| print this
THE BANNER, December 30, 1977
IN A BOTTLE
by William R. Lenters
Howard Clinebell, author of the classic in the alcoholism
field, Understanding and Counseling the Alcoholic, defines
alcoholic as anyone "who's drinking interferes frequently
continuously with any of his important life adjustments
interpersonal relationships." This will be my working
my judgement, an alcoholic is not necessarily a person -
drinks too much
drinks hard liquor,
drinks before noon,
drinks on skid row,
drinks to drunkenness,
drinks on the sneak.
of one of the above may be alcoholics but not necessarily.
Irresponsible, perhaps, but not necessarily alcoholic.
this article, I'm not going to tackle the physiological
issues involved in the question of "What is an Alcoholic?"
Nor am I
going to concern myself with the issue "Is Alcoholism
a Sin or a
Sickness?" However that question is answered, the person
alcoholic needs help, whether he is seen as sinful or sick.
am more concerned with the personal issues involved in alcoholism.
have a concern with the church of which I am a member. My
concern is its "moistness." We are neither a dry
church in that we
preach and practice total abstinence from beverage alcohol,
we a "wet" church in that we set up a bar in the
Hall. No, our drinking is so very dignified and sophisticated.
style is so very discreet and tasteful. We are "moist."
encourage drunkenness, nor do we encourage abstinence. By
silence we encourage "moistness." We maintain
a conspiracy of
silence. In this article, I hope to break that silence in
a subject, social drinking is a taboo, whereas social
drinking as a practice is an integral part of CRC Tribal
concern then, is not how devastating chronic alcoholism
is - we
know that it is. Nor is my concern directed toward the tragedy
seeing families continually breaking up, morally and spiritually,
due to alcoholism - it is tragic. Nor is my concern the
statistic that approximately one-half of the general hospital
are occupied by patients whose primary illness is alcoholism.
is frightening. Nor is my concern how unbelievable it is
3 percent of all alcoholics are on skid row - unbelievable,
true. Nor is it my concern to say "tsk-tsk" in
the face of our well
practiced art of social drinking. No, my concern is, "What
our drinking fill?" Let's talk about that. Let's talk
function and tasks we ask beverage alcohol to perform for
run enough "Ain't it awful" numbers on "the
Let's examine our own drinking practices, and more particularly,
the motive behind our drinking practices. It is clear that
Scriptures proscribe drunkenness, but prescribe drinking.
not fault in imbibing, according to the Scriptures. There
imbibing too much - that is, to the point of drunkenness.
consulting Scriptures, however, it is important to remember
Paul, the writer of Proverbs, et al, were not acquainted
Beam, Johnny Walker and brother Hiram. Those boys make something
much more potent than the little old winemakers in Paul's
we are going to actively assess our own drinking practices,
require a degree of honesty and openness on our part.
like to drink.
has become a way of life for us to drink socially.
goes down good.
makes us feel good.
relaxes and frees us.
why we drink. Challenging and questioning our drinking
practices presents a threat to our way of life. We don't
I realize that I'm asking us to take a hard look at something
enjoy. This is difficult - even painful, but it is necessary
because the people we treat at Calvary Rehab were social
at one time, just as you and I are at this time, but the
treat at Calvary Rehab have, for the most part, become chronic
alcoholics. Chronic alcoholics have a one-in-thirty chance
recovery. That's frightening!
do we drink, really? It's simplistic to say that it tastes
good or that it goes down good, because beverage alcohol
terrible. We add the mix, the hops, the fruit juice and/or
gingerale to make it taste good. The mix tastes good - the
alcohol makes us feel good. It's fun to drink because beverage
alcohol is a mood changer. It's a way of life to ingest
because to seek pleasure and avoid pain is our way of life.
will say we drink because it enhances social
conviviality. It's the oil that tastefully anoints sophisticated
conversation. It certainly is easier to chit-chat when we
chemically innoculated. Alcohol affects our sensory perception,
feeling state, our judgment, our voluntary, semi-voluntary
finally, our involuntary coordinators, in that order. We
are not as
fearful when we are drunk - not as fearful of recrimination,
rejection, reproof, or rebuttal, so we drink to get a "little
getting a little bit drunk is like getting a little bit
sick. It is somewhat humorous to listen to ourselves minimize
fact. By our terminology, we never say that we get drunk
party. No, we get "high" or "tipsy"
or "mellow" or "good and
relaxed" or we become "people aglow." And
getting "high," et cetra,
is the first phase of intoxication (drunkenness). When we
"high" our perceptions are distorted and our inhibitions
reduced. It is the first step towards completely shutting
central nervous system.
drinking has become such a way of life for so many of
us that we rarely take a critical look at our drinking and
it for what it really is and does, for as long as we don't
down drunk or "get caught" driving while drunk,
or drink before
noon, or get into a hassle with our spouse because of our
we feel problem-free. This assumption is dangerous.
need is so lacking in us that alcohol so easily meets? I
contend that there is a basic spiritual problem here. Note:
"spiritual" - not moralistic. God's people are
self-acceptingest, lovingest, most relaxed peaceful group
in the world, or could/should be. Instead of all of the
are often all or some of the below:
can help us with that, but so can chemicals. Chemicals
modify those feelings and ease the pain. Even Librium, Valium
other Yum-yums (dehydrated and encapsulated booze) as well
beverage alcohol change those feelings - knock them down,
them. Booze and pills really work - temporarily, superficially,
chemically, but they work.
a success oriented society, chemical mood changers are
essential ingredients to its successful plasticity. Our
has been modified accordingly. No longer is it the rule
our drinking to boerejonges or a glass of wine before dinner.
it has become a ritual of two shots of hard liquor before
and another glass of wine with dinner.
the sweet smell of success is scented with beverage
alcohol. We have made a shift - a significant shift - in
our use of
beverage alcohol. At one time, we would use beverage alcohol
toast a bride and groom, celebrate communion, toast an anniversary
couple. Now we use it to kill pain - the pain of shyness
situations or pressure or insomnia or weariness or boredom.
alcoholism is a "dis-ease" in which a person is
to beverage alcohol that his drinking interferes frequently
continuously with any of his important life adjustments
personal relationships, then social drinking can be the
toward that addiction. If beverage alcohol is the essential
ingredient which is relied upon to enhance psychic/social/spiritual
comfort, it will eventually become the ingredient that destroys
psychic/social/spiritual comfort. The need for well-being
peace is not by way of a bottle, but by way of a decision
surrender our life and our will to God. That's it! We are
into the pattern of asking chemically-induced insights to
do for us
that which only God in Christ can do, which is to grant
and joy necessary for wholeness.
have often seen uninhibited joy (or is it fun) at a social
gathering where beverage alcohol is present. Rarely have
that in a church service. I have seen honest sharing of
insights, faith at cocktail parties as well as at a Bible
I've seen people shed their masks when they are drinking
- something ecclesiastical functions rarely stimulate. Wine
become the serum of conversation for some of us. This is
heresy" and it disturbs me that we let ourselves get
verbalizing the truth, theologizing the truth, analyzing
systematizing the truth, defending the truth and preaching
truth; but in truth, ignoring The Truth by defending ourselves
spirits instead of "The Spirit."
affected conversations are inauthentic. A person
going under anesthesia quite often makes irresponsible statements
for which we do not hold him responsible nor take them seriously.
As he goes under his anesthetic his defense mechanisms and
inhibitions are reduced. The same thing happens physiologically
when we drink the beverage alcohol. Accordingly, we should
one another seriously when we are drinking because chemically
affected conversations are inauthentic regardless of whether
the chemical is medically prescribed or sold over the counter
purpose is not to communicate a moralistic message such
"Don't drink." No, my purpose is to ask, "What
does drinking do for
you? For me?" If it does more than toast an occasion
or quench a
thirst on a hot summer day, we may be developing a chemically
dependent life-style and that's a phony, nonauthentic lifestyle.
G. Jung, in a January 30, 1961, letter to Bill Wilson,
co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous writes, "Craving
for alcohol is
the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of
for wholeness. Expressed in medieval language, Union with
the hart pants after the water brook, so pants my soul for
God.' - Ps. 42, vs #.)
continues, "You see, alcohol in Latin is spiritus and
you use the same word for the highest religious experience
as the most depraving poison; thus, a helpful formula; spiritus
in his book writes, "Because of the intensity of
our negative feeling toward drunkenness, many of us tend
overlook the fact that alcohol is an answer to a problem
life in which religion also gives an answer." Both
alcohol offer an answer to the problem of weariness, boredom,
drudgery, rejection and loneliness in a dog-eat-dog society.
Alcohol is an answer, then, temporarily and wholly inadequate
illusional. Accordingly, intoxicated behavior and spirit-filled
behavior are often confused. But try to convince the friendly
social drinker of that! It is interesting to note that the
expressed by the apostles at Pentecost was mistakenly perceived
the people as evidence of drunkenness - not evidence of
Wolf describes one of his characters in Look Homeward
Angel thusly, "In all the earth there was no other
like Him. No
other like Him to be so sublimely and majestically drunken.
when it was possible to buy God in a bottle and drink Him
become a God one's self, were men not forever drunken?"
James notes in his Varieties of Religious Experience
that there is a similarity of function between alcohol and
religion. "The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably
to its power to stimulate the mystical foundations of human
usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms
this sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, disunites, and says
Drunkenness expands, unites and says, 'Yes.' The drunken
consciousness is one bit of the mystical consciousness,
mandates us not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with
Spirit. What is so tragically sad is that so many experience
acceptance, spiritual acceptance and a sense of well-being
security at the price of a God in a bottle." Jack London,
autobiography of John Barleycorn describes how accepted
he felt at
any tavern and how coldly rejected he felt at a church meeting.
Jesus, not booze, answers our ultimate questions and our
anxiety; but you and I already know that, don't we?
time you go to a social function where beverage alcohol
is being served, find out what you're up to before you take
first drink, and be full of care for yourself.