Despite these shocking statistics, alcohol consumption has increased nearly 50 percent over the past generation. There are an estimated 18 million alcoholics in the United States (6 percent to 7 percent of the nation's population), each of whom affect an average of four to seven other people. There is no way to put a dollar figure on the emotional agony suffered by alcoholics and those whom they affect.
Although these figures are for the United States, alcoholism is a problem in other nations as well in varying degrees.
But what about people God is calling? More specifically, is alcoholism a problem in the United Church of God? We drag many of our problems into the church, and the world has far more of an effect on us than many of us realize. Sometimes, even Christians can be in denial about personal problems like addiction to alcohol. So can their family members and friends. It’s important we all understand more about this very serious issue.
Some of you reading this article are caught in the clutches of alcoholism. Others know of friends, family members or other brethren who have problems with alcohol. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, because denial is one of the symptoms of the affliction. Also, many alcoholics evade detection by semi-controlled drinking.
The problem of alcoholism thrives in an atmosphere where knowledge and awareness are lacking. Many misconceptions, misunderstandings and prejudices about alcohol and alcoholism and how to deal with it perpetuate the problem and prolong the suffering of all concerned. But an enlightened membership can be a strong bulwark against the ravages of alcoholism.
Here are some specific areas of need.
The old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is certainly true with reference to alcoholism. How can you avoid falling into the trap yourself or recognize the dangers you might be facing? How can you help your children understand and prevent the hazards?
A wealth of material is available on the subject, much of it at no cost.
How would you recognize a problem with alcohol? In your life or in someone else? What exactly is alcoholism? Is it a character weakness or an illness? What are the symptoms? Where would you find such information?
If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, what should you do about it? Should you tell the pastor if the person is a member? Should a member seek help outside the church or should prayer and ministerial counsel be sufficient?
How much do you know about treatment programs? What happens at AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or Alanon meetings? Should a church member participate in these programs? What about the twelve step AA program? Is it really a spiritual program? If so, would such involvement with nonmembers be joining another religion?
Understanding and Support
Alcoholics and their families live under a heavy burden of guilt and shame. Even in recovery there can be a great deal of emotional pain and trauma for the entire family. The Church is designed to be a unique spiritual support system for suffering members (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Alcoholics and their families need much love and support of the right kind. Unfortunately, the "way that seems right" is often the opposite of what is really needed. The more we understand the dynamics of any problem, the better we can identify with those who struggle with it. Alcoholism is no exception.
Reaching out to others
Jesus came "to heal the brokenhearted, to preach delivery to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" in the context of preaching the gospel (Luke 4:18). He was able to reach down to suffering people and offer them help and hope.
Alcoholism is a downward progression to the bottom of the barrel--medically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. It is 100 percent fatal if not arrested. Some never pull out of the tailspin. Those who seek help usually do so only after "hitting bottom" in some area of their life or because of a successful "intervention" by caring, concerned friends or relatives. With proper understanding, you can be a lifeline to someone and plant a seed of hope that can have positive results for all eternity (Romans 8:18-21).
Please do what you can to help by learning all you can about alcoholism so you can provide direction, support and encouragement for those in need as God grants you the opportunity.