I don’t get drunk.
Firstly, what makes an alcoholic an alcoholic is not how much they’re prepared to drink in a sitting. There is a common fallacy that alcoholism is the same thing as alcohol abuse, or binge drinking – but it isn’t. Your average person who gets plastered every Friday and Saturday night to the point of unconsciousness won’t necessarily be an alcoholic. Binge drinking is certainly dangerous, and in fact, the physical and social effects of alcohol abuse may be more impacting than those of alcohol addiction. While someone who has had a drinking session may appear obviously drunk, an alcoholic may actually seldom appear intoxicated. This is one of the reasons alcoholism can go undetected for a long time, even by people close to the person involved.
The Holy Spirit/ my conscience always tells me when it’s time to stop drinking.
In my experience, alcoholics can actually stop drinking any time they like. They do so, over and over. The problem isn’t with listening to the internal cue which says “no more after this one.” Alcoholics say they won’t drink again all the time, and they mean it, very sincerely. The problem isn’t with wanting to stop, it’s with being able to stop themselves from starting up again. An alcoholic can have one drink and then not have any more – several times over the course of a single day, even in the space of an an hour. Alcoholics are simply you are after you start failing to realise starting drinking again very frequently is tantamount to an addiction.
For an alcoholic, stopping isn’t the issue – Holy Spirit prompted or otherwise. It’s the ability to recognise that starting again a lot means you actually didn’t ever stop in the first place. This is why alcoholics cannot ever, ever drink. As my husband says, “One’s too many, and a hundred is never enough.”
I’m way too clever to let that happen to me.
You don’t need to be unintelligent to become an alcoholic. All you need is a) access to alcohol b) a reason to drink c) no reason good enough for you to stop. I bet you have all three of those right now. In fact, I bet you have mounds of supporting evidence to justify c) – some of it even from the Bible.
It’s impossible to be both an alcoholic and an effective Christian. I am an effective Christian, therefore, I can’t be an alcoholic.
Is an effective Christian someone who goes to church and participates in church life? Is an effective Christian someone who is able to maintain their capacity to provide for their family, going to work each day without a problem? Is an effective Christian someone who is not given to violence or abuse, is kind, generous and loving? Is an effective Christian someone who follows Christ, who reads their Bible and believes it? Is an effective Christian able to hold down a position in both the church and the community? Is an effective Christian someone who is repentant when they do something they recognise as being a sin? Do you really think these things are impossible for someone addicted to alcohol?
Many people think they couldn’t possibly know any alcoholics, because alcoholics sleep on park benches, slouch around on bars, beat their wives, neglect their jobs, fall down in gutters, abuse their children and run in constantly with the police. They think alcoholics are unkempt and unshaven. They think they’d know one if they saw one, and they think anyone that wouldn’t is a fool.
My experience is – and statistics bear out the fact – that there are people addicted to drinking alcohol in every community in this country. And if they are in your community, then they are in your church. Not only that, they may be your neighbour, your pastor, your child, your wife or husband, or your mother or father. And you may not even know it, because they may not even know it themselves.
The fact is that being a Christian doesn’t mean you can’t also be an alcoholic. If you are an alcoholic, and you know it, then please also know this post wasn’t meant for you. It was meant for all the Christians who think they would never let themselves become like you. But you and I both know that you never set out to become an alcoholic, and you didn’t just let yourself turn into one either. In fact, many of us wonder why Jesus – and everyone else we loved and cared about – wasn’t able to stop us when that addiction was being formed in us. But we know it’s just not that simple, don’t we?
If you are a Christian and you think alcohol isn’t a problem for Christians, then please consider one final point. When my husband was in rehab, he met a lot of other guys with alcohol addictions that ruined their lives. Many of them were Bible-believing Christians, family men with jobs, businesses and careers, and really nice guys. They all came from different walks of life, and had different stories to tell, but one thing they all had in common was the final bastion, the last stronghold they had to overcome before the power of alcohol addiction could be broken forever. It wasn’t the physical addiction. It wasn’t an underdeveloped conscience. It wasn’t even whether they were saved, or not. It was actually the thing that told them that despite the fact they were in rehab, someone like them could never be one of these people. It was what told them I’m not like these other guys – I don’t need to be here. They sure have a problem, but not me.
And if you think Christians can’t become alcoholics, chances are you’ve already got that in spades.
(Please visit the Our Story
page to read about how alcohol affected our family, and our journey back.)
I recommend and endorse the following organisations:
Alcoholics Anonymous – Australia
Al-Anon Australia, for families and friends of alcoholics
Sherwood Cliffs Christian Rehabilitation Centre (for men and married couples, NSW Australia)
Destiny Haven Christian Rehabilitation Centre (for women, NSW Australia)
Sherwood Glen Christian Rehabilitation Centre (for women, NSW Australia)
Salvation Army Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Services in Australia