The last time I drank was over a couple (or over three) years ago. It was during the winter sometime and there was going to be a Snowmageddon. Schools were closing, businesses were closing. Everyone was at the grocery store the night before buying up all the bottled water and whatever else they deemed essential. If schools were closed, then I technically did not have to go in to work either. So knowing I would not be going to work the next day and understanding that I would be snowed in my apartment, I bought my essentials. I bought a cheap tube of instant cinnamon rolls, a 2L of Cherry Coke, and a bottle of White Zinfandel. I decided that I would just drink & chill at home, ya know- Relax. That night I poured my first glasses of wine while listening to music. Soon, the songs turned sad. Then, one sad song on repeat as I continued refilling my glasses until the bottle was about gone. I zeroed in on sad memories of the past [involving my favorite subject- him]. Definition: him that I wanted the sunmoonstars from and him that didn’t want me two nights consecutively; him that ignored me for weeks or months after sleeping with me; him that I allowed to break my heart over and over without every telling him; him that I hadn’t see for a few years him. So basically I got myself drunk, listened to sad music while crying- then finally cried myself to sleep.
WoW. So EXXXXXXTRA. The next day I woke up and began putting all the scenes together. I couldn’t believe the pathetic script that played the night before. I realized had it not been for the alcohol, my night would’ve been a nice evening, no drama. I decided that was last sign I needed to know why I shouldn’t drink anymore.
The thoughts had been coming for a while by then. In my early and mid-twenties, I partied at clubs, bars and house parties. I drank more than I should and spent more than I should. Drinking and driving was common. As I got older drinking became more a “team bonding” activity with coworkers after work. We would go to a nearby bar to vent about work and share laughs. This only happened once per week maybe twice. We all had a few drinks, vented, laughed and went home at closing time. Every once and awhile, the sorority sisters wanted a night out at a club. I would go but the club life wasn’t for me anymore. After about an hour I was ready to get out the heels and into my pajamas.
While out at a bar a friend would take a picture of our drinks and post to Facebook. Sometimes friends would tag me in the location. While being a church attending and small group attending Christian at the time, I didn’t like the tagging and the posting. I felt exposed. I thought, “Don’t tag me here, I don’t want people to know I’m here.” Immediately after thinking ‘I don’t want anyone to know I’m here’- I thought “then why are you here?”
If you don’t want anyone to know you are here, then why are you here?
That’s a good question. Just like that- I was convicted. I discovered I had a double life. It wasn’t that polar opposite but there was a line drawn somewhere. I knew I didn’t want two different lives to lead. I knew what I wanted and I knew that something wasn’t fitting. But I didn’t make any moves just yet.
The bar life comes with certain sub-activities. Sub-activities like playing darts or shooting pool. My sub-activity was Judging or like some people call it- people watching. For some reason there’s nothing like sitting at the bar, drinking your drinks and harshly judging everyone else in the bar. Ripping them to shreds with your thoughts, thinking things I would never tell them out loud. Judging the guys and girls being obnoxious, talking loudly for no reason, the people that think they are walking straight but they are clearly swaying with each stride, the shy men secretly watching the girl barely clothed. I’m sure you’ve witnessed the silliest, wildest things in bars. I was sitting on the bar stool thinking that I was better than everyone else there [aside from my friends]. I was deciding who these people were and they were never worthy of much in my elevated state. I looked at these other people as if they had a sadder more pathetic life than mine. All these people had was this bar… I had more of whatever they didn’t have. But a new thought came more than once.
You think you’re not like everyone else in here, but you are here with them.
Interesting. I am here with them. So how I am so different? Better? I was convicted in a second layer of understanding. How could I sit here and judge these people if I am one of them? I couldn’t. I needed to stop.
So I did.
Our friend group hit a lull and hadn’t gone to the bar some weeks or so. One day, my coworker said how we all needed to go out one night soon. I didn’t respond and remained focused on my task. The pause was awkward and then he said, “You don’t drink anymore do you?” This took me by surprise but he’s a smart guy. I looked up and said ”No. I’ve been convicted lately.” He understood because he is also a Christian. He was supportive and praised me.
This was the New Thing God was doing. In fact, He did it already. Something about my spirit communicated to my friend that I didn’t drink anymore. I hadn’t told anyone these thoughts I was having. I just lived my authentic life each day of the year after that. I knew I didn’t want separate lives. I knew that I would choose whom I serve every day with my actions. I knew that me drinking alcohol in bars or clubs didn’t bring glory to God. I knew drinking at home in my apartment didn’t bring glory to God. I knew me drinking led to thoughts I didn’t need to think. Whether, harsh criticisms of others or sad broken hearted thoughts of the past. Neither brought glory to the Audience of One. None of my alcohol induced behaviors brought glory to the One that Saved Me, didn’t testify to His Authority over my life.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25
This verse stood out during that time in my life. I knew the Holy Spirit had called me out. The Advocate had pointed out some inconsistencies in my life and gave them bullet points. Give it up and follow Him.
Yes I did like alcohol and on any given day still do. My flesh likes the taste of certain drinks and beers. There are fun and sad memories tied to alcohol. Specific years of my life are forever linked with alcohol. When I go to restaurants the thought of ordering alcohol drinks still passes over me. When at the grocery store or gas station I still consider buying something to take home. Sometimes, in the middle of a stressful day I think ironically ‘I need a drink.” The point is, my desire hasn’t left but my commitment to follow through is not there. I may have these thoughts but I don’t act on them. I let them be thoughts and that’s it. We always have the final say.
This may be easy for me to say because I never was addicted to alcohol. Those with addictions have to put in more personal work to conquer sobriety. The last and final reason I don’t drink is because I do not want to be a hypocrite. I know people that have addictions, whether they acknowledge it or not- I see it. I’ve seen it begin and spread. I had a couple friends that really struggled with alcohol. I knew that I couldn’t speak to their addiction because I was actively drinking with them. By cutting out alcohol I’m prepared to spot the truth and live a life that can speak truth into others. You won’t be able to tell me that I’m doing the same thing as you as justification for you to do the same thing you’ve always done.
How can I tell them they drink too much or they have an actual drinking problem if I’m drinking with them?
One friend tearfully confessed to me in our mid-twenties that she hated the way alcohol felt in her body. This confession came in the middle of a night out in the center of Kansas City’s Power and Light District. One friend passed away from alcohol poisoning though his family and friends have never admitted it. Years prior, my friend (from the Power and Light District story) and I took a case of beer to his home. We hung out and while we were on a 3rd beer he had already chugged down almost 10 stacking them up like a tower. He died in 2011 after a night out, alone on the kitchen floor.
So there you have it. Reasons why I don’t drink.
‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’– but I will not be mastered by anything. I Corinthians 6:12