To Catch a Buzz

I woke up with a startle. The alcohol was still on my breath, and my eyes were a bit bedazzled from being dry and dealing with my groggy head. I’d done it again – a totally controlled week of “catching a late-night buzz” that had started a week earlier after a month of sobriety. I’d had about a month of avoiding my somewhat-secret little buzz catching habit, up until a friend offered me a taste of his homemade alcoholic cider – which I obliged and drank the whole glass. That little compromise was all I needed to convince myself it would be really enjoyable to get some delicious, hops-filled IPA beer to enjoy, which lead to grabbing a “pre-gaming bottle of vodka.” and for a week, I found myself quietly drinking in my house, all to myself.

I wasn’t getting crazy, wasn’t hopping mean or violent, I was actually pretty functional. The problem is that deep down I knew that “enjoying alcohol” wasn’t God’s plan for my life, and that I had justified compromising on this vice which I knew I had no business allowing back into my life because of my track record. I knew I needed to stop, but I had justified it as “enjoying life,” and I knew the biblical and moral arguments concerning the moderate use of alcohol. The bottom line is that I don’t moderately use alcohol, I really like to get buzzed, which takes a whopping amount of alcohol for me because of my size and tolerance.

I wanted to quit, but alcohol had weaseled it’s way back into my life, and I was actually having more trouble quitting again than I would have imagined. I had gone not-a-drop for a number of years and then jumped off the wagon for only about a year and a half.  I had decided that it would be alright to just enjoy some alcohol, but that faded into my ever-so-familiar pursuit of catching a buzz; which is like chasing the rabbit down the hole for me – I’m never satisfied.  My chasing a buzz means I gulp at it, and my old demon is always there to help spur me just an inch deeper everytime I’d get on the buzz-hunt.

But that morning, as I opened my eyes from sleeping – I had an unmistakable urge & heard an inaudible voice, “Now it’s time to stop drinking”. I had heard the similar voice of my conscience, again and again over the last 17 years, but this voice was different, it was more external and not my own.

Addicts casually repent of their decisions often, usually in response to the pain of a hangover or some other regret, only to find themselves back at it when the slightest “reason” presents itself. But this call to repentance was a bit different, I was feeling the nudge of what I would describe as the Holy spirit, urging my mind & soul that it was time to quit, so I nodded my head & prayed a bit before heading into the shower.

I’ve learned to never trust in myself – because I personally don’t conquer my demons, it’s only by the grace and power of Christ that I’ve been able to break my slavery to sin. I’ve found that my old ways are always crouching at the peripheral of life, waiting to try and devour me. I guess that’s just temptation, and although my faith and trust is fully placed in Christ, satan comes around ever so often to lay an attack upon me, just like how a lion will occasionally take a go at the herd to see if there’s an opportunity. The temptation in my life is no different from what others experience, it’s either lust, addiction, pleasure or pride. I know that I’m not a slave to it, but i also know that my life retains the scars & consequence of my past sin. Life’s hard enough that none of us need the crippling damage of sin plaguing us.

Not only had alcohol laid it’s hands on the flywheel of momentum in my life, but it was openning me up to attack.  I was grappling with depression and a bit of torment, a curse of  lies that I was hearing in my mind.  I was having thoughts that I would never be able to get physically fit and live a successful sober life, and that I would just stumble my way towards an early death which would leave my daughters fatherless. Strangely, this wasn’t so much as a fear, but a lie being whispered to me whenever I was at a diminished capacity; which lead to dispair.

After my shower, I sat down at my computer to get through some emails, but I could feel my spirit surging with determination, so I looked up “how to know if you’re an alcoholic”, and I stumbled upon a very interesting set of questions on the Alcoholic Anonymous website.

Find out if you’re an alcoholic:

I read through them and found that nearly each one was a yes, which meant that I really did have a problem.

  1. Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
    Most of us in A.A. made all kinds of promises to ourselves and to our families. We could not keep them. Then we came to A.A. A.A. said: “Just try not to drink today.” (If you do not drink today, you cannot get drunk today.)
    Yes No
  2. Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking– stop telling you what to do?
    In A.A. we do not tell anyone to do anything. We just talk about our own drinking, the trouble we got into, and how we stopped. We will be glad to help you, if you want us to.
    Yes No
  3. Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?
    We tried all kinds of ways. We made our drinks weak. Or just drank beer. Or we did not drink cocktails. Or only drank on weekends. You name it, we tried it. But if we drank anything with alcohol in it, we usually got drunk eventually.
    Yes No
  4. Have you had to have an eye-opener upon awakening during the past year?
    Do you need a drink to get started, or to stop shaking? This is a pretty sure sign that you are not drinking “socially.”
    Yes No
  5. Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble?
    At one time or another, most of us have wondered why we were not like most people, who really can take it or leave it.
    Yes No
  6. Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?
    Be honest! Doctors say that if you have a problem with alcohol and keep on drinking, it will get worse — never better. Eventually, you will die, or end up in an institution for the rest of your life. The only hope is to stop drinking.
    Yes No
  7. Has your drinking caused trouble at home?
    Before we came into A.A., most of us said that it was the people or problems at home that made us drink. We could not see that our drinking just made everything worse. It never solved problems anywhere or anytime.
    Yes No
  8. Do you ever try to get “extra” drinks at a party because you do not get enough?
    Most of us used to have a “few” before we started out if we thought it was going to be that kind of party. And if drinks were not served fast enough, we would go some place else to get more.
    Yes No
  9. Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to?
    Many of us kidded ourselves into thinking that we drank because we wanted to. After we came into A.A., we found out that once we started to drink, we couldn’t stop.
    Yes No
  10. Have you missed days of work or school because of drinking?
    Many of us admit now that we “called in sick” lots of times when the truth was that we were hung-over or on a drunk.
    Yes No
  11. Do you have “blackouts”?
    A “blackout” is when we have been drinking hours or days which we cannot remember. When we came to A.A., we found out that this is a pretty sure sign of alcoholic drinking.
    Yes No
  12. Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
    Many of us started to drink because drinking made life seem better, at least for a while. By the time we got into A.A., we felt trapped. We were drinking to live and living to drink. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I was an alcoholic for sure, and I felt God’s spirit, my intellect, and my spirit compelling me with urgency that it was time to stop.

Friday, Saturday, and Church on Sunday morning came and went – then I found myself at our scheduled small group on Sunday evening.

Our small group was pretty new, having only met about 4 times. The week before I had skipped group because I was “under the weather.”

Because of the newness of the group, there had been a pretty low level of authenticity and intimacy when we’d discuss things. We had just started with our canned responses to the weekly questions, when suddenly, one of the questions ignited inside me an urge to confess and repent of my “buzz-catching habit.”

The message at Church had been on the “Wide and the Narrow Road”, teaching disciples of Christ that “broad” is the path to destruction, and “narrow” is the path of Christ.

The question was:

“Share about a time when you followed the crowd or a recent trend. What made you want to jump on board? What makes the wide road appealing to some?”

My spirit throbbed with compulsion, yet that feeling had came and went before, always replaced by my inner voice saying “it’s ok, you’re not that bad, you’ll be quitting soon anyways. Besides, you don’t need to ruin your reputation by sharing this with other people, don’t embarrass yourself.”

I know I’m not alone here. I know you’ve done it a hundred times as well. You’ll have a prompting of your conscience, and rather than take true action on it by confessing to other people, repenting to God and others, and getting true accountability for it; you’ll pass over it and chalk-up another one that you’ll “fix on your own.”

The group leader asked the question, and then the “new-group-akward pause” happened – and I couldn’t stand it anymore.

In spite of my dark side whispering to keep hiding the sin, I spoke up and started telling them that I wanted to quit drinking, that I had justified it, and that I was having trouble quitting.

The group responded remarkably. My now good friend Andrew, a man of tremendous moral character and wisdom, moved in on my sin and confronted me about it gently. He then asked if it was something I’d like them to help hold me accountable with, to which we all agreed.

What’s weird is that I had intellectually understood that repentance is amplified when you confess and repent to a group of soul-bound fellow believers, but my inner voice had caused me to “punt” on the opportunity to confess in an accountable relationship every time.

Sobriety was a breeze from that moment on, that small group supernaturally changing my life!

Four Things I’ve Learned about the Power of Biblically Functioning Community or “Small Groups.”

1 – God moves with overwhelming power when disciples practice group confession, prayer, and support.

The brother of Jesus teaches believers the importance of being in a group of fellow believers and praying for each other. James 5:16 says “Confess your sins to each other & pray for one another. For the earnest prays of a righteous person have great power and produce wonderful results.”

“Confess your sins to each other & pray for one another. For the earnest prays of a righteous person have great power and produce wonderful results.”

Jesus also said that “whenever two or more are gathered in His name, He would be there with us.” Which means God has promised that there will be a compounding affect on our lives when believers are participating in biblical functioning community.

God has promised that there will be a compounding affect on our lives when believers are participating in biblical functioning community

I’m emphatic: nothing can get you un-stuck from your sin better than a biblically functioning small group of believers. God’s power is manifest when the hearts of a group of men and women resonate with His Holy Spirit towards moving together toward holiness.

nothing can get you un-stuck from your sin better than a biblically functioning small group of believers.

2 – We owe it to each other to confront sin, hold each other accountable, and warn each other.

There are two sections in Hebrews and one in Jude that I think should compel people to get into small groups, and make it the business of each other to work in harmony to live a life which honors God in all aspects. In other words, we need to support and help each other get better at living in obedience, just like a member of an athletics team or something.

The first one is In Hebrews 10:22

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

  • Stir up one another to acts of good works and love.
  • Don’t neglect meeting together.
  • Encourage one another.
  • Because if we go on sinning deliberately, we’ll live in fear of judgement and not in the joy of Christ.
  • The law of Moses is fulfilled and a new covenant has been made now between God and man – that through Christ you can be reconciled to God; how bad would the punishment be if we cheapened and profaned the magnificent thing Jesus did for us?

The second section I really like is in Hebrews 3:13, which says

“[as believers] you must exhort each other everyday [about sin] while it’s still considered ’today’ [in the moment, right away] , so that you will not be deceived by sin and have your hearts hardened against God

  • Take action and exhort your brothers and sisters in Christ about their sin, or they’ll get deceived about it and experience a chasm between them and God.

The ESV version says it this way:

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

The third is in Jude 1:20-24

“But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

  • build up each other’s faith
  • help each other live holy lives
  • pray in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Show MERCY to people who’s faith is wavering
  • Hate sin but rescue people who are heading towards hell because of their sin & unbelief

These verses seem to imply that believers should be committed to each other to spur each other along towards maturing in our faith and growing in obedience to Christ’s promises and commands.

3 – Hiding and keeping sin in the dark amplifies the power of sin & shame

Proverbs 28:13 says

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

When we realize that we are sinning, we need to stop it, and God will show us compassion.

Look at what John said in 1 John 1:5-10

“This is the message we have heard from Jesus and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

  • If we claim we’re in fellowship with Jesus – Loving Him – and yet walk in the darkness, we’re lying to ourselves and aren’t living a true faith.
  • But if we confess our sins,He will cleanse us.
  • There is some sort of relationship between these activities and fellowship amongst brothers and sisters in Christ; implying we should be doing this within the context of authentic and caring relationships.
  • Walking in the light will seems to result in some sort of fellowship with one another – which empowers confession.

So allowing our lives to be shrouded by darkness by hiding our sin messes things up.

What’s really hard is confessing how much we lust, look at porn, yell at our spouses, cheat, lie, and hide hatred. There are so many sins that are just down-right embarrassing. But God is faithful and just to forgive us, and to CLEANSE us from this unrighteousness – which is a promise that I think will be delivered on even on this side of heaven by cleaning our life up and walking in the light. God will allow our reputation to be re-built as we show that we are worthy of trust and we walk in the light – with integrity.

But again, Paul encourages us about the importance of getting rid of the sin in our lives:

Romans 13:12-14

“The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

  • Remove dark deeds like dirty clothes
  • Put on the shining armor of right living
  • live decent lives for all to see
  • Don’t participate in the darkness
    • Wild Parties
    • Drunkenness
    • Sexual Promiscuity
    • Quarreling
    • Jealousy
    • Immoral living

That list is like a modern Pop song……

4 – We need to wage war against the enemy of temptation and sin – using the full armor of God.

It’s been turned into something really cheezy in Christian circles, but Paul illustrates the necessary virtues and tools of a fully-orbed and mature faith with armor.  We’re going to be attacked, we need to do battle, the devil prowls about like a lion ready to consume us, we will face trouble and temptation, we’re depraved at heart and on our own even our best good works are dirty rags; Paul shows us how to live and take action.

Ephesians 6:10-18

  • The helmet of salvation
  • The sword of the Spirit – the word of God
  • The breastplate of righteousness – living rightly
  • The belt of truth
  • The shoes of the gospel of peace
  • The shield of faith

The idea here is that we combat the enemies attacks of “fiery arrows” by living a life where you are:

Saved, using God’s word to combat, being confident in God’s promises, allowing truth to hold everything together, and walking peacefully as you spread the good news.

What I notice is that I definitely came under attack while diminished – which is interesting that my “breastplate of righteousness” was what was missing.  This means I was not protected from the attacks and I started to hear the whispers, curses and lies of the enemy; which caused despair.

Conclusion:

I really hope that every disciple of Jesus will WORK HARD at getting themselves surrounded by believers and living out the “one-another” verses in the Bible.  This isn’t just about having those “2 a.m. friends” that you can really rely on, but it’s about having a group of people that allow you to live out the promises God has made in his word.

There are giant sections of scripture that we ignore and disobey if we are not in a biblically functioning small group of other believers, spurring each other along towards acts of good works and love; while confessing sin to and praying for each other.

I believe being part of a Church – large or small – is an incomplete attempt to do what the scripture is saying here.  We need to have 2-5 same-sex people that will dig in to spur each other along towards fulfilling the full potential of our discipleship of Jesus.  So if you’re part of a congregation of 25, or 25,000 – I insist that you put in the somewhat annoying, time-intensive, and initially awkward work of getting in a group and creating the context where this stuff can happen.

It worked for me, and it can work for you.

Eagle Brook Church Small Group Finder Link:

Eagle Brook Church Small Groups

Bethlehem Baptist Small Group Finder:

Bethlehem Baptist Small Group Finder

Hosanna Church Small Group Finder:

Hosanna Church Small Group Finder

Eagle Brook Church Small Group Resources: RightNow Media:

Eagle brook Church has paid for a Rightnow media account for all their small groups.  This is like the netflix of the Church bible study world; and if you click the link below you can get your own account…. and it’s already paid for!

Eagle Brook Church rightnow media

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