After normal niceties our phone conversation transitioned to the soft but urgent noise of tears and moans. The caller from the east coast whispered, “I drink myself to sleep every night.” I could feel the seriousness of his tone and the strength of his agony. The only hope I could sense through the fiber optic lines was not felt but known from the evidence. The fact was he had enough hope to call. Otherwise it clearly felt like he had no confidence he might get better. His world was too dark. His addiction to alcohol too powerful. For some time every night of his life had become disgracefully ugly. He gave in to the urging of the bottle and the seduction of his shame. His life, not just his sleep was dependent on the chemicals.
He was obviously a very articulate person, his rich voice was winsome. He emoted leadership presence. He was the Senior Minister of a large congregation. He was anything but a bum in a cardboard box under the freeway but his control over alcohol was nonexistent. He was broken. He was powerless. He was finally reaching for help. There was, however, a huge obstacle.
He was a pastor. Pastors are not supposed to be alcoholics. They know better and they should do better. He knew no one would understand. He knew no one would ever knowingly follow an alcoholic pastor and he knew if he kept doing what he was doing he was going to die a drunk. To get the help he needed someone had to know his truth. If the wrong someone knew his truth he was done as a pastor. If he lost his high profile ministry job he would loose the insurance which could pay for treatment. He was caught between getting the help he needed and loosing everything. Actually it felt to him like he was caught between loosing everything and loosing everything that mattered.
Alcoholism, dependency on prescription drugs and the use of illicit drugs by otherwise wonderful pastors is not as uncommon as each person using chemicals wishes. Alcoholics want to be free. Running from doctor to doctor to obtain bogus prescriptions to abuse medication is a nerve racking exercise in futility. Meeting the wrong person, in the wrong place for the wrong reason, at the wrong time surely does not build one’s self image. The cover up, the coerced enabling of a spouse, the lies and the downward spiral of building tolerance and destroying body functions is not a pretty picture. Certainly not one you want to hang in the church vestibule.
This pastor told the truth, went to treatment, ultimately chose to tell his congregation and is delivering powerful sober sermons from a sober life. Some disappointed people rejected him and left the church. Others went to treatment to deal with their own chemical dependency. No, he did not live happily ever after but sobriety is producing a kind of calm and strength only the Lord brings. If you struggle with chemical dependency your story may be different. You may binge. You may snort. You may smoke. But, no matter how hopeless you feel, you can find a way to be free.
Some pastors believe and teach alcoholism is not a disease and is just sin. Whatever your belief, if you are controlled by it you need help. A pastor who believes it is just sin and is struggling to maintain a sobriety record for which he may be grateful cannot be comfortable allowing sin to have so much power over him. You need not solve this theological/medical issue to get the help you need. You have to reach for help. There is hope. Click here for direction regarding confidential help.
Not convinced you have a problem? If you are uncertain whether you are an alcoholic with a progressive disease or a sinner hooked by sin’s progressive enslavement please click and follow this link to a screening test which will help you understand the seriousness of your drinking. Counseling Resources has a quality alchohol screening test to help. Click here to take the test.
If the chemical dependency issue which haunts you is the abuse of prescription drugs or illicit drugs the state of your use can be objectively tested by the screening test Counseling Resources provides. Click here to take the drug screening test.
At CRN we urge you to seek the confidential help which will provide you with clearer diagnosis, quality help and the freedom for which you long. You deserve to be sober. Grace is available. We urge you to take this issue more seriously than you think necessary. It is easy to be deceived into deeper levels of pain and addiction. All you have to do is keep doing what you are doing. Stop. Make hopeful contact today. Go to the Finding Help page and begin a life you can respect and enjoy. You deserve it. You are worth it.