Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mid-life lesson #29: Alcohol ain't that great

About nine years ago I gave up drinking alcohol. The only alcohol I now consume is a small amount of wine in the weekly Eucharist. Other than that, I don't touch the stuff.

Without going into an overly long biographical sketch, during my twenties I became increasingly addicted to alcohol. I took up brewing beer as a hobby in order to justify it. I lived in Slovakia where alcohol is an integral part of much of the culture. Then I moved to Wisconsin, where drinking is also endemic.

But the primary responsibility is with me. I have a problem with alcohol. If I drink some, my brain wants more. Lots more.

So one day while talking with a counselor about my depression, I finally admitted that I was drinking. My counselor's immediate response: "Are you ready for yesterday to have been the last time you drank alcohol?"

My stomach rolled over, I swallowed, and then I said, "Yes. Yes."

Since then I haven't been drinking, nor do I intend to ever take it up again. I don't participate in any programs like AA. I have been blessed in simply being able to stop. I know others have different stories, so my story is neither prescriptive nor valorous. It's just how my story has gone.

I have mixed feelings about how to talk about drinking with those who still do. Clearly some people can drink without needing to drink to excess. Good for you.

However, because I have seen alcohol destroy so many people and so many families, it is hard for me to encourage drinking even to people who aren't addicts.

Mostly I recommend that people not drink, either because of the temptations, or because of the impact it has on others.

I also love the clarity of mind I have since quitting. I sleep better. I'm healthier, period. I know, there are some moderate health benefits from drinking red wine, etc. However, overall I don't see any real benefits to booze, I mostly see the harm.

So I tend to say, without moralizing it (or trying not to moralize it) that life generally speaking is better without alcohol. And I thank God for the freedom I have as a non-drinker.


  1. God bless you, Clint. Thanks for your willingness to be open about your own vulnerabilities. I rarely drink (2 is a big night, and 1 drink happens ~1-2x per month), mainly because in our house growing up, my parents weren't drinkers and it just wasn't part of our culture. I didn't choose not to be a drinker, but when I have cause to reflect, I'm grateful that I'm not for the same reasons you mention, that I see too many sad stories that begin with a night of drinking.

    I'm grateful for your witness.

  2. Thanks, Eric. I should add one more point, though it is very much a sub-thread and won't make my to forty. I happen to believe that people shouldn't gamble, and I don't gamble either. Although I've never become addicted, the same issues apply. In fact on gambling I'm even stricter. I just don't think Christians should gamble, at all.

    1. Anonymous5:11 PM

      Wow. I´m in total agreement with you on both subjects! God keep you strong. Alcohol is a major part of the social culture here in Germany, and the best way for me to deal with it is to simply not drink anything. (I don´t tolerate it physically anyway...too lightweight!) I also grew up in a family that never had alcohol around, and I never got into it. However my sister is a full-blown alcoholic who can´t even keep down a job. In the face of that, I have even less desire to touch the stuff. I´ve had a lot of talks with my husband about cutting back as well, and he has, for my sake. Blessings on you and your family, Clint!!

  3. I did not grow up with alcohol in the house; I have a drink very rarely and enjoy it when I do, but one is my limit. I don't moralize at all; but one thing I speculate about is how expensive drinking can be, especially if you don't have a lot of disposable income. But of course, that is only one of the costs...

    Regarding gambling, I've always found my mother's advice the best: "You can't afford to gamble if you can't afford to lose."

  4. Kim and I are giving up alcohol for a while. Drinking a bit of scotch while playing cribbage with my wife is nice, but it has become a bit too regular. Even without drinking much, there are too many calories, and really, it does affect your sleep. Besides, I think I used to get drunk to try to be someone else; now I seem to like myself better.

  5. I have always approached institutional gambling as a tax for people who are bad at math. Unfortunately, these people are often the ones who can least afford to give away their money. It saddens me that legislatures are thinking of this as a good way to raise money.