Alcoholics & Abstinence

Alcohol_crop_labelAs I continue an unplanned series of posts on alcohol, I have some thoughts that are really unrefined, but ones I want to share and get some interaction on.  Nothing in stone in this post but our faith in God's mercy.

I wonder why we don't teach that God can work in "alcoholics" so that they can change and get to the point where they drink a glass of wine with dinner and not re-enter a lifestyle of abuse.  I know some of you will immediately think I'm trying to build a "law" that everyone must drink alcohol.  That's not what I'm saying at all.  Some of you are thinking "Why???"  "Why would you want to tempt an alcoholic to return to that lifestyle?"  Bottom line: I just think it's good for us to reconsider our cultural assumptions on addiction and filter them through what God says He is doing.  He is transforming us, and abstinence seems to be an anti-transformation mentality.

For example, we know that God has given a Spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).  So why do we assume an "alcoholic" (may help to question our terminology too) cannot gain self-control that is strong enough to overpower a tendency toward addiction?  We are new creations in Christ.  We have been given new desires.  We have new hearts. 

I know it might take time, and I know there are dangers.  But we don't live according to dangers, and we don't walk by sight.  We live by faith, and if I'm trusting God then I'm believing he changes people deeply and in sometimes shocking ways.

My point isn't to push people toward drinking after years of abuse.  I'm simply asking if we shouldn't teach that God can and does change people and that alcoholics can find themselves enjoying a brew with friends someday without getting drunk.  Sounds good to me.  Once again, it seems to be the most Scriptural view and one that trusts in the character and work of Christ.

Practically speaking, alcoholism is often born out of something else.  It can be to escape from responsibility, the pain of loss, and so on.  I know alcoholics who say that they only tend to get on a binge when they are around certain friends, or situations, or with their band members. 

Many times alcoholism is said to be something that "runs in our family."  It may be that you are more predisposed to be addicted to alcohol, but that doesn't mean you can't learn to enjoy it in a God-glorifying way.

I'm not recommending anything here.  I'm not telling addicts to find the nearest Liquor Barn and start nursing on cheap beer.  What I'm hoping for is a good dialogue on the spiritual understandings of addiction and on the Spirit's work of redemption and sanctification.