Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Collateral Damage of Alcoholism

Fr. Dale Matson

Recently, a bishop in The Episcopal Church struck and killed a cyclist. It was reported to be her second DUI.
My prayers go out to the cyclist’s family and to the bishop. I drove while drunk for years and fortunately was never in an accident or received a DUI.

The root of alcoholism is spiritual but the collateral damage affects the soul, body, social and economic life of the alcoholic. I am speaking as someone who decided to stop killing myself on the installment plan almost half a life ago. Additionally, God allowed me, as a psychologist and now as a priest, to comfort others with the comfort that I received (2 Corinthians 1:4).

I had recommitted my life to Christ and was recently baptized as an adult in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church (LCMS) when the Lord made me aware that a drunk was unsuitable as an ambassador to His kingdom. I did not initially put the bottle down but a person full of ‘spirits’ does not manifest the Holy Spirit to others. God’s grace can even reach an unrepentant drunk.

Whether one views alcoholism as a disease or a ‘character defect’, the long-term trajectory for the alcoholic is morbid. The road along the way is full of evidence that there is a problem but personal denial will leave the alcoholic blind to the destroyed relationships, health problems, an erratic job history and missed opportunities.

The root sin of the alcoholic is idolatry. Alcohol is a drug viewed by the alcoholic as the elixir of life. For so many alcoholics, alcohol is a dependable friend who softens the anxieties, sings you to sleep, helps you speak your mind, and makes you the king of an imaginary kingdom. Alcohol helps you get rid of those folks who hassle you. Those who help you play the game (enablers) are the folks you keep around. After all, isn't it really about you and your love affair with alcohol?

There is cumulative damage along the way but the prime directive for the alcoholic is to make sure he has enough booze available everywhere he goes on an ‘as needed’ basis. It is your god and you are a devoted follower who prays without ceasing. The only thing that comes close in importance is your employment because it allows you to tithe to your god. It insures entrance into the holy of holies. There is no need to make plans, to aspire to accomplishments, maintain relationships because once you are drunk (and that is the reason alcoholics drink) you are in heaven. This trajectory for many will lead to a life on hold, treading water, paused until life ends. The blackouts will come more frequently.  If the liver manages to endure then organic brain syndrome will conquer the last lucid thought.

The alcoholic is not in heaven. The alcoholic is in hell. If he would just look around at the good people he has exchanged for his current loser friends but his former standards no longer mean anything. He has sacrificed himself to his god (Romans 12:1). The god of the alcoholic is a creature, a golden calf, and the evil one. He tells you the truth in a lie as only Satan can do. “If you stop drinking you will die.” The old man must die so the new man may come forth.

Quitting is the biggest sacrifice an alcoholic will ever make. He must step off the throne, die to himself and start over. The fragile rotting ego must be razed. Recovery begins with this. “Help me Lord, help me”.



Rusty said...

Well said, Fr. Dale. God can restore our sanity it we turn to Him. Peace and Grace.

John Donovan said...

This goes for every form of addictive thinking and behavior.