As some of you know, I experienced a break up at the start of this summer. Or to use the terms we decided on, we’re “taking a break.” Most of you didn’t know that I was in a serious relationship. Not that I wasn’t public about it, or that I tried to keep it any kind of secret.
But for the last two weeks, I’ve been on a break from alcohol. I know, those of you whom I haven’t told are probably gasping in disbelief. Y’all thought it was true love, everlasting, til the end of time.
But, for now, I have cut things off with beer, whiskey, wine, gin, vodka, tequila, and rum.
I won’t go into details on why we decided to take a break, out of respect for the privacy of alcohol. But for now, we’re on a break, and I’m embarking on “sober summer.” What I do want to talk about is Christian freedom, cultural morality, and self-discipline.
This past school year, I tried to pull a Johnny Cash and walk the line. I should have learned from the Joaquin Phoenix movie in 2005 that never works out. But I was probably distracted by how cute Reese Witherspoon is. (Coincidentally, here is my June, helping me get sober.)
In a recent blog post, Richard Beck, writes about post-evangelical Christians and alcohol. He notes two ways that Christians who were raised in a more conservative evangelical environment are prone to treat alcohol. The first is that drinking alcohol becomes a big, emotional and reactionary F-you to the past, a sign of some unresolved pain and anger at one’s past. The second is that it becomes a sign of superiority. “When you drink you signal that you are more enlightened than those conservative Christians with bad atonement theology.”
I can relate to both of these, and I think my heavy drinking stems in part from both of these. But there is another dimension of my relationship with alcohol that is perhaps unique to me. I’m good at drinking. I can drink five drinks in a night and wake up with little to no hangover. I live within walking distance of the bar, and so I’ve never been behind the wheel after excess alcohol. I day drink and still manage to do fine academically. In fact, in what was perhaps the darkest semester with depression and alcohol, I managed to get all A’s. A feat I haven’t accomplished since high school. In fact, most people who don’t know me well, would probably have no idea the amount of alcohol I consumed. (Or maybe everyone does, and I just am woefully underequipped at gauging others’ perception of me.) But the point is that I drank because I could. I hate psychoanalysis, so I’m not going to psychoanalyze myself and try to find some deep-rooted insecurity or superiority complex to explain it, I’m just telling you what I know for sure.
I could walk that line. Sure, I slipped a few times into some not-classy behavior. (Some of those stories will come up in my reflections on a year and a half of online dating.) But for the most part, I could walk the line and survive, even thrive.
So, Michael, if you are so good at drinking, why break up?
That’s a great question. Part of it is physical health. (In the past two weeks I’ve lost 10 pounds!) The other part of it is that complex emotional-psychological thing that I’ll call spiritual health. Fasts and breaks are good things. In fact, in unsubstantiated and shallow exegesis, I would argue that Paul says that occasional breaks from sex within marriage can be a good thing.
So for now, alcohol and I are on a break. For those of you who are wondering, we’re still friends. We can be in the same room without tension or awkwardness. We’re just not going to bed together like we used to. Maybe one day we’ll get back together. Maybe it was just timing. We’ll see. But I’m doing great. I miss alcohol, but not enough to tempt me to get back together right now.
Dear alcohol, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing okay. I only want the best for you.