surrender the bone

Written by Heather Kopp

Heather Kopp is the author of Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk (Hatchette/Jericho). She’s blogs at and on occasion at The Huffington Post. She and her husband Dave have five grown kids and live in Colorado.

July 29, 2013

free, surrender 

Before I say a word about this month’s theme of “free,” you should know that I lived as a secret slave to alcohol for more than twelve years. By day I wrote Christian books on topics like marriage and prayer, and by night I got blotto drunk. I can’t think of anything I treasure more than the freedom not to drink today.

But freedom is a mysterious thing. Honestly, in the context of addiction, some of what the Bible says about it barely makes sense to me. Take for example, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”(John 8:36 RSV).

I always took this verse to mean that once you become a Christian, while you might still feel tempted to sin, you could never again be a slave to sin. But if that’s true, why do so many Christians end up battling addictions?

For years, I couldn’t figure it out. These days, I wonder if the answer isn’t as simple as this: Now that God has set me completely free, I have the power to say no to slavery. But I also still have the power to say yes.

Which is what I did with alcohol, one sip at a time. Of course, I thought I could stop drinking whenever I wanted—right up to the point when I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried.

My favorite picture of this awful dynamic comes from a story my husband—a missionary’s kid who grew up in the African outback—likes to tell. As Dave explains it, the local monkeys were often a terrible nuisance. But the native boys had a proven technique for capturing the critters. They’d tie a chicken bone inside of a hollowed out gourd, making sure the opening was too small for a monkey’s hand and the chicken bone to come out together.

Next, they’d fasten the gourd to the base of a tree. Soon enough, a hungry monkey would follow its nose to the gourd and reach inside to grab the bone. Now the boys would draw near with their nets. Sensing danger, the monkey would screech in terror. But instead of fleeing, it would cling to its prize… unwilling to let go of the bone.

You don’t have to be an addict or alcoholic to identify with the monkey’s dilemma. Clinging is what we humans do most naturally. Give us something that looks, tastes, or feels good, and we’ll go to almost any length to keep it—often, even when it endangers our freedom.

Jesus famously told his followers, “If you cling to your life you will lose it…”

So why do we still hang on? I wonder if it’s because letting go feels a lot like dying. It hurts so much. It seems way too hard. But as Jesus reminds us, it’s our desperate clinging to an empty substitute for life that will ultimately rob us of the real thing.

But here’s good news. Unlike those monkeys in Africa, we don’t have to find the courage or will to surrender our bone on our own. We can fall to our knees and cry out to God for rescue. And we can demonstrate our willingness to let go by accepting any help he sends.

Six years ago, when I finally sought treatment for my alcoholism, I felt terrified and embarrassed. I hated to admit that I couldn’t stop drinking by myself. But in rehab, I met a bunch of beautifully broken people who were just as baffled by their addiction as I was.

As I listened to their stories, I heard them telling mine. Slowly, my desperate grip on alcohol began to loosen. Then one day, I saw a fellow monkey who was stuck and scared. I reached out my hand to help her, and I must have dropped my bone.

I never picked it up. Today, I’m still free.


To conclude our July series on how we live Free in Christ from the lens of our own experiences, we’re excited to give away two copies of Heather’s new book, Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk. Her memoir, an honest account of brokenness, will inspire you to live in the freedom of Christ’s love despite circumstance. Leave a comment for an opportunity to win. The winners will be selected on Thursday.


  1. Patricia W Hunter

    Awesome post, Heather. Praise God for giving us the strength to say no – and to “drop the bone.” I have a good friend who would be most encouraged by your testimony to letting go of the alcohol bone, but the truth is that all of us can fall into the trap of hanging onto something. May we have the courage to let go and help others do the same.

    {By the grace and mercy of our loving and compassionate Father, my husband has been sober for 36 years.}

  2. Barbara Isaac Croce

    I love how real He is to us. Transparency is also such a gift that you are giving us, reminding us that other people are just like us, but God is bigger. Thank you!

  3. Michelle

    So many of Heather’s posts speak to my soul. I do not have an addiction problem BUT I struggle in other ways that leave me broken and questioning how God can still love and extend grace. And every day He asks me to love and extend grace to those around me who struggle with addiction.

  4. Leslie Rowe

    Good truth. And sometimes we as Christians find more socially acceptable addictions to bind ourselves to; spending, eating, excitement (drama), plenty of flavors of chicken bones out there. Do we really find our satisfaction in Jesus? He’s offering wholeness and so often I cling to the artificial, temporary pleasure-inducers.

  5. Katherine's Daughter

    I am a friend of Lois W. and have learned much about recovery and the effects of alcoholism through the power of the twelve step program. Belief in my HIgher Power has set me free. No longer am I afraid to stretch myself out of my comfort zone for I know He is always with me.

  6. Kelley J. Leigh

    Clinging monkey = much food for thought. Thanks for the post, Heather.

    • Shelly Miller

      Congratulations Kelley! You won Heather’s new book Sober Mercies. Send me your mailing address here: so I can get it in the mail to you.

  7. tparker

    As a recovering sugar addict, I felt the same dilemma. If there was a cinnamon roll ir chocaolate bar hanging in that goard I would have been the monkey hanging on for dear life. I did many things to try to free myself from the prison I put myself in, until it became clear, all I needed to do was let go of sugar and trust God to lead me out of the place I was in. Today I’ve list 255 pounds and I feel so free! My memoir Sweet Grace is coming out soon all because i decided with God’s help, i am stronger than my cravings

  8. Kathy Collard Miller

    Heather’s book is powerful. We all choose “not free” and I felt her book applied to all of us–we each have our “addiction.” I loved your comment here, Heather, that choosing freedom strangely feels like death. When I suggest that to people, they cringe at its strength but it’s true. It’s so scary and trust in God isn’t powerful enough within us in those moments. Thank you for sharing! There is hope and we can learn to overcome. I was addicted to anger and physically and emotionally abused my two-year-old daughter. There are all kinds of addiction. I praise God that He delivered me and I let go of the anger bone through a process of growth and knowledge and surrender. I always appreciate your posts, Heather. Keep it up!

  9. Barb

    “…letting go feels a lot like dying.” Absolutely brilliant…I never thought of it that way before.

  10. kelli woodford

    oh Heather. what a story your words proclaim.
    thank you for being part of our writing team here this month, i honor the narrative God is busy crafting with your life.

  11. judykayrocks

    Praise God for your transparency, sobriety & most of all…. being an overcome thru Jesus Christ, Phil. 4:13~~
    Love the book, hope to win a copy for another “recovering” Jesus girl-friend. Bless you julie

  12. Shelly Miller

    So honored to have your words here Heather. I’m clinging hard to the real thing out here in Canada and dropping my bone. Jesus is more real than anything I know. Thank you for showing us what true freedom looks like. Thankful for you friend.

  13. Kris Camealy

    Oh my. Thank you for this, Heather. Wow. Letting go does feel like dying. I have learned this once before, but lately feel like God is drawing me back to that place–calling me to let go again, and I’d be lying if I said I was ready to let go of that bone. I’m not–
    I know I cling, and so I pray, Lord make me ready, help me let go. I am so thankful for your words this morning. I needed to read this.

    God continue to bless you, new friend.

  14. David Rupert

    A powerful post. Yes…we cling to tightly to relationships, to the past, to the present.

  15. Charles Burbank

    Such a great illustration, Heather! Our freedom is only in Christ. Therefore our freedom comes from the ability to choose at all. For, it is in that choice that we can truly live. Well written, and I rejoice with you as a fellow reclaimed child that we are free indeed!

    • Shelly Miller

      Congratulations Charles, you won Heather’s book, Sober Mercies. Send me your mailing address here: Thanks!

      • Charles Burbank

        I cannot believe I won! 🙂 Just Sent to your email!

  16. LisaAR

    Working on figuring out my bone(s)…

  17. Anna White

    Powerful words. You are such a truth teller, and that is so valuable. It is amazing to see someone’s life really change.

  18. BraveGirl Stacey

    Whoop Whoop! Love that you are on Bible Dude today! Keep on pressing on Heather! BraveGirl Stacey

  19. Vicki

    I love the analogy of the monkeys. It’s so true. I struggled with addiction for a long time. I used to think that I would always be tempted, that I would never be able to say no. But after a few years now and knowing Jesus more personally, I can say with certainty that I could say no if the situation were to ever come up. He is so faithful when we turn to Him!

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  20. Rachel

    Heather, I love your writing and I’ve found it to be so helpful in recovering from my own issues with food and eating. Your words are so heartfelt that I can’t help but be moved and encouraged in my own struggles. Thank you for all you have done for your readers by sharing your voice and you stories.

  21. lettyann

    Thank You Heather for another piece of your heartfelt words.

    As I am sitting in my office reading your part of your past.
    It had brought me back when I had carried and sip from that old
    bottle of rum. Each day just counting the numbers on my fingertips.
    First thing in the morning and late into the dark nights. Tears of pain
    would cover my cheeks.
    Battle with the bad taste on the tip of my lips.
    Fighting a war with not eating and not wanting to even see day light.
    Nights became very cold and lonely.

    Until I had to win my life back, with a five months stay in the hospital
    and learning to take one step at a time.
    Learning to eat and to find out who I was.
    I thank our Heavenly Father who was there and still is right by my side.
    I give praises to Jesus for not giving up on me.

    I would like to say whoever reads this, it is never to late if you ever
    find yourselves in a very dark place in your life.
    Just reach your hand out Our Heavenly Father is there to hold it and
    Guide you onto the path of freedom.

    I would love to read your book, thank you Heather, God Bless!

  22. Tom

    “beautifully broken people”…what a great characterization….broken people (as opposed to contorted and wrecked people who are still trying ti hang on) are so safe to be in relationship with…because there is a willingness to give and receive…rather than a compulsion to control…
    It is about surrendering control (and all the sick mechanisms for exercising that control) to safe persons, chief of whom is the safest friend…Jesus! Surrender happens best inside of relationship…
    Thank you for being His spokesperson….again…

  23. Diane Bailey

    I have heard of the monkey in life lessons, and this is the perfect application for the story. You are beautiful, through and through. I know what you have trusted to Christ he will never surrender. I love calling you, “The Bone Dropper”.

  24. Laura Rath

    “So why do we still hang on? I wonder if it’s because letting go feels a lot like dying. It hurts so much. It seems way too hard.” Perfectly said. Even when I know what I’m walking through is God’s best for me, it HURTS. A lot!
    Thank you for your post, Heather.

  25. MsLorretty

    Oh. How. Beautiful. Praise Him.

  26. 1lori_1

    Love the illustration….it’s so, so true. Great post Heather!

  27. Tammy Maltby

    As ever your words are WORD Heather. Thank you for your courage girl. I am so thankful you are in my life.

  28. MaLissa Schutt

    Thank you for sharing the story of surrendering the bone. Although I have not picked up my drug of choice, I picked up food. As a result, I gained 60lbs and I have felt the vicious cycle of despair and hopelessness creeping up on me again. My frustrations have overwhelmed me as I asked myself, “why can’t I stop eating this junk?” Your blog has reminded me to return to the place of surrender I was at when I laid down the drugs and do the same for the food.


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surrender the bone

by Heather Kopp time to read: 4 min