Keeping Alcohol in Its Place
TONY, mentioned in the opening article, could have enjoyed a very different life—if only he had faced up to his drinking problem. However, because he seemed to be able to consume many drinks without obvious symptoms, he believed that he was in control of his life. Why was his self-assessment so faulty?
His judgment was skewed by excessive alcohol consumption. Whether Tony realized it or not, the very organ that monitored his physical, mental, and emotional condition—his brain—was malfunctioning when it was overloaded with alcohol. The more he drank, the less capable his brain was of accurately evaluating his condition.
A second reason for Tony’s faulty self-appraisal was his overwhelming urge to preserve his drinking pattern. Allen, mentioned in the previous articles, initially denied that he had a problem with alcohol. “I would hide my drinking,” he admits, “and I would make excuses and try to downplay my overdrinking. I had one aim—to protect my drinking.” Even though others could see that drinking was taking control of Tony and Allen, each kept telling himself that everything was normal. Both men needed to take action to get control of their drinking. But what action?
Many who have stopped abusing alcohol have taken action in line with Jesus’ words: “If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Gehenna.”—Matthew 5:29.
Of course, Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation. Rather, he was stressing metaphorically that we should be willing to cut out of our life anything that is spiritually harmful. True, the action we take may be very painful. But it will protect us from the sort of thinking and situations that can lead to alcohol abuse. Thus, if others have expressed concern that your alcohol consumption is becoming excessive, take steps to control it.* If it is clear that you cannot control your drinking, be willing to cut it out of your life. As painful as that may be, it is much less painful than a ruined life.
Even if you are not an alcoholic, do you tend to drink too much? If so, what practical steps can you take to help you keep alcohol in its place?
Where to Get Help
1. Have faith in the power of frequent, heartfelt prayer. The Bible offers this advice to all who want to please Jehovah God: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) What can you pray about to acquire this peace of mind?
Honestly admit that you have a problem with alcohol, a problem that is your own responsibility. Telling God what you would like to do about it will invite his blessing on your efforts to find relief and to avoid more serious problems. “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) Jesus also said we could pray: “Do not bring us into temptation, but rescue us from what is wicked.” (Matthew 6:13; footnote) How, though, can you work in harmony with such prayers, and where can you find the answers to your supplications?
2. Acquire strength from God’s Word. “The word of God is alive and exerts power . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Many former heavy drinkers have been helped by reading and meditating on Bible verses each day. “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones,” wrote a God-fearing psalmist, “but his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. . . . Everything he does will succeed.”—Psalm 1:1-3.
Allen, whose Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses gave him the strength to conquer alcohol abuse, says, “I’m convinced that if it were not for the Bible and Bible principles that helped me stop drinking, I’d be dead.”
3. Cultivate self-control. The Bible reports that former drunkards in the Christian congregation had been washed clean “with the spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) How so? For one thing, they were helped to give up drunken bouts and revelries by cultivating self-control, a quality that is developed with the help of God’s holy spirit. “Do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but keep getting filled with spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21-23) Jesus Christ promised that “the Father in heaven [would] give holy spirit to those asking him.” Therefore, “keep on asking, and it will be given you.”—Luke 11:9, 13.
Those who wish to worship Jehovah acceptably can cultivate self-control by reading and studying the Bible and by praying often and from the heart. Rather than cave in to discouragement, accept this promise found in God’s Word: “He who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:8, 9.
4. Choose wholesome associates. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) Tell your friends about your determination to keep your use of alcohol under control. God’s Word forewarns, though, that when you give up “excesses with wine, revelries, [and] drinking matches,” some former companions will be “puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:3, 4) Be willing to cut out association with those who undermine your resolve to control your drinking.
5. Set definite limits. “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) If you let the principles of God’s Word help you to set your personal limits rather than allow your associates or “this system of things” to do so, you will enjoy a way of life that will be acceptable to God. But how can you determine what a safe limit is for you?
Any amount of alcohol that impairs your judgment and dulls your power of reason is too much for you. Hence, if you choose to drink, it is not wise to set a vague limit that hovers between sobriety and drunkenness. Do not let denial undermine your honest appraisal of your drinking. Set a definite, risk-free limit that is well within the range of moderation—one that will not allow you to deviate into overindulgence.
6. Learn to say no. “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” (Matthew 5:37) Learn to decline politely the persistent offers of a kind but misguided host. “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.
7. Seek personal help. Enlist the help of supportive friends who can reinforce your resolve to control your drinking and can provide spiritual help. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10; James 5:14, 16) The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the United States likewise advises: “Cutting down on your drinking may be difficult at times. Ask your family and friends for support to help you reach your goal.”
8. Stick to your resolve. “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—James 1:22, 25.
Breaking Free From Addiction
Not everyone who drinks excessively becomes an alcoholic. But some begin drinking so much—or so frequently—that they become addicted to alcohol. Because alcohol addiction includes physical and psychological dependence on a potent substance, such people may need more than willpower and spiritual help to break free from alcoholism. “When I was giving up alcohol,” recalls Allen, “the physical pain of withdrawal was tremendous. That’s when I realized that I needed medical treatment in addition to the spiritual help I was getting.”
Many drinkers need medical treatment to reinforce their spiritual battle to break free from and stay away from alcohol abuse.* Some need to be hospitalized to cope with severe withdrawal symptoms or to receive medication to reduce the extreme craving for alcohol and to help maintain abstinence. The miracle-working Son of God noted: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”—Mark 2:17.
Benefits of Heeding Divine Instruction
The Bible’s sensible advice on alcohol comes from the true God, who wants the best for us—not only for our present enjoyment but also for our lasting benefit. Twenty-four years after giving up alcohol, Allen recalls: “It was wonderful to know that I could be different, to learn that Jehovah wanted to help me straighten myself out, that he . . .” Allen pauses and holds back the tears as memories overwhelm him. “Um, . . . to know that Jehovah understands and cares and provides the needed help—that has been incredible.”
Therefore, if you are in the grip of alcohol misuse or addiction, do not be quick to give up on yourself or to conclude that there is no hope. Allen and countless others have been where you are now and have either cut down on alcohol or have cut it out altogether. They have no regrets; neither will you.
Whether you personally choose to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all, heed God’s loving appeal: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”—Isaiah 48:18.
See the box “Is Alcohol Taking Control?” on page 8.
There are many treatment centers, hospitals, and recovery programs that can provide help. The Watchtower does not endorse any particular treatment. Each individual should carefully evaluate treatment options and then make a personal decision that does not conflict with Bible principles.
[Box/Picture on page 8]
Is Alcohol Taking Control?
You might ask yourself:
• Do I drink more alcohol than I used to?
• Do I drink more often than I used to?
• Have my drinks become stronger?
• Do I use alcohol to cope with stress or to escape problems?
• Has a friend or a family member expressed concern about my drinking?
• Has drinking caused problems for me at home, at work, or when traveling?
• Is it hard to go without alcohol for a week?
• Do I feel uncomfortable when others abstain from alcohol?
• Do I hide from others the amount of liquor I consume?
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may need to take steps to control your drinking.
[Box/Picture on page 9]
Making Wise Decisions About Alcohol
Before drinking alcohol, consider:
• Is it advisable for me to drink alcohol, or should I abstain?
Recommendation: One who cannot limit his drinks should abstain.
• How much should I drink?
Recommendation: Determine your limit before alcohol distorts your judgment.
• When will I drink?
Recommendations: Not before driving or engaging in activities that require alertness; not before engaging in religious activities; not during pregnancy; not with certain medications.
• Where will I drink?
Recommendations: In a wholesome setting; not in secret to hide the drinking; not in front of people who are offended by alcohol.
• With whom will I drink?
Recommendations: With wholesome friends or family; not with problem drinkers.
[Box/Picture on page 10]
God’s Word Helps a Former Drunkard
Supot, in Thailand, was a heavy drinker. Initially, he drank only in the evenings. Gradually, he started drinking in the morning and then also at lunchtime. He would often drink simply to get drunk. But then he started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Learning that drunkenness is not acceptable to Jehovah God, Supot quit drinking. After a while, though, he reverted to his former drinking habits. His family was devastated.
However, Supot still loved Jehovah and wanted to worship him properly. Supot’s friends continued to help him and encouraged his family to spend more time with him and not to give up on him. At that time, the frank statement found at 1 Corinthians 6:10 that ‘drunkards will not inherit God’s kingdom’ helped Supot to see the seriousness of his situation. He realized that he needed to make an all-out effort to overcome his drinking problem.
This time, Supot was determined to quit drinking alcohol completely. Eventually, with the power of God’s holy spirit, the guidance of God’s Word, and the help of his family and congregation, Supot gained spiritual strength and overcame his desire for alcohol. His family was delighted when he was baptized in symbol of his dedication to God. Supot now enjoys the close relationship with God that he always desired, and he uses his time to help others spiritually.