Sometimes, I Just Want a Drink
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Genesis 9:20-21
When we stop using drugs or alcohol, something must take its place. We used for a reason – those drugs did something for us. Now, we must fill that emptiness with something constructive or else some other self-destructive behavior – food, gambling, or sex – will fill that hole. As Christians, we believe that God is supposed to fulfill our greatest needs. We were created to find our joy, purpose, and meaning in him. Sometimes though, we make the mistake of hoping to find a drug-like high in reading the Bible or praying. When we don’t get that high, we feel cheated. We remember the good old times and sometimes, we even want to go back. Sometimes, we just want a drink.
Our problem is that we confuse pleasure and joy. This next paragraph may get a little nerdy, but it’s important as it explains how we seek happiness. When we eat a food we enjoy, we get an increase of dopamine into our brains, perhaps a level of 100 units. When we have sex, we might get 200 units. If we use methamphetamine, that dopamine level surges to 1,000 units. Dopamine drives our experience of pleasure. The problem is that it peaks, making us feel great, but then it subsides, leaving us feeling empty. Long term joy however, is driven by a different set of neurotransmitters, like serotonin. Seratonin doesn’t give us a high, but rather a sense of well-being and contentment. No high, but it also doesn’t leave us with the let-down after. How do we increase serotonin? By eating right, exercising, sleeping well, and managing stress. Those things require a lot more effort than a dopamine surge though. However, trying to find our happiness in dopamine surges sabotages our long-term joy, creating addictions. Eating the donut makes us feel really good now but destroys our ability to experience the long-term contentment of eating healthy.
What does any of this have to do with Noah? The story of Noah illustrates our problem as humans. Noah obeyed God and God saved Noah. Noah must have found some contentment in this relationship. It wasn’t enough though. A couple of verses after God saved Noah from the flood, we read that Noah planted a vineyard, made wine . . . and got really drunk. Though Noah should have been satisfied with the joy found in a relationship with God, he wasn’t. He wanted a high. He wanted dopamine.
The problem with getting drunk though, is that it’s never constructive. Dopamine levels fall and we’re left feeling empty. Then we must deal with the aftermath of the drunkenness. Even if we don’t do anything really stupid, a dopamine high sabotages our ability to experience lasting contentment. If we desire to experience true joy, we must realize that it’s not found in the dopamine surge of drugs, food, porn, gambling, shopping, or social media. Lasting contentment is found only in making healthy choices and ultimate joy is found only in a loving relationship with our creator. If we want joyful, healthy lives, we must remember the lesson of Noah, dopamine, and true contentment.