How do I handle a Christian on my campus team who is repeatedly intoxicated?


At the college I attend, "team housing" is offered, meaning that students who are on an academic or athletic team are housed together in one house (with separate wings for male and female students). I am the president of the academic team I live with, and I am having a problem with one a freshman girl who moved in with us and joined the team at the beginning of this academic year. I am a follower of Christ, and this young woman also professes to be a believer. However, she frequently returns to the house very late at night obviously intoxicated, often to the point that she is unable to walk up the stairs unassisted. I have found her sleeping on the couch or floor because of this. Alternatively, she wanders in around noon after not returning home saying she "passed out somewhere." This happens several times each week, and causes a major disruption in the house. My room is near the door, and I generally wake up and go to help her when she comes in, which does not bother me as I feel better knowing she has returned safely and is being taken care of; however, I have had to wake up female members to come take her up to her room and get her to bed since it is not proper for me as a man to enter the ladies' wing at night while they are sleeping or otherwise expecting privacy.

I have also caught her "pre-gaming" our practices because drinking "gives her confidence." The other girls have reported to me that she sometimes stores alcohol or other drugs such as marijuana in the house, which is a violation of both campus policy, team rules, and the law. I have tried gently correcting her, speaking seriously with her about why what she does is wrong, and even threatening to take her off the team if she doesn't control her behavior, but I am reluctant to actually do so both for the selfish reason that she is a fantastic speaker and a great asset to our team and because I am afraid of what would happen if she did not have us around to look after her. I'm seriously worried about this young lady's physical and spiritual health. In all aspects of her life other than drinking and using drugs she is an excellent Christian and a kind person. Things she has said paired with what I hear from other team members lead me to think that she has had a rough life and I fear that her drinking problem may be a coping mechanism for her. How should I handle this situation? Should I speak to our pastor about her habits? Any advice you have to offer would be appreciated. I am at a complete loss for what to do now.


You describe well the reason so many drug users and alcoholics continue to use. They are protected from the consequences of their actions by the well-meaning intentions of friends and family. Like them, you are an enabler. The problem is that you don't love her soul enough. "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:7-14). A part of loving other people is rebuke and reproof when they do wrong.

  • By not enforcing the rules, you made the rules meaningless. Why are there rules against the use of drugs and alcohol, if they are not for what this girl is doing? By your inaction, you've told everyone that you approve of breaking the rules and the law.
  • It appears that you are making exceptions because this girl claims to be a Christian. So again, you tell others that if you are a part of your "in" crowd that you will let a person get away with just about anything. In the Old Testament, the rule was "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly" (Leviticus 19:15). In the New Testament, Christians are told, "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).
  • You admit that you are making an exception because you are getting benefits for your team from her. Isn't that why we condemn the corrupt politicians who make exceptions for those who fill their campaign coffers? Isn't that what Paul condemned? "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8).
  • By threatening to enforce the rules (which should have been enforced anyway) and not following through, you proclaim that you don't mean what you say. You are telling her that you are dishonest by your inaction.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in abundant mercy, but you aren't being merciful to this girl. You are covering for her sins. She needs help that you are not able to give her. Drugs and alcohol are not coping mechanisms; they are the means abusers use to run away from problems -- most of which are imaginary or self-inflicted because of their abuse.

You are also in a dangerous situation personally. You are in charge and you were told repeatedly by others that there are illegal drugs in the place you watch over. You didn't do anything, so when it comes out, who is rightly going to get blamed?

You've talked to her, you've warned her, now is the time to help her. I want you to sit down and list out all the times you can remember her coming in intoxicated or staying out overnight. I want you to go to campus security and tell them you have believable reports that there are drugs in the house and ask them to do a search. Take your list to whoever is in charge of your team, give him the list and tell him that you tried but was unable to convince her to stop using. Tell him that you requested a search for drugs and that you recommend that she be suspended from the team until she successfully complete rehab. You can also go privately to the leadership at your church and tell them that she needs more help than you are able to offer her.

She'll hate you for it. But the rest of the team will perk up. You might lose for a while, but at least you can hold on to your honor. And if she makes it through rehab, she'll eventually thank you for your stance.