Five years ago I drank my last sip of alcohol. Every so often I have found it beneficial to re-visit the reasons why I decided to quit drinking and reflect on the things I learned during my time with alcohol. Over the last several years I have normally done this in my personal journal but I have felt recently that God wanted me to share these reasons and insights here on this blog so that others may have the opportunity to find strength or new clarity on the subject. With that being said, I hope that if you have been inspired by this post, or know of someone who may benefit from it, that you would share it in whatever manner you see fit.
How I got started:
I suppose it may be beneficial for you to understand my background with alcohol (and other drugs for that matter). I grew up in Boynton Beach, Florida. Up until 7th grade I had went to a Christian school but we had recently moved to a new neighborhood and I had made lots of new neighborhood friends who went to the nearby public school. A short time later I told my parents I really wanted to go to the nearby public school because all of my friends were there. They agreed to let me go. I’m sure the decision for them was made a little easier due to the financial sacrifice they were making so that I could go to a private Christian school. These are the things I remember from that first year of public school in 7th grade…
–I remember vividly going into public school with a very strong belief and perception that I would never use drugs. This belief was strong enough that I remember looking down upon the students that I heard were smoking pot, drinking, etc…
–I remember being solicited pot by the boy sitting behind me as I sat on the bleachers in gym class on the very first day of school. I declined!
–During that 7th grade year I met Zack. He and I would become best friends throughout high school.
–I would hang out and sleepover at Zack’s house on the weekends. Zack and I began stealing wine coolers and other alcohol from his mom’s fridge and drinking in his room.
–As 7th grade continued, Zack and I became better friends and spent more time together. I remember showing up at Zack’s house for a sleepover one night and he had stolen some of his dad’s stash of pot and had it with him. By this time my resolve against pot had become slowly eroded by the influence of Zack and the other influences at school. Zack rolled the first joint and we took off on our bikes to a nearby lake where I would get high for the first time.
–And that was the beginning of my relationship with drugs and alcohol.
–Zack is dead now. He died of a heroin overdose about 5 years ago.
Zack and I continued to be friends and during the rest of our middle and high school years we continued to experiment with drugs and alcohol. We spent the majority of our time surfing and getting high. Before high school ended we were smoking pot every day, drinking several nights a week, and occasionally experimenting with prescription pills, ecstasy, and acid. Luckily we managed to stay away from some of the other extremely addictive stuff like cocaine, meth, etc…I continued with this lifestyle until 1999 when one night when I had a radical salvation experience and accepted Christ and repented from my sins.
After this experience with God in 1999, I gave up drugs and alcohol for several years. Over time though, the alcohol managed to creep back in to my life. I am telling you all of this so you will have an understanding of my background and history with drugs and alcohol to serve as a frame of reference for the thoughts I will share. I am not telling you that I believe sending kids to public school is wrong! Obviously some schools are much better than others. This just happened to be my story. Looking back now, I believe that I still would have made the same decisions in Christian school but I think they may have been delayed several years….at best. But either way, God had a divine and sovereign plan for my life and this was it.
So let’s get started…
The things I will share below could probably be classified in to several different categories. However, I am not sharing them in any particular order. They will include many of the reasons why I gave up alcohol–things I have learned about alcohol–observations I made at certain times–and some could just be classified as my own personal reflections or beliefs on the subject.
–Drinking (in and of itself) isn’t a sin! — This is probably important for me to say first. The Bible has much to say that can be applied to how we handle alcohol in our life but it does NOT say that drinking alcohol is a sin. Drinking simply didn’t work for me. There are many Christians who will be able to drink alcohol without experiencing the issues below. My wife, Tiffany, is one of those people. She can enjoy a social drink with friends tonight and not have another one for months and it wouldn’t matter to her.
–So how much was I drinking? —I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I got truly drunk during the 8-9 years prior to me giving up alcohol. When I say “truly drunk” I’m referring to that having trouble walking, blacking out, good-for-nothing type of drunk. But I enjoyed drinking on a “nearly nightly basis” for years. Sometimes during my “dryer” seasons I may have went weeks or months where I only drank 2-3 nights a week. Sometimes I would make a resolution to quit drinking altogether for awhile and I would go for several weeks without any alcohol. During the heavier seasons I would find myself drinking the equivalent of a 6 pack of beer or a bottle of wine a night. Maybe a little more or less depending on the night, and also whether or not I felt Tiffany would “notice” if I drank more that particular night. Sometimes it would also be less due to the fact that I would purposefully buy the beer that had twice as much alcohol content and therefore I didn’t need to drink as many to get the same “buzz”. This made me feel much better about telling Tiffany I only had “two or three beers” last night. Of course we all know there isn’t anything wrong with a grown man having “two or three beers”. Luckily I never developed a taste for hard liquor. My preference was certainly for beer and wine. Usually, no matter what, I would manage to take at least 1-2 nights off a week for one of 3 reasons
- I drank more than I felt I should have the night before
- I drank more than Tiffany felt I should have the night before ( not because she would necessarily tell me, usually I just knew)
- I felt I needed a break for a night or two to prove to myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic and that I just liked to drink like everyone else…to take the edge off after a hard day’s work!
–I spent too much time trying to figure out if I was an alcoholic. I think I spent years trying to figure out if the “label” was meant for me. The problem for me was that I was in somewhat of a grey area, in my opinion. I was certainly functional. The amount I was drinking wasn’t getting me “drunk”. I would typically have a light to moderate “buzz” each night. Certainly if I were an alcoholic I would be getting “drunk” every night. When I asked those closest to me if they thought I was an alcoholic, there response was “no”. It would have been so much easier to define myself if I would have been that person with multiple D.U.I’s who was continuing to drink, or that person who was shirking all of their responsibilities in life as they binged for days at a time. But that wasn’t me! I found myself in this strange grey area with an angel on one shoulder screaming conviction and guilt into one ear and a devil on the other shoulder telling me that my behavior was normal for our culture. I realize now that I equated the decision to give up alcohol totally and completely to also mean that I was pronouncing myself to be an alcoholic. Therefore, I found myself spending years trying to figure out if I truly met the definition prior to making such a drastic decision as to give it up completely. In retrospect, I believe this is one of the fundamental deceptions of our enemy. I believe he loves nothing more than letting us get “hung up” for years as we try to self diagnose ourselves with a condition and label that is subjective in its very nature. He laughs as we spend years asking ourselves the wrong question: Am I an alcoholic? When the question we should be asking is: What are the effects alcohol is having on my life? For those of you who find yourself in the “grey area” like I was, you may have to make a decision to give it up completely based solely on the effects its having on your life and forget about the label.
–It’s expensive- I found the expenses were adding up when I truly thought about how much money I was spending on alcohol every month. Not just at the grocery store buying beer and wine, but also those drinks at the restaurant, and those beers on the golf course. They were easily adding up to hundreds of dollars a month. That was money I was taking away from our family that we needed.
–Alcohol can open doors to other sin- All Christians know this. It lowers our inhibitions and ability to maintain boundaries in our life. I believe if I had not made a decision to give up alcohol completely that at some point I could have made a stupid decision that could derail my entire marriage and life. It is my opinion that all married Christian couples should have clearly communicated and established boundaries involving alcohol in their marriage.
–Alcohol isn’t the problem—It’s the solution— I don’t remember exactly where I heard this but it always stuck with me. We think that alcohol is the problem but in reality it tends to be the solution we run to for the real problems in our life.
–I was disengaged from my family-– Once I started to drink at night that was all I really wanted to do. I just wanted to drink and relax! I didn’t want to have meaningful conversation with Tiffany and I intentionally avoided any conversations that could be stressful! This isn’t good because those conversations can be the most crucial to a marriage. I tend to be a quiet and introspective person by nature and drinking would cause me to recluse within myself even more.
–I was a “loser” and wouldn’t have wanted to be married to me!—One of the bad habits that I found myself enjoying much more while drinking was playing video games. Specifically…Call of Duty. One of my nightly routines became sitting on the couch and playing Call of Duty while I drank cold beer. With each drink I would find myself getting more wrapped up in the game and I could easily play it for hours as long as I had enough alcohol to last. I remember sitting on the couch drinking beer and playing video games and thinking that my wife must think she married such a loser. She never said that to me and I still don’t know if she ever thought it, but I knew that’s what I would have been thinking if the roles were reversed. I rarely play Call of Duty anymore. It’s just not as much fun without the alcohol. Call of Duty just happened to be what sucked me in but it may be something different for everyone.
–Drinking and Driving—I knew it was only a matter of time before I would wind up with a D.U.I. I was simply drinking too often to not eventually get pulled over for something minor and an officer smell alcohol on my breath. Maybe it would be one day on the way home from playing a Friday round of golf or maybe it would be on the way to Taco Bell for a late night snack. I don’t know…but eventually it would happen. This would cost us a lot of money and hassle and be terribly embarrassing! Obviously there is also the worse scenario involving a crash and fatalities, etc…
–Speaking of Taco Bell…Alcohol was making me FAT!!!! – Yeah, I should have added the word “fat” in front of loser sitting on the couch playing video games. It was making me FAT for three reasons. One, the obvious empty calories I was dumping into myself every night. Two, it lowered my resistance to binge eating at home, those late night cravings that caused the runs to Taco Bell, and overeating in general. Three, I have a very extreme all-or-nothing personality. When it comes to diet and exercise I tend to either eat perfectly and workout like crazy so I can achieve phenomenal results, or I just eat whatever I want and don’t workout at all. There isn’t much of an in-between with me. I knew I couldn’t achieve any real results in the gym as long as I was drinking and therefore it caused me to not workout at all and eat even worse. I got up to 240 lbs during those years. I am now at 205 and in the best shape of my life. That never would have happened with alcohol in my life.
–Who had it worse…The alcoholics or the heroin/cocaine addicts?—In 1998 I had to do a 5 week court ordered intensive outpatient treatment because of a possession of marijuana charge I received as a teenager. Five nights a week I would sit in what was an intensive group treatment program. There were about 10-12 of us in the group and it consisted of everything from teenagers like myself who were busted with some pot, to heroin addicts and hardcore alcoholics. One of the thoughts I remember contemplating was this…Who had it worse? The Alcoholics or the Cocaine/Heroin Addicts? I remember as I listened to the stories that neither of the two groups were truly “alive”. They were both miserable and “dead” people in every sense of the word. Now obviously many would think that the cocaine/heroin addicts have it much worse because of the effects of that type of addiction. But I remember questioning if the alcoholics didn’t indeed have it worse. Here is why…It seemed as if the heroine/cocaine addicts were either going to die or recover in a “relatively” short amount of time. The lifestyle simply couldn’t be lived for 10-20+ years. However, the alcoholics had a very real possibility of living in this state till a very old age. They could easily spend the next 30-40 years in a miserable existence, tearing apart their entire life, and the lives of all those they love. I suppose you could make an argument either way. This was just an observation that always stuck with me.
–The Sleep is terrible and so is the snoring! – Many people would probably think that the person who has been drinking is getting a good nights sleep but countless studies show otherwise and my experience was no different. Although I would usually fall asleep quickly after drinking, I would wake up multiple times through the night and when I woke up in the morning I felt like I had gotten no rest at all. I was experiencing no rejuvenation from my sleep and consistently woke up angry and in a bad mood. Oh….and my wife would kill me if I didn’t mention the snoring. The snoring was terrible. I don’t know if it was caused more as a result of me getting fat or as a direct result of the alcohol I drank that night, but either way, it wasn’t fair to her and I hate that she had to go through so many terrible nights sleeping because of my snoring. Rarely do I snore anymore.
–A.A—I haven’t gone to many A.A groups during the last 3.5 years since I gave up alcohol. However, I have worked the 12 steps. I never sat out to work through them systematically as they are outlined in A.A but instead I have found that they are the natural outcome of a desire to make spiritual progress. They are certainly biblical in nature and involve such things as….
- Acknowledging our weakness
- Confessing Sin
- Taking Personal moral inventory
- Making amends and asking for forgiveness
–I Neglected my Reading—There are few things that have impacted my life and my success as much as the books I have read. Books offer us the opportunity to learn in weeks the lessons that took others lifetimes to figure out. I found myself reading less and less at night and reading less in the morning as well due to the fact that I would sleep in as late as possible because I wasn’t feeling rested.
–My Witness—It is my personal belief that the line of what is an acceptable amount of alcohol to drink (in Gods eyes) is probably far lower than what most Christians think. It takes so little alcohol for us to begin to lower our defenses. It may be only on the 2nd drink when we are out with friends that we begin to gossip. It may only be the 2nd drink that our conversation with a new convert turns less “pure” in nature, or we start to entertain and laugh at jokes that we know don’t glorify God. These little things impact the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. I experienced a great deal of guilt for this. How could I pound a 6 pack on the golf course with my buddy who doesn’t know Christ and then expect to have any power and authority in my words when I have the opportunity to share the gospel with him in the future? It just didn’t seem right to me. My life was supposed to be different!
–“Dad always had a beer in his hand”- This statement would be engraved into the hearts of my children if I didn’t make a decision to quit drinking. Once again, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with children seeing their mom or dad have a glass of wine or a beer. But at some point the image and memory of… “Dad had a beer in his hand” becomes “Dad always had a beer in his hand”. This would impact not only their memory of me but possibly their entire lives. The majority of my family on both my mother and fathers side have been alcoholics and I knew that if I was going to have a shot at breaking that curse I needed to put a different image in the minds of my children.
–C.S Lewis and Temperance—I highly recommend reading the chapter on Temperance in the book Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis. It is one of the best teachings ever on the subject of the Christian, Drinking, and the ability to enjoy alcohol but not cross the line.
–Weights and Sin–Hebrews 12:1 instructs us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us”. I believe its possible that for some people, drinking may be an outright sin because the Holy Spirit has clearly convicted them of it, and they cannot do it with a clear conscience. For others it may simply be a weight that is keeping them from reaching their full potential in life. And for some, it is neither!
–The Greatest Benefit—I have found that many things in life tend to have a “compounding” effect. We have all seen what happens to money invested in small amounts consistently over time. It compounds into many millions by the end of our lifetime. I have found that many things in life tend to have this same “compounding” effect. For example… knowledge compounds. The power of a piece of knowledge or lesson that resonates with me today from a book I am reading creates exponential increase when I combine it with the “A-HA” moment I had the day before while listening to a leadership podcast. The two pieces of knowledge don’t simply add up to the sum of them but instead they are multiplied together and create exponential increase. Likewise….Small and seemingly insignificant poor choices made consistently over time have the same compounding effect on a life. As I have reflected on all the reasons above why I gave up alcohol and tried to determine which one will have the greatest impact on my life, I realize that it’s not any one of the reasons by itself. Instead it will be the compound effect of all of them over the course of my lifetime. The compounding negative impacts of alcohol were going to radically change the course of my entire life and existence. They were going to have drastic and eternal consequences when compounded over time. Likewise, all of the positive compounding benefits of giving up alcohol are going to exponentially increase the power and success of my entire life. I know that if it were possible for me to skip ahead 20-30 years in the future and see what type of man I would have become if I hadn’t quit drinking and compare him to the man I will become as a result of not drinking, I would see that the two men standing at the end would have no resemblance of one another. Their lives, health, relationships, finances, etc… would be at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. In the same way that money compounds, the small and consistent compounding effects of not drinking are creating a radically different future for my life and the life of my family. That is what excites me the most about the decision to quit drinking!
I hope that you have enjoyed this post. If you feel it would be beneficial for someone else, please feel free to share in whatever manner you see fit!
What have you learned from Alcohol? Do you have some beneficial insights on this topic? Comment and let me know!
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