Looking for God in a bottle?

There are plenty of reasons to quit drinking alcohol, but none of them are very convincing:

  • Save money? Meh, just get more money.
  • Better health? Meh, gonna die some day anyway.
  • Act less like an ass? Meh, I’m an ass either way.

You can name and check off a thousand reasons for quitting, but what might cause someone to quit drinking?

There’s a difference between a reason and a cause. A reason is an argument, a piece of rational evidence. But logic doesn’t actually move anyone to quit. Anyone can reason, but to take action requires a cause. For me that cause was that I noticed alcohol puts me out of touch with God.

I was sitting in a bar four days after the Holy Spirit entered me.

A good friend and I were in a booth, checking out the college-age honies, shooting the bull, having beer, and talking about things of the spirit. He’s an agnostic but he was kind enough to let me practice praying by saying an intercessional prayer on behalf of his wellbeing. I prayed for him right there in the bar.

We had some appetizers, ordered a second round, and talked some more. Near the end of the second beer, I started feeling some old familiar feelings: Resentment. Anger. Selfishness. It was very subtle, but I was highly aware of the change. I spoke some uncharitable words about someone who was not present. An hour earlier, I had been filled with the peaceful breath of the Spirit for days. Now I could feel the light of God moving off me slowly but surely. Metaphorically speaking, the darkness started to return. The hyenas appeared on the horizon as silhouettes.

That’s when I knew I would never drink again. Not out of fear — I could live with the darkness and the barking dogs of soul-destruction. I’d done it all my life. I know my way around the darkness. Fear is one of my oldest companions. It used to affect me much more than it did in recent years. I used to react to this inner state with terror. But in recent years as I grew more and more accustomed to this, the effect was just a baseline cynicism and nihilism that permeated all aspects of my outlook on the world. But God came along and replaced that with light and buoyancy and joy. But now those good things were starting to fade ever so slightly, and I could see where it was going. I wanted to be in the light again. The next day, God returned, and I haven’t had a temptation to touch alcohol. Not a bit.

I decided to quit drinking because otherwise I couldn’t have God anymore.

Let me explain to you what kind of alcoholic I was: I was not an everyday drinker, but I did live to drink. I would always be looking forward to the next time I could “celebrate life” or “reward myself” or “flip the world the bird” or some other euphemistic synonym for “binge”. All the times in between drinking were just me waiting until the next self-administered mindblast of booze. As such, I was nervous, anxious, and not really living life. I couldn’t really feel–not the way I can feel now.

My dad, a retired psychologist (and author of The Plot to Kill Susan B. Anthony — check it out), has told me that a lot of alcoholics are just looking for God in a bottle. Makes sense to me. God came into my awareness, and then a few days later I stopped living to drink. God made it clear to me that he doesn’t like to hang out with me when I drink. I don’t even have to be drunk. The fateful night I quit, I only had two beers. I wasn’t drunk. Normally I can put away 12-18 beers, no problem. Mix it with liquor and wine if you want, I got it covered. Not bragging, just saying that’s how much it took for me to finally let go and experience a false, weak, anemic imitation of spiritual abandon. Getting drunk gave me a facsimile of personal freedom; it removed all my filters so I could just say whatever drunk thought was on my mind.

God took away my desire to drink by making me choose between him and the bottle.

The decision was easy. The freedom God gives is about fifty thousand times more free than drunkenness gives. With God you’re completely in control of your speech, yet your self-consciousness is decimated. You’re satisfied with trying to be kind. You don’t feel the need to really dig in and get negative about everything. And there are no “in-between” or waiting times. With booze, you’re either completely messed up or you’re mostly miserable. With God, it’s just always good. There are still challenges–life is life, after all–but the goods are far greater and the bads are relatively infinitesimal. It’s a gift. I still marvel at how good life can be. I never thought it could be this way.

There are some who will surely say that I couldn’t be an alcoholic if that’s all it took to quit drinking. Some will compare their own experience to mine, and they’ll try and tell me my story is not a valid example of a miracle, but I tell you now that it was a bona fide miracle. There was no way I was going to quit drinking before I met God.

I don’t understand it, but I submit to it.

I never set out to quit drinking. Rather, it was a side effect of having been spontaneously infused with the breath of the Spirit. I embraced this experience and let it all go, gave everything up to God, and began keeping an ear cocked for his word with every step I take. I obey. I follow. I give God all my problems. It could rain molten lava and God would still comfort me. God takes all the bad away, and gives away all the good. I am nothing; he is everything. This is the attitude and the experience I was given. It was not a conscious choice, but I did consciously accept it after the fact.

It all starts with accepting the God experience and submitting to it without reservation. The rest is up to him. That’s my experience.

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4 thoughts on “Looking for God in a bottle?

  1. Pingback: Riffing on the 4 Cardinal Virtues: History, Definition, Relevance | The Cynic Testifies

  2. Pingback: Bad credit? NO credit? Build a church for FREE! Call 1-800-Matthew-18:20 | The Cynic Testifies

  3. Will,
    you really have a remarkable way of relating things. Speaking for myself, I can also relate to that kind of darkness you speak of. But I am even more encouraged to hear about your spiritual growth.

    Vaya Con Dios my friend

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