To drink or not to drink? Christians differ on question
OKLAHOMA CITY — Not long after I joined The Christian…
While some Christians may drink alcohol responsibly, many may be struggling more than you could imagine.
What does the face of addiction look like to you?
What does the face of addiction look like to you? Does it look like a scruffily dressed man sitting on the corner, brown-bagged bottle in hand? Is it a binge-drinking college girl who is failing out of school? Or could it be the clean-faced preacher’s wife sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, nursing her first of many hangovers for the week?
I am writing to say that I am that woman. Through a life that began in the shadow of the bell tower of a Christian university, only in my 40s have I found relief from an addiction that has haunted and chased me, eventually devouring a portion of my life.
Some might say that drinking alcohol of any sort is sinful and point to my story as proof. The common belief is that addicts love drugs or alcohol, but the truth is they don’t love themselves like Jesus does. Addiction has many faces: binge-watching Netflix, compulsive eating, pornography, overspending, gambling, captivations with work and success.
All addictions begin with lies that separate us from an open and honest relationship with God.
For many years, I earnestly sought a reformed life, showing those around me that living as a follower of Christ was freeing and grace-filled. It was, however, during this time that I discovered my first addiction: myself. I believed that my efforts merited my salvation. Every day was a ticker tape of highs and lows. I only hoped that, in the end, I had done more good than bad. The end result was spiritual exhaustion.
Like many moms, I often ended my days by enjoying a glass of wine, which I considered well deserved. It was my medicine, genuinely prescribed by a doctor. I was an uptight, high achiever with health issues that could be remedied by a relaxing glass of wine. It also helped assuage that unquenchable thirst for being good enough. Wine helped quiet the doubting monster of fear that lurked in the corner of my mind, waiting to seize me at the end of the day.
I was taught that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water to wine! The psalmist said that wine made the heart glad. I collected verses that discussed the benefits of drinking. However, like any sensible minister’s wife, I was sensitive to those whom I believed to be legalistic teetotalers. I would hide my wine and beer when they came to my house and only drank socially among other “enlightened” Christians.
If I had been honest with myself, I would have remembered how I had never been able to drink like a normal person. I looked at the binge-drinking and partying of my college years as a detour into rebellion that made my testimony relatable. I foolishly believed that, as long as we didn’t have liquor in the house, beer and wine were OK.
Over the years, I constructed and amended many different rules about alcohol. Looking back, I realize I was just managing my alcoholism. Mind you, I never recognized myself as an alcoholic. I didn’t think alcoholism was a disease but just a sin problem that needed proper spiritual application.
Related: Becoming a ‘Hope Dealer’
For many years, my drinking probably looked normal: two cups of coffee in the morning and two glasses of wine in the evening. Like bookends, my habit became established. Only during vacations did I allow an uptick to this routine. Slowly, my consumption increased. When kids came along, I became more aware of my habits and wanted to help my children understand that one could drink in a healthy way. I rationalized that moderation was the key.
I had the tiger by the tail when it came to alcohol consumption, and as Cain had sin crouching at his door in Genesis 4, I, too, was trying to have mastery over something that had mastered me.
I believed I had moved on from a legalistic view of drinking, but I was just exchanging one form of legalism for another. I had the tiger by the tail when it came to alcohol consumption, and as Cain had sin crouching at his door in Genesis 4, I, too, was trying to have mastery over something that had mastered me. In our 18th year of marriage, we faced a challenge that gave me an excuse to let my drinking take over. I became obsessed, always waiting for the next time I could numb out with a drink in hand. Day after day, my one glass of “medicine” turned into two, then three and four. What I believed to be the cure became the poison.
With each passing morning came regret, followed by shame, loathing and depression. What was my answer to this horrible cycle? Work harder. Do more. Be more for God.
My first addiction was stronger than ever. The Christian self-help books told me, if you are depressed, look around you, and see how you can serve others. This formula worked for a while, until the shame took over, and no matter how good my efforts, they couldn’t quell the screaming voice inside my head: “You are living a lie. Because of your sin, you are unworthy of God’s love and deserve to die.”
I believed that if I just had more faith, I could stop. I would make jokes to my friends about drinking too much wine and not enough water. I would take fasts from unhealthy foods and wine, only to sneak drinks in my pantry. I couldn’t go more than a couple of days without drinking, and even then, the mental obsession and craving were present.
Around my 19th wedding anniversary, as my husband and I were on the cusp of losing our marriage, I decided in desperation to reach out to the helpful hands extended to me.
My life was like a tragic play, with half of the audience unaware of my drinking, believing the image of a “saintly” preacher’s wife. The other half knew I occasionally drank a glass of wine and felt comradery with me as a “sinner.” Neither role was completely accurate or even genuine. The problem is the same for the sinner and the saint. Each begins their day from the same deficit. Only by taking alcohol completely out of the equation was I able to see that no matter how hard I try to live a sinless life, even on my best day, I am in need of God’s grace.
Around my 19th wedding anniversary, as my husband and I were on the cusp of losing our marriage, I decided in desperation to reach out to the helpful hands extended to me. For me, this looked like becoming part of a 12-step program.
I do not want to condemn all drinking. However, I want to encourage those Christians who are drinking to be honest with themselves and God. If you have a habit of drinking daily — even if it is only one or two drinks — or if there is any way that your drinking is affecting your relationships with God and those you love, I urge you to look at your relationship with alcohol.
I can say with certainty that the life I had before I put drinking behind me is the same life I have now, but it is certainly sweeter.
I can say with certainty that the life I had before I put drinking behind me is the same life I have now, but it is certainly sweeter. Gone are my chronic struggles with anxiety and depression. I have moved from a woefully inadequate reformed life to a transformed one. Alcohol was an idol erected between me and God, and now it is with clear vision that I am finally learning to have an open and honest relationship with him.
DANA JAWORSKI lives on a homestead in Alaska with her husband of 20 years and three beautiful children. Her family works with several ministries, both local and international. She is a broken vessel, daily awaiting God’s mending and filling. If you are suffering as Jaworski did and need help, please reach out to a 12-step program near you, or contact her directly at [email protected].
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