Allow me to tell you a story.
I didn’t drink in high school. Ok, I take that back. When I was in tenth grade, I had four strawberry wine coolers one night at the lake. I was trying to impress a girl (and if you’re wondering, I’m not currently married to her).
This exultant, elixir-filled evening led to the famous “I smell whiskey” incident later that night, when Big Al (my dad) smelled alcohol on my breath. After a stiff “Com’ere boy!” he started sniffing around my face like a quail-tracking setter. The big guy scared me enough that night that I didn’t want to swallow another drop of Seagram’s ever again. I became the dork at the party who always passed on the beer, standing over to the side in my Ruff Hewn knit, stonewashed Levi’s, and suede bucks.
I somehow made it through high school and two years of college without any spirits adulterating my bloodstream. But my junior year, I transferred to an out-of-state school and came out from under the auspices of the parentals. Liberated, I soon joined a fraternity and made it through an entire semester of pledgeship while clutching tightly, proudly to my sobriety. I swore I wouldn’t break.
Any fraternity man on the planet will tell you about a precious experience called “Hell Week”, and for 37 eager Men of the Pin, Hell Week lasted a terrible eleven days. We didn’t shower and were crammed into this little room like sardines. We stunk like the dickens. We ate saltines and pork n’ beans and Spam. Nary a female crossed in front of my line of sight. It was awful.
The night we were initiated, and after they had stripped us of all dignity and pride, a fete was thrown at the fraternity house. And for the first time since the night that Kenny Chesney writes about in his songs, “Strawberry wine and two Dixie cups” (or whatever), I partook in alcohol. Now, many are you are familiar with the specialty fraternity drink known as “Hunch Punch.” Well, that’s what I had that night. Two cups, and I was toast. “What’s this feeling? I feel euphoric!”
I was thinking, “Dude, this ROCKS!”
Beer was good. Hunch punch was good. Cranberry vodka? Of course I’ll try that. Screwdriver? Sure. (This Tropicana O.J. sure is potent—doesn’t taste anything like I had at Maw Maw’s house!)
(Trying the new drinks was really fun.)
I drank for three years in college. I had hangovers, of course. Threw up a few times. Barfed in a bank parking lot. In an Arby’s parking lot. No big deal.
Then I went to law school, and the party continued. I figured, “Hey! Nothing’s stopping me from going out on a Tuesday night.” So I did. Buckets of beer. Whiskey drinks. Longnecks. Pounding ‘em. Stay out til 2. Sleep in. Miss class. Repeat.
I was drunk at least twice a week, usually 3 or 4. Back then, if you didn’t have any money in your account, you could write checks on the weekend, knowing they wouldn’t cash it until Monday. Yes, a few bars even took checks. I stealthily used my gas card to load up on Budweiser and sundries (Dad: “Why the hell is the gas card $300 this month? This was back when gas was like 89 cents a gallon and I drove four miles a week). It’s just what paupers did to get by.
When I entered the working world at age 25, I continued the booze-fest. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The Weekly Whiskey Triumvirate. Happy hours. Penny beer. Jello shots. Kegs. Beer pong. You name it, I did it.
As time went on, the hangovers got worse and the blackouts came more frequently. There were many occasions when I had no clue what happened after a certain point in the evening. What I said. What I did. The next morning, I was like a gumshoe, trying to piece together facts, dialing a variety of numbers to get the scoop. “Was I acting crazy last night? Did I do anything stupid?” were recurrent inquiries.
I’m talkin’ ham-mered, folks. Speaking in Ye Olde English after about fifteen whiskey drinks. Canterbury Tales-type stuff. Beowulf and such.
The hangovers were horrible. Pack of Goody’s and a Gatorade for breakfast. On one occasion, I slept 20 hours the next day, getting up only for the essentials of life: food and water and to use the bathroom. That day isn’t going down as one of the best days in The Annals of Al Blanton, whenever that’s written.
I say all of this to say that I reached a breaking point. The following quote has come to mind recently:
“You don’t have to hit rock bottom to change, but if you don’t change, you’re going to hit rock bottom.”
Look, if I didn’t hit rock bottom, I sure came awfully close. Here’s how it all happened:
It was just a typical night. I went to an event and had a couple of glasses of wine. That led to another bar and a few whiskey drinks. Which led to another bar and a few more. After that, I don’t remember a thing. I woke up the next morning violently, and thankfully in my bed. I loped over to the front door and pulled back the window curtains. My car was parked awkwardly on the curb. I had no recollection of driving.
That morning, something in me snapped. It was like a switch. A moment of sublime clarity. A revolution. I knew I needed to change. I knew I couldn’t handle alcohol. And I knew it had to stop or something terrible was going to happen.
I called a friend and asked if I could come stay with him. I needed to talk to someone. He agreed.
I told him everything. We sat in his living room and prayed aloud. This is what I prayed:
“Lord, I’m tired of being a drunk. I know that this is not your plan for my life. And I need your help. I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to stop doing this. Is it going to take me killing myself in the car, or killing someone else? What’s it going to take? So I pray that I would not have another drop. I pray that I will never take another drink as long as I live. I can’t handle this. And I pray for your strength. I know that there is going to come a time—six days, six months, six years from now, and I’m going to have a weak moment. And I know that I’m going to need your strength. I can’t do this by myself. It’s just not possible. So I’m leaning on you and I’m trusting you to help me. I’m trusting you to be my God.”
I have not taken a sip of alcohol since that night. It’s been two-and-a-half years. Total sobriety. Ginger ale, hold the vodka. And the crazy thing, the crazy thing is that I haven’t even been tempted. I do not say this to brag about how strong I am. I say this to brag about how strong my God is.
And honestly, I don’t miss it. Sure, if I ever go to Wine Country, I’ll just have to enjoy the pretty Northern California scenery. The only bubbly I’ll have on New Year’s Eve will be a Perrier. The only Long Island Tea I’ll be having will actually be sweet tea on Long Island, if I ever get to go there. But that’s ok. So what? I have a good life. And I have a lot more fun now that I’m not speaking in Sputnik.
So what does this have to do with New Year’s Resolutions, Al?
I was just about to get to that.
New Year’s Resolutions are all about what I’m going to do. I’m going to lose 20 pounds. I’m going to quit smoking. I’m going to get more organized. I’m going to commit to healthy eating. I’m going to get back in the gym. I-I-I.
And then it’s January 6 and you’ve already forgotten about it. You’ve already smoked 14 packs of Winstons, gained three pounds, and your closet still looks like it was organized by Buffalo Bill.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that The World is celebrating human strength. Gut it out. Strain. You can do it! Just Do It.
I agree, you can do it. I believe in the human spirit. I believe that humans have the capacity to do great and amazing things. But there is an essential component that you mustn’t leave out:
Yes, I believe in the human spirit, but I believe that much more can be accomplished with the Holy Spirit.
With God all things are possible. Not some things. All things.
Our human feats are nothing compared to what He wants to do in and with our life.
With God, addictions can be shattered. Strongholds crumbled. If you trust in God to help you, He will revolutionize your life. He will give you strength when our resolve is weak.
Why are our New Year’s Resolutions not working?
Because honestly, when it comes to endurance, we are frail creatures. We just don’t have the strength to sustain the constant loops around the track. We have to find it in the supernatural, and we need to hand off the baton and let God run with it. Consider: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
We don’t need New Year’s Resolutions. We need a New Year’s Revolution.
We don’t need to boast about what we’re going to do. We need to boast about what God is going to do at our broken places.
We need to trust Him to be our God. 78
P.S. from Al:
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