The Bible doesn’t condemn the use of alcohol, but it certainly condemns the abuse of alcohol. What are some steps for overcoming alcoholism?
Christ’s first miracle was turning water to wine (John 2:1-11), and several other places in the Bible refer positively to the acceptable use of alcohol. On the other hand, the Bible strongly warns against the misuse of alcohol.
Those stuck in the web of alcoholism most likely would agree that there are reasons for the biblical warning against letting alcohol control their lives. How does one regain control?
Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step program, and accountability partners named “sponsors” are well-known and valuable resources. The following four-step process for this addiction, while not detailed, will hopefully provide a fresh look on overcoming.
The four-step program
1. Stop rationalizing and call the addiction sin.
There are many things we can call alcoholism before we finally bite our lips and admit that we are sinning against God: “I get carried away when I’m with my friends.” “There’s no harm if I’m just by myself.” “It’s the only thing that gets me relaxed and my mind off my worries.” “It makes me more sociable, and people like me more.” “I can’t help it … I’m addicted.”
There are many scriptures that refer to drunkenness, and drunkenness is not associated with anything good or edifying. Notice one particular scripture in 1 Peter 4:3: “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”
When we allow ourselves to become drunk, especially to the point that it becomes an addiction, we are not doing the will of God, but rather our own will. Peter says that we have spent enough of our lives doing this, which is a great starting line for our fight against addiction.
It will help to daily remind ourselves that we worship and depend on God, not a bottle of alcohol. Addiction to alcohol is dependence on a material, earthly thing for what God desperately wants to give us: comfort and satisfaction. God wants to be the source of our “high” instead. He knows that small worldly sensations that come from addictions are nothing compared to what His truth offers: true freedom, peace and joy.
2. Learn to hate the sin as much as God hates it and know why.
Once we have admitted that we are sinning, we have to remember that God hates sin for a reason. He hates it because it is destructive, divisive and ultimately leads to complete unhappiness and death. We’ve realized that addiction to alcohol is a sin, but that’s not enough. We have to hate the addiction. We have to hate what it does to us and what it does to others in the world who are suffering from it.
Consider the many deaths caused by drunk drivers every year. Research the many health problems it produces, including liver and brain damage, as well as possible fatal alcohol poisoning. Go on message boards or support groups and hear the stories of how alcoholism destroyed marriages, parent-child relations, friendships, opportunities for advancement in careers, finances and so on. We have to hate the sin enough that we can say, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy” (Romans 13:13).
3. Make whatever sacrifice is necessary.
With alcoholism, like so many addictions, willingness to sacrifice is the hardest thing in which to follow through. We can talk a big game about getting help and relying on our self-control, but how far does that really go without sacrifice? Plans with friends or even family members who invite us out for “social gatherings” that always lead to drunkenness may have to be cancelled or strictly monitored by an accountability partner.
Most people trying to overcome alcoholism find that they can “never allow themselves to touch the stuff again” if they truly want to have freedom. The minute we break down and relapse, we must resolve in our minds that we are no longer allowed to do whatever it is that led to relapse, even if it seems a trivial thing. For example, routes home that pass liquor stores may need to be avoided. At the very least, we may need to impose a probation period.
Many times we may be too weak to make these sacrifices, and that is where our loving accountability partner comes in and keeps us on track.
Sacrifices are not always only physical; many mental sacrifices must be made as well. Addictions necessitate a prayer life that is much more involved than before. God can no longer be Someone we are too embarrassed to talk to. He has to be our first sponsor and has to hear from us constantly during the day.
4. Replace the addiction behavior with positive behaviors.
Alcoholism, like so many nagging and sticky addictions, will want to quickly come back to the hole in our lives that mistakenly gave it a home. That hole must be filled with God’s Spirit, His Word of truth and a desire to not sin. All the time previously wasted on drinking, navigating hazy buzzes and nursing hangovers can now be used for repairing relationships that were damaged, studying God’s Word and actually serving others.
For additional ways to get started in fighting any addiction, including alcoholism, please read the last article in this “Freedom From Addiction” series on “The First Month.”