Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Power and Insanity of Alcohol



Do any of the following apply to you?

    * I say stupid things when I drink that I would never say when sober.

    * I golf, go to sporting events, go bowling with the guys and always get inebriated while doing so.

    * Most, if not all, of my socializing involves drinking.

    * I’ve been told numerous times by my doctor that I need to stop drinking. But I continue to drink anyway.

    * I tell myself I can stop drinking any time, but have never actually tried.

     * I say I will have “just one” before heading out on a Friday night, and end up driving home inebriated after several drinks.

    * Sometimes I can’t remember the details of the night before due to drinking.

    * I’m wracked with guilt the mornings after I drink.

    * I despise alcohol-free weddings and gatherings.

    * I stop drinking for a month, and, thinking I now have it under control, begin drinking again. I am able to stop “at one” for a weekend. The next weekend I start to drink more than one. Then I start drinking during the week again. After a few weeks, I am right back where I started, or worse. I am once again proving to myself I cannot “control” my drinking. I cannot control alcohol. The truth is, it has taken control of me.


The weirdest thing, the thing that is truly incomprehensible, is that the above scenarios are not even blinked at as being weird. They are perceived, if given a second thought at all, as funny, acceptable, or normal.

I come from a family tradition of alcoholism. I say tradition, because although I do believe some of the literature that says alcoholism can run in families, I am not convinced that it is a biological trait. And I do not put it in the category of disease, unless, of course we are talking about the general fallen state of humankind, called sin.

I believe alcoholism is a sin. And I believe this because everybody I know personally who drank and wanted to quit were only able to quit through Jesus Christ. I know of one person who quit for many years on their own, but began drinking again. I know of another person or two who are also in the dry camp without Christ, but I don’t trust that it will be forever (because I’ve seen others “quit” without Christ and it hasn’t lasted). 

Those who have allowed Jesus to reach down and take alcohol out of us are those who have been freed: no dry drunks (meaning sober but miserable and still psychologically wanting to drink).

Scripture tells us those who have been forgiven much love much. I have been forgiven for my past drinking. My love for God goes deep for freeing me from the prison of alcohol. And lest you think you have to be falling down drunk, think again. The above scenarios do not always involve falling down drunk.

Problems that arise from drinking don’t immediately appear with “just one,” but they do take root with “just one” because “just one” is what leads to one more. And another. Until we get to the point of the old adage, “One is too many and 100 isn’t enough.”

If you want to test whether you’re addicted, I advise going this weekend without alcohol. And next weekend too. And the weekend after that. 

To test whether you have control over your drinking, I recommend stopping at one drink every time (and don't drink at all the majority of days). Also, attend a wedding and don’t drink. Go to a sporting event and stay sober. Watch the game at home without a brew. If you find you don’t enjoy yourself; if you find yourself missing that drink; if you are agitated and can’t concentrate without a drink in your hand, then, my friend, you have a problem. Oh, and if you don’t like your drinking buddies as much when you are sober? I think you know the answer...

See, many people think they have their drinking under control until they attempt to actually forgo even one drink. Many deny that alcohol has infiltrated their life to the point of dominance until they try to go without. Only then do they realize that, in spite of what they thought, they really cannot do anything without at least “one drink.” They are surprised to find that they don’t enjoy being with people unless they drink. They are alarmed to discover that their main coping mechanism for stress has been to open a beer, uncork a bottle of wine or whip up a cocktail (ditto for celebrations).

Once a person tries to sincerely go without a drink, or to “stop at one” and fails, that’s when reality hits: they don’t have control and they can’t “stop any time.” The alcohol is in control, not them.

Our culture rages at drunk drivers who kill, domestic abuse at the hands of drunks, crime committed by those under the influence. Yet it turns a blind eye to the wasted years spent in the fuzziness of alcohol, to the endless reliving of drinking stories in conversation, of making fools of ourselves or embarrassing others while inebriated.

Our culture doesn’t want to acknowledge the toll alcohol takes on marriages and families: affairs that happen under its influence, spouses ignored due to its luring away of the other spouse, liquor-induced depression, a parent who goes to the tavern after work instead of coming home and spending time, sober, with the family, and children who grow up believing that their parents’ modeling of the drinking life is normal. 

But we don’t answer to culture. We answer to God. And when it comes to putting down the drinking life for good, God Himself through Jesus Christ is the answer.




“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15-25

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:5-11





5 comments:

Glenn Fuller said...

It's amazing how blind/unaware I am to myself. You describe a moderate drinker, (I can't imagine going a week without alcohol-it's been decades)- the cycle of guilt and self loathing in the morning, followed by the afternoon of "Hmmm, can't wait for my next beer" can continues indefinitely. I am currently wrapping myself around the historical reality of the Miracles of God, but surely the miracle I could never imagine would be to end this cycle.

Barb Harwood said...

Thanks for sharing, Glenn. I can totally relate.

As painful as the journey from blindness to awareness is, it is also the way that strongholds are torn down. Only then can we experience the joy of the man in John 9:25 who exclaimed, “I was blind but now I see!” Funny as it sounds, discovering who we are, in all our wretchedness, is the “good news” of Christ, because then we also get to see who we can become in Him. It isn’t up to us. Only God through Jesus can change hearts. Nothing ever changes in our own power.

We so easily define our behaviors by our own terms. But should I really be the one to diagnose my condition? Certainly there is a conflict of interest (which is why judges recuse themselves from cases in which they cannot maintain impartiality)!

The “cycle of guilt and self loathing” that you mention, followed by the desire for more of what brings the self-loathing on, accurately describes the life I lived for 21 years. But since I didn’t fit the traditional alcoholic paradigm of walking the streets drinking out of a paper bag in the middle of the day, or losing my job, etc., I told myself that I didn’t have a problem. But I knew I had a problem.

It took coming to the end of myself to finally bust my pride so I could humbly admit that I knew nothing about the Good Book that I was raised to despise: the Bible. I had tried everything to quit drinking and it didn’t work. I knew that there was absolutely nothing to lose by trying faith in God (and essentially, that initially took the form of believing His Word, which is what brought me to initial freedom from alcohol).

Long story short, the Bible gave me Jesus, and Jesus showed me who I was. I learned that He paved the way for me to die to that person and be born anew. I have not had any alcohol, nor the desire to drink, for 14 years. It is freedom born of full repentance, along with the acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and His Spirit, which came to live in me when I surrendered.

Only when I was transformed by the conviction that God’s Word is True (that in fact it is the Word of God), that I am accountable to what it says, that Jesus Christ died for my sin and rose again did I stay sober. And Jesus is with the Father, interceding on behalf of His children.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33a

Chris Spi said...

I work with addicts and alcoholics and am in full agreement that this is a sin condition more than it is a disease. Some may have a predisposition to alcohol/drugs but it is sin that creeps in for this disposition to be birthed. We choose to drink, we choose to have sex outside of marriage, we choose lie, cheat, and steal. We do NOT choose to get heart disease, cancer, etc.
The discouraging success rate of modern addiction counselling and research is because of, I believe, it looks at addiction as a disease and therefore focuses on therapy models and pharmaceuticals. While there is benefit to these approaches, the benefit is minimal compared to viewing addiction as sin issue and recognizing the Christ is the ONLY cure for sin.

Chris Spi said...

I work with addicts and alcoholics and am in full agreement that this is a sin condition more than it is a disease. Some may have a predisposition to alcohol/drugs but it is sin that creeps in for this disposition to be birthed. We choose to drink, we choose to have sex outside of marriage, we choose lie, cheat, and steal. We do NOT choose to get heart disease, cancer, etc.
The discouraging success rate of modern addiction counselling and research is because of, I believe, it looks at addiction as a disease and therefore focuses on therapy models and pharmaceuticals. While there is benefit to these approaches, the benefit is minimal compared to viewing addiction as sin issue and recognizing the Christ is the ONLY cure for sin.

Barb Harwood said...

Hi Chris,
I completely agree! God's blessings on your obedience to serve Him in this capacity! Barb