Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

Asking the Hard Questions (Book Review – Coming Clean by Seth Haines)

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

About the book (from the publisher):

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

“I suppose we’re all drunk on something.”

Seth Haines was in the hospital with his wife, planning funeral songs for their not-yet two-year-old, when he made a very conscious decision: this was the last day he wanted to feel. That evening, he asked his sister to smuggle in a bottle of gin, and gave in to addiction.

But whether or not you’ve ever had a drop to drink in your life, we’re all looking for ways to stop the pain. Like Seth, we’re all seeking balms for the anxiety of what sometimes seems to be an absent, unresponsive God—whether it’s through people-pleasing, shopping, the internet, food, career highs, or even good works and elite theology. We attempt to anesthetize our anxiety through addiction—any old addiction. But it often leaves us feeling even more empty than before.

In Coming Clean, Seth Haines writes a raw account of his first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating how to face the pain we’d rather avoid, and even more importantly, how an abiding God meets us in that pain. Seth shows us that true wholeness is found in facing our pain and anxieties with the tenacity and tenderness of Jesus, and only through Christ’s passion can we truly come clean.

My thoughts:

This is a book about addiction, but not just substance addiction, which makes it accessible for nearly any reader.

This is a book you need to sit down with and read slowly.

This is a book that will ask many of those hard questions you’ve likely had yourself and perhaps have felt scared to ask or like a fraud to ask (which is discussed quite often in this book).

This is not a book that should be thought of as a strictly teaching book because that would be an unhelpful way to view it.

It’s a memoir in many ways, and a journal even more–a reflective, real look into one man’s experience with dealing with pain and leaning into God. And if you remember it as that, it becomes a very powerful book.

“[This book is] about whatever thing you use to cover the pain … whatever you hold out like an armor to protect yourself instead of allowing yourself and your broken heart to be fully seen and fully tended by God.” – from the foreward

You will not agree with everything in this book, but I don’t think that’s the purpose of this book either. Read it as a look at the author’s story and a chance to hear questions you might be scared to ask and consider together what might come from asking when seeking sincere faith? Read it with open eyes to learn and opportunity to grow.

Readers follow the author through a reflection of his first ninety days of sobriety, written in journal-style entries. As you read, you see the change in his desperation to cover his pain with alcohol to learning to face what’s underneath that cover head on and lean into God to heal (not his own faulty solutions or practices of avoidance).

“And here is my precarious position: instead of facing pain with faith in the Christ who promises rest, I have learned to avoid it all by way of substitution. I’ve traded the abiding rest of Christ … for the temporary rest of liquor.” – p. 64

I don’t personally have experience with physical addiction, but, as we read the author’s story, we see that one can be addicted to so much more than that — judgment, perfectionism, theology in a box, man-placed structures and definitions, knowledge. And one or more of these (or others), I feel we all have some sort of experience with.

“The bottle is not the thing. The addiction is not the thing. The pain in the thing.” – p. 71

While this book doesn’t show you how to heal from your own pain (since we all have pain) in a 10-step fashion (who can do that, anyway?), it will inspire you to look for healing in all the right places instead of the wrong ones, debunk what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to ask when we face our pain, and show hope in and another glimpse at a good and present God.

“God was close in the days when it was okay to rest in my smallness, when I needed no theological answer for every trauma of life. God was close when my will as, by its nature, bent low before an immeasurable mystery.” – p. 146

What book have you read lately that you might not agree with wholly but has made you think more than many others?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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