As I sit here drinking my coffee, I have started thinking about how much my life has changed since I have found sobriety. It has not been an easy road, but it brings me back to the question that I have been asked on a few occasions: How did you fall into drinking being raised in the church and with a loving family? On the surface, I suppose that it sounds like an easy question, but upon truly pondering this thought it does not boil down into a simple answer. The road takes many twists and turns that I was not prepared to acknowledge.
Being raised in the church and being taught of the disdain that God has towards alcohol it seems as though I would have been protected. I would have had a strong sense purpose and belonging that I would not fall victim to something seemingly so simple as becoming addicted. But I have discovered that being in a church does not protect you from anything. Those within the church love and care for you, but they cannot protect you or stop you from falling into sin. They can pray for you and talk to you, but they cannot make choices for you. They can only do so much.
Perhaps the first issue that needs to be addressed is the fact that people who have a strong sense of belonging and purpose within the church fail to see or understand that there are those out there who do not have those same feelings. No matter how much one tries to give the appearance of fitting in and making a go of the church, there is the chance of not finding the connection. It is does not necessarily mean that the finger can be pointed at any one individual, because it just happens.
Feeling lost within the church when you should feel accepted and loved is something that seems foreign to so many people. One can be broken and afraid of life, thoughts, and uncertainties while still attending a church, and finding a way to voice those feelings is often a scary thing. For me, being taught since childhood the ways of God and what was expected of me, I felt as though I was a failure and letting people down because I remember always feeling somewhat depressed and never could measure up that what was required of me. At the same time I was being told that I was created and love by God and the church, and hearing these things; knowing what I knew, how could it be revealed that something did not feel right.
Finding a way to express these feelings would have been great, but for me, I was unable to do so and it led me to this:
Have you ever felt out of place? As though there is no hope of ever fitting in? At school and work you may be do fine, but cannot ever feel as though you belong? Are you lost at social engagements hoping just to survive? Family functions a strain to make it through? Perhaps, if you could find a way to be less uptight, less anxious, and gain a bit more self-confidence things would better, then you know how I felt.
This is where I was for more years and occasions than I care to count or admit. I was always searching for something to me feel just a bit more connected. But what was that something? Was there such a thing that could help me? I seriously doubted it, but one day I did find that something. I found to my delight that in alcohol I could fit in.
With the intoxication things magically changed. There was no longer the self- doubt. I found that I could talk to people and that people seemed to like me. The social dysfunction was gone. The social settings seemed to be much easier to get through and were not something that felt like a chore or a duty. I came away having some fun. I found with a bit of alcohol things went more smoothly. Soon it became commonplace for me to take a nip to deal with any situation that shook my nerves. Once the alcohol was in me the fears went away and that was all that mattered to me.
This worked for a time and I thought that I had found the answer to life. The answer to how I could do more than just survive. My conscience did start to bother me because I knew what the Bible had to say about drunkenness. That was only short lived because justifying it for medical purposed made sense. After all, God wanted me to be able to function with people, and I wasn’t a drunk or an alcoholic. Paul had told Timothy to drink for his stomach; I was drinking for my nerves. This gave me the feeling of being right with God and still telling myself, “no problem.” Besides, I still was not drinking every day.
The lies kept piling up, and before I could see what was going on I had become an alcoholic. I was a drunk, and had been for a long time, but it finally hit me and I knew it. Through the lies and justifications it had been hidden fairly well. Most people looked at me and saw nothing resembling an alcoholic. The job was still there, but I was drinking on the job to make it through. I was providing shelter for my family, but it was substandard and they should have been living in something better. Church attendance was almost perfect, but it was nothing more than a façade.
How was I to go on knowing that I was an alcoholic? What was the next step? I did not know what to do or where to go. Finally a door opened up and ended up in a support group and found some answers to what I needed. I found something that was missing for so long. There was acceptance of me for me, and not because I drank, but because of who I was. The thing that changed my life the most was the fact that I found that there were others who thought and felt the same I did.
What I learned from this group, I believe that we need to add to the church if we are to truly be effective.
1. We must accept people for who they are.
2. We must accept and understand not everyone thinks and process things the same way.
3. Mental disorders are not a sign of lacking in faith.
4. Prayer will not fix everything.
5. It takes more than sitting in a meeting once a week to make a difference. We need relationships.