2.5 Patience and Forgiveness

There is no quick cure to alcoholism. Expecting quick results makes many care givers frustrated. In itself this is a challenge to faith in the God who appears to men to ‘never be in a hurry’ as John Thomas was fond of saying. “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7), David said. This must be possible to achieve, whatever situation we are in. The family of the alcoholic play a part in the amount of shame which they allow the victim to feel. Paul wrote to his wayward Corinthians that he did not seek to shame them (1 Cor. 4:14); and yet he writes in other places to them “in order to shame them” (1 Cor. 6:15; 15:34). The alcoholic needs to be allowed to feel the shame of their sin, they need to be ashamed of it, and yet not in a harmful way; they need to realize that we are not seeking to shame them, although we recognize and realize their shame. Alcoholics need a place to go where they can return without harmful shame after a relapse, so that they might begin again. This ‘place’ may be the kitchen table and chatting with their daughter or wife; but that ‘place’ must not be a place where failure is hidden over or the true import of their behaviour in any way minimized. Shame and guilt tripping will only confirm the alcoholic in their situation. This ‘place’ must most importantly be a place of trust and confidence and honesty. You really must not break those confidences of the alcoholic by  gossiping them to others, especially at times of frustration. You will need your own support group, your own place to talk with others in your position, e.g. AlAnon. Those kitchen conferences, or whatever or wherever they are, must be places of reality where the alcoholic without being shamed can find the courage again to look at themselves and resolve again. They need accurate feedback, giving them a clear picture of the realities they have avoided and create. They need to have it spelt out to them: there is a total contradiction between their words, principles and actions.


Prayer for alcoholism is powerful. It really does change things. God is willing to do things in the life of a third party for the sake of the prayers and efforts of others. Thus when the Lord saw the faith of the friends, He forgave and cured the paralytic (Mk. 2:5). After each discussion with the alcoholic, lead a brief prayer. Samuel said that to cease to pray for sinful Israel would be to sin against the Lord (1 Sam. 12:23). The need is in itself the call to prayer. It doesn’t need the wailing call to prayer from a Mosque tower; the tragic need of the alcoholic is the call to prayer. The family of the alcoholic- the “co-alcoholics” as they have been called- will face the temptation of allowing prayer to become routine and to descend into a mere going through of the motions, with no real belief that God will hear. This is why real prayer is imaged in Scripture as a struggle, a wrestling both with oneself and with a Father willing to do some things only if there is a suitable amount of the incense of prayer rising before Him. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come” we are asking for the will of God to be done by us and by Him in our lives. We are asking that He becomes the final authority in our lives, leading us towards an entrance into that Kingdom which is to surely come. Daily in prayer we are to surrender our wills to God’s will.

The sheer desperation of alcoholism, the way it is such a mystery and non soluble apart from recourse to the ‘higher power’, is a powerful motivation for prayer. You are in the position of Jeremiah as he lived amongst an apostate Judah cursed by drought for their sins: “What heathen god can give us rain? Who but you alone, O Lord our God, can do such things as this? Therefore we will wait for you to help us” (Jer. 14:22 TLB). And prayer is hopeful. Hopelessness is obviously a major emotion amongst the carers for alcoholics. If our own boundaries are secure, we ourselves can genuinely rejoice in the concrete Hope of the life eternal which awaits us. But if we have faith, there is also grounds for hope even for our alcoholic friend. Picture in your mind the Father watching eagerly for the prodigal son to return; He hadn’t heard he might be coming back. He was daily waiting and hoping (Lk. 15:20). The hopefulness of God is really an amazing inspiration- if we let it be. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Ps. 145:18,19).

You should be aware that Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings for the families of alcoholics, too (AlAnon). And there are support groups operating amongst Christians, too, which I would highly recommend.


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