As a pastor, I know the feelings of frustration and helplessness that surround the counselor who attempts to assist the chemical-dependent person toward sobriety. Counseling the alcoholic is a time-consuming and often discouraging project.
I groped about for a solution to my dilemma as a busy pastor with an increasing number of alcoholics and their families to counsel. I attended seminars and read books and articles. Whenever a member of our staff came across an article on chemical dependency, a copy would land on my desk. I rapidly became the church's resident expert on the subject, even though I knew in my heart I barely had scratched the surface. Still, my awareness level rose dramatically. One point of view that kept surfacing through all my research was that "it takes one to know one." Generally speaking, an alcoholic is better equipped to minister to another alcoholic than someone who has never been there himself.
From Good Idea to Solid Beginning
Then, a delegation of five individuals approached me with an unusual request. They had at least three things in common: they were Bible-believing Christians; they were active in our church; and they were alcoholics. They asked for a church-related support group for alcoholic people in our congregation. We scheduled a meeting for the following week to discuss the feasibility of such a program in detail, and to come up with provisional goals and guidelines.
Twelve people showed up: alcoholics, recovered alcoholics, and members of their families, all with the ultimate purpose of sobriety and victory in Christ. It was an exciting evening. One after another, those people confessed their ongoing struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. Almost all of them had experience with Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon, and spoke well of those organizations; but they admitted that without Christ they could not have coped at all. I'll never forget the testimony of one man who said, "I've attended many A A meetings over the years. They gave me the will to keep trying to stop drinking, but it was Jesus who made me dry!" Sitting next to that man was the non-Christian husband of an alcoholic woman who had recently started attending our church since her conversion. Though she could never get him to come to church, he wanted to be a part of any group that was interested in helping his wife deal with her problem. That evening "Lion Tamers Anonymous" was born with these verses as a reminder.
My soul is among lions. Psalm 57:4
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.Â 1 Peter 5:8
We decided to meet weekly in different homes, and ask for volunteers to be prepared with a devotional or personal testimony. My wife and I were impressed with everyone's eagerness to pitch in and make this new thing work. In fact, we couldn't remember ever being part of a more enthusiastic group. They wouldn't be held back!
Though I promised to meet with the group regularly until goals and guidelines were established and leadership had surfaced from within, I made it clear that my schedule would not permit me to provide more than general oversight in the ensuing months. Little did I realize at that time how difficult it would be to break away from this loving collection of special people. We've found most alcoholics to be not only fun loving, but also sensitive, generous, outgoing, and responsive. When sober, alcoholics are easy to love.