Those who have experience with addiction—either their own or that of a loved one—will often comment that alcoholism is a slow suicide. What do they mean by this? Consistently and persistently overconsuming alcohol is certainly unhealthy, but can it really be compared to putting a gun to one’s head?
While alcoholism may not seem as drastic as committing suicide, many of the same elements are there. There’s the depression, the mental illness, the self-hatred and the inability to cope with a life that has become unmanageable. The alcoholic may not actually want to die; he or she may be praying for a way out, but cannot see one. Thus the drinking continues, and as it does, the alcoholic’s world shrinks until there is no other motivation for living than to get drunk.
Little by little, perhaps without even realizing it fully, the alcoholic is killing him or herself. The pain of living is too great, the self-loathing too intense to actually thrive in this world. Living deteriorates into mere existing, and many simply hope for the end. They may not be ready to pull the trigger, but if death came “naturally,” they wouldn’t care.
And sadly, some alcoholics will continue to the point of death. Years of poisoning the body with alcohol will take its toll and the body will give out. Though there may have been many opportunities to stop drinking and to pursue recovery, for some the addiction will win the war.
Others, however, will hit bottom. They will wake up to the fact that there is more to life than an alcoholic fog. They will see the grace of God. They will see a glimmer of hope and they will believe, however feebly, that there is the possibility of being reborn.
For families of alcoholics, there is only sadness, frustration and usually the inability to really understand what’s going on and why the addict seems so determined to dig his or her own grave. Non-addicts often fail to understand that alcoholism is not a choice but rather a disease. Like cancer, some will heal and others will not. The frustration and anger is a natural response to a very unnatural condition. We rage against the injustice of it and our own impotence. We want to fix the addict, but we simply cannot.
For the Christian family or Christian addict, everything starts with prayer and a surrender to God’s will. When we accept that this situation is in God’s hands, we may start to experience peace. We can stop fighting against an unstoppable tide. Both the addict and his or her family need to hit bottom—that moment of accepting powerlessness and becoming willing to let God determine the future.
There is also a wealth of biblical wisdom on addiction. God’s Word guides both addicts and families into a new life of dependence on Him. We gain the hope that rebirth and restoration is possible. As we pray and seek to depend upon Him, we can know Him better through the reading and studying of the Bible. When we know God’s love for us in the Gospel, we are infused with the hope that no matter how broken things may appear, there is the promise of healing and even joy.
Christian drug rehab or alcohol treatment programs can be the first step in stopping the slow march of alcohol death rates and moving in the direction of life, healing and restoration. If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, look into Christian recovery programs in your area. There is more to life than existing—there is the chance to live.