“Should I Stop Drinking?” A Christian Counseling Perspective
Dr. Brent Potter
Did you know that 15.1 million adults in the United States who are eighteen and older struggle with alcoholism or an alcohol-related disorder? And over 10% of children who live in America live with a parent who struggles with alcoholism? As of 2020, 329.5 million people were living in America, so this means roughly 32.9 million children today are watching a parent struggle with an alcohol-related disorder.According to the CDC, alcohol dependency is characterized by excessive drinking, a strong craving for alcohol, continued use of alcohol despite repeated problems with drinking, and an inability to control alcohol consumption.
If that definition of alcohol dependency, or alcoholism, describes you then you may be searching for adequate reasons and ways to stop drinking alcohol. In this article, we’re going to look at what the Bible has to say about alcohol, the negatives of overconsumption, and different ways to stop drinking alcohol.
What the Bible Says About Alcohol
Many factors in our lives shape our view of alcohol. Perhaps it has to do with how we were raised, our religious beliefs, or past experiences. Whatever our view of alcohol may be or why we view it this way, as believers in Christ, we know that God’s Word gets the final say.
Let’s break down what the Bible has to say about alcohol by looking at a few different Scriptures.
Alcohol is Not Inherently Evil
The reality is, God created alcohol. And 1 Timothy 4:4 tells us that everything God creates is good, “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.” Alcohol itself is not evil. It’s when we allow ourselves to have too much of it, abuse it, consume it when it is against our conscience, or when our consumption causes someone else to go against their conscience, that we descend into sin.
This may come as a shock to some of us, but there are Scriptures in the Bible that indicate that not all alcohol consumption is bad for us. Let’s look at some of those Scriptures together,
In 1 Timothy 5, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy on how to treat different people within the church. Towards the end of the chapter, Paul addresses some of Timothy’s medical concerns and says in verse 23, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”
It’s always crucial to consider the context when reading Scripture. At that time in history, water wasn’t clean. So, Paul was advising Timothy to add a little bit of wine into his regimen to aid in some discomfort Timothy must’ve been feeling from only drinking the impure water.
Paul, being a lover and servant of Christ, would not have led Timothy into sin by advising he drink wine, showing us that some alcohol may be beneficial medically speaking.
King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes and one of the wisest kings of his time urged God’s people in Ecclesiastes 9:7 that drinking wine and celebrating is not a bad thing, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
Again, Solomon, fearing God and continually asking for His wisdom would not lead God’s people into sin by telling them it’s ok to celebrate with the drinking of wine. In moderation, the Bible states that we can enjoy alcohol for celebratory purposes.
Jesus Drank Wine
There are a few Scriptures in the Bible that show us that Jesus, too, drank wine. In Luke 7:33-35, we see Jesus speaking to a crowd of people about John the Baptist, “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”Jesus, the very Son of God, admitted to the crowd that he did eat and drink with others as a way of communing with them. Jesus says this again on the night of the Passover as He reclined at the table with His disciples:
Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. – Mark 14:25
Not only is he saying that he has drunk wine, but that He will do so again in the new Kingdom of God when all of us join Him.
Permissible, Not Beneficial
While alcohol may be permissible, depending on who and what your limits are, it may not be beneficial.
All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. – 1 Corinthians 6:23
Just because drinking is legal for those aged twenty-one and older in America, and just because there are certain circumstances in the Bible where it is permissible, doesn’t mean you need to be doing it. Especially if you are someone who should stop drinking alcohol because of alcohol dependency.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. – Ephesians 5:18
Believers are encouraged not to fill themselves with alcohol to the point of drunkenness. Instead, we are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit and run to Him for what we need.
King Solomon, the same king who tells us in Ecclesiastes 9:7 that celebratory drinking is permissible, also says in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” When it comes to alcohol, some limits should be set and respected. If you find yourself not being able to respect or follow through on those limits, then it may be time to stop drinking alcohol.
Overall, too much of anything – including alcohol – can become an idol which can then lead to alcohol dependency. When this happens, we are choosing to put alcohol in the place of God in our lives, serving ourselves rather than Him.
The Negative Effects of Alcohol Dependency
The overconsumption of alcohol over an extended period can subject you to several negative physical and relational effects. Let’s unpack what a few of those might look like.
The Physical Effects of Alcohol
A recent study conducted by The Recovery Village found that long-term, heavy alcohol consumers are 48% more likely to report having cancer compared to those who don’t drink heavily. Alcohol dependency can have a major impact on your brain and body.
A few serious physical complications that may occur include:
- Liver damage
- Stomach and intestinal ulcers
- Damage to brain cells
- High blood pressure
- Higher risk of heart disease and stroke
The Relational Effects of AlcoholHealthy, good relationships are founded on Jesus, trust, and intimacy. When you choose to place alcohol above everything and everyone else, it negatively impacts your relationship with God and, therefore, your relationship with others.
Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us that we should “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength.” We can’t do this if we are constantly chasing alcohol and relying on it to give us our identity, security, and sense of fulfillment.
If we are not following the Lord and choosing instead to place alcohol in His place, then we will not be able to adequately love those He puts in front of us.
Resources to Help You Stop Drinking Alcohol
If you are struggling with alcohol dependency or addiction, it may be time to seek help. This isn’t something that you should have to face on your own. Here are a few resources that can help you stop drinking alcohol.
Is there someone in your life that you can trust and open up to about your struggles with alcohol? Someone who can be praying for you and checking in on you? Perhaps you can choose a trusted friend who is familiar with the struggle of alcohol who can help hold you accountable.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” There is such power in admitting that you need help to stop drinking alcohol. When you are honest with others about your sin and struggle, you are making room for the light of God’s presence to move in and begin healing.
This may even look like joining an AA group or a Celebrate Recovery group at your church. It may be beneficial to look up those kinds of resources in your area to see what’s available.
Sharing your struggle with alcohol can feel scary and intimidating. So, if you are someone who isn’t ready to seek in-person help, perhaps an anonymous alcohol abuse hotline may help. Below are a few hotlines you can call to get the 24/7 support you need:
- The Recovery Village
- Alcoholics Anonymous
The Recovery Movement
As I point out in my past book (Potter, 2015) The recovery movement is a ‘sibling’ of contemporary existential-humanistic and contemporary psychoanalytic schools of thought that are emerging as psychiatry and STEM psychology fade.
The notion of recovery goes back to roughly 1830, at which time John Perceval, son of an English prime minister, penned his personal story of recovering from a two-year-long psychotic episode. He notes that his recovery was independent of medical assistance of any kind. Perceval’s personal narrative of recovery is chronicled in the 1972 book, Perceval’s Narrative: A Patient’s Account of His Psychosis, 1830-1832.
Researchers at Massachusetts’ Worcester Asylum, in 1881, discovered recovery when they examined the cases of some 1,157 who had been discharged from their facility. Their search went back to 1840. They were surprised to find that roughly 58% of those leaving their care were free of relapse for the rest of their lives. The concept of recovery picked up steam with the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step sober support groups.
Whether mental health or substance use issues, the focus was not on a medical model and was based upon community support of some kind. In 12-step programs, the individual ‘leans’ on the support of regular groups and also, typically, a sponsor who guides him or her through the recovery process.
In recovery, often referred to as wellness programs, individuals who have successfully recovered aid those who are early in recovery. These people, often professionals are often referred to as peer bridgers or simply peer support specialists. Both groups tend to see human distress as a normal part of life, rather than as a disease or something to be moralized or pathologies in any way.
Forms of distress are simply seen as an organic part of living. The goal of recovery support is to partner with the client and develop an individualized recovery plan. This plan may or may involve medications, therapy or a number of other typical modalities, but not necessarily so. Nothing is forced upon an individual or even suggested.
The idea is to join with the client in his or her process and to utilize his or her strengths to aid in the process of recovery. Often, if the client desires it, family and other community supports are utilized. There is no cookie-cutter process in recovery; from their perspective, each recovery is unique and intensely personal to the individual and his or her life context.
Recovery, seen as an organic process, experienced some setbacks during the 1940s and 1950s in the US, as the predominant way of contending with psychological distress was institutionalization. Even during the deinstitutionalization, beginning in the 1970s, it was assumed that recovery was not possible from so-called psychiatric diseases.
We still see some of this today, unfortunately. Nonetheless, the recovery movement persevered, refusing to adopt the limiting and errant beliefs of the psychiatric establishment. Laing and his colleagues made substantial headway in establishing therapeutic households that still remain today, such as the Philadelphia Association in the UK. Following Laing, Mosher, as already mentioned, was successful in his work at Soteria House.
To this day, Soteria houses still exist in various locations. In a similar vein, the consumer and psychiatric survivor movements began taking hold in the 1980s and 1990s and are still quite active to this day. By 2002, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health solidified a way for a system-wide paradigm shift.
Of note in the recovery movement, is the well-resourced and expanding business, Recovery Innovations. The organization constellated around the notion of recovery, from its entry-level employees to its administration. Their international expansion is testimony to the efficacy of its educational, clinical, and peer support programs.
With this organization, having a recovery story, of some kind, is considered a strength, not a detriment. Their stated mission: “To create opportunities and environments that empower people to recovery, to succeed in accomplishing their goals, and to reconnect to themselves, others, and to meaning and purpose in life.” Their service values are hope, empowerment, wellness, personal responsibility, community focus, and connectedness.
Their organizational values include quality, creativity, friendliness, quality team, cultural competence, and financial stability. Impressively, their entire international business operates in a non-hierarchical fashion.
They go so far as to have what they call “wellness cities” where all supports are offered in a single setting. The services offered include, but are not limited to, peer support, education, medical services, mental health services, employment, and crisis services.
The vision of the business “was a transformation in the service delivery system grounded in the belief that people with mental health and substance abuse challenges do recover and move on with their life.” The domains deemed critical to recovery are represented in the services provided: “The principle ingredients of this transformation include hope, education, employment, peer support and self-help” (Recovery Innovations, 2008). (Potter, 2015).
Christian Counseling to Help You Stop Drinking
Admitting you need help does not make you weak, it makes you strong. It takes a lot of courage and humility to accept that you can’t battle an alcohol disorder on your own. 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us of this: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
If you think that you need to stop drinking alcohol but don’t know where to begin, seeking out a Christian counselor might be just what you need. A counselor can help give you the Biblical tools and resources you need to overcome this stronghold.
If you feel the need to stop drinking alcohol and think that speaking to a counselor would help you, feel free to reach out to a counselor in the online directory. We would be more than happy to give you the help and resources you need to work through your alcohol dependency from a Biblical perspective.
Potter, B. (2015). Elements of reparation. London: Routledge.
“Bible”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stop”, Courtesy of Bethany Legg, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cross”, Courtesy of Vaishakh Pillai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stop Sign”, Courtesy of Another Day Xx, Unsplash.com, CC0 License