Highlight: Pride and surrender in the life of recovery

A life of recovery begins with the moment of surrender. But where does pride fit in? A moment before the fall.

Jesus calls us to reject pride, take up our cross daily and die to ourselves. Richard Bahr shares how pride brought the fall even years after recovery. He was an alcoholic at age 10 but a sudden decision at 16 put on the road to recovery.

“It really came down to one night, February 9th…I just thought, I cannot do this anymore. There wasn’t anything leading up to that day that would give any indication that I was about to completely change direction. There was no give-up in me in terms of my chemical use.”

Rich’s first step was to finally surrender to the people in his life who had advised him to pursue treatment, he says. Guys in treatment rooms in their 50’s accepted him and told him to just listen to the stories.

“I look back now at the unconditional love that people gave me – I was just a junkie, a badly behaved, self-absorbed egotistical teenager. I wouldn’t put up with me. And yet these people just loved me and tried to speak the truth into me.”

Years after recovery, things took a turn for the worse. The fall came hard with an affair that cost him everything.

“After eight or nine years of marriage, I ended up falling to an affair. To me the devastating thing about that is, here I’m 15 years sober, thinking that I’ve got it – nice job, big house, wife, two kids, and thinking, that only happens to other guys – how does that happen to me?”

“Affairs aren’t moments in time; there’s a whole process of bad decisions that really led me into that.”

Rich took a change of direction and went from leadership roles in the church to serving behind the scenes.

“In retrospect, I look back at my pride and my ego and I thought, I have to be broken of that. I didn’t want it to be about me; I wanted it to be about Jesus. I kept getting in the way of everything else in my life, and I finally was beginning to come to grips with that.

“I was doing a lot of the right things, but there’s that whole surrender piece. Are you willing to give everything? You’re either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ – that’s it. And as long as I continue to hold onto those last little pieces that I didn’t want to let go, those are the things that brought me down.”

The decision to fly under the radar led Rich to serve in ways he never expected, in areas he felt he had no gifting. But in his weakness he saw God’s strength.

“I’m serving breakfast in a homeless shelter – and I don’t have any of those natural gifts, and I know that. And so my prayer always is for the Holy Spirit to ‘just take me over – invade me, get me out of the way, and have your way with me to do whatever it is that you want to get done today.'”

The act of full surrender opened the door to the homeless ministry that he now leads, Threshold to New Life, where helping others recover and stay off the street is how he serves Jesus.


Richard Bahr is Founder of Threshold to New Life, an organization targeting homelessness and poverty in the Twin Cities by distributing supplies on the streets and partnering with housing agencies connected to homeless shelters to provide short-term relief and keep people in their homes. Richard is author of 

Pride and surrender in the life of recovery

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