Author: Matt McMillen
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” Psalm 54:4
I’ve titled this devotional Diary of a Former Closet Drinker but let’s be clear about something. I, my identity, was never “closet drinker.” Instead, that’s what I struggled with. I only have so much space in the box to enter a title, so that’s what I went with. But I am not what I do–good, bad, or indifferent. I’m an unchangeable, complete saint. God did this not me. He recreated my spirit like Jesus’ the millisecond of my salvation. You, dear Christian, are a saint too. There aren’t different levels of sainthood. We are all the same; equal in identity.
For those of us who’ve chosen to no longer act on what we were addicted to–for me, namely binge drinking–we count the days of sobriety at first. No, scratch that. We count the hours.
My addiction always flared up the worst after work each day and on Friday evenings. Even though I battled passing up the liquor store on my way home, I never woke up in the middle of the night reaching out for a whiskey bottle in an attempt to stop shaking. This was one of my best excuses.
“Ain’t nobody stopping me from having an ice-cold beer and a few shots! I’m not like those bad alcoholics! I know how to control it! Don’t compare me to them!”
Belittling and deflecting was my specialty when it came to discussing my severe drinking problem. I would even become defensive when other people’s alcohol addiction was being discussed, and I wasn’t even the topic.
“Oh yeah, they’re real bad. For me, I just buy what I’m going to drink and be done. I can’t be getting drunk all the time.”
Ha! Yeah right. I could sneak-drink with the best of them; closet drinking is what some call it. When all the normal drinkers were just getting started, I had already smashed two tall-boys and three shots. Pre-gaming it, privately. If my wife and I were getting ready to go somewhere, I’d sneak-drink half a bottle of her wine in a plastic cup–unbeknownst to her–or so I thought. Jennifer knew. She wasn’t stupid. She would be hurt and frustrated, but I could manipulate her with sweet words or self-pity. Because she’s so kind and sensitive, I took advantage of that.
When I really got on a roll of “too many days of hangovers,” to prove I wasn’t that bad of a drinker I’d take a day or two off and not touch anything. To prove I’m really no lush I’d even go a week! No matter though. I wasn’t fooling myself, even when lying to myself. I knew as soon as I got back to “enjoying” beers and shots, my off-button would still be broken.
I tried this charade a thousand times. Honestly, if I do the math, more than that.
I also used humor to take the focus off my inability to give it up. Eventually anger toward myself and depression darkened my days. I wanted it though. I wanted to give it up. No amount of codependent enabling from our loved ones will ever make us stop. We have to come to the point of realizing those who coddle us are wrong too. They may very well be addicted to us being addicted, and just don’t know it.
After nearly six years in recovery, I know what I’ve truly recovered from:
Not being comfortable in my own skin.
Now I am, and I have been for quite some time.
There’s a release we get in our mind and body when the buzz begins. It’s an exhale, not from our lungs, but from our thoughts, “Aaaaahhhh…there it is…”
We feel it. We let our eyes close and whisper to ourselves, “I wish I could feel this 24/7.”
Miller Lite and American Honey was what I mainly used, but I’ll take whatever craft beer you have and some Patron–or Jameson, or both. Whatever. Just give it to me. I’ll drink your wine too when I’m out of beer, or when I’m trying to appear cultured.
Mixed drinks? I mostly stayed away from those because I don’t know how to sip anything and I’ll get absolutely trashed–quickly. Be that as it may, I’ll have those too if need be.
The person who struggles with heroin chooses to use a small amount of liquid opioid and a needle. I had a frosty bottle and a small shot-glass. Our actions were no different only our vices. Although you won’t see any billboards or TV commercials to shoot up heroin, alcohol destroys lives just the same, but it’s sexy and legal.
Don’t get me wrong, alcohol isn’t bad. It can’t drink itself or force itself into stomachs. And not everyone has a sinful tendency to get obliterated like me. Many can enjoy it, have a few, and be done. Jesus is a great example. I could never seem to pull this off with any true consistency. I tried for many years. Attempting to control and enjoy my drinking became an obsession. Never could I combine those two words:
Control. Enjoy. Enjoy. Control.
It was like trying to push the polar sides of magnets together. Nope.
“You people are weak!” a self-righteous individual might say. “You should be able to stop anytime you want!”
As they watch their porn, cheat on their spouse emotionally, overeat, smoke, and/or strive to follow the Law of Moses, they are blind to their own addictions. It took me years to understand these hypocritical facts.
God has taught me anyone can choose to act on anything to give them a temporary release–a feeling of peace. What most of us don’t understand is that the Holy Spirit has the market cornered on this release–on this peaceful feeling. No, He’s not altering our feelings or giving us a buzz at our request. Rather, He generously supplies a tranquil foundation to recenter our feelings onto:
He encourages all feelings whereas alcohol abuse doesn’t. Feelings are not sin. Acting on certain feelings can be, but the feeling in itself is neutral and we must know this. Drinking heavily numbs what we need to feel; it dulls that which is essential to expressing ourselves in healthy ways with fake feelings. Alcohol in excess hands us a faux euphoria we’ll have to chase again, and again, and again…
It’s nearly demonic. I’ll not go as far as saying we’re being tyrannically accused each and every episode of binge drinking, but I know the demons I screamed at during my darkest hours of late-night drunkenness. I remember the nightmares and the night terrors. Sobriety has ended this completely.
The Spirit doesn’t want us to mask our emotions caused by trauma, stress, pressure, fear, failure, and anxiety. He encourages us to feel whatever we feel, to not feel bad about feeling, and then to look to Him for truth and peace about whatever we feel.
So today, my friends, know this: Feel, friend. Feel. Feel. Feel. Never stop feeling. You are loved.
A prayer for you: Dad, good morning. It’s a cold, wet, dark April day, here in the Show-Me State. The sun isn’t out and we’re all dealing with this stupid corona thing. Negativity, fear, and controversy swirl in the atmosphere of humanity. But that doesn’t matter to me. I know that even when the day is drab, you are my bright warm light on the inside. I know when Satan stirs up division, I’m still one with you. I’m safe and secure. I never need to overreact, but just be still and listen to you. I will fear NONE of this. I will keep my focus on YOU and who you’ve made ME to be. You are my confidence, you never change, and you’re in me. Live through me today and every day. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I know that many who were enjoying sobriety before COVID-19 happened, have relapsed. Let your children know you’re still with them and you’ve never left. Remind them, you know how they feel and that you’ll comfort them. Many of these dear readers who are in recovery are close to drinking again. Strengthen them, Father, please. Encourage them to feel whatever they feel and to free-fall into your grace for sufficiency. I love you. I’m grateful for you. Keep my family and friends safe today. Amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Check out my other bestselling books here!