing. Lisa made a friend who was in recovery, and through their friendship, Lisa caught a glimpse of the hope there is for those struggling with addiction. Even though Joe had not yet sought help, Lisa knew that she needed to take a step towards healing for herself, even if Joe didn’t follow. She says, “I finally had to get help for myself. I reconnected with God. I couldn’t wait for all of these outside things to change, I couldn’t wait for other people to change- I needed to change.” As Lisa reached out for help, her attitude toward Joe began to soften. She explains, “As a wife of someone that has gone through this, forgiveness is hard to even fathom. It’s amazing how God softens that for you. He let me see Joe in a different way. Instead of feeling anger for Joe, I felt such empathy for him. I felt bad for what he was going through and the struggle he was having.” God’s work in Lisa’s heart began to have an impact on Joe. “I saw something was different with her.” Joe says, “I was still pretty self-absorbed, but I could see a real change in her. I could see that she wasn’t fighting me anymore. She was focused on reconnecting with God. For some reason, that was able to create enough space in my life where I could say I needed help.” Over the course of the next few weeks, Joe found himself seeking some outside help. “Through recovery, I began to see people that had recovered and established a relationship with God that came from the same situations that I had come from. What I knew was that if I wanted to get what these people had, I needed to do what these people were doing, and that was turning my life over to a power greater than myself – Jesus Christ.” Through the community that the recovery ministry provided, Joe and Lisa were slowly able to find recovery and healing from so many past hurts and struggles. “I was done being scared for my marriage, I was tired.” Joe says, “At some point in that exhaustion, we substituted fear with faith – because the two can’t coexist together.”

In reflecting on the tough times, Joe and Lisa are grateful for what God brought them through and the grace and mercy that was shown to their family. “The relief and the hope that God can provide is so close, but you can’t see the forest through the trees when you’re in the middle of it. Without hope, our life has no purpose- and Jesus is our hope that this isn’t all there is.” Joe says, “There’s days when I wonder ‘why the struggles? Why do I continually have something else to deal with?’ I don’t know… but I do know that I’ve got a source of strength that I could never have imagined. If God can get me out and restore my marriage, certainly he can handle the day to day problems that I face.” Joe sees his story not as a stain on his past, but as a story of restoration and grace that he can use to share with others. “My story is convincing because it’s real. I don’t believe it because somebody told me about it, I believe it because I’ve lived it. I was dead, and my life has been restored. What was once my biggest problem has become my biggest asset in being able to share my relationship with God to others. I know there’s people that sit in our church on Sundays and no one knows that they’re struggling with finances, alcohol, pornography- whatever it may be, they don’t know that recovery is so close. I’m proof that it is.”

Today, Joe and Lisa are a part of the Life Recovery ministry at Doxology Bible Church. Life Recovery meets on Sundays at 9am in room 206.