07 February 2014

Betcha Can't Eat Just One!

This is not a post about potato chips.

Tonight I read this short article:
"Philip Seymour Hoffman - A Single Drink Ultimately Led to Death"
"Philip Seymour Hoffman's recent and fatal path down the road of addiction was triggered by an innocent drink...Hoffman had been sober for 23 years...but during a wrap party in 2012, the actor succumbed to temptation...and celebrated the movie with a drink...which quickly became a couple of drinks.
"Hoffman acknowledged to confidants...the drinks opened the floodgates...Hoffman didn't begin experimenting with heroin until 2013, after he had already fully fallen off the wagon." LINK
No doubt in the 23 years Philip Seymour Hoffman lived as a sober man he was tempted many, many times. I don't know why he gave in to temptation that time, but in a split-second he made a decision that led to his death. And, it's the same for every addict. Though each hour of sobriety is a reason to be glad, their accumulated hours do not earn them immunity from temptation. They can never stop choosing to be clean. Every addict, no matter how long they have been clean, is one decision away from death.

Think about that. 

Now, think about that party. Imagine Mr. Hoffman there, celebrating with his friends, his coworkers. Imagine the relief they all felt to have finished this project, and now to be able to relax. Of course, it felt so good. Such an accomplishment! Now, imagine the person who turned to this man and offered him a drink. Maybe, it was a glass of champagne. A beer. It wouldn't matter. 

Or, maybe, no one offered him a thing. Maybe, just being there with them all, watching everyone else drink, was the only temptation he needed that day. Imagine that. I know people who would say that's all it would take for them. Just seeing someone drink. And, that one drink—nay, that first sip—is all it would take to knock them off the wagon.

And, let's be clear. An addict doesn't fall off the wagon to the ground, where he can easily get back up. He falls off the wagon, and into a pit. A deep, deep pit. With quick sand at the bottom. 

This Isn't About Potato Chips
We all know the famous slogan for Lay's Potato Chips. They warn us that we can't eat just one, because they're just so good. Most people will enjoy a serving, and be satisfied. Some might not be able to stop until they're all gone.
Yet, even if someone ate an entire bag, they most likely wouldn't then eat every pretzel, cookie, and piece of beef jerky in the house. They wouldn't rush to the store to buy ten more bags. They wouldn't empty their bank account, steal from a neighbor, or hawk grandma's diamond ring in a desperate effort to get more money for snacks. They wouldn't risk their job, their family's safety, or their freedom. 

And, that's the difference between everyone else and the addict, because  an addict can't stop. They are a car careening downhill without brakes. They are a snowball that starts at the peak of Mount Everest. They will risk everything for a fix. It's an ugly thing. And, it's a pitiful thing. As Christians, we are moved with compassion for the addict. Our hearts are touched by their sad stories. We may put action to our emotion by volunteering, or give to support the work of others. Hopefully, we'll pray, but there is something even more important we should keep in mind.

Don't Do This
There is one more thing we can do as Christians that is more important than everything else. It's more important, because it has to do with us, and our very own soul. 
"Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but woe to the man who does the tempting." Matthew 18:7
Think about that. Now, imagine the person who proffered the drink that started Philip Seymour Hoffman's snowball. That's hard news to take. Yes, Hoffman took the drink; he took that first sip. He alone made that decision. However, the Bible says, "Woe to the one who does the tempting." The Message says, "Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you, if you do."

So, let's imagine what this really means to the Christian who drinks socially. I'm not questioning your right to drink. I am just asking you to question yourself, and your choices. An addict has no business going to a bar, where he knows there will be temptation. However, what about a function with his Christian friends? The football game accompanied by a cooler of beer? The jewelry party that begins with a glass of wine?  The couples dinner that includes pitchers of margaritas? 

It's all perfectly legal. 

Yet, is it a temptation for someone?  I know we've had New Brothers fall off the wagon, because of social drinking amongst their Christian friends. The Bible doesn't say it's up to the addict to ask first. The Bible says, "Woe."


Please, Do This
If you're a Christian, will you please think about this? Will you please consider who your guests are, before serving booze? Will you please think twice, before exercising your freedom to drink? Will you reconsider sharing those pictures of yourself, and others, enjoying a drink? Will stop and ask yourself if it's really necessary, never mind compassionate, to broadcast your plan to partake of an adult beverage at the end of a long day?

It's hard for an addict out there, folks. The church family used to be a safe place for people coming out of addiction. It's not so safe anymore. And, it's not just about the drinking. Smoking for the addict is often the trigger that leads to that fall. And, I could talk quite a bit about how Christian women's attire makes it very hard for the sex addict. How many church services did I stoically sit through, while the woman in front of us left little to the imagination? 

Church, we must own our choices. They do affect our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and we are accountable. Oh, I know. People don't like to hear that, but it's true. The Bible repeatedly tells us it's not about us. It's not about our rights, and our freedom. It's about laying down our lives, and our habits, for the sake of our friend. 


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