When I was growing up, we had a lot of alcoholism in our family. My grandfather, a successful Louisville businessman, began drinking when he was in his 20's. By the time he was in his mid 30's he had become a raging alcoholic. He lost his business (and his family) for two years and went into rehab. When he came out he was sober for about a year, but then he started drinking again, even more than before. At age 53, he died from cirrhosis of the liver from chronic alcoholism. Two of my aunts were hospitalized for alcohol abuse. One was able to leave it behind and to this day (50 years later), hasn't touched a drop. The other has experienced a myriad of health problems and relationship issues over the years. My uncle also died too soon (drinking and smoking) with acute health problems.
When I became a Christian in my teen years, most of my friends drank and did drugs. I took a lot of criticism for not being "part of the crowd." I just said, "You haven't seen what I've seen. Don't tread on me." When I was 17, I became the youngest ever speaker with the Temperance League of Kentucky. I learned a ton from the older men who mentored me as we travelled to little country churches in rural areas of KY on weekends and shared our stories about alcohol use and abuse. One of my first sermons was called, "Meet John Barleycorn, A Dangerous Enemy." I got the idea from a British band, Traffic, which had an album with a similar title back in the early 70's. I've long since lost the sermon, but still have the memories!
2018 marked my 40th year in ministry, having been ordained in October, 1978. Over the years I've watched many men and women (including several ministers) become slaves to alcohol. NONE of them ever planned it, not one. I have several friends who've been rescued by A.A.; one in particular just celebrated 20 years of sobriety. Guess what? He still attends A.A. meetings two times a week. He's also one of finest people I know. I had him share his testimony at Southland a few years ago. Some of you may recall his story. I'm immensely proud of him.
So, here are some basic reasons I've sworn off alcohol, in addition to what I've mentioned above.
1. I don't need it. I've never met anyone who could rationally convince me otherwise. 2. I figure that if I don't drink, I'll never become addicted to alcohol. I certainly have a risk genetically. 3. Alcohol affects our mental health. It makes matters more difficult for people suffering with anxiety, depression, and impulsive-control disorders. 4. Alcohol contributes to moodiness, lowers inhibitions, upsets our sleep cycles and often causes negative interactions with prescription drugs. 5. Alcohol negatively affects memory processes in the brain. 6. It increases the probability of using other mood-altering substances. 7. I have a lot of great friendships and meaningful relationships without alcohol or drugs. 8. When I'm overly stressed, I exercise, meditate, read scripture, and practice solitude. Those disciplines relieve my anxiety 100%.
It's interesting to me that alcohol is the only drug on earth that society expects us to apologize for NOT using. All the commercials imply that anyone who's even remotely cool will have a Bud Light in his/her hand. The pressure is palpable. The bottom line, I suppose, is that, for me, drinking just doesn't seem like a healthy choice for my life.
So, what's this have to do with you? Nothing, actually. But perhaps, if hearing more about MY story might lead you to make different choices as you live out YOUR story, then maybe this brief bit of vulnerability will have some value. Whatever choices you make in life, I hope they'll be YOUR choices, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. In my opinion, that's not a bad way to live.
Actually, for me, that's freedom, and I like it a lot.