It’s true. I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last week. I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea who I might meet there, what I would hear or what I would say. I had no thoughts of how it would be organized, how the session would go, or if it would even have any personal benefit for me.
Truth is, none of that mattered. I wasn’t there for me. I went to support a friend and to encourage this friend who has struggled with addiction for years.
I learned that at A.A. it’s typical for there to be a discussion leader, who has been sober for quite some time, to share his thoughts and experiences and then motivate the other attendees with words of encouragement and hope. Then, the other folks in the room would take turns sharing themselves. Many of those I heard from had been sober for years, but despite length of one’s sobriety, everyone introduced themselves in the same way. They said, “Hello, my name is ______________________, and I am an alcoholic.” It was as if they were saying, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
At the conclusion of the meeting one of the attendees, a leader within the local group I take it, handed out chips (looked like poker chips) to various individuals who were celebrating milestones in their path to coping with their addiction–1 month sobriety, 6 months, 1 year, etc. I’m happy to say that my friend received a six month chip last week.
Addiction is a terrible thing. It’s deceitful, manipulative, and painful. “It takes you further than you want to go, and teaches you more than you want to know. It costs you more than you want to pay, and keeps you longer than you want to stay.”
The following remarks were made several years ago by a member of A.A. in a letter to Ann Landers:
- We drank for happiness and became unhappy.
- We drank for joy and became miserable.
- We drank for sociability and became argumentative.
- We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious.
- We drank for friendship and made enemies.
- We drank for sleep and awakened without rest.
- We drank for strength and felt weak.
- We drank “medicinally” and acquired health problems.
- We drank for relaxation and got the shakes.
- We drank for bravery and became afraid.
- We drank for confidence and became doubtful.
- We drank to make conversation easier and slurred our speech.
- We drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell.
- We drank to forget and were forever haunted.
- We drank for freedom and became slaves.
- We drank to erase problems and saw them multiply.
- We drank to cope with life and invited death.
The good book tells us that alcohol is something that hurts and does not help.
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Pro. 23:29-32).
You know what’s interesting about this text? The writer transitions from those who are drunk to those who are just looking at it. What’s the point you ask? God, through His penman, is not regulating the behavior of the drunk (not approving it to be sure) but is rather challenging those who are sober and thinking about taking their first drink.
As I listened to the group participants at last week’s A.A. meeting, I got the impression that some if not most of them would have agreed with the Proverbs writer.
Some will argue that drinking is not the problem, but drunkenness is. Do you think any one of these folks at the meeting thought, “I’m going to take my first drink so I can become an alcoholic?” Do you suppose some of them said, “I’m thankful that my drinking cost me my marriage, my kids, my job, and sent me to jail?” Not one spoke favorably about what alcohol did for them. Not one of them started out saying “I want to be an alcoholic.” You know something else they had in common? Their problem with alcohol started by looking, and then taking their first drink.
I have no idea what it’s like to be drunk. I’ve never had a beer or glass of wine. I don’t know what it’s like to struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose relationships because of addiction. However, my friend does. Thankfully, my friend is doing so much better, but has a long way to go.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction of any kind, the best words of encouragement I can give you are these: love, patience, hope, positive re-enforcement, and friendship. Come to think of it, I can summarize it in one word — Jesus.