Commentary: Too young, too smart, too rich to be an alcoholic

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“Three reasons often given for why Christians with a drinking problem can’t be addicts.” It’s like an answer on a popular game show.

What is, “Too young?”

“I’m only (fill in the blank) years old. How can I possibly be an alcoholic? I’m too young.”

“Yes, my mother and father drink too much and probably are alcoholics, but they are in their mid-70s.”

“Not me. I’m much too young to be an alcoholic.”

The undeniable truth is alcoholism affects Christian men and women of all ages.

What is, “Too smart?”

“I have an MBA from a very good school and have received excellent grades throughout my entire academic career.”

“Only high school and college dropouts can be alcoholics. Not me. I’m much too smart to be an alcoholic. Besides, I have a great work history and promising career.”

The undeniable truth is intelligence is no more a factor for who may be an alcoholic than the day of the week on which they were born.

What is, “Too rich?”

“I don’t live outdoors and didn’t spend last night under a bridge.”

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“I have an excellent paying job, a home in a nice neighborhood and a BMW in my garage. No, I’m definitely too well-off financially to be an alcoholic.”

The undeniable truth is money and an individual’s wealth play no role in who may or may not be an alcoholic.

Lawrence “Laurie” Traynor

My reasons

My personal and professional experience in the rehab, recovery and treatment world strongly suggests one, a combination of or all three reasons can explain why Christians believe they cannot have a drinking problem. In my own case, it was all three.

I was 38 years old, a college graduate and a successful small business owner who attended church each Sunday. How could I possibly be an alcoholic? Besides, I had a lot of friends and relatives who spilled more than I drank.

I always believed alcoholics were dirty, lived outdoors and drank cheap wine from screw top bottles.

I used to say, “I only had a problem when there was nothing to drink.”

My habits

The craving started most weekdays between 2 and 3 p.m. At that time each day, I started romancing the idea of having a few cold “tall boys” on the drive home.

Winter or summer, hot or cold, it made no difference. It became a ritual, stopping each afternoon at the local convenience store, or “packy” as we say in New England, and purchasing what I considered my just reward for completing yet another day at work.

I had become like Norm on the TV show “Cheers.” How else was I supposed to make my way home through the late afternoon Boston traffic? Besides, I worked hard each day and deserved a few beers on my way home, didn’t I?

Arriving at home each day, before taking my winter coat or suit jacket off, I routinely reached into the fridge for another of my trusted friends.

Oftentimes, I had several additional ice-cold beers in arm’s reach while taking a hot bath or sitting in a bubbling jacuzzi.

Just one or two more before supper, and I’d have captured once again that elusive beer buzz I so craved at the end of each day.

My direction

I thought I could stop drinking any time if it became necessary. The simple truth: I was living a lie and had a secret I could not share with anyone. I knew deep down inside I was not able to stop or control my drinking.

I began to worry it was just a matter of time before I hit what I heard called a “bottom” and lost everything. I discovered there are two “bottoms” an alcoholic will experience: high bottoms and low bottoms.

Examples of an alcohol addict’s low bottom include DUIs, divorce, bankruptcy, job loss, hospitalization, house arrest or jail.

But again, how could I be an alcoholic? I was only 38 years old, a Christian, a college graduate and owner of a sailboat and a BMW.

My turn

It wasn’t until a Sunday afternoon after church in 1992, when my wife gave the ultimatum—a choice between continuing to drink or losing my marriage and children. I finally surrendered and sought relief. I was desperate and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I took another Christian’s advice and attended 12-step meetings, which allowed me to come to grips with the fact I was powerless over my alcohol consumption and the loss of my life, health and family truly were at risk. I attended 90 meetings in 90 days. In hindsight, this saved my life.

The gratitude I have today stems from the fact I didn’t have to lose everything—like so many others had—before I succumbed, surrendered and acknowledged my alcoholic disease.

Today, with 28 years of continuous sobriety, I chuckle to myself and often cannot help but laugh out loud when I hear another Christian say he or she is too young, too smart or too rich to be an alcoholic. Now, I know better.

Lawrence (Laurie) Traynor lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. He is a retired executive, volunteers his time helping Christian addicts and alcoholics, their loved ones and families locate public and private drug and alcohol assistance resources. He can be reached by phone at (904) 553-1600 or email at The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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