Q. Ever since my dad’s parents died, he’s been drinking. He’ll tell us he’s going to quit but never does. I’m beginning to hate him because of his drinking. I rarely invite friends over. I’m really disappointed in him—especially because he’s a Christian. What can I do?
A. It sounds to me like your dad might be an alcoholic. He probably found that alcohol deadened his pain. But now, his body craves alcohol. I absolutely understand your disappointment in him and your embarrassment. I don’t have easy answers, but I have suggestions.
This may sound super spiritual, but pray for your dad every day. He’s facing one of the biggest battles of his life. He will need to acknowledge that he can’t do it on his own, but needs God. Those are the first steps toward getting sober.
Be very honest with your dad about your feelings. Don’t walk away, succumb to hatred for him, or try to sound judgmental. He needs to hear you hope he gets help. I have seen hundreds of cases where the children of alcoholics are the ones who lead their parents to sobriety. It usually comes from firm and loving intervention. If your church has a “Celebrate Recovery” program or a Christian 12-Step program, offer to go with your dad. He may not want you to go, but at least he will see you care enough to do what you can. If there are no Christian recovery groups in your area, then find out where and when the local Alcoholic Anonymous groups meet. Give him that information.
With that said, keep in mind that
you can’t single-handedly “fix” your dad. He must take responsibility for his own recovery. He’ll need help from professionals. This is not your responsibility.
In fact, whether he gets help or not, I urge you to talk with someone. Don’t be afraid to talk with your pastor or a counselor, or even attend a 12-Step group for family members of alcoholics such as Al-Anon or Ala-Teen (al-anon.alateen.org). Because it’s your dad, it can be embarrassing to talk with someone. But please don’t go through this alone.
Let me tell you a quick story. A young man’s father was an alcoholic. The young man openly expressed his concern and love to his dad. Finally, after the father almost drove off a cliff, the young man challenged his dad to get an assessment at a hospital’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. The dad agreed. At the assessment, the counselor talked the dad into going in to rehab. Twenty-eight days later, the dad left rehab and has never drunk again.
Twenty years later, this man is a Christian and is still sober. I was the young man who first prayed for my dad and got him to that rehab center. Don’t give up.
Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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