The Danger of Alcohol
words by: Ret. Sgt. David Swanson
Ashley was a beautiful high school senior. It was a few days before graduation, and Ashley’s grandparents had just arrived from Boston to be with her on graduation day. Ashley was an honor student and was looking forward to a bright future: she had just been accepted to the University of Michigan’s Nursing School. With her love for helping other people, Ashley was going to become a nurse.
That evening, Ashley went out for coffee with two of her classmates, Michael and Andrew. They were graduating with Ashley in a few days, as well.
The three students had a good time at the coffee shop, reminiscing about their senior year and chatting about their summer plans. When they were finished with their coffee, they quickly ran out to Michael’s car so as not to get wet from the rain. It was a drizzly ride back to Ashley’s house, and Michael was trying to drive with extra care. At the light only a few miles from Ashley’s house, Michael slowed down and stopped when it turned red. The light changed from red to green, and he pulled out into the intersection.
The three teenagers had no idea what hit them. A drunk driver ran the red light at the intersection and t-boned Michael’s car.
The intoxicated driver was a wife and mother of an eleven-year-old child. Her softball game that afternoon had been rained out. Instead of going home to her family, she went to a bar. She ran the red light at 86 miles an hour, so drunk that she didn’t even consider touching her brakes.
It looked like a bomb went off in the center of the street. Everyone in this car crash was killed. I was the police officer who went to Ashley’s home to deliver the horrible news to her family: her parents, grandparents, and brother Adam.
On the morning of Ashley’s funeral, her parents found a diary in her bedroom. The diary was Ashley’s secret book. Sitting on her bed, Mother and Father opened the book and began to read Ashley’s own words:
“Dear God, I wanted to write and say I just heard the best poem about a girl who didn’t drink but got killed by a drunk driver. The poem is sad but true. It’s never the person who drank who gets hurt. It’s scary to think of all the people I know who drink and maybe a friend of mine could injure or kill me and another one of my friends. It scares me to DEATH! Literally! If something were to happen, and I can’t say how I feel, please make sure my parents know that I love them and Adam with all my heart, even though I don’t always show it I do.”
In the blink of an eye, four families were changed forever.
As a member of our police department’s fatal crash reconstruction team, I responded to many serious car crashes. In nearly half of the fatal crashes someone was under the influence of a mind-altering drug, usually alcohol.
Biblical Teaching on Alcohol
As a police officer, parents would share with me about how worried they were about their children potentially using illicit drugs. As a Christian I became interested, above all else, in what God has to say to parents. In the Bible, there is a formula that–if followed–will decrease the use of mind-altering drugs among young people.
Place your faith in God. Follow His ways as best we can and place an importance on this in the home. This begins with repentance and with surrendering our lives to the Lord Jesus who paid the debt for our sins on Calvary’s cross (Romans 5:8-9).
The family unit is connected. Family prayer, Bible reading, and church are priorities. Someone once said, “The most important work you and I do in life will be within the walls of our own homes.” Families need to love, respect, praise, share and grow together. Adults must provide, protect and lead by example (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
Parents need to be in the home. It’s not a matter of quality or quantity time, it’s both. Studies have shown that when parents speak, young people listen (Proverbs 22:6). A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse showed that teens who sat down to have dinner with their families six or seven times a week were about half as likely to use alcohol and illicit drugs as those who ate dinner with the family twice a week or less. Wow!
Respect yourself. Never forget we all are created by a loving God who has a plan and a purpose for our lives! Both young people and adults need to place a high value on themselves (Ephesians 2:10).
On top of that, our future is secure in Heaven if we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus. Now that is good news!
Societal Effects of Alcohol
“Alcohol has drained more blood, hung more crepe, sold more homes, plunged more people into bankruptcy, armed more villains, slain more children, snapped more wedding rings, defiled more innocence, blinded more eyes, twisted more limbs, dethroned more reason, wrecked more manhood, broken more hearts, blasted more lives, driven more to suicide, and dug more graves than any other poisoned scourge that every swept its death-dealing waves across the world.”
– Evangeline Booth, 4th General of the Salvation Army
The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, but uses two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs. Add to that alcohol, which of course is legal, and it is obvious that our country has a major problem. It’s time to get angry at all the hurt, death and destruction caused by mind-altering drugs. Alcohol is the most abused drug, and it is also a gateway into other drug use.
It’s interesting how as a society we became angry at the huge number of deaths caused by cigarette smoking. The result has been a big decrease in smoking. Same with soda pop. Society, based on medical fact, learned that drinking soda is not good for our health. The result? People are drinking less soda pop, and some people have even given up soda pop completely!
Alcohol is bad for your health. It causes mental health issues, leads to broken relationships, and can even make you more susceptible to diseases, like Covid-19. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), alcohol compromises the immune system. A weakened immune system increases your risk of catching the virus, and, when you get the virus, it will damage your body more since your immune system can’t fight back at normal levels.
Especially dangerous is the connection between alcohol and driving. According to FBI statistics, over a million people are arrested in the United States every year for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a mind-altering drug, usually alcohol. In 2019 alone, there were 1,024,508 arrests made for intoxicated driving. This works out to one arrest for every 222 licensed drivers.
Even with the good effort by police departments across our country, thousands of innocent people, doing everything right, continue to be murdered every year on our nation’s roadways by people who choose to drive while under the influence. Additionally, thousands of people are injured, some very seriously, by intoxicated drivers.
A lot of money is spent on advertising alcoholic beverages. Here are some of the messages that advertisers promote:
Drink and be successful! Drink and be popular! Drink and be happy! Drink and be athletic! Drink and get back to nature! Drink and be a winner!
These messages are not true.
The truth is that mind-altering drugs, of which alcohol is number one, are at the root of many homicides, suicides, drownings, serious car crashes, boating and snowmobile crashes, accidental fire deaths, assaults of all kinds–including rape–and neglect and abuse of children. Add to that numerous health issues costing millions of dollars. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 95,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes. These are classified as preventable deaths. We can prevent this loss of life.
Alcohol is a deadly drug. We need to feel compelled not only to abstain ourselves from drinking, but also to help others, especially our children, to do likewise.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Family
“The problem with alcohol is that we treat it like a cream-puff when it should be treated like a rattlesnake.”
– Bill Sunday, American evangelist
According to USA Today, in 2017, 90,000 children in our country were removed from their families because of a parent who had a substance-abuse problem.
How can our society better understand that there are consequences that come with the choices we make? In the news today we hear so much about crowded prisons, absent fathers, job turnover, children unable to learn in school, violence, assaulting police officers, and serious health issues. Many of these issues stem from the use of mind-altering drugs, of which alcoholic beverages is public enemy number one. According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse in over 80% of the people in our jails and prisons today, mind-altering drugs played a role in why they are there.
I’ll never forget bringing to the police station a young teenage girl who was walking intoxicated in the roadway after her high school football game. As we walked into the police station, she began to vomit and cry. She said, “I don’t know what happened to me. I only had one beer tonight. My dad drinks six beers almost every night when he gets home from work.”
Did her father know that she learned how to drink from him? Did he know that his daughter was watching his actions and modeling her behavior on his? If only he had never let the rattlesnake of alcohol bite him in the first place!
In 1842, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech on temperance and abstaining from alcohol. Lincoln’s goal was to encourage people to kindly persuade alcohol users to abstain. Lincoln referred to alcohol as “the angel of death.” He used words like “demon” and “selfish behavior.” Abraham Lincoln could not have totally understood how profound his words would become as we clearly see in this heart-breaking story.
Returning from a business trip on a cold April morning, James phoned his family from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Happy to be home, James told his wife Betty that he would see her in about half an hour. Betty never got to see her husband again. James was only four miles from home when a 23-year-old drunk driver ran a red light, plowed into the driver’s side of James’ car, and killed him instantly.
On sentencing day, James’ widow Betty stood in front of the convicted killer and everyone in the courtroom. Through tears and in a quiet voice she said, “Everyday I push myself to get on with my life that is so empty and lonely without him.” The judge sentenced the convicted drunk for second degree murder and said that he had to go to prison for 18 to 50 years. The judge looked the defendant in the eyes and said, “I hope you live with this for the rest of your life and that you think about it everyday.” I’m sure he will.
Just Say No!
While the basis for avoiding alcohol runs throughout the Bible, it gets no clearer than in Proverbs 20:1: “Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging; whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
The Word of God also has warnings like this one found in Romans 12:9: “Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.” Part of the definition for evil is harmful. Just weigh the evidence and look at the truth: so much harm has come from alcohol.
When it comes to alcohol and all other mind-altering drugs let’s not be disconnected from reality. Let’s not live in a fantasy world. Just say no!
The truth is that millions of young people and adults do not use alcohol or any other mind-altering drug. Deciding to say no will make you part of a very large group. Think about it!