Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Just Can't Do This-The Struggle to Quit

The reaction to my last blog on "Christians and Drinking" revealed to me that I must continue this conversation with a couple more blogs. I would like to speak to the person who is struggling and failing with attempts to break out of their bondage to booze.

Please, if you are in the camp of "It's okay to drink stop judging me already" please hold your comments until my next blog where I will seek to explore how the Christian should handle their freedom. But for now, please look beyond your freedom and recognize there are many Christians struggling with this very real battle. The two sides of this discussion are not balanced--the lives being destroyed through the consumption of booze far out weighs those whose freedom is being impeded to consume alcohol (without drunkenness) by people judging them. Also, more importantly, the Bible's warnings against drunkenness is overwhelming and exhaustive in contrast to its support of alcohol consumption.

My struggle. I became a Christian in 1996 and my battle with booze came to a climax in 2000. Where did it begin and how did it progress? I know I was drinking in high school. I know that during my high school years I had drank to the point where I vomited on multiple occasions. This cycle continued until I stopped drinking altogether. So as I reflect on this, I realize for the first time that my drinking years lasted about a decade--the 90's. Instead of reflecting on my low-light reel, I want to share some of the emotions I felt during that era and how I successfully achieved victory over drunkenness.

Hopelessness. I think this word best describes how I felt when I was looking at my life in light of the battle to gain control over drinking. My drinking was ruining my life. I couldn't gain control over it and I could see the devastation it was having on my life--an abortion 1994, resisting evading arrest 1995, losing my security clearance 1996 (which meant my life in the teams was over...turns out it was temporary). Do you see the progression here? I didn't like the path booze was taking me down. I wanted off, but I couldn't seem to stop the train. Life was unraveling upon me big time and I was desperate for help. This is when I met Jesus, or when I believed upon Him for salvation.

The slow change. I've heard of people who become Christians and everything changes instantly. This wasn't me. I was more like a huge container ship in the ocean that takes miles to turn around after the course has been changed in the wheel house. God was at work (I can see this in hindsight), but it was hard to see the change between the years of 1996 and 2000. I would have seasons of months of sobriety followed by a crash of binge drinking. This cycle culminated until I felt like I could continue no longer with my dual lives. I was going to church and growing while partying all week long. Finally after a weekend of drinking, I sort of threw in the towel with God. I really liked the hope the Bible offered, but I wasn't seeing it in my life. I could no longer walk these two paths simultaneously. I remember one night checking out with God to tell Him I could no longer do the whole "Christian thing." This wasn't because I didn't want to walk the Christian walk, but it just wasn't working out so I would just stay on the path of partying. Little did I know, but God's Spirit was convicting me and exposing my hypocrisy. The anguish I felt inside was really a good thing as it forced me to confess and to call to Him for help.

Tell it to Jesus. If you are in a season of hopelessness with drinking. Know there is hope. Jesus can and wants to help you gain victory over this through His help. In the recent years, I have come to love a hymn that gives very practical advice. Wow, tears are welling up just reading through the verses of this hymn.

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Don't under estimate alcohol's danger. I never considered myself an alcoholic, nor am a sure I buy into this teaching. Namely I hear people who have been Christians for many years and have drank in decades and they still label themselves as an alcoholic. The Bible is clear: You are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But alcohol is as addictive as any other drug--I just think it places its choke-hold on a person slowly over the course of years. I have done visitations with people in the hospital going through detox when they stop drinking. It is just as ugly as all the big drugs like heroine and others.

Don't be a lone ranger.
This is not a lone man's battle. Find others to encourage you, to pray for you, and to help you stay accountable along the way. You may even need medical treatment if you are in the advances stages of alcoholism. My victory over alcohol came in large part through the help of like minded buddies who want to win this battle as well. I encourage you to find a good church where the Bible is taught and the people are loving and sincere. This is a good step.

What's your Kryptonite? I eventually had to evaluate how I was losing this battle. I traced back my steps to figure out what tripped me. I realized there were people I had to avoid because when I was around them I wanted to drink. This was hard because as a new Christian these were friends that I wanted to share Christ with, but it wasn't my time for this. I really needed to work on my walk with the Lord. This was hard, but looking back now, I realize I am still friends with these friends. Some are Christians now, some are not, but I am no longer a slave to booze and can be around them and not stumble. This is my theme verse for this season of my life, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you you but such as common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

Press on, don't look back. Looking back on the past tends to cause two reactions in people: 1) Shame and discouragement that they will never succeed, or 2) a prideful spirit about how righteous they are. Rear view mirrors are good and I am not opposed to using them, just don't live your life looking exclusively in the rear view mirror. We must look forward like Paul says, " Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14).

What have you found helpful in your battle against drunkenness?


Anonymous said...

thank you. im going through all that you are talking about. and grew up in the church, love the lord, always have, and go to a great church.. but lost my way. I have such a hard time saying im an alcoholic. and still dont know if i can admit it. but i want to be free from this life. like you said, tired of living 2 lives. and the one doesnt work ...i need out. so all this to say thank you for writing this. and to the haters, you dont know what its like till you have been there. i do kinda hope you dont have to know. it sucks

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. There are many of us struggling with dual lives. I definitely can see how I am in bondage to alcohol. I don't binge drink or drink everyday, but in the corporate world, "happy hour" is encouraged. I didn't even realize I was in bondage because it came slowly. After many years of having a drink after a stressful week a work became the way I associated relaxation. I became a Christian in 2008, but still had the belief that drinking was harmless as long as I didn't get drunk. Well, that was hard to do while I was in the moment. So for a while, with the Lord's help, I stopped. But now, I made a friend who is very much like I used to be and drinking once a week started again. So I am now questioning my Christianity and feel like throwing in the towel. But I also know I can't live without my relationship with Jesus. I will continue to pray and ask God to forgive me and release me from this bondage. I am sick and tired of this dual life. Hearing that other Christians have struggled similarly makes me want to continue seeking God and not give up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

This was very encouraging for me to continue to rid this sin struggle with alcohol was again. I too have been looking for a way out with Jesus and felt so forsaken many time when I had a binge episode was again. I think a few years ago I finally started to attend Church and some meetings again for support against this. I'm amazed now how much opionions and confusion i found myself in as much I hated to keep drinking. It really helped hearing some of these beliefs and comments on similar battles. I have come to the point again and confessed to family and a Pastor that it is killing me to even try and have one drink. I no longer want to make excuses for having that scenario keep repeating it self over and over, time and time again. We will have victory in Jesus over drinking. With Gods's grace, take care.

jenn said...

I am so glad I found this article today ,it seems as my walk grows, been walking this Christian walked for a few years now ,I get really strong in the Lord repent all is well and then all the sudden I started drinking at a gathering or a function ,and before I know it I'm very buzzed and I'm doing things that I would not usually do ,such as fornication speaking things I shouldn't things that are not funny all the sudden are funny now ,ect.,now the difference is when I'm not buzzed I have a sound mind and I definitely don't act that way ,its like I take steps forward and then all the sudden I am 20 steps back,obviously the key ingredient to major sin in my life is alcohol but for some reason I seem to forget this after time and fall back and do it ,then I wake up the next day I shamed and disgusted as I understand that this is happened more than a few times with me ,I am very afraid and don't understand how the Lord could even still forgive me because I know better ,I know I cannot drink alcohol not even a drop anymore because then I will start justifying it .I am 33 years old and can't believe to the years that I've been walking with the Lord and all the truth guidance and forgiveness he has shown me I could keep doing the same thing over and over ,and keep in mind I truly in my heart thought I had repented of it ,it is a horrible and scary feeling waking up knowing how was shamed I am and how sad I am that I hurt God hurt myself and was of course a bad example ,but I have two keep having faith or ounces really no reason for me to keep being in this world if I'm going to keep messing up .I don't mean that as a no way that I would take my own life but if I didn't have Christ I would have long ago .the guilt in the shame is too much to bear but I know I have to keep going and not look back .so long story short I am glad I found this article and that there are other people struggling with this as I am ,I'm guessing not to the decree of sense that I commit when I drink but nevertheless you know what I mean .so I would like for all of us who are reading this to pray together for all the brethern that are having this problem and finally disminish this terrible and ugly devilish scheme ,,glory to God and no matter what I know he is good

Andy said...

I can't seem to quit. I guess I have this problem where I get anxious in social situations and so I must be proactive and force myself into social situations where thre is no true protocol or I will turn into a shut in. This is really bad, so I go out and play poker in bars. It's not heavy gambling or anything, and it keeps the anxiety from blowing up. However, my drinking has gotten out of control. And now here is my therapy, this poker group, now associated with drinking. I drink till I forget things. I hurt people sometimes when I do this, of course, as I am not conscious. I am not violent, but I am more an animal than a man. And I can't break from the cravings that seem to be fused. A fear of owing control via becoming a shut in, or losing control via thrown in jail or death or worse due to the booze. Can I play poker without drinking? I doubt it. The two are strongly connected. I can tell that the alcohol causes me shame, which causes distance between me and God. This is horrible.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I feel like a lone soldier in this. My life is a wreck and yet I continue this cycle. I am lonely and bored and use that as a reason to drink. I keep praying but I don't feel anything. I sometimes now struggle with belief and question my salvation.

Anonymous said...

I am almost 13 years into drinking on a near-daily basis. Wine is my favorite. I have tried to quit more times than I can count. Six weeks is the longest that I have made it. I started drinking because being a new nurse was very stressful. Being a nurse is still stressful. Wine makes things better, until I wake up at 1 AM, and can't get back to sleep until 4 AM, and I wake up sick in the morning. I look and feel terrible. Being hungover also makes me make bad food choices the next day. I also get migraines with auras because of the wine. I have blacked-out at times. Wine keeps me home, lonely and isolated. I usually drink alone in the evening, or maybe with my husband. The day after is always horrible, full of shame and despair. I can't just drink a little anymore, so cutting back is not an option. I struggle with the thought of giving it up forever, which I know I need to do. I usually will lie, and tell myself that I can quit for now, and take it up again later. Things will be better. I will have control next time. Usually a few days into sobriety I feel better, good even, and think I can safely have one or two glasses of wine, but that always turns into three or four, then I'm right back where I was. Once I start, I struggle to stop. It takes a lot of mental preparation to abstain even for one day. I have to talk myself into that. My brother is also an alcoholic. He is worse-off than me. I have prayed for God's help, pleaded for him to save me from myself. I want him to take the cravings away. This has not happened yet. Is this something I must do alone? I know God is there. He is right here with me. I'm waiting for him to help me. I must be doing something or thinking something that is blocking him from helping me. If I don't stop soon, I fear something bad will happen. Thanks for letting me tell my story.

Gunnar Hanson said...

Thank you for sharing this with me. I am praying for you and pray that God will guide you to the help you need. I highly recommend you find a Celebrate Recovery near you and/or talk to your pastor about where you can get help.

Unknown said...

How encouraging! I have hope after all. I have cried to Jesus for total deliverance. Lord forgive me and help me

youngscribe said...

may god bless you immensely. i have hope after all. my heart is so broken, i have said sorry so many times, im tired. i went 102 days then caved and had two bottles of alcohol the week before last. thank you so much. i want to get to where i was with God, where i enjoyed and loved him without all of this crap to filter through. thank you for the message of hope.