Q: I come from a good family and have always worshiped God. But as I got older I started drifting away. I have a problem with alcohol. I am a diabetic and should not be drinking. Once I was able to stop for four months, but as soon as I stopped going to church I went back to that bottle. My heart is heavy. What can I do?
—Michele B. Jackson, via e–mail
A: Michele, your story is a good example of why certain Christian denominations refuse to use alcohol at all. The ruin that some people experience is tragic, and in the process they drag down alongside them spouses, children, and friends. Alcoholism damages not just the body but the soul as well, since it distorts the ability to perceive reality. People who work with alcoholics note that they become reflexive liars, a habit that serves well the agenda of the Father of Lies.
Because alcohol can be so destructive when misused, some believe that it should be avoided entirely. Many Christians point to Romans 14:21: "It is not right to … drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble."
Most Christian groups, however, allow the use of alcohol in moderation. They would cite the many positive references in Scripture, such as God's gift of plants that provide "wine to gladden the heart of man" (Ps. 104:15), or Jesus' miracle at Cana, where He provided a wedding banquet with an overabundance of excellent wine. Drunkenness is universally condemned, but moderate use—to mark the joy of a wedding banquet, for example—is usually permitted.
This is not your situation, however, and you are no longer able to control your consumption of alcohol. This is a serious sin, as well as a serious illness; the two intertwine, as your initial decision to drink increasingly becomes something you cannot decide to resist. An old Irish saying goes, "First a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man."
You have to stop drinking, and never drink again for the rest of your life. This is the only solution. You are probably not able to do this on your own, not because God is unable to miraculously heal you, but because your lack of accountability with others will always tempt you to "go back to that bottle." You need to choose to hold yourself accountable to others, perhaps in an Alcoholics Anonymous group, which has been the lifeline for many alcoholics and a doorway to permanent freedom from the compulsion to drink. The "12 Steps" that A.A. requires are not easy, but they are familiar to any Christian—admitting your weakness, looking to God for help, amending your life in ways great and small.
It's time to pick up the phone book or log on to www.alcoholics-anonymous.org and find a local A.A. meeting. You also can check your area churches to see if any offer a similar recovery program.
Frederica Mathewes–Green is the author of The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press).
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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