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How does the Bible Define Alcohol Addiction?

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM), states that an alcohol use disorder occurs when the recurrent use of alcohol causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. Whereas alcohol abuse disorder and alcoholism used to have two different definitions, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is now classified by using 11 criteria that describe drinking habits. A person will be diagnosed as having none, mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder, based on the criteria.

The Bible has a different definition of addiction, which involves our relationship with God. Addiction is choosing or pursuing something other than God in a habitual, patterned, or repetitive way in order to meet a particular need, despite the inadequacy of the coping mechanism and the negative consequences that occur.

Four Components of Addiction as Described in the Bible

When we look closely, we see four main ways the Bible describes addiction and alcoholism.

1: Addiction is when we recognize any god other than the true and living God of the Bible. The problem is, God tells us He should be first and foremost in our lives, hearts, and minds, but we constantly put other people, things, and activities in the top spot of our lives. The First Commandment clearly states: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3) Therefore, addiction is misplaced worship. Exodus 20:4,5 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

2: Addiction is when we treat anything like an idol, meaning we give power to it or go to it for solutions or help. It is the means some people use to try to feel connected, loved, or part of something. God tells us in the Bible not to turn to other things or people to make us happy, but to Him alone. 2nd Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image (idol)—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” (Exodus 20:4-5)

3: Addiction is when we let something become our master, ruling or having power over us, causing us to be in bondage to or enslaved by it. Our Savior, Jesus, came to free us from the bondage of sins such as addiction. “He sent me (Jesus) to preach good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)

4: Addiction is anything we worship or glorify, giving it weight or authority and pursuing it above other things. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify (worship) God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Therefore, alcoholism, as described in the Bible, goes deeper than behavior or brain chemistry. It is when we search for something other than God in order to meet our needs. By doing this, the thing we pursue is voluntarily promoted to the level of a god or idol in our life, we worship it, and eventually we become an involuntary slave to it.

The Life of Addiction is a Life Pulling Away from God

The Bible also accurately describes the addict’s situation as he or she becomes controlled by alcoholism. While an addict voluntarily begins using substances to meet a need, they soon become a slave to that substance, continuing to use it even though they don’t want to. “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Romans 7:15-25).

Alcoholism is a daily struggle between what the person knows they should or should not do and what they continue to do. Addiction causes the individual to pull away from God because they put other things above God, they look elsewhere for comfort and help, and they become a slave to that sin.

God Warns Against Addictive Behavior

God gives us clear warnings against behaviors that would hurt our body or mind, such as excess drinking and drug use. God knows these activities will destroy our body, mind, and soul, pulling us away from him and toward earthly ruin and eternal death.

God’s warnings are found in the Bible:

  • “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
  • “Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21)o
  • “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
  • “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

How Does God Help Us Avoid or Heal Alcoholism?

God helps us heal our addictions and prevent them in the first place by giving us a guide for life. It’s called the Bible, and it provides the perfect example of how we should live, act, think, and feel. When we follow God’s will for our lives, we take comfort in the fact that we are loved, we are connected to God, and we belong. When we turn away from God and try to replace Him with other things, we get caught up with poor decision making, conflict with loved ones, and turning to things like alcohol to try to feel better.

In order to heal an addiction, it is important to focus on the three spheres of one’s life: spirit, mind, and body. Trusting in God and following His guidance means we will be healthier spiritually. When the Holy Spirit is on the throne of our heart, we experience God’s power, guidance, and knowledge of forgiveness, peace, and hope. This affects us emotionally, because when we let go and allow God to rule our hearts, we experience reduced stress, less anguish, and greater peace. Finally, listening to what God tells us in the Bible increases our strength, our determination, and our overall physical health.

The best way to overcome alcoholism is through a Christian rehab program, because this type of program will incorporate God’s power, His love, and His healing for a renewed life. God wants what is best for you physically in this life and eternally with Him in heaven. If you trust God to be your strength and guidance, He will be your source of transformation.