During the last year, I realised that alcohol had become a bit of a problem for me. I’ve always enjoyed a glass or two of wine with a meal or when playing pool with friends in the pub, but recently I’d noticed myself pouring a drink when I felt miserable or couldn’t sleep or wanted to forget about my problems for a bit. I knew this wasn’t a great road to go down and wouldn’t lead me anywhere good, but to be honest it kind of helped. For a while.
When I realised it wasn’t leading me to be godly, I knew I needed to do something about it, so my strategy was to try and cut down. I used apps to track my drinking and I asked friends to keep me accountable, but it didn’t work. Every time I had a drink, I wanted more. I finally got to the point where I realised that if I wanted to be obedient to God in this area, I had to cut it out completely. I don’t intend to be teetotal forever, but what I do need is a clean break from my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I hope that in the future I will return to a place where God has healed me enough to be able to enjoy a drink or two with friends without it becoming a problem.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I think there are parallels between unhealthy addictions and unhealthy friendships. I got into a situation where I was emotionally dependent on a female friend, there was mutual sexual attraction and we crossed physical boundaries. We both realised that we’d moved from healthy friendship to something that was pulling us away from God rather than drawing us near to him. But there were lots of good and beautiful things about the friendship and we desperately wanted to hang onto those things.
Sometimes we have to take a step back from someone to unlearn unhealthy dependence before we can see them again and enjoy them in a godly way.
Eventually, I had to admit to myself that the state of my heart at that time wasn’t helping me to be godly. What I needed was a complete break to allow God to take his rightful place in my heart again. Sometimes we have to take a step back from contact with someone to unlearn unhealthy dependence before we can see them again and enjoy them in a godly way. I still pray that in time God will restore our friendship, but in the meantime, I’m concentrating on not letting anything or anyone take first place in my heart above God.
I’m reassured by the fact that God understands these temptations. He knows that sin is enticing and that we enjoy it. I’ve never been tempted to eat courgettes because I find them disgusting, but I am tempted to drink too much because it feels fun for a while. It feels like a release. I am tempted to sleep with women because it seems to fulfil my need for intimacy and my desire to be loved and found beautiful. It’s sometimes taken a painfully long time to sink in that both these needs are more fully met in my loving Jesus, whose intimacy and security can never be taken away.
I recently read this verse which seemed wholly appropriate:
‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine’ (Song of Songs 1:2).
We can substitute the word ‘wine’ for anything that we’re tempted to put in God’s place (although wine does just happen to be my drink of choice!). The fact is that Jesus’ love is better than alcohol. It’s better than sex (in the right context or the wrong context). It’s better than praise from others. It’s even better than a loving family, a secure job, or an exciting holiday.
When used well, alcohol can be a very enjoyable thing that enhances social gatherings and brings godly pleasure. Close same-sex friends can also be wonderfully enriching (and in fact are essential). But if we find ourselves unhelpfully dependent on either, maybe it’s time for a break.