By God's Grace

Recovery, relationships, and a camp meeting response

Shannon M. Oliver
By God's Grace
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

I began watching movies and playing video games at an early age. I learned that not only was media entertaining, it was also a great escape and coping mechanism. Fast-forward to my seventh-grade year, and someone introduced me to pornography. This new addiction fit nicely into my growing collection. Another fast-forward to my twenty-first birthday, and I started socially drinking. Yet another addiction added to my collection. It was all fun and games in my remaining years at an Adventist college and even into early adulthood. 


There were moments I grew close to God. One of those times was in college, when I was consistently journaling to God and could sense His presence in my life—all the while I held on to my addictions. The moment did not last. I put my notebook down and stopped trying to connect with God. 

Three years after graduating college, as I sought to break free from a life steeped in sin, I reached out to a church elder who was a family friend. We started weekly Bible studies, and my life changed tremendously. Some addictions stopped, and others were diminished. I wanted to serve God, but I was not ready put both feet in. But each time I left a spiritual period, my life was in a worse state than before.

I cannot explain all the factors that led to it, but in the months prior to my thirtieth birthday I started examining my life, and it did not match where I wanted to be. Though the salary was quite good, the job I had left me feeling unfulfilled. There was always a screen in my face or noise in my ears. I was grouchy and passive aggressive to everyone. My relationship with my parents was dysfunctional. I could not string a pure thought together, and I had no self-control. My life was a complete and terrible disaster. The addictions in my life had a real hold and lasting consequences. Satan started me in the shallow end, but when he was done, he had dragged me to the depths and was holding me under, almost until the bubbles stopped.


Similar to the prodigal son, I had a “coming to myself” moment. One Sabbath in April 2022 I made up my mind that I would seek help at church. After a 45-minute conversation with two friends, I finally mustered the courage to share about my addictions and my hopeless state. My friend counseled me to find a godly person in the city in which I lived who could help. I was still attending the church where I grew up, even though I lived an hour away now.

Taking my friend’s advice, I began counseling with a pastor that summer. This was one of the darkest periods in my life, digging up dirt from a past that I wished could have stayed buried forever. In the process I made a critical mistake. Learning that there could be contributing factors to my addictions from my upbringing, I started to blame my parents. I kept this to myself at first, until the pain got bad enough that I felt the need to give my mother “a piece of my mind.” 

I have since learned that this was not right. Early in recovery I had a bad case of blaming others, a condition we have all inherited from our first parents, who blamed others when they sinned in the Garden of Eden. Regardless of contributing factors, we are all slaves to sin, born with a sinful nature. But God’s grace restores free will to each of His children, and He grants us the ability to choose to follow Him or continue in our sinful ways. On the path to recovery in Christ, we must allow Him to conquer our innate desire to blame others.

In time I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The first meeting I went to was for “research” purposes for an addiction recovery group I wanted to start. I was convinced I was bound by lust, but not yet convinced that I might be an alcoholic. By the time that first meeting ended, I felt convicted and convinced, and I kept going back. By God’s grace I have remained sober since October 31, 2022. Considered Reformation Day for the church because of Martin Luther, October 31 became Reformation Day for me also.

If going sober in the fall and winter (depression season) was not hard enough, I decided to kill my smartphone and buy a “dumb” phone to curb my media and pornography addictions. My Light Phone II arrived around the same time that my sobriety began.

The following months were hard. Through AA I was getting a similar type of therapy as I had received in my counseling sessions, but in a group setting. I had to “face the music” with no help from my addictions, my “medicine,” and the music was disgraceful, jarring, cacophonous. I became more temperamental and endured severe anxiety attacks, some of which led to sleepless nights. But by God’s grace, I kept stringing days of sobriety together at whatever cost, and life started to get better. It seemed as though there was no room in the inn of my heart for Jesus to reside until these addictions were met and began to be removed.


Four months into sobriety Jesus came into my life for real. It was a gradual experience with some shining moments. Conviction during the appeal after a sermon, wanting to serve my Lord better, experiencing healing in my familial relationships—all were a result of the healing power of God in my life. He was healing me as I was growing spiritually with Him. Most important, God began giving me a love for Him and His Word that I did not know was possible. I was falling in love with my loving Father.

Life looks much different now. By God’s grace I find myself having lengthy devotions and seldom miss a day. God makes communion so good that some days I wish I had no other obligations or responsibilities. God is building a beautiful relationship between my parents and me. He is mending my relationships and healing my wounds. I can attest that our God is wonderful.

All these changes led to attending camp meeting in the summer of 2023. My parents invited me to stay with them for the opening and closing weekends of the convocation that spanned a week. While I had grown up attending camp meeting and would not miss it for anything in the adolescent years of my life, my attendance began to wane in adulthood. This year was different. I wanted to be where God’s people were congregated and to experience again the wonderful sermons given during Sabbath divine service and the evening plenary meeting.

On the final night of camp meeting the main speaker made an altar call. As he was building up to the appeal, I prayed that He would ask for someone to come up for rebaptism. When he made the appeal for the Adventist that had backslidden and needed to be rebaptized to go to the front, I was literally jumping over seats to answer the call! After further Bible studies, on October 28, 2023, I was rebaptized into the family of Christ (having been first baptized at the age of 9).

As our relationship grows, God will put His finger on something in my life and ask me to give it up for Him. Luke 14:33 has been my experience: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” What I discovered was that when I gave up something for God, He replaced it with something much better. Usually He fills me with a deep sense of peace and joy that lacks explanation. God gives me joy in the simplest things: a sunset, going on a walk, singing praises to Him, worship time in the morning, listening to a captivating classical piece, an inspiring sermon on Sabbath morning. God lives in the subtleties of life. His ways are simple, and He speaks in a still small voice. We must silence the noise; then we will hear our Father in heaven calling us. 

Shannon M. Oliver

Shannon M. Oliver is a missionary currently serving public university students while receiving training through the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students’ (CAMPUS) missionary training program in Michigan.