Dying Under the Influence
Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
Who will mourn for the
millions of men and women and children
suffering because of the
dark plague of drunkenness
Toll the bells!
Oh, who will toll the death knell for the millions of men and women and children killed by the deadly plague that darkens our minds, darkens our hearts, and darkens our land?
Toll the bells!
Who will toll the bells for the dark plague that kills the body and the soul; and causes crime, insanity, disease, divorce, and death?
Toll the bells!
Oh, who will sing a lamentation for the loved ones lost to the dark plague of drunkenness that causes so much suffering and evil in America?
Toll the bells!
Who will mourn for the millions of men and women and children suffering because of the dark plague of drunkenness oppressing America?
Toll the bells!
Have you ever seen someone tormented by the craving to drink? It is a horrifying sight. Years ago, my husband Tom promised me he would give up drinking. It wasn’t that easy. Neither of us realized he was enslaved to alcohol – a drunkard; in polite terms, an alcoholic. Alcohol is a cruel, relentless master that oppresses its slaves with the strong, continuous urge to drink.
One Sunday afternoon after church while I was cooking dinner, Tom was in the bedroom pacing back and forth like a caged tiger. Of course, I was greatly distressed at his bizarre behavior and asked him what was wrong. With a wild look in his eyes, he answered frantically, “Nothing.” Unfortunately, we didn't realize at the time that he was suffering from withdrawal or delirium because of a mad thirst for alcohol. The sight of Tom as a madman craving a drink still horrifies me. It is forever seared in my mind. It is forever seared in my heart.
Shortly after Tom deserted me, he told me the following testimony of how God reached out to help him, but he refused His divine mercy: “One Sunday morning in church, during the altar call, God spoke to me and said, ‘Tom, if you will go to the altar this morning, I will deliver you from all your problems.’ But, I didn’t want delivered so I didn’t go.”
Imagine that! Christ the Deliverer was reaching out to deliver him from all his sinful habits, and he coldly refused liberty.
Or, picture it this way: For years, a miserable and tormented young man is locked in a dark, foul prison surrounded by the sordid stench of booze and pornography; and other filthy habits. One day, Christ comes and knocks at the prison door. The Deliverer offers to cleanse and heal his soul. He mercifully offers to set the prisoner free to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air. Does the wretched prisoner wholeheartedly accept the offer of deliverance with a heartfelt sigh of relief? No. He scornfully tells the Deliverer, “Go away.” He refuses to open his heart; he desires to remain imprisoned with his squalor.
Christ wants to set souls free! “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1, 2). If you're a drunkard, with all your heart cry out to God to deliver you. Cry out, "Lord, have mercy on me and cleanse and heal my soul!" Don't wait another minute. God wants to help you right now. If you're enslaved to alcohol, He wants to set you free!
Don't be like Tom who chose to remain a prisoner. Sadly, alcohol destroyed Tom physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Eventually, God gave him over to a reprobate mind. Tom deserted and divorced me because he wanted the freedom to get drunk. I took back my maiden name and try to forget the deep pain and sorrow, but I’ve never gotten over it. In fact, I seldom talk about it because it is still too painful. Only my close friends know I’m divorced. It’s been almost twenty years, and I don’t dwell on it; but I often have agonizing nightmares about it. A face, a name, a date, or a place triggers the painful memories. No, I’ve never gotten over it. I’ve only gotten through it.
Tom caused me to suffer devastating humiliation, ridicule, and disgrace in society because of the stigma of being a Christian deserted and divorced by her husband. The myth still prevails that the deserted party must have caused the divorce. People view you with suspicion and in their minds condemn you as the guilty party. They wonder what terrible and unforgivable acts you committed against your husband to cause him to divorce you. Of all the painful and traumatic experiences I’ve had, and I’ve had plenty, my divorce has been the most heartbreaking.
Of course, I’m not alone. Drunkenness is a dark, oppressive plague that rages across our land. In America, there are millions of men and women who are drunkards. Sadly, they inflict deep pain and suffering on their families and destroy their family life. And, it doesn’t just affect their immediate family. For example, Tom’s drunkenness affected me, so it affected my mother, father, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews. We all suffered from his drunkenness.
When I worked as an assistant state attorney in the domestic violence division, just about every case was directly or indirectly caused by alcohol. Sometimes both parties were drunk. However, a large percentage of the victims were women or children who were hit or beat by their drunken father, husband or boyfriend. Victims told me that the defendant is generally a good person when he or she isn’t drinking. Countless victims pleaded with me to put the defendant in a rehabilitation program. They believed if the defendant were forced to attend this program, he would see the light and reform. I used to believe this, too, until a judge changed my mind. On the day of my divorce, the judge asked me if I had anything to say.
I’ve recounted that painful scene countless times to people with family and friends who believe that if the drunkard enters a program, he’ll be permanently transformed. But the truth is that the drunkard must have a change of heart to change his behavior.
To look at my ex-husband you would never suspect he is a drunkard. He is polite, shy, and intelligent. He is also a very religious man. Notice I say religious. He isn’t a Christian, because no matter how religious he is, his drunkenness keeps him from being a Christian. You can’t be a Christian drunkard any more than you can be a Christian murderer. He goes to church religiously every Sunday morning and evening, and often on Wednesday evenings. He pays large tithes to the church. He refuses to buy anything on Sunday, not even bread or gas. Yet he gets drunk on Sunday. Bizarre? That’s what alcohol can do to a man.
Alcohol has devastating effects on the entire body. It affects the mind, body and soul. Immediate effects of drinking are slurred speech, a light head, loss of balance, blurred vision, poor judgment, babbling with unrestraint, hostility, loud talking and laughing, rowdiness, and loss of self-control. Health problems caused by long-term drinking include damage to the brain, stomach, intestines, liver, and heart. Do we really think this is pleasing to God? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (I Corinthians 3:16, 17).
Besides the physical damage to our heart, alcohol deadens our soul. Drunkenness degrades us. It turns us into brutes.
Drunkards are heartless and cruel.
Drunkards ignore the pleas and weeping of the heartbroken who suffer from their cruelty.
There is no pity in the drunkard's heart.
Let’s face it, drinking causes nationwide devastation: crime, insanity, disease, divorce, cruelty, injury, and death. Broken hearts and broken homes. The personal, social, and economic costs of the dark plague of drunkenness are incalculable.
So, why do we drink? What is the fascination and allurement of alcoholic intoxication? My husband said he liked the temporary exhilaration. More important, he said all past failures, fears, and regrets of past sins disappeared. In other words, he drank to drown his sorrows. Unfortunately, he was also drowning his soul.
A friend in law school said he drank because he felt shy around women. Alcohol helped to loosen him up. He also confessed that when he was drunk he committed lewd acts with women that he never would’ve done sober. And he felt guilty, in fact, so guilty that he would get drunk again to forget these wicked acts. Undeniably, drinking is an endless cycle of torment.
Many commit the moral crimes of lustful passion such as fornication and adultery while under the influence. How many illegitimate and unwanted children are conceived while one or both persons are under the influence?
Yet some professing Christians serve alcohol to guests in their homes. “It’s expected in our social circle,” they argue. Christians often give as an example Jesus turning water into wine at the marriage feast. However, that was for a very special occasion.
More important, we have to remember that in Jesus’ day there were no saloons or bars with brilliant lights and entertainment luring the lonely, depressed, weary, or weak to buy drink after drink after drink. There was no happy hour in Biblical times! And there were no magazine or television advertisements enticing us to believe that if we drink we will be more attractive and have more fun. Above all, there weren’t thousands of men, women and children killed each year by drunk drivers.
Maybe you can control your drinking, but what about your family and friends? Are you a stumblingblock to weaker men and women? What a sobering thought that our drinking might lead to the spiritual ruin of others! In fact, a friend in law school often pointed to Christians who had a social drink to justify his drunkenness. Now, it's useless trying to explain to a drunkard that taking one drink and getting drunk are not the same. Remember, he is desperately grasping for anything to support his excuse for drinking. However, because of this foolish argument, one young Christian gave up alcohol after learning his social drink was used as an excuse for weaker persons. He refused to be a stumblingblock to his weaker brethren.
As you recall, in the early church at Corinth, some Christians were divided about whether it was permissible to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Paul instructed the Corinthians to regard the feelings of others and consider the weak. “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (I Corinthians 8:9). “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ” (I Co. 8:12). Paul resolved, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (I Co. 8:13). In other words, if my action causes you to stumble, I won’t do it anymore! This is the self-denying spirit of the gospel!
Some pity the drunkard and say it’s not his fault; he has a disease. Yes, it’s a disease – a spiritual disease. It’s a spiritual disease that plagues America. Drunkenness darkens our hearts.
Drunkards are hardhearted to the cruelty and pain and suffering they inflict on others.
Drunkards are hardhearted to endangering our lives and the lives of our loved ones when they recklessly get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Drunkards are hardhearted to the heartache and heartbreak they cause their family, friends, community, and nation.
Well, maybe they’re predisposed to it. Maybe they’re not. However, we’re all born with a predisposition or weakness to acts such as anger, gluttony, drinking, and so forth. If we can’t control it, if we ask, God will reach out and give us the strength we need. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).
In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul testifies to the saving power of God to deliver us from our evil desires and acts, including drunkenness:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
I Corinthians 6: 9-11
Sadly, many professing Christians deny the power of God to deliver the drunkard. But there are men and women who boldly testify to His saving power. President Bush openly proclaims that God delivered him from a drinking problem when he was a young man. “Christ . . . changed my heart,” Mr. Bush said during a 1999 presidential debate.
Yes, I pity the drunkard and reach out to every drowning soul that God sends my way. And there are many. But I reserve my deepest sympathy for the heartbroken victims devastated by the drunkard’s despicable and selfish deeds.
The heartless drunkard will gratify his lust for drink even at the high cost of losing his wife, children, morals, and character.
The heartless drunkard will gratify his lust for drink even at the high cost of killing others while driving under the influence.
The drunkard doesn’t care about me.
The drunkard doesn’t care about you.
It's the harsh truth: The drunkard doesn't care about us.
A drunkard is drowning in a sea of alcohol. Loved ones venture out to save him and instead of cooperating with them, he is often cold-hearted, blind, and deaf to the cries of the agonizing wife and pleading family and friends as they struggle to help him. Unfortunately, he tries to pull them under, too.
After my husband deserted me, I began to earnestly study the Bible. For seven long years, I wrote letters encouraging my husband to repent and reconcile. However, Tom refused to answer my letters. He refused to talk with me on the telephone. And at no time did he ever apologize for his actions.
One day, I went to Tom's house to talk with him, but he refused to answer the door. So, I left and never looked back. I finally heeded Paul’s advice in I Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” I left my husband alone.
I should’ve taken Paul’s advice years earlier, but Christians kept telling me if I prayed enough, had faith enough, was godly enough, and so forth, my husband would return home like the prodigal son. But, this isn’t Scriptural. Unfortunately, I listened to them and not the apostle Paul. Finally, I decided I had to save myself. You see, Tom's drunkenness would've destroyed me, too. Then it would have destroyed two lives instead of just one. Don’t let the drunkard’s selfishness and cruelty destroy you. Do all you can for him and then let him alone.
Sadly, the plague of drunkenness sweeping across America leaves behind a dark path of destruction.
Who will toll the bells for the dead bodies and dead souls caused by the dark plague of drunkenness?
Oh, who will hang black ribbons to mourn for the millions of men and women and children suffering from the dark plague of drunkenness oppressing America?
Who will hold a candlelight vigil to enlighten our hearts to the dark oppression of drunkenness that shrouds our land?
Toll the bells! Toll the bells!