Mel Gibson had a bad day Friday. He was arrested for DUI after getting pulled over for speeding in California. That’s enough to mess up pretty much anyone’s day.
Unfortunately for Mel things got even worse.
Apparently he went on a bit of a tirade yelling and screaming some rather nasty stuff. And as a result people are already beginning to say some pretty nasty things about Mel in response.
Now I am not going to defend any of the things he said in his outbursts because I completely disagree with them. But at the same time I am not going to join the lynching party that is forming up to run him out of town on a rail and string him up either.
I’ve had my own battles with alcohol and I appreciate some of what he’s going through.
Most folks screw up like Mel did and they end up hurting their families (Mel’s been married for over 25 years to the same woman and has 7 kids, something unusual in Hollywood, eh?) and the other people around them. It is embarrassing at the very least and hard to face people afterwards. And even while it is going on a part of your brain is telling you that what is happening is “very bad” because it knows there are going to be lawyers, and courts and all sorts of complications coming down the pike as a result. But in the case of a celebrity of Mel’s visibility the effect is magnified unimaginably because the whole world is now completely aware of his complete lapse in judgment.
People are asking how could he be so outrageous toward others?
Well when you struggle with something like alcohol addiction it truly is a war. There are battles going on and you feel totally horrible when you loose a fight. For someone who is as driven to excel as Mel must be to be as successful in his career as he’s been it must be infuriating to lose a battle.
I imagine he was incredibly angry at himself knowing that he’d lost a battle, mostly by doing something that he knew he shouldn’t but did anyway. And since his judgment was impaired by the alcohol that anger came out aimed at what ever target presented itself in his mind. It is ironic that someone who is as skilled at manipulating his emotions as an actor of Mel’s stature stumbles at the very point of controlling his emotions.
Again, I am not offering excuses for his behavior. I am only giving you some perspective from someone who’s had a similar struggle.
I was one of those people that could do whatever I decided to put my mind to. Drinking was the first thing I ever encountered that I couldn’t overcome or control simply by willpower and intention. Actually it completely defeated me. I really was a drunk at one point in my life.
And believe me I tried to beat it. I went to AA and I took some other drastic steps that folks said would help.
But they didn’t. I was effectively enslaved to the overpowering pull of drinking. AA does a lot of good for a lot of folks. I’m not knocking it. But it didn’t work for me. One of the things they teach is that you can’t overcome your addiction without the help of a “higher power.”
That part made sense because I knew I couldn’t beat it on my own. The thing that didn’t make sense to me was that they said anything could be your higher power, a chair, a white board, or a potted plant. Well that just seemed silly. I couldn’t see how some petunia was going to help me with my drinking problem.
Eventually I met a guy who introduced me to Jesus. As I learned more about Jesus I began to realize that He was a higher power that really could overcome my problem. I read statements Jesus made like this
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
I knew I was a total captive to alcohol and I needed to be released. And Jesus did free me from my enslavement to alcohol. For me the craving has been completely removed. There is no longer any struggle there. And I promise it was through no effort of my own.
And there is one other area I disagree with AA. They say “once a drunk, always a drunk.” I understand where they are coming from and it makes sense. But there is one exception that I can find. And that is folks who have become followers of Jesus. They truly can become former drunks like me. The Bible says
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The passage talks about our sins, including my drunkenness, in the past tense. “And that is what some of you were.” I was a drunk. Now I am free of alcohol.
Does that mean I could never go back to that place I was before? I suspect I could. I recognize that I still have that potential inside me. Just because I’ve won that battle doesn’t mean that the enemy of my soul has given up and isn’t still trying to destroy me. We all have the ability to screw up big time if ever let our guard down.
And that’s why I’m going to cut Mel Gibson some slack.
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