I am blessed in knowing that sobriety has been part of my life much longer than active alcoholism and yet, my buttons still get pushed. While I myself do like to drink from time to time, nothing can incite anger and anxiety more quickly than being around a bunch of heavy drinking. Keeping my button covered isn’t always easy. My fuse is too short for my own comfort.
I still have my childhood memories of abuse, fights, rape (not me but someone else), hunger, loneliness, shame — and I have my memories of AA and Al-Anon — rooms full of broken people just like us, trying to get well. Even so. Even after 30 plus years of recovery, I do at times struggle with the emotional scars left behind.
Setting boundaries doesn’t always work. Or rather they do work, they just aren’t always well received. I choose not to participate in events where I know people are going to be drunk. For me that’s a way of protecting myself. I’m not being judgemental when I say no. Boundaries are about taking care of me, and not about you. And so I say no to things like working the beer tent at Tulsa Oktoberfest, staying late at weddings, attending Bible Studies that over flow with wine, things like that.
I don’t believe alcohol should be served in church and yet many churches host their own version of Oktoberfest and pastors brew the beer for it. Are they sinning? No. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like for once to go to a church event that does not revolve around alcohol, and wanting that doesn’t make me a prude. It just makes me, well, me. Now I will add that my own church does not participate in this. Yes, we have our annual German dinner, and No we do not serve alcohol.
One of our sweet elders escaped me unharmed this week — I owe that to God’s arm, not my own. He was promoting the annual men’s retreat and his “sales pitch” revolved around how much beer and wine there was going to be. I sadly commented that I thought the weekend was supposed to be about God. I do not fault this man entirely — he missed my warning my shot as I walked away. Why he chose to follow me into the sanctuary, I’ll never know. But follow me he did. He also tried to grab my arm. Stepping into my body space he committed suicide. I received his actions as physical aggression, and when he quoted scripture to me by saying even Paul told Timothy that “a little wine is good for the stomach.” I received his words as spiritual aggression as well. In that instant, he missed my heart and destroyed all respect for him. Our relationship will never be the same.
Another excuse I frequently hear is “Well Jesus turned water into wine.” Yes, Jesus turned water into wine, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus partied. To say that he did is to blaspheme his character.
I do agree that a little wine in private and among friends is good for you. I serve beer and wine in my home when I’m among friends, that doesn’t bother me. Yet, while having it at a church sponsored function, makes people happy, it causes me a great deal of pain.
I was reminded of a wonderful quote this week by a speaker I once heard. “There are no limitations to your being yourself except the life of the person near you. You can’t express your freedom if doing so causes others pain. Where my freedom begins, yours ends. And the reverse is true.” — John DeFoore, Abilene TX.
I can’t change people – or the churches that choose to serve alcohol at events — but I can be honest in my feelings — And in doing so, maybe I can give others something to think about. If you’re interested — let’s talk about it. Have you been effected by alcoholism? Does your church serve alcohol. How does that make you feel?