The Demon in the Bottle, part I
I first smoked pot in 8th grade with a friend at school. We got into his parents’ stash over our lunch break and went back to class high and probably smelling a little funny. In 9th grade my friend Brian and I got into his parents’ liquor cabinet and drank until we puked. Throughout high school I smoked marijuana on occasion and drank a little beer at parties. But when I graduated from high school and moved to southern California, I was no longer under the watchful eyes of my parents and I managed to find plenty of trouble.
Over the course of the next six or seven years, I experimented with any drugs that came my way. And I consumed more alcohol than I could handle on a weekly basis. In the process, partying became my definition. I was a partier and needed to keep it up to maintain my identity. Without it, it wasn’t clear to me who I was.
Many hungover mornings I swore off alcohol, only to find myself out at a bar with friends later that same night. I renounced drinking once and it lasted about a month. Under my own power, without any significant motivation, quitting was not going to happen. I wasn’t addicted, at least not in the traditional sense. But chemicals were taking over my life because I was letting them. I opened the door and invited them in.
In moments of clarity I realized that I was no longer the person I once was, and that I was not becoming the adult I had always envisioned being: a man of respect and dignity, someone others looked to for counsel and wisdom, someone anyone could count on. And I wasn’t much of a friend to others. Lying to get my way came easily. If Christ hadn’t intervened on my behalf, the path I was heading down was going into dark places.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
Paul’s instructions to the church at Ephesus seem to imply that a person cannot be intoxicated with alcohol and be filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time. They are mutually exclusive states, and one must choose one or the other.
By all accounts, Meriwether Lewis had it all: adventure, power, influence, fame. And fortune was sure to come once he got his journals published. But in the months after his successful return from the Pacific it became clear that something was wrong. He was drinking heavily and his public appearances often ended in embarrassment. He avoided dealing with his precious journals, although they went everywhere with him. And he was certain that he had every injury and illness possible, taking copious quantities of “medicines” to cope with them. Some scholars believe he was addicted, physically and emotionally, to drugs and alcohol. And it was sinking his ship. Something had to give.
Questions for thought
What is your stance on alcohol? Is it Bible-based, church-based, or culture-based? Write it down and justify it.
Are you judgmental towards people who drink? Or maybe, are you judgmental toward people who take a strong stance against drinking?
What would you lose if you gave up alcohol? Who would stand to gain if you did?
Father in heaven, you give us so many good gifts, if we would only use them in the ways you teach us. Your word gives us freedom to decide how we are going to handle alcohol. Give each of us the wisdom to do so in a way that keeps us sober and always leaves room for your Spirit. And may we never cause another person to stumble in their own struggles because of our freedom. Amen.