“I’m not self-medicating. The guy from the liquor store gave me a prescription. Okay, he called it a receipt.”
Did you know that the number of Americans have more than doubled their spending on what’s labeled “drunk shopping,” or making purchases under the influence of alcohol? According to Finder.com’s 2018 survey, U.S. drinkers now spend an average $447.57 per person a year while blitzed, up from $206 a person the previous year, totaling over thirty booze-soaked billions. It’s not just a tiny, tipsy minority of drinkers who whip out cash or cards to splurge when drunk, according to the survey. Nearly half, or some 46%, of those who drink regularly admit to shopping while under the influence — adding up to an estimated 68 million people. Men spend almost double — an average $564.51 of what women spend, $282.65. What exactly are tipsy U.S. shoppers spending on while imbibing? Top buys include food (60.83%), shoes or clothes (25.09%) and gambling (24.91%). Other favorites include concert tickets and even sex services.
Nearly every week there’s a media report about the drug crisis. Yet, what’s rarely mentioned is that we have an alcohol addiction epidemic, 1 in 8 Americans are addicted. There’s been a 50% increase in alcohol abuse since the beginning of this century. That underlines how severe alcohol addiction has become. According to a CDC study, there are 90,000 deaths every year in the U.S. because of alcohol abuse. $250 billion annually is forfeited because of lost productivity, healthcare expenses, and other results from excessive drinking. While financial losses can be calculated, personal sufferings of lives, marriages, families or churches ruined due to alcohol abuse are incalculable.
We have a major problem in this country. But it’s not just “them,” it’s us. We have a major problem in the Church. We have a problem here at Grace. We’re naïve to believe that alcohol abuse is not a problem in our church.
While Scripture does not teach abstinence from alcohol, it does unequivocally teach that intoxication is a sin, not to mention a poor testimony for Christ. Add to that, it’s a lack of faith in that it doesn’t believe that Christ, the power of the Spirit or God’s grace are sufficient to enable us to face the difficulties of this life.
Much of the alcohol abuse takes place under the guise of self-medication. We convince ourselves that we need it or deserve it because we’re so stressed, overworked, anxious and it help us unwind. Alcohol is a drug. To use it to relax or lower stress is foolish.
So, do you instinctively reach for the bottle after a stressful day? While alcohol can seem to make you more relaxed, if you're regularly drinking, you’re most likely exacerbating your stress levels. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the brain and central nervous system’s processes. Eva Cyhlarova of The Mental Health Foundation says: “Over time, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. So while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feeling of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.” In other words, the cure is worse than the disease.
Should Christians, those of us who have the indwelling Spirit of God, be known for needing “Margarita time” or anticipating “five o’clock somewhere”? What does it say about our faith when we seem to need an alcoholic beverage to have fun, to make life fulfilling or to enjoy life? Why must a party have to have alcohol to be a party? What are we saying? How are we then different from an unregenerate world?
If you enjoy the taste, that’s fine and biblically totally acceptable. If you though are using it for mood altering, it’s a sin and a dependency.
It grieves me when I hear some Christians ridicule those who don’t imbibe. It’s a matter of soul liberty (Romans 14). We also have a responsibility to each other. We have some in our fellowship who once were addicts and need to be encouraged in their sobriety. Others, like myself, grew up in addiction homes. Personally, I have nightmarish scenes in my soul that won’t be eradicated until I’m finally Home.
While there is no exact formula to determining whether or not someone is an alcoholic, there are some common symptoms. Some of them are: Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss. Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings. Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal. Choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations. Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members. Drinking alone or in secrecy.
No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, alcohol abuse or any type of drug addiction symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. There are far reaching consequences. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we want to help. At Grace, we’re a family. We’re to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). All of us struggle with sin and temptation at some juncture of our lives. We need to pray for each other, help one another and encourage each other.
Addiction is a crisis in our culture. It’s also a barrier to the gospel. Many won’t come to Christ because they’re too ashamed of their failure. They don’t realize that there is forgiveness, hope and healing at the cross.
It’s been a burden on my heart for some time that at Grace, we need some type of biblically based addiction ministry. To be totally transparent, I don’t have the solutions. I do see an all too common situation that breaks my heart. Jesus urged His disciples to pray for laborers to help (Matthew 9:37-38). Will you join me in praying that God will burden someone in our church family to launch a ministry to addicts? If you’re interested in leading or serving in this ministry, let me or one of our Deacons know.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.