Community & Friendship · Family · Fatherhood & Faith

On Overcoming Subtle Bondages

I love how the Husband is so candid and honest about his personal weakness for coffee, that had become a kind of a bondage for him. As one preacher once termed it, you can be so comfortable in your prison cell that you’d never want to break free. And this is what subtle bondages and comfortable addictions make us: “slaves”. And it can be any habits or hobbies as benign-looking as coffee, gaming, movies, or retail therapy —  but we have all been liberated to walk truly free.
Post by the Husband
1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”

Warning : If you’re a coffee addict – you might be challenged to give it up after reading this – so don’t read it if you don’t want to risk giving it up!

When I was a teenager, I remember thinking, “hey I like the taste of this coffee”, but throughout my teen years and 20’s every time I’d drink a bit of coffee, I would stay up until 3-4 am. Sometimes until sun rise! So I never drank regularly, and the times I would try it, it would cause me so much grief I’d stop for a few months.
In my 30’s I came up with a “brilliant” idea, or so I thought.
I got myself drinking coffee on a daily basis to build up tolerance.
Slowly but surely over about 7 years, I got to the point where I was drinking 3 coffees a day. The morning coffee was to get me going, the lunchtime coffee was to get me through the afternoon, and the evening coffee was to get me through the time looking after kids. I was now able to drink a coffee just before bed, and most of the time just nod off and go to sleep!
So mission accomplished. Or so I thought.
The problem was, I was becoming dominated by my coffee drinking.
Everywhere I went, I would be on the look out for the next great coffee. It was also the basis for much socialisation – with wife, family and friends.  I found myself thinking about coffee whenever I felt a bit tired, or whenever I was in a new place – I would google cafe’s or be on the watch out for hipster looking coffee shops. I was looking forward to it more than practically anything else a lot of the time.
Let’s be honest –  it had become an addiction.
I was preoccupied by it. Even our children were very aware that daddy was preoccupied with coffee.
If you read there are 3 definitions of substance dependence:
1. tolerance (needing more and more)
2. experiencing withdrawal symptoms (headaches, tiredness, lethargy) without it
3. and loss of control (seeking it above other activities, and consuming more than necessary)
Sadly I was meeting all three criteria – and I knew it.
Even on fasting days (for prayer) – I would drink coffee because it technically wasn’t food! And I knew that if I fasted and stopped the coffee I would become dysfunctional!
I felt the Lord start to challenge me about coffee a few years ago, but I would ignore him. I justified my daily drinking by my initial motivation (to be able to drink it without staying up so late), or used health reasons – every now and then a positive article about coffee and health would bolster my confidence to continue in my addiction.
But just about 15 days ago, it all changed for me, and my best buddy coffee.
I felt light headed concurrently with palpitations (sudden awareness of my heart beat going fast) for the second time. Being from a medical background myself, I figured it was probably benign. But I couldn’t help but think it was probably related to my caffeine intake.
It was a day before the Revival Conference we were going to have with Pastors Sabrina and Rachel from Cornerstone Miri, and perhaps by using the palpitations – God gave me the sudden desire to give up the coffee.
I told my wife – “I’m not going to drink coffee any more”. She had a confused look – somewhere between confused and flabbergasted.
I explained about the palpitations, and how God had challenged me to get rid of the habit anyway. I kinda wished I could have given it up without having to have had health issues from coffee as it would have made me sound less pathetic – but hey – in my weakness he shows His strength!
So I skipped my morning coffee. By the afternoon, I was getting cranky and was falling asleep. It was just before the conference – and I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I drank a shot of expressing from our coffee machine. I had gone from 5 shots a day to 1 within a a day.
The next morning, I was tired but surprisingly awake. But by the time it got to 11am, I was almost falling asleep. So I succumbed and drank a Nespresso from church. But that was the only coffee for the day.
By the time Sunday morning came, I was so tired during the sermon that I was literally falling asleep every time I closed my eyes – but I knew I had to beat this. I still somehow lasted through all the services. I even lead worship. It was an amazing service about revival in Bario and Pastor Rachel’s grandmother, and her father all testified of God’s goodness. Really amazing.
Meanwhile I was going through caffeine withdrawal! I must have looked like a truck had hit me because people were commenting how tired I had been looking…!
At the back of my mind, I remembered how Pastors Sabrina and Rachel had challenged me last year “You should fast”, and how I immediately thought at the time – “I should fast from coffee!”. But I didn’t want to. Oh how I loved coffee!
Back to the Sunday…
So there I was – missing my coffee. But determined to finish. My head felt sluggish. I felt weak and everything seemed to be in slow motion. I was also suffering from the worst palpitations I had ever had. I was seriously thinking of taking myself to the ED or organise a holster monitor for myself!
Sunday evening I felt really uncomfortable and was having palpitations on and off the whole evening. I almost booked to see a doctor the next morning. Weirdly I had a terrible night’s sleep. I thought I would sleep better without the coffee!
Monday morning came and I was just glad to be able to get up and go to work. That morning though the palpitations kept coming until about 11am. Then suddenly they stopped and my heart was regular again.
Over the next few days, I slowly became more and more awake. By the end of the week, I had a resurgence of energy and my energy levels were more constant throughout the day. Unlike my coffee drinking days when I would have these lulls 3 times a day.
I remember maybe Thursday or Friday – It finally hit me.
I was … Free!
My mind was no longer preoccupied with this one drink.
I was thinking differently. I wasn’t looking forward to this “booster” three times a day. I wasn’t preoccupied with my next “hit”.
Coffee no longer dominates me.
The next verse goes onto say that food is for the body – body is not for the food (paraphrased). Coffee was made for us, we were not made to be dominated by coffee.
I feel so much freer now. It’s hard to explain. Coffee had become an obsession. A bondage for perhaps 8-9 years of my life. It took the place of my hunger for God.
Why should a drink replace the word of God or the presence of God in my life? Why should I walk long distances or drive specifically to places just to have a drink. Why should I need a drug to keep me awake during the day?
I’m certainly not advocating that everyone give up coffee, but… if you do have something in your life that is not necessarily “bad” – but it dominates you, why don’t you ask God to help you give it up and find freedom……!

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