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Alcohol as a God replacement?

Christian living | Kaley Payne

The first day of February could be a trigger for Christians to rethink their drinking habits, with thousands of Australians pressing pause on alcohol for 29 days.

James, who lives in Manly, told Eternity he was giving up alcohol in February as a ‘part physical, part spiritual thing’.

“I realised I was drinking most nights and wanted to give my body a detox. And I also wanted to make sure that this is an area of my life where I have control – it’s the whole thing about sin not being your master…”

The motives of those involved in FebFast, a fundraiser to prevent or reduce the impacts of alcohol and other drugs on young Australians, vary significantly. Some have drunk too much over the holiday season and sign up as a form of detox. Others see it as simply an opportunity to raise funds for a good cause. But for some, says Penny Wilkinson, it’s a first step to discovering an addiction.

Penny is one of the founders of Overcomers Outreach, a ministry run from St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney helping people “break the bondage of compulsive behaviour”.

A recovering alcoholic, Penny says often finding you can’t quit for a month triggers bigger questions on whether you have a problem with alcohol.

“Denial is a major factor in the disease of addiction. It’s often said that addiction is the one disease that will tell you that you don’t have it, so the cycle of pain and destruction goes on.”

Penny drank as a way to cope with her hectic schedule, with a successful finance career, her banker-husband and three children under three.

“I wasn’t coping, but alcohol would mend the mess every evening.”

“As a family, we looked like we were surviving, even succeeding. We turned up at a nice middle class church with our nice middle class family. How could anyone have known what a mess we were in?”

After being initially encouraged to go a month without drinking, and failing, Penny realised her use of alcohol was becoming a problem.

“I got up every day and said ‘I won’t do that again’, but it went on and on like groundhog day.”

Today, nine years sober, Penny works with Overcomers Outreach to provide a safe place for addicts to explore the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program.

“Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by a couple of drunks studying their Bible daily and helping others get sober. These steps are like the gospel in a drunk’s language.”

“We’ve got to smash the perception that the alcoholic is the guy in the park – it’s not just him.”

One leader of an Overcomers Outreach meeting in Rooty Hill said, “Some Christians drink as an expression of the freedom we have to do so. I’m curious as to how many use this idea as a justification to drink to excess. If they are drinking to excess, why are they doing it?

“Often alcohol is a convenient alternative to relying on God to help us with our problems.”

Ultimately, Penny says taking a break from alcohol in February – whether you fundraise or not – is a great idea. “It’s a brilliant way to become aware of your relationship with alcohol – giving up anything makes one aware of it.”

“Trying to stop is the best place to start to discover that maybe you can’t.”


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