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Dealing with alcoholism

My dad is an alcoholic as was my grandfather. My siblings and I grew up disgusted with him, seeing our mum hurt. He is a churchgoing man, a good provider and makes promises every morning which he forgets the same night. My uncle is worse; he calls it social drinking; my aunt and cousins have given up. Is there any help for alcoholics?

NO ONE is beyond God’s help. Not alcoholics or addicts.

“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise”, says the Word (Prov 20:1) People who can no longer control their intake of alcohol, experience distress when they are not drinking or compulsively use it despite negative ramifications, may be suffering from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) Some of the signs are: being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite having a desire to do so, using alcohol in higher amounts for longer periods, spending much time drinking in bars, missing time with spouse, work or family events, developing tolerance, using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or at work) and giving up previously enjoyed social or recreational activities because of alcohol use.

First – PRAY for grace and wisdom. You are one of the adults living with a dear one who drinks – so you have to pray and make decisions about dealing with an alcoholic loved one. Although alcoholism affects all people, for the spouses and children of men who struggle with this disease, it can be particularly difficult. Often they suffer psychological, physical and social trauma related to their loved one’s problematic drinking.

Wine in the Bible can mean either unfermented or fermented fruit of the vine. Priests were forbidden to drink wine (Leviticus 10:9) and kings were counselled not to drink it (Proverbs 31:4)–and we are called kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:6) Personal conviction should be exercised in this area when wine is not an addictive issue. A born-again believer is a new creature in Christ. It does not mean that you cannot be delivered from alcoholism, but it does mean this is an area of temptation where you must continually be on guard.

Alcoholism can be passed down through generations but that does not mean they can blame their alcoholism on their parents. One must take responsibility for one’s own addiction and deal with it. Love the person and deal with the disease. Don’t put it off. After years of covering up for the alcoholic and not talking about ‘the problem outside the family, it may seem daunting to reach out for help from a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al Anon. But millions have found solutions through counselling and timely support.

Remember, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Ps 86:15) The Lord forgives, and you can, too. Those who are living with alcoholism are usually hypersensitive. Negative sentiments can send them further into pain that causes them to drink in the first place. The healthiest way for you to unload your negative feelings is to confide in a trusted counsellor.

Addiction causes behaviours that are separate from the person, so be more compassionate. You can despise the disease, while staying strong in love. When someone is drunk, they are much more prone to get into an argument. Not only that; the guilt an alcoholic feels often leads them to get defensive and belligerent. While their words can hurt, getting into name-calling fights will only serve to make both sides miserable. And the fights can be used as an excuse by your father to continue his this vicious cycle of drinking. Rise above his petty behaviour, protect your self-esteem and avoid the cycle of dependency. Gently, confront him with reality. Talk to him when he is sober and receptive to listening. This is the most loving thing you can do. If you don’t exercise tough love, your family is headed for disaster. You need to lovingly explain to your father that his heavy drinking has you deeply concerned, that it is affecting his wife and his children for years, that he needs to see that his drinking is a problem and that he needs help.

Recognise that alcohol abuse is a work of the flesh.It is listed among the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21) The Holy Spirit can and will produce the self-control needed to overcome this and other addictions as you allow the Fruit of the Spirit to be manifested in your life (Gal 5:22-23)

Alcoholics may blame their drinking on circumstances or people, even family. Try not to take his drinking personally. Committing to getting sober takes courage; yet, often those struggling with alcohol may not admit they have a problem or be receptive to discussing treatment. When you’re finding it hard to see anything good in him, meditate on these words, “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Prayer can also help you find the answer to staying calm and positive in difficult times.

If at any time you feel unsafe physically or emotionally in your home when your husband is under influence of alcohol, seek immediate professional help. Do not try to diffuse the situation by yourself.

Remember, addicts struggle to keep their promises. You may tend to think, “If he really loves me, he wouldn’t lie to me.” When alcoholics swear that they will never touch another drop, you might naturally expect that they won’t drink again. But if they have become truly addicted to alcohol, their brain chemistry may have changed to the point that they are completely surprised by some of the choices they make. They may not be in control of their own decision making. And you can’t cure a disease on your own. No matter what your background happens to be, you need qualified help. Get it.

Proverbs 28:13 declares: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” 1 John 1:8-9 gives both a warning and a promise: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

If your loved one is truly an alcoholic, they are going to drink no matter what you do or say. It’s not your fault.

However, do not condone or brush off ‘that one drink’ or fall for emotional manipulation or unacceptable intimidating behaviour. You slowly begin to accept more and more controlling behaviour. Before you realise it, you can find yourself in a full-blown abusive relationship and any kind of abuse, especially in a home with children, is never acceptable. It’s important to protect your children from such behaviour as well. Shield your children from negative comments addressed towards them. These comments can result in lasting damage to a child’s psyche and leave lasting scars. You just happen to love someone who is probably going to need professional treatment to get healthy again. LOVE well.

The Bible clearly warns about alcoholism. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine”. (Is 5:11) “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks”. (Is 5:22) “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage … For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:1,13) “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory” (Habakkuk 2:15-16) “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Gal 5:16-17)

In many cases, the way to convince an alcoholic to seek help is – by staging an intervention. As an adult child, you are best placed to bring together all the people he trusts and loves. Family could encourage him to go into Christian rehab. When confronted with compassion, understanding and love, he is much more likely to be responsive and make an effort.

You just happen to love someone who is probably going to need professional treatment to get healthy again. Once your father has agreed to treatment, try to keep a sense of normalcy and balance at home. Take care of your mother, siblings and your family, both physically and emotionally. Relapse is common, as addiction is a disease, and has a 40-60% relapse rates—similar to other chronic illnesses. If they relapse, stay with friends or family until they’ve chosen to get sober again.

Ask God for deliverance. Pray not only about his alcoholism, but the root cause behind it–the loneliness, hurt, pain, inferiority, etc., that drives you to drink. Rebuke any generational spirits that would foster a desire for alcohol.  Bind the spirit of alcoholism from operating in your  father’s life (Matt 18:18). Tell your father lovingly that he can get His contentment from God. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Eph 5:18)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Heb 4:15-16)

May your father and uncle find Christ’s unending mercy and love today!

We answer your questions about faith, marriage, relationships, parenting, emotional issues, financial crisis or any spiritual struggle here. Have a counselling query? Ask us here, via email: [email protected]

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