Oktoberfest and other pet peeves


I am blessed in knowing that sobriety has been part of my life much longer than active alcoholism and yet, my buttons still get pushed. While I myself do like to drink from time to time, nothing can incite anger and anxiety more quickly than being around a bunch of heavy drinking.  Keeping my button covered isn’t always easy. My fuse is too short for my own comfort.

I still have my childhood memories of abuse, fights, rape (not me but someone else), hunger, loneliness, shame — and I have my memories of AA and Al-Anon — rooms full of broken people just like us, trying to get well. Even so. Even after 30 plus years of recovery, I do at times struggle with the emotional scars left behind.

Setting boundaries doesn’t always work. Or rather they do work, they just aren’t always well received. I choose not to participate in events where I know people are going to be drunk. For me that’s a way of protecting myself. I’m not being judgemental when I say no. Boundaries are about taking care of me, and not about you. And so I say no to things like working the beer tent at Tulsa Oktoberfest, staying late at weddings, attending Bible Studies that over flow with wine, things like that.

I don’t believe alcohol should be served in church and yet many churches host their own version of Oktoberfest and pastors brew the beer for it. Are they sinning? No. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like for once to go to a church event that does not revolve around alcohol, and wanting that doesn’t make me a prude. It just makes me, well, me. Now I will add that my own church does not participate in this. Yes, we have our annual German dinner, and No we do not serve alcohol.

One of our sweet elders escaped me unharmed this week — I owe that to God’s arm, not my own.  He was promoting the annual men’s retreat and his “sales pitch” revolved around how much beer and wine there was going to be. I sadly commented that I thought the weekend was supposed to be about God. I do not fault this man entirely — he missed my warning my shot as I walked away. Why he chose to follow me into the sanctuary, I’ll never know. But follow me he did. He also tried to grab my arm. Stepping into my body space he committed suicide. I received his actions as physical aggression, and when he quoted scripture to me by saying even Paul told Timothy that “a little wine is good for the stomach.” I received his words as spiritual aggression as well. In that instant, he missed my heart and destroyed all respect for him. Our relationship will never be the same.

Another excuse I frequently hear is “Well Jesus turned water into wine.” Yes, Jesus turned water into wine, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus partied. To say that he did is to blaspheme his character.

I do agree that a little wine in private and among friends is good for you. I serve beer and wine in my home when I’m among friends, that doesn’t bother me. Yet, while having it at a church sponsored function, makes people happy, it causes me a great deal of pain.

I was reminded of a wonderful quote this week by a speaker I once heard. “There are no limitations to your being yourself except the life of the person near you. You can’t express your freedom if doing so causes others pain. Where my freedom begins, yours ends. And the reverse is true.” — John DeFoore, Abilene TX.

I can’t change people – or the churches that choose to serve alcohol at events — but I can be honest in my feelings — And in doing so, maybe I can give others something to think about. If you’re interested — let’s talk about it. Have you been effected by alcoholism? Does your church serve alcohol. How does that make you feel?

4 thoughts on “Oktoberfest and other pet peeves

  1. Deana, I take my feelings one step further, as we discussed once while driving to Nashville. I can not be around drinking unless I know the people very well and I know that they are not drinking solely to get drunk. I, for one, do not drink alcohol at all. As for the elder you mentioned, he should really read the criteria for a deacon in 1 Timothy 3. He can add to that 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8. That said, just how much of the beer and wine is there for being social and not for “getting drunk”? That being said, while he is in 1 Thessalonians, he can skip down to verse 22 and explain how having that much beer and wine available honors God. If we, as Christians, give the appearance of being drunkards, how can we win over and change the life of someone who is bound by that demon? OK..off my soap box.

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    1. Yeah — it’s a tough road isn’t it Rena — this is why I’ve kinda decided to let my 12 step world and my church world meet more honestly. You’ll laugh, but 1 Timothy is what kept me from killing him — it says to be kind and treat them like you would your father if they stumble. Sigh. I’m the same way, I cannot be around drinking unless I know the people really well. Peopel in the program understand that — Church folk, don’t. It’s wierd to me. The Baptist church would have a field day with this — granted there are Baptist drinkers as well. This isn’t a Lutheran thing either –Catholic, Methodist, Epicopal, etc.. have alcohol at church functions. It’s crazy. I sound like a legalist and I’m not. A lot of people in our church volunteer at the Tulsa Oktoberfest beer tent and I can’t. I tried one year and it about set me into a nervous breakdown. I break out in a cold sweat. It’s just not pretty. For some of my friends who grew up Church of God and other hard core fundamental churches the ability to drink is so freeing for them they are beside themselves. I’m happy they know grace, but it’s not a grace thing with me — too much past pain.

      I thought this was an interesting enough topic to generate conversation. And it is which is good.

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  2. Thanks Gene. You know the down side of my keeping my program life and church life separate has been the reality that no one really knows — from the church perspective what all I’ve lived through. — just like you. To them, I’m wierd. Granted, I know I’m weird, but still. (smile) — I’ve tried to explain this before — the whole having alcohol at retreats and whatnot keeps people like us — and recovering alcoholics away. We just don’t go. but no one knows why. I love Pat Claitor’s qoute about alanons — alcoholism makes us angry and anxious – cover your buttons. To this day, the smell of whiskey? sends me flying for the door. I’m learning the best way to cover my button is to tell the truth — I’m uncomfortable and I need to leave. Thanks for commenting. I really appreciate that.

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  3. Hey Deanna! Like you I find myself not very comfortable around people who have a little too much to drink. Having lived with the active disease of alcoholism in my home for 20+ years being around people who drink makes me a little tense especially the ones who are a little too drunk. I also have reservations with the idea of alcohol being served at church sponsored functions. I tend to think of Jesus as my example to follow when it comes to the church and how I should present myself, not just in public but also in my own circle of close friends.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

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