Author: Mark Shaw
Alcohol addiction is not commonly thought of as an addiction since alcohol is not considered to be a drug. However, alcohol is a drug in liquid form, though society does not think of it as a drug.
In fact, in many circles, the man or woman who gets drunk and does crazy things is lauded as the “life of the party.” He or she is often the one others invite to their gatherings and parties to “liven things up”.
Often with college-age and young adults, consuming a lot of alcohol and getting drunk is seen not only as an important “rite of passage,” but as a requirement for involvement in those groups.
In many sitcoms, the person addicted to alcohol is played as the fun-loving person everyone loves and depends upon.
The Bible paints a much different picture. It portrays alcohol as a powerful, enslaving substance. Proverbs 23:29-35 tells us that the result of excessive drinking is woe, sorrow, strife, complaining, wounds without cause, and redness of eyes.
Alcohol abuse leads to alcohol tolerance, withdrawal, and cravings. Withdrawal from alcohol can be as deadly as with any drug; therefore, if you have been drinking excessively, you should consult with a physician or a medical professional immediately to receive good and safe medical advice.
What the world says
Contrary to what the Bible says, the world believes that alcohol addiction is a physical disease. Heathline writes,
“Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a disease that affects people of all walks of life. Experts have tried to pinpoint factors like genetics, sex, race, or socioeconomics that may predispose someone to alcohol addiction. But it has no single cause. Psychological, genetic, and behavioral factors can all contribute to having the disease. It’s important to note that alcoholism is a real disease. It can cause changes to the brain and neurochemistry, so a person with an alcohol addiction may not be able to control their actions.”
What God says
Drinking is a normal part of life in society for most people, and therefore, it is often hard to recognize when it becomes an addiction. So how can I know if it’s an addiction or not?
The answer: when it becomes idolatry.
In the Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, Shaw writes that the Bible says drinking alcohol to excess is a sinful heart issue called drunkenness and sometimes idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone that takes the place of God in your life.
Ephesians 5:15-21 states:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (ESV, emphasis mine)
The biblical approach to addiction does not conceptualize alcohol addiction as a disease. The concept of the disease-theory was only popularized in the 1930s.
Instead, the Bible teaches alcohol abuse is a sin issue of the heart called drunkenness. Jesus Himself called drunkenness a sin and those who partake in those behaviors, He calls drunkards (Matthew 11:18-20; Matthew 24:48-50).
Stages of alcohol addiction
Most persons who drink alcohol excessively begin to experience problems in a variety of areas of life: spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, vocationally, financially, etc. These problems are evidence of God’s grace in your life that signals you need help. God wants you to be free from enslavement to alcohol and He offers you power to help you, according to Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
To analyze your need for help, ask yourself:
Am I willing to sin (or do anything I can) to get alcohol?
Am I willing to sin (or do anything I can) when I am not able to get alcohol (for example, you lie to someone when they don’t seem to help you get an alcoholic drink)?
At the core, alcohol addiction is a heart issue. While it may not seem as though you have many problems as a result of your alcohol use, the desires for alcohol reveal the truth.
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