Does Your Family Drink Much?


Pastor Mark Jeske shares stories about alcohol and gives you tips on addiction so you understand how to interact with someone who drinks.

I come from many generations of the descendants of north-central Europeans. Beer and wine in that culture are not considered alcohol. They are considered food. My maternal grandfather, a fine pastor for more than 50 years, gave me my first glass of beer to drink with my grandmother’s pork roast when I was about 9.

The very name of our city’s major league baseball team suggests the importance of brewing in our culture. I worked my way through school in restaurants, serving as a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, and bartender at various times. Since in heaven I will be out of work, pastors and televangelists no longer being needed, I will probably end up back in restaurant work.

The Bible smiles on wine consumption. Paul recommended it to Timothy, and Jesus chose as his first miracle the transformation of water into 120 gallons of Château Margaux. But—the Bible also warns severely against drunkenness and against becoming addicted to anything that causes a loss of self-control.

Lately I’ve noticed that I have a lot of friends who have quit drinking, and I have some more who should. Is that just me? Is that a trend, or is it just that people of my age are wearing out or maybe getting wiser? If you come from a tee-totaling family or religious tradition, having non-drinking friends may not seem like news—maybe you have no friends or relatives who ever drank.

Here’s what I’m thinking these days:
  1. I don’t ever want to put temptation in front of somebody to whom I know alcohol is a danger. It is more important for me to pass on cocktail hour than to give even a nudge to a friend who shouldn’t drink. If you know you shouldn’t drink or have quit, tell your friends clearly. Peer pressure to drink can be enormous, especially on the young.
  2. AA is probably the best choice for a problem drinker. The people I know who have overcome alcohol’s power over them speak glowingly of the mentoring, insights, brutal frankness, and camaraderie of the people at their meetings.
  3. Different people are born with different tolerance for and vulnerability to alcohol. Is that fair? No. But if you ever notice that you have a hard time stopping, or if people around you start warning you, you may need to quit before you slide into addiction.
  4. Can you tell the difference between social drinking and self-medicating?
  5. Alcohol is like sex—something that can give joy and pleasure, but capable also of destroying. Alcohol can destroy cars, marriages, health, and lives. Its power needs to be respected. We need to listen to the people around us to verify our own judgment.
  6. Our Lord Jesus died and rose to forgive the sins of alcohol abuse just like all other sins. If he forgives you, you can forgive yourself. The gospel of Jesus’ love and forgiveness will do a better job of helping you climb out of depression and self-loathing better than alcohol ever will.
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