1.4 Guilt

Every alcoholic is really living out a life of failed attempts to quit. Alcoholism and guilt go together. Alcoholics frequently pass in and out of treatment ten times or more- but often each drunken bout is regretted and they promise themselves it won’t happen again. This builds up a deep sense of guilt and personal failure. In the conscience of most alcoholics, they realize that their behaviour is wrong. Thus the alcoholic differs not only by an inordinate sense of guilt, but also by virtue of a disease characterized by an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind. In terms of Christian alcoholics, this is especially acute. The conflict between their beliefs and their behaviour becomes unbearable, and drunkenness is an easy way out. A survey discovered that “48% of the Baptist community use alcoholic beverages. But it is interesting to note that 18% of those got into [alcoholism]. The reason is probably guilt...because they suffer more guilt when they use alcohol” (6).

The guilt makes the alcoholic feel dirty and ugly. No matter how much the alcoholic woman cakes herself with makeup, she knows the haggardness of her own face. Guilt is part of a vicious downward spiral. The alcoholic knows he or she has violated the image of God in which they have been created; whether or not they can verbalize this isn’t the point. At some level of the consciousness they know this- and all the more if they are Christians.

A Word of Warning

It is possible for close family members to be hyper critical of each other. Someone who very occasionally gets drunk can be wrongly branded an “alcoholic” by unsympathetic family, leading them into a downward spiral of guilt which makes the cruel allegation “alcoholic” come true. Indicators of real alcoholism rather than occasional failure include these:

  1. Regularly drinking alone or in secret
  2. Having regular times and places to drink and becoming upset when these are disturbed or questioned
  3. Feeling indifferent to life events that should have great meaning
  4. Keeping alcohol in several places, e.g. home, car, office, yard
  5. Drinking each drink very quickly
  6. Needing to drink so as to have a clear mind
  7. Preferring to drink rather than eat.

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