Sunday, June 27, 2010

The truth is, most Christians think alcoholism is a choice

When I say that alcoholism is a disease, I'm often met with the same response from Christians,

Well... kind of.

Family, friends, professionals, it doesn't matter,

Well...kind of.

The commonality among people who have said this to me? They are not alcoholics.

I do understand why Christians struggle to understand alcoholism. As believers in the Bible, what comes to mind for them is "do not become drunk on wine..."


As a Christian and an alcoholic, I struggle with this mentality. I don't want to become angry or resentful, I just hope that I can help people understand, even if my effort here falls on many a deaf ear, I guess I just need to say what I need to say and then let it go.

I don't want to argue, but I do want to talk about this.

The way alcoholism is approached in most Christian circles is truly damaging. There is already so much shame in the mind and heart of the alcoholic, so to hear the message that this disease is a sin and a choice only compounds those feelings and therefore hurts rather than helps.

I'm writing about this today because I heard a pastor speak last night and it left me hurting, sad, frustrated....

The pastor was invited to speak to a group of alcoholics, to encourage and enlighten. I respect this man and truly appreciate him for having the courage to stand up and talk to people he may not fully understand. I believe he was nervous and uninformed, so this isn't about blame or judgment. This is about a deep desire in my heart to prevent my fellows from being hurt in the way they were last night. That's all it is.

To make a long story short, what I heard last night was that I've made my bed and it's going to be difficult, but now I have to lie in it and I should remember to love everyone, even the most unlovable, because well, look at me-God loves even me, so I should pass that on. I heard that I made a choice to be an alcoholic and that it's only because I grew up with bad examples (not true). And Jesus fed the multitudes with a few fish and a loaf of bread because he felt sorry for the people even though he was busy, and so He must love me, too. Even me.

Now, before I receive comments that tell me that my drinking was sinful, I want to be clear. Yes. I drank. I chose to take that first drink all those years ago, at a legal age, just as many other people do and then go on to never struggle with drunkenness or addiction.

But for me, that one drink never stopped. I am an alcoholic. I have a disease, and therefore, my drinking snow-balled all on its own. Please trust me if you can. I consistently found myself unable to control the amount I consumed and completely unable to control my ruminating thoughts about drinking. For so many years, I thought this had to do with me, as a person, that I was more flawed, lazy, lacking self-control. I couldn't understand what was happening. I had heard my entire life that alcoholism is not a disease. So, my conclusion was that I was simply failing, and then failing, and then failing again. It wasn't until I learned MUCH about the physiological aspects of this disease that I finally could get real help that made it possible for me to stop. I absolutely could not stop without starting a rigid program of recovery. That, my friends, is a disease.

So I look at what this man said last night and I roll it over in my hand like a stone and I feel it, I just let myself see it and feel it, and then I have no choice but to forgive it, tossing that sad stone away, over and over.

I guess what I'm asking here is this: When considering your beliefs about alcoholism, please know your unknown. Please know you can't judge something you have not experienced.

I heard this little ditty in treatment: The truth needs no defenders.

The truth, it stands on its own no matter what. It just is. Like alcoholism, it just is. Like redemption, it just is. None of those three things can be changed by our will, but there they are.

No matter what I do, I'm an alcoholic. And no matter what I do, I am redeemed. And no matter what I do, that's the truth.

In the end, no matter what anyone thinks of me, I know that alcoholism found me so I could find true freedom. And because of this disease, I have the gift of knowing more about unconditional love than I could have learned any other way. I'm grateful, and I will not be angry about these uninformed opinions of me, because I cannot afford to have this gift stolen.

"Alcoholism is a physiological disease with spiritual consequences."-Father Martin

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
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