If you haven’t read part I of this, you can find it here and catch up on most of my story. If you have read it, then let’s continue.
Now that I am of age, I am able to legally drink. My friends and I go out to bars and have some drinks when we are hanging out. But I’m still not always the best when it comes to judging how far is too far with alcohol. I continue to pass that line every now and then. Even if I’m unsure of where the line was and whether or not I crossed it, I go to Confession just to be on the safe side.
But how do you know if you’ve crossed the line? Where does drinking become sin? Here are my aptly-named thoughts on the question.
The Muhich Drinking Test
1. Is your drinking leading you to other sin?
If yes, then the drinking is not only an excuse, but it’s an enabler of sin. Satan delights when we give ourselves excuses, but heaven rejoices when we recognize and refuse to open the door to sin.
2. Do normal things start to become hilarious?
This is John Leyendecker’s rule, and I have to agree with it. If you find ordinary things funny while drinking, you’ve probably crossed the line.
3. Do you have a hangover in the morning?
This can mean one of two things: you drank way too much, or you didn’t mix in a water while drinking. Both reasons means that you were not being as responsible as you should have been. And this irresponsibility damages your body; the body that God gave you. He gave it to you for a reason, so don’t waste it.
4. Do you do anything that pops into your head while drinking?
This may seem confusing, so let me explain. When you drink too much, you don’t think about whether or not you should do something when the idea comes into your head, you just do it. All of your inhibitions are thrown out the window. At this point, you are not yourself; you are your desires. Your desires are not always good and are not always what is best for you and your relationships. If you have no filter over what you are doing or saying, then you’ve gone too far.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably went too far and it would be in your best interest to go to Confession. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but I think that they help to define the line between Catholic drinking and sin.
What if you answer “yes” to these questions more often than you want to? How do you stop sinning while drinking? How do you stop from going over the line? Here are some tips.
I made a promise to my closest friends: if I’m ever drinking and they want me to stop drinking for whatever reason, I will immediately put my drink down unfinished.
If they ever see me starting to get out of control, I have given them the power to stop me. This promise also shows my friends how much I value our relationships. Even if I’m not out of control and they just want to not-drink with someone, I promised them that I will be there for them, because I know how hard it is to be the only sober one somewhere.
Have a friend that you can trust who knows and understands what you are trying to do when you drink. Hold each other accountable during the night and festivities. Keep tabs on one another, and let them know when they should mix in a water or put their drink down, and listen to them when they say the same for you. Hold each other up when both of you would’ve fallen by yourself. I’m always surprised to find how selfless people are when you ask them to help with something you’re struggling with. I have a great example of this.
One of my closest friends this year is a guy named Robbie. If you looked up the definition of a Catholic gentleman, his name would be it. Not only is he an absolute blast to hang out with, but you can tell from his selflessness that he is striving to be a saint. Robbie and I are a tag-team when it comes to drinking; we go out together and always keep tabs on one another. He always makes sure that I’m okay to drive when we go out and he tells me if I’m making good decisions or bad ones. I’m super grateful for him, and I hope that I can be as great of a friend to him as he is to me. Find your Robbie.
Change Your Environment
If your drinking is leading you to sin at the party scene, then get out of the party scene.
Surround yourself with people who are running after Christ and who get what Catholic drinking is. These people are at your Newman center or are at your parish. They are the people that you see at Mass every week. Surround yourself with saints-in-the-making who don’t want to sin while drinking either. There are so many alternatives to drinking with friends: video, board, and card games, watching movies or TV shows, going outside, taking a road trip somewhere, making videos or jamming out to music together. Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that all who belonged to him might be one community, one family. Answer that prayer by creating and being a part of that community, that family.
Offer It Up
Do what I did. Offer up drinking for those people that you know who are struggling with addictions.
It doesn’t have to be for a year, maybe it’s for your usual party night, or maybe it’s for a week, a month, a summer, or maybe it is for a year. If you think you don’t need to offer it up, then I challenge you to offer it up for those people who think they don’t need to, but actually do. Make it a part of your prayer. It’s not just you giving something up; it’s you glorifying God and allowing Him to change the world through you.
I know that I’m not the only one who is struggling with drinking. I know that other people desire to be in control of themselves, that other people want to be more than their desires, that other people want to be something different than the culture, that other people want to live up to the title of Catholic. If you want to be the Catholic that you know God is calling you to be – not perfect, but striving – then offer it up, buddy-up, change your environment, figure out where the line is and try your absolute best not to cross it. Go to Confession when necessary, and ask others to help you along the way.
I’m praying for you always,