What about those who say, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic?”
Release from compulsion is a reality
Those who react negatively to this phrase usually interpret it to mean that an addicted individual is condemned to live under the constant danger of slipping into drunkenness against his own will. This, of course, would be a definite denial of God’s power to change the addict and empower him to live a victorious life. The truth is that many believers do testify of an experience where the power of the Spirit of God actually lifted the compulsive desire to use alcohol and drugs from them. We must be mindful of the fact that, once this occurs, the newly reborn addict still must contend with all the lingering consequences of this life of bondage.
The physical dimension of addiction
When an addict is delivered from the compulsion to drink, he is no longer a “drunkard” in the spiritual sense. Yet, he is still a recovering alcoholic or addict in the therapeutic sense. On a physiological level, he will always be “sensitized” to alcohol. Alcohol use can “activate” the chemical mechanisms of addiction leading to compulsive drinking and behavior. Total abstinence, therefore, is a must. This physical aspect of addiction will remain with the recovering person until he is glorified by the Lord and receives his new body. With the acknowledgment of this fact, the recovering person will be all the more diligent to abstain from drinking or casual drug use. He or she recognizes the dire consequences of even “moderate” alcohol or drug use. If the recovering addict remains abstinent, this physical consequence of addiction will not otherwise effect his life and Christian walk.
Overcoming the “fall-out” of addiction
A life of addiction results in destructive attitudes, distorted emotions, and warped patterns of thinking. These do not simply disappear when an addict experiences spiritual rebirth. Calling a person a “recovering” addict or alcoholic also implies that he or she is actively overcoming the lingering problems of an addicted lifestyle through involvement in a definite program of personal growth. Some of the deep-seated attitudes that keep an addict locked in his addiction include; pride and grandiosity, rebellion against authority, dishonesty, manipulation, blame-shifting, resentments, procrastination, etc. While these “character defects” are common problems with practically all addicts, unless they are “hit head-on” they will lead to defeat.