Our culture seems to live for Happy Hours. I get it. I will be the first to admit a glass of Malbec with a steak dinner is delicious. I understand the desire for a drink. I too like the taste of it. I even get the desire to let the alcohol take the edge off after a long day at the office, or with the kids. I’ve been there.
But, I gave up drinking two years ago. It was the fall of 2018. Why did I give up something I enjoy? It was because God opened my eyes to see that my “enjoyment” of it was not as important as what he wanted to do in and through me.
There are three reasons that fuel my “why”. There are three reasons that stemmed from the realization that alcohol was not as important as my relationship with God and with the people I was compelled to help.
Here are my reasons why I gave up drinking:
- I wanted to provide a safe place, a sanctuary, for my brother.
- I wanted God to own my heart, mind and soul, not alcohol (not anything for that matter).
- I wanted to be used as an addiction recovery advocate and abstain in the same way those I am helping abstain.
If you have read my book, Ascent to Hope, you know my brother struggled with alcohol for several years. And you may also remember that I was not graceful “helping” him. In my quest to fix and change him, to solve his addiction for him, I became addicted to control.
God, overtime, turned my controlling heart into a heart that could love him. God took my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) I began to see him through clear lenses of love instead of “plank in the eye” judgmentalism.
It was my heart of flesh that desired that my home would be a place of rest, of respite from the world, a place where he could come and know that no temptation would be in front of him. Most of all, I wanted him to feel the security and peace that comes from the presence of God.
I believe it is because God was making my heart more tender toward Zach that I wanted our home to be a sanctuary for him. This decision had compounding effects on whomever set foot into our house.
Marshall and I determined together to create a home, where anyone who struggled with alcohol could be safe, could feel safe and would be free from temptations. And that we would give the Holy Spirit free reign over the house. We prayed over the house, that the presence of God would be felt there.
If you stop and think about it, where can the person who is struggling with alcohol go to “get away” from alcohol? There are not many places. Even a lot of church events are not alcohol free anymore. Driving down the highway there seems to be billboard after billboard of alcohol advertisements. I just got to the point where I thought, “enough is enough”. Not in my home. Not in the place we have the control and say over what happens and what comes in.
The second reason why I decided to stop drinking was spurred on by Alissa Keaton, founder of Revelation Wellness, who said in one of her teaching, “Be careful because alcohol can own you.”
When I heard that I thought, “well, it doesn’t own me. I can take a drink, and not have a drink for months.” In all honesty, there was a check in my heart, the moment that I heard the words pour from her mouth.
There was a time in my life alcohol owned me when I wanted to take the edge off after a long day. I looked to alcohol to console my heartaches, disappointments and frustrations.
What I have come to understand is that it is not about the frequency of the drinks or even the amount I drink. It is, however, about the state of my heart when I take the drink. It’s the purpose behind the drink.
So again, I say, it’s not about the amount, it’s about the state of my heart. Once I realized that I was more reliant on alcohol to soothe the aching of my heart than God, I realized that the craving of my spirit was for God. The glass of wine left me void of comfort.
My need for comfort or love or acceptance through a glass of wine would never be fulfilled through a glass or 20 of wine. As my heart and mind became aligned with this reality and I began to drink in the promises of God instead my heart became impassioned to advocate for those struggling with substance abuse and their families.
A stirred heart, is an invested heart. God stirred my heart toward helping others find freedom from addiction because of our own struggle. The stirring of my heart led to my heart invested in the cause. My passion is as Isaiah describes Christ, “He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)
My heart’s bend is to comfort those who like me have been broken hearted because of being captive to sin, and watching a loved one be held captive to addiction. I gave up drinking because as an advocate of recovery, I want to be able to operate out of a full cup of hope.
I was to be healthy in mind, body and spirit as a recovery advocate. Having a full cup means investing in my own selfcare. And investing in my own relationship with God. It means being tuned into the Holy Spirit so I can hear his gentle nudges.
You may be wondering, “okay Steph, would you have given up alcohol if you didn’t feel called to be a recovery advocate or called to be the safe place for people struggling?”
In all honesty, I don’t know. I don’t know if I would have made the same choice if there was not a stirring of my heart to make a change. But what I do know now, is that there is a very simple principle I choose to live by and it drives every decision. This principle acts as a personal “core value”.
The biblical principle is this:
“I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
I ask myself: “Is this permissible? Yes. But is it beneficial?”
This question has saved me a lot of mistakes I would regret and a lot of heartache. It is simple. But it is profound in its simplicity. This core value is a filter for my decisions. I want the things I do, what I am engaged and invested in, to be beneficial, not just for me, but for my family, for my friends and for my community.
Not everything I can do, or want to do is beneficial.
I don’t know where you sit on topic. I don’t know what end of the spectrum you find yourself parked on. But what I do know, is that alcohol has taken the lives of far too many. Alcohol has stolen dreams, stolen lives too early, stolen relationships, broken families apart, destroyed marriages, left kids without parents, and it has offered false comfort. Alcohol has told far too many that they are not “good enough, smart enough or worthy of love, so have another drink and it will make you feel better.”
As a nation we are plagued with a virus. COVID-19 is serious, without a doubt. But the addiction rates because of COVID have skyrocketed. Isolation. Lost jobs. Depression. Boredom. Loss and grief. All of these are reasons to stand up, to ask God what he wants to do in and through you relating to alcohol or any life-controlling behaviors.
Will you accept the challenge? Will you accept the challenge to bring alcohol before God? Will you accept the challenge to even consider giving up alcohol for the next 30 days and pray that God would help us as a nation to see the chains of addiction broken? Will you press in to God on behalf of a loved one or friend who is struggling?
I know God’s got great things in store for you as you take bold steps, say bold prayers and accept bold challenges. I am here with you, I am praying for you. Now let’s break some chains!