Are you an alcoholic? Do you suspect that a friend or loved one may be an alcoholic? Answer the following questions honestly and forthrightly.

1.Do you lose time from work due to drinking?

2.Is drinking making your home life unhappy?

3.Do you drink because you are shy with other people?

4.Is drinking affecting your reputation?

5.Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?

6.Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?

7.Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?

8.Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?

9.Has your ambition decreased since drinking?

10.Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?

11.Do you want a drink the next morning?

12.Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

13.Has you efficiency decreased since drinking?

14.Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?

15.Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?

16.Do you drink alone?

17.Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?

18.Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?

19.Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?

20.Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

It you have answered YES to any one of these twenty questions, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic. These questions have been drawn up by John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. They are widely used in determining whether or not a person is alcoholic. If you have answered YES to any two of the questions, it’s very likely that you are an alcoholic. If you have answered YES to three or more of the questions, you are definitely an alcoholic and you definitely need help immediately.

Alcohol is a major chemical ingredient in beer, wine, and other distilled beverages. Alcohol is a natural substance formed by the reaction of fermenting sugar with yeast spores. There are many different kinds of alcohols. The kind found in alcoholic beverages is known scientifically as ethyl alcohol, a colorless, flammable liquid which has an intoxicating effect.

The effects of alcohol vary in proportion to the amount consumed and according to personal physical and psychological differences. In small doses alcohol has a tranquilizing effect, causing a person to feel relaxed and free from tension. In larger amounts muscular coordination, memory, and judgment may be temporarily impaired, as brain activity is depressed. More intake over a short period of time can result in loss of control and dulling the senses. Continued, steady, heavy drinking can completely anesthetize the brain, and result in coma or death.

Several factors contribute to determine alcohol’s overall effect on a person. How fast the person drinks and whether his stomach is empty or full affect how quickly alcohol enters the bloodstream and is carried to the brain. The type of alcoholic beverage a person drinks also contributes to the effects. The person’s weight, his mood when he starts drinking, and even the setting in which he drinks, all contribute to the effects his drinking will have on him. 

That alcoholism is a problem in the world can hardly be denied. At present, only one out of three adults in the U.S. is a non-drinker; and one out of nine people who do drink is an alcoholic. Recent studies indicate that 63% of boys and 54% of girls in grace 7 have used alcoholic beverages. By grade 12, the figures increase to 93% of boys and 87% of girls. Alcohol is the most popular drug in the U.S. today, besides being one of the most easily available. Last year over ten billion dollars was spent on drink in our county. At present there are over 5 million alcoholics in the U.S. Alcoholism ranks as the fourth most serious health problem. One out of nine casual drinkers will become an alcoholic; that’s better than 10%.

And let’s not kid ourselves, the problem exists in our own churches and among our own people. We had better not act as the proverbial ostrich and, confronted by this problem, stick our heads in the sand. But we had better face the fact that there is a problem, and we had better deal with the problem. We all know that there is good deal of “social drinking” among our people. There are also certainly problem drinkers, or alcoholics. Many of our pastors and elders have confronted the problem. It’s a problem that shows itself now and again among the younger people. Almost all of us know someone who has had the problem, or has the problem presently.

From a certain point of view, it ought not surprise us that the problem does exist among us. It’s not a new problem; it’s always been a problem in the church. Genesis 9 tells us of Noah’s drunkenness; we know from I Corinthians 11 that there was drunkenness in the congregation of Corinth, drunkenness, mind you, at the Lord’s Table. Granted, now, that the problem exists; and granted that we must face the problem; what must be our approach to the problem? How must we deal with it? In this article, and a couple of article to follow, we want to discuss how the Christian ought to approach the problem of alcoholism.

Basic Symptoms of the Problem

In order for us to discover the problem of alcoholism, either in ourselves or in a friend or loved one, we need to know some of the basic symptoms of the problem. One of the first warnings that one is on the way to alcoholism is an increased tolerance for alcohol. Many states have set a level of .10 blood alcohol as the level of legal drunkenness. According to this standard a one hundred fifty pound make who drank three to five twelve-ounce beers (not even a six-pack), or three to five six-ounce glasses of wine, or three to five one-ounce glasses of whiskey would be legally drunk.

But the point is that the more one drinks, the greater his tolerance level and the less he shows the outward characteristics of being intoxicated. For someone who has been habitually drinking heavily, he may be able to consume more than the minimum described for legal drunkenness and still behave in a fairly normal way. Increased tolerance is a clear warning that one is on the road to alcoholism.

A second danger signal is what is often called “pattern drinking.” This means that the drinker follows a certain pattern in his drinking at the same time every week, say every Friday afternoon after work. Then the pattern intensifies so that the person begins drinking or craving a drink at the same time every day. Especially is this seen in the person who drinks the first thing out of bed in the morning, as soon as he gets home from work in the afternoon, or in order to relax before going to bed at night.

A third warning signal is a change in behavior. This may involve a change in mood. A person who was gay and happy becomes brooding and moody. A person who was outgoing becomes withdrawn. A person who was quiet and reserved becomes loud and demanding. Note well, these are changes in behavior, not when the person is drunk, but when he is sober. Particularly is this change of behavior noticed within the immediate family: a husband’s treatment of his wife, a wife’s attitude toward her husband, a parent’s treatment of the children, or a teenager’s attitude and behavior toward his parents. A husband may begin to abuse his wife, not necessarily physically, but verbally. A wife may begin to be unsubmissive and contrary. A parent may becomes harsh or abusive of the children. A teenager may becomes rebellious and unmanageable. There are definite signs of alcoholism.

A fourth warning signal is “blackouts.” Blackouts are not the same as passing out; we mustn’t confuse these. A blackout refers to a temporary amnesia, loss of memory, induced by alcohol. A person who doesn’t remember where he was, what he was doing, or with whom he was the day or night before.

A fifth warning signal is surreptitious drinking, that is, drinking on the sneak. A housewife may hide her liquor in different places around the house; it’s reported that a favorite place is the toilet tank. A factory worker may have a bottle tucked away in a secret place at the shop. A farmer may have bottles stashed in strategic places on the farm. This also involves drinking secretly and alone.

All of these are warning signals that a person is on the road to alcoholism. If you yourself show these symptoms, you need help. If a loved one or friend shows any of these symptoms, he needs help and you ought to convince him that he does need help.

The Scriptural View of Alcoholism

But what kind of help does the alcoholic need? And, where must we go for help? In order to answer these questions, it’s important that we answer the prior question: What is alcoholism? What must be our view of the problem itself? Only if we have a proper understanding of the problem itself, will we go on to seek the right kind of help for the problem, and seek that help in the right place. 

It must be emphasized that our view of this problem must be derived from Holy Scripture. Our view is not to be based upon the opinions of wordly counselors and psychiatrists, even though they undoubtedly have the advantage of experience and frequency in dealing with the problem. Our view must not even be based ultimately on the testimony of the alcoholic and recovered, alcoholic, as valuable as that testimony may be, especially if he is a Christian. But our view must be based upon Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture speaks on alcoholism and drunkenness. The Scriptures describe the problem, its nature and seriousness. The Scriptures provide all the material the Christian needs to understand the essence of the problem, as well as how to approach the problem. And, thank God, the Scriptures also point out the way of deliverance from alcoholism in the sovereign grace of a merciful God. Here, too, we must show ourselves to be Reformed Christians, whose only rule for faith and for life is the Word of God. And we must bow before that Word of God. 

…to be continued.