Taken from February of 2012
I am an alcoholic. I’m not sure if I really believe that yet, but God, in His grace is showing me that my sin (in regards to drinking) is not just something that I just do “too much” or that I need to “cut back on” but is a deep rooted sin of idolatry that has spanned the course of just short of two decades.
It has affected many of the people that I love and that I have had direct influence over as well as countless others who have seen or observed or heard of my addiction and/or witnessed it in action. I have been resisting the thought that I was an actual alcoholic, but recently I’ve been thinking and praying through it and it is becoming more and more clear.
Two days ago a dear brother and a leader in my church sat me down to see how I was doing. My wife had expressed concerns about my drinking and he dropped by to catch up. Through some pointed questioning it became very clear to him that I have a problem. A big problem. He communicated the two paths that I have ahead of me: to lay it aside entirely or to continue down a very dangerous path. A path that would consume and destroy and ultimately lead to death. It seemed pretty drastic. I mean, I only drink a couple times a week. That is what I keep telling myself.
I started to think about it more. I realized:
- I am the one that drinks the most in nearly every setting I’m in
- I hide how much I drink, either by hiding bottles, using credit cards whose habits aren’t as easily tracked, or by being purposely deceitful (saying things like, “I got two bottles”, when what I actually drank was an equivalent to 5-6 beers or more.)
- I can usually drink much more than others without it having the same effect on me
- I use my high tolerance as an excuse for how much I drink
- Many people have expressed concern over my drinking
- I spend money that we don’t have on beer
- I willingly sacrifice the respect of my wife to drink
- I have drank to the point of being intoxicated, even throwing up, in the last several months
- I have drank enough to be hung over the next day, recently
- I attach drinking to legitimate social outings so as to enable and justify it
- I have left my kids alone, sleeping at the house, or sitting in the car, to go get alcohol—something I would normally not do in any other situation
- I have driven after drinking too much on several occasions, recently
- I drink alone far more often than I drink with others
- I willingly neglect other things that I should be doing, such as reading the word, studying, prayer, preparing for small group, spending time with Melissa and the kids, and choosing to be alone so I can drink rather than be in community with others
- My morning after hang overs have resulted in me not doing my job completely or well, and have even resulted in days or partial days off
- I often feel guilty about how much I drink, how often I drink, how much money I spent, or how my drinking has affected others (mainly my wife)
- I recently stepped down from leading a small group to focus on my family, but being in no small part due to drinking too much
- I openly admit to drinking too much without really believing that I do or understanding the extent that this sin has taken root in my life
- I am humiliated to confess the details of this sin with others
- I get defensive when talking about drinking
- I get angry when talking about drinking or about quitting and have been dragging my feet in regards to any kind of long term hiatus
This problem has been going on for a very long time. I have shown these same characteristics, give or take and with few “longer” term breaks (4-5 months tops) since long before God reached into my life in grace and saved me. By my best estimate, if I am an alcoholic now, then I have been for almost twenty years. Literally. My habits have not really changed. I can recount scores of people over the course of those twenty years, in every various setting, sharing concerns about my drinking with me. Friends (Christian or not), family (immediate and extended), mentors, pastors, and my own wife—anyone who has had any real idea of how much I drink (even though most did not really know the full extent) have all shared concern. Many of openly chosen not to drink with me at all and I’m sure many others did so quietly.
So why have I continued? That is what I am trying to figure out. The truth is that I have never really believed that I was an alcoholic. I have always justified for one reason or another. Or ten.
Some of my reasoning, though it may sound silly, has literally been:
- I don’t really drink that much
- I don’t drink every day
- I can go weeks at a time without drinking without physical effects like sweats or shaking—so I must not be addicted
- I don’t drink in the morning
- Much of the time I don’t get drunk
- I usually don’t have a hang over so that means I didn’t drink too much
- Other people drink as much as I do
- Many others drink way more than I do
- It doesn’t really affect my life—I can still do everything I need to
- I have freedom in Christ. I have the freedom to drink Biblically—just not get drunk
- God shows grace for those times that I do get drunk
- It doesn’t lead me into debauchery, i.e. I don’t look at porn every time I drink or cheat on my wife or anything like that. It must be okay
- I just like to have a good time
- I can stop if I want to. I just don’t want to
- I like it
- I don’t want to stop drinking
- Other people are the “weaker” brothers and they just don’t understand
- It helps me relax and unwind—other people exercise or watch movies—I just like to drink
- I just like the taste
- Beer is God’s gift to us. It is a sign of blessing in the OT
- Jesus and the disciples drank
- It helps settle my stomach
- I like a buzz. I am actually more fun after a drink or two
- It is an avenue of mission
Even as I write out some of my reasons I see how silly they are. And how blind I have been. I could go through every one of these “reasons” and see how full of holes they are. I see that the gospel is true and these faulty excuses are not. At least not the way I use them.
But am I really an alcoholic? For twenty years, and not even known it? In the last 36 hours I have done 5 online surveys/questionnaires. I was honest. I didn’t fudge or pull punches. All five came back with the same results—to varying degrees. Some hinted at a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism and others claimed outright alcoholism. One said that I drink more than 84% of those who answered the survey. All said I have a problem. All said that I needed to seek the help of health care professionals, clergy, friends, and family. Some said to seek the help of a “higher power”. But all agreed. I have a problem. A serious problem. A serious problem that needs addressing.
I talked to my brother (a recovering alcoholic) about it. He was concerned and honest when he looked me in the eyes and told me that I was an alcoholic (without any doubt, I think is how he put it).
I have been kidding myself. Lying to myself and to others. I have been justifying it. I have been hiding it. I have been deceived and I have deceived myself. And the sin is so deep that even as I write this I am still hesitant to say it. I am an alcoholic. Really? Me? That is something that happens to other people, right? That is for someone outside of the church. Someone who has not experience the grace of the gospel of our Lord Jesus the Christ the way I have.
It has made me even wonder if I have been saved. But I know I am. I do! Can Christians be alcoholics? And not even know it? It seems like I would know it.
But I do know it. I can’t escape it. I have been trying. I don’t want to admit it but I am. And I have been for a long time.
The friend who helped me start to confront this issue, my wife and my brother all asked me why I drink. Scores of others have asked the same thing. I would rattle off some of the reasons above, but why do I drink—really. That it what I need to mine out. And I need your help. This is to be continued because I need to really look at this and find what is really going on beneath the sin of drinking in my life and I can’t seem to do that on my own. I know it is an idol—but what idol? It is a habit. But what habit or habits? It might be an addiction—even if not a physical one. Definitely a mental habit. Perhaps a psychological and social habit as well. My heart is so desperately wicked that this has been hard for me to figure out.
Is it an escape? Perhaps, but I don’t know from what. There are so many things that I enjoy about my life. My wife. My kids. My friends and family. My church. My city and home. Even, for the first time in years, my job. What in the world would I be trying to escape from? I have been going through kind of a mid-life crisis thing lately and maybe that is part of it. An escape? Maybe not from what my life is now but an escape to what I thought my life would be like. I did not imagine my life the way it is. Nothing about family—I love that part. But being a virtual teacher? A virtual math teacher at that? Really? Is that the life that God has for me?
I admit I wanted so much more. I imagined so much more. Idolatry—all of it. But still—I imagined preaching and leading churches, running businesses, owning properties, changing things, helping people—making a difference. A big difference. I imagined being more successful. I imagined making more money. Do I drink because I’m not rich and successful? Often when I drink it is these very things that I am thinking and dreaming about. It is these worldly thoughts that I am running to in my mind. In my mind I have been running after worldly success. I have been coveting worldly riches. I have been coveting the recognition that comes with these things. I am ashamed to put this down in print but it is helping me to see that I really do have a deep seated discontent with life as I know it. Undoubtedly thoughts like these are near to the heart of this issue.
Is it a habit? Yes—I think anything you do every other day or so has the potential to be a habit and I have done this particular thing for two decades. It’s safe to say it is a habit. But what kind? It is a habit of relaxation. It does help me unwind and I run to it. I use it. But it is also somewhat of a mental habit as well. I have a hard time imagining my life without it. Isn’t that sad? But I really have a hard time imagining a version of myself that doesn’t drink. Drinking has almost been like a companion. But I wonder if I also have some kind of psychological habit as well. I tend to get sort of anxious or “itchy” when I don’t have it. Not physically—kind of hard to explain, actually.
Is it an idol. To be sure. Guys—I need help. I think I am dealing with a legion kind of idol here. For me to stop drinking would be to stop numerous idols and habits all at once. Kind of like gouging an eye out. Funny—I just read about how we should gouge the eye out that causes us to sin. But that hurts. This is going to hurt.
So, next steps.
- I need to stop drinking entirely and immediately. I don’t know a timeline or if I’ll ever be able to drink responsibly again but right now I am having a hard time committing to too much. If I make a couple weeks I will be excited, to tell you the truth. I know I am setting myself up for failure, but I do know that need to stop. I will need to have a solid system of accountability.
- Please pray for me and for Melissa. She is going to bear the brunt of a lot of this, unfortunately. Because it is going to be hard to stop and in my flesh I really don’t want to. I mean I do, but I don’t. In a Romans 7 kind of way. But I need to constantly be reminding of the Romans 8 kind of God that we have and the Romans 9 kind of decision that He has made to love me in spite of myself. I know there is victory—but I am afraid of falling and failing.
- Don’t drink with me anymore. And if you see or hear about me drinking tell my wife and a leader from my church. That means something’s wrong.
- I want to put this in the open but I am not ready to publicize it yet. Please pray first and walk through this with me. This might just be my sinful heart but I just wanted to at least ask. I’m not asking for long. Just some time to sit before my God and Savior and be reminded who He is and who I am in Him. I know that the church will be an important part of this but please let me start small. We are telling our parents in the next day or two, so please pray for that as well.
- Please help me to be steeped in the word, putting on the armor that I will need to go to battle. It is going to be rough, so if you know of particular passages or sermons please send them my way.
- Please pray! We need it.
I don’t really know what else to say right now, other than that I am ready to tackle this thing. But I will need a lot of prayer and a lot of help. I can’t do it alone but I know that with God all things are possible.