Monday, June 3, 2013

Once an Alcoholic, Always an Alcoholic

If you know anything about the group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) you probably know their famous slogan, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.”

People will stand up in their groups and introduce themselves: My name is _________, and I am an alcoholic. Some of the ones making that introduction have gone years without so much as a sip of beer, and yet they still refer to themselves as alcoholics.

While I do not want to be overly critical of a group that is committed to helping people overcome serious addictions, I do want to scrutinize their label of “alcoholic.”

My issue with that term is that it labels people in the present with a sometimes past diagnosis. Cancer survivors don’t say they have cancer, they say they beat cancer. In the same way, why continue to give credit to alcohol when you have beaten it’s seductive powers?

What do you expect an alcoholic to do? The answer is obvious: drink alcohol.

But what do you expect a former alcoholic to do? Abstain from alcohol.

So why call yourself an alcoholic when you are sober? I preached on this topic several years ago, and a man approached me later and told me I was wrong. He said he would always be an alcoholic, even though he had been sober for six months. I asked him why he would give credit to the devil instead of Jesus; through the power of God he broke the chains of bondage, but he still referred to himself by what he used to do. Today that man has returned to his old ways of daily drunkenness, and I always wonder if the fact that he refused to stop calling himself an alcoholic contributed to him actually becoming one.

The “always an alcoholic” line stands in direct contradiction to the Bible. Notice how Paul addressed those former alcoholics in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Paul addressed people who had formerly been drunkards. He did not say they would always be alcoholics because they had been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!

If you have been delivered from the sin of alcoholism, or any other sin, then don’t continue to label yourself by your past sin. That gives Satan the bragging rights in your life. Instead, stand up and proudly testify about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He was able to do in your life.

Your story of deliverance can serve as a catalyst to encourage someone else to turn to God for help. But if you keep calling yourself an alcoholic, or any other type of sinner, than you are not offering hope and deliverance to those still in chains of sin.

Are you a former alcoholic? Then join Paul in “forgetting those things which are behind and pressing on towards what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).”


William Phillips said...
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William Phillips said...

You are arguing against a time tested, honored and very successful program. Members know they are just one drink away from alcohol destruction. Alcoholism is not a sin. It is a disease.

Rev. Dr. Wm. H. Phillips

Tommy Mann said...

Rev. Dr. Phillips, you are arguing against the Bible, which is a time tested, honored, very successful book. Unfortunately, many people today depart from the Word to embrace the word of man.

Bible-centered programs like Celebrate Recovery reject the "always an alcoholic" line and use only Scripture to help people beat their sin.

Yes, it is a sin. The Bible does not command us to repent of diseases; it says no drunkards will inherit the kingdom of God.

All humans are one sin away from spiraling out of control. But believers are no longer sinners, but saints.

Thank you for your comment. And as I said in the post, I am not trying to be overly critical because I acknowledge how much good has come from AA. But my point is that when psychology contradicts the Bible, as for me and my house, we will stick to the Bible.