An alcoholic who asks for help has just overcome a massive hurdle! Denial runs rampant in addictions, and society offers many excuses for the alcoholic. Alcohol saturates our culture, making it easy to hide behind excuses of social drinking. Popular music and television commercials abound, portraying those who imbibe as successful, attractive and witty. The desire to move out of denial usually comes because the pain brought on by drinking is greater than the ‘pleasure’ of inebriation. Condemnation and criticism are unlikely motivators. Love, albeit tough love that refuses to enable, often provides alcoholics the courage needed to admit their need for help.
Understanding alcoholism helps—whether you are the alcoholic or the family member. Obviously, the reality of alcohol is a bit more complex and a whole lot less attractive than society portrays. Drinking often begins as a social activity, but sometimes drinkers forget how to have fun without alcohol. They begin to depend on it to get them through uncomfortable times. As challenges rise up, alcohol becomes the coping mechanism of choice and ultimately becomes a tool of destruction.
While many debate whether alcoholism is a choice, a sin, an addiction or a disease, the fact is alcoholism destroys relationships, careers, futures, and lives every day. Alcoholics have more than a physical problem, more than a moral problem, more than a spiritual problem. Answers lie in all those areas but not just one of them. “Stop drinking,” is an inadequate admonition. “Dry alcoholics” often transfer their addiction to another behavior or substance. They are not healthy and healed—they simply do not drink. Recovery for an alcoholic, for any addict, involves behavior modification and healing for the body, soul and relationships.
Body and soul (e.g. your mind, will and emotions) suffer significant change and damage from alcohol. Thought processes, governed by physical chemistry and the will, have both short and long-term impacts from alcohol. Any amount of alcohol compromises the will—the ability to make personal choices. For an alcoholic, choice no longer exists; the will surrenders to the alcohol. Beyond that, alcohol puts nearly every major system of the body at risk. Research links alcohol use to deadly issues: high blood pressure, cancer of the mouth and throat, and liver disease, fatal accidents with firearms and vehicles.
Relationships—friends, family and co-workers—bear a tremendous cost for alcohol. An alcoholic places undue burdens on others because they abdicate their own responsibility. Financial woes, arguments, selfishness, blame, guilt and condemnation characterize alcohol-damaged relationships.
The cessation of drinking inhibits further wounding, but reversal of the damage takes time and the loving help of others. Many find an in-patient stay a therapeutic rehabilitation facilities provides the tools for success in the ‘real world.’ Others opt for professional counseling and/or group therapy. Innovative therapies using horses offer some alcoholics insight into their own behaviors in a way that is not emotionally threatening. The key is to find the help that fits you! Prayers for Tim is an online prayer support that blesses hundreds that TBL featured a few months ago.
With all of this said, the question arises, “Can’t the Holy Spirit just heal the alcoholic?” The answer is, “Of course, He can.” Those miraculous healings do sometimes happen. Typically, though, there is work needed by the alcoholic and loved ones…work that heals. God desires healing for all. Unpacking years of habitual alcohol use brings many opportunities for healing. Scripture admonishes us to ‘take our thoughts captive.’ This is a skill, which requires instruction and practice. It is part of healing like counseling, supportive fellowship and Bible study. The links included in this article offer more insights and assistance.
What have you found most helpful in battling alcohol or another addiction?