Talking Honestly about Alcohol

Wise pastoral care for that common, insidious disease.

One of the earliest guides for pastors, the Book of Titus, tells a church leader to address drinking problems in the church, to instruct people "not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine" (Titus 2:3). The need hasn't changed much.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that 17.6 million people—about one in every 12 adults—abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent. It's highly likely that someone I talk with at church this week has a drinking problem. But it usually remains hidden.

I asked Julia Anne and Anne, two churchgoing members of Alcoholics Anonymous, "Is there any way to detect a member's drinking problem? If I suspect a problem, how can I bring it up? And how can I help the person?" Here is their street-smart wisdom.

How to spot a problem

Most people who have a drinking problem don't think they do. They tell themselves, "I don't drink before 5:00, I'm not in the gutter, I'm not living in my car, so what's the ...

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