Before I write what’s on my heart right now, I want to be honest with any who may bother to take the time to read this. If you have never struggled with addiction, you probably won’t understand. In fact, you may even tend to laugh at the thought that anything could have power over a person. I used to think that too. My thought process was something along the line of, “Of course you can stop __________. Just don’t do it anymore. It’s as simple as that.” I found out the hard way, though, that it really isn’t that simple at all. How do I know that? Read on and you’ll understand. This is something I have struggled with in the past and now find myself struggling with again.
In the early years of my life, my dad drank a lot. One of my early memories is not a pleasant one. My dad worked for a company that supplied natural gas to homes and businesses. Each summer the company had their employee picnic at an amusement park located in the same town where we lived. Admission would be free for all employees and their families. Food was provided at the picnic shelter they reserved. Also included was a beer tent. My dad loved beer. While my older siblings and my mom took my brother and me to the rides, my dad and his work buddies hung out in the beer tent. I don’t recall exactly how old I was in this particular year–I would say maybe 3 or 4. It came time to leave and my dad had enough to drink that he probably shouldn’t have been driving. My mom, I believe, said something along those lines to him. He didn’t appreciate his wife telling him what to do and he proceeded to tell her that. Although I didn’t understand the language he used, I knew the tone and decibel level of his voice was one that scared me. His company had given all the kids a helium balloon. Mine was tied to my little wrist so it would not fly away. As I got in the back seat of the car, my dad was yelling at my mom, who in turn, was screaming back at him. I began to cry. My sister, trying not to cry, pulled me close to her and whispered, “Don’t cry, Becky…don’t cry…shhhhh…he’ll get madder…” My little body couldn’t stop the tears that the fear of being in the car with two screaming parents produced. My dad, already sick of my mom’s screams, turned around and with a lit cigarette, popped the balloon that was tied to my wrist. As you can imagine, that did not help me to stop crying. I don’t remember what exactly happened after that. I learned at a young age that alcohol could alter a personality.
Fast forward many years to when I was 17 or 18 years old. My dad had quit drinking by then, but I was just discovering how wonderful a buzz of alcohol could make me feel. The drinking age was 19 at the time. I worked with a guy who was of age. He would buy me various drinks and bring them to me as long as I paid for them. I started light–wine coolers, but quickly moved up to harder liquor. Vodka mixed with anything I could find became a staple for me. I found that social drinking was not possible for me. If I was going to drink at all, I needed to get completely wasted. Any other way didn’t make sense. I remember one night going to a friend’s house for a Halloween party. I was newly married so Dave went with me. We often hung out with this group of people. We knew there would be alcohol there so we stopped to pick up some of our favorites–vodka, orange juice, whiskey and 7-Up. We spent the night downing drink after drink. When midnight rolled around, we figured it was time to head home. The issue was, neither of us were really in any shape to drive. My friend lived in a different town than we did. For us to get home, we would have to make the 15 mile or so drive back to the Island where we lived. Dave said he couldn’t drive and we should just spend the night. I wanted to be in our own bed so I told him I would drive. I didn’t even know how to get to where she lived but got in the car and started driving. I remember going through the toll booth to get over the bridge to the Island and nearly hitting the guardrail separating the booths. I don’t remember anything else about that drive home. Years later, I know God was watching over us that night, even though I could have cared less about God at that point in my life. My alcohol addiction continued well into my mom years. My kids have memories of me walking them down to the liquor store when their dad and I were separated, and sitting them on the sidewalk outside so I could go in and buy liquor. I thought if I didn’t take them in, they wouldn’t see what I was buying. How I stopped drinking is another post in itself, but it was a difficult process that involved hospitalization and medications that would make me deathly ill if any alcohol at all hit my system–including any alcohol found in shampoo or deodorant.
There were many years after I quit drinking alcohol that I struggled with the desire for a drink. There have been times I would have given anything for just a sip of some alcoholic beverage. I knew I couldn’t give in, for just a sip for me would never be enough. I knew, and still know, that if I even taste a small amount of alcohol, I will not be able to stop before I get drunk. I avoid it as much as is reasonably possible. My family and most of my friends know to not order drinks at a restaurant if I am there. I would probably be fine now, but they don’t take that chance.
So if alcohol isn’t a current problem for me, why am I writing about it? I am beginning to believe that once a person struggles with an addiction, that those struggles play out in other areas and in other ways in life. I can walk into a liquor store now and not walk out with vodka. I may think about it and wish I could, but I can stop myself from doing so. What I can’t do is walk into a grocery store and not get a diet Pepsi. I cannot go to a restaurant and order water, even though I know I am drinking way too much diet pop. I have felt the nudge from God to give up diet pop…not because it is a sin, but because, for me, it is an idol. I HAVE to have it. If I don’t, I find myself thinking how good it would taste, even if I’m not really thirsty at the time. Some people find they struggle in this way with sugar or carbohydrates. Things can become idols and addictions even if they aren’t necessarily wrong. Television, internet, and video games also can hold power over those with addictive personalities. There are a host of things that can we can put value on in our lives. If care is not taken, that value, while intended for good maybe originally, becomes an addiction which quickly turns into an idol. One is not enough. A diet Pepsi when I’m thirsty suddenly becomes over 100 ounces a day. (Yes, I often drink over 100 ounces a day)
Lately I have been beating myself up for not being able to cut back or quit altogether my unhealthy habit of drinking diet pop. “Just grab water,” I tell myself. I don’t. Guilt then washes over me as I realize that once again I have failed. I ask God to help and yet I fail over and over. It doesn’t take long for discouragement to set in then. I know I am not the only person who struggles with addiction to something. Diet pop is better than vodka–at least my judgment isn’t impaired if I down a hundred ounces of chemical-filled soda. The issue is one of the heart though. I believe God has been telling me to STOP, yet I don’t. That is disobedience and it isn’t something I’m proud of.
I’m just not sure what to do about it.