Fighting Alcoholism in Christian Families

You’re hurting right now. If you’re reading this article, chances are good that you or someone you love is struggling with the stress, strain, and pain of alcoholism. As a Christian, you understand that God wants better for you and your family. This article will hopefully help you better understand alcoholism and why some emotions and behaviors can prevent you or someone you love from getting the treatment  you need in order to finally be healthy and sober.

Alcoholism Is a Mental Health Condition

Addiction, whether it’s to alcohol or drugs, is a serious mental health disorder.  Addictive behavior has nothing to do with lacking willpower, rebelling against God, or choosing to sin. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to changes in the brain that impact judgment and the ability to make good decisions.  It also compels an alcoholic to consume more and more alcohol as time goes on, due to both physiological and psychological dependence.

Alcoholism can’t be overcome with sheer willpower, although many have tried.  Prayer is also rarely an effective solution, although it can and should play an important role.   Like most mental health conditions, it won’t go away on its own. Recovery requires treatment from skilled professionals, like those found in Christian rehab facilities.  They can provide an effective combination of therapy, guidance and emotional and spiritual support. However, there are often barriers to recovery when alcoholism occurs in Christian families.

Guilt, Shame May Prevent Recovery

Guilt and Shame in Alcoholics: If you struggle with an alcohol problem, you may feel deep guilt and shame regarding your behavior. You may perceive yourself as “falling short” of what your family expects from you. It’s even possible you feel as though you’re no longer worthy of love from your family, and even from God. However, you are one of God’s own children, and, because of that fact, you’re worthy of His love, compassion and forgiveness.

Guilt and Shame in Family Members: Family members often feel ashamed of their loved one’s behavior. It’s not uncommon for the parent of an alcoholic to think they “failed” as a parent, or for a spouse to be embarrassed by his or her partner’s alcoholism. While these feelings are normal, acting in a judgmental way toward your loved one or lashing out in anger at him or her will not convince the person to change.  In fact, pouring negative emotions into confrontations with an alcoholic may trigger a binge or relapse.

Jesus taught his disciples that one of the greatest commandments is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) If we are to love our neighbors in that way, how can any of us do less for our spouse, parent or child? You can significantly increase your loved one’s chance for long-term recovery by treating him or her with the love, respect and compassion you would want for yourself. You may not be able to forgive their behavior right now, and that’s OK. However, treating the alcoholic in your life in a more Christ-like way will open the door to forgiveness when you’re ready.

Enabling Interferes With Recovery

If your loved one is an alcoholic, guilt, shame, or other emotions may cause you to enable your loved one’s addictive behaviors – in other words, you’re helping him or her stay addicted. For example, if you call into work for your spouse, making up some excuse or another about why he or she can’t come in that day (when the real reason is a severe hangover), you’re enabling your spouse.   As a parent, if you’re driving your alcoholic adult child to the liquor store or giving him money to cover the rent because he spent all of his on booze, you’re enabling him. Other ways you might enable include turning a blind eye to unacceptable behavior, putting your alcoholic loved one’s needs in front of your own, lying to cover up problems or behavior caused by the addiction, and blaming other people for your loved one’s problems.

Enabling interferes with the recovery process because it sends the message that the alcoholic’s behavior is acceptable. Your loved one has no motivation to change, which can lead to an even deeper addiction problem. Treat him or her with respect or compassion, but don’t further the addictive behaviors by helping your loved one avoid the consequences of addiction.

Finding a Christian Rehab Program

Many quality rehab centers are non-denominational.  However, you may feel that a Christ-centered rehab facility is a better fit due to your faith. These centers integrate faith and Biblical principles into their detox and treatment programs. In addition to spiritual support, they offer treatment that addresses the physical and psychological challenges of addiction, as well as the therapy and counseling that teaches addicts how to cope with emotions or trauma in a healthy way.

A Christian-based alcohol treatment facility allows addicts to connect with others who both struggle with alcoholism and hold Christian beliefs. This can be an important way to build a support network that nourishes the mind and the soul. Additionally, recovering alcoholics are encouraged to spend time in prayer, talking to God about any concerns.  This is because Jesus instructed his followers to “…knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Since alcoholism has a significant impact on the entire family, it’s best to find a Christian rehab program that offers family support as well. For example, a rehab facility might offer workshops to educate loved ones about alcoholism and family counseling to help members identify or resolve issues surrounding the addiction.

Christian rehab centers might not be the right choice for everyone. If you or your loved one has had negative experiences with religious leaders, such as a pastor or priest, or have struggled with faith in a profound way, a non-denominational or secular facility might be a better way to go.  The last thing anyone struggling with an addiction needs is treatment in a setting that feels adversarial or that elicits strong, negative emotions based on a bad history with believers.

Finding Support From Christians

As hard as this journey is, you don’t need to walk it alone. One of the foundations for healing will be building a supportive network. Find a Christian support group for alcoholics or family members in your area. If necessary, ask a counselor or therapist for a recommendation. Online Christian support communities are also a good option for those living in areas that are remote or don’t offer the kind of group you’re seeking.

When you find a Christ-centered support group, remember that its members should be genuinely supportive and not just pay lip service to the idea. If you find group members are judgmental or make you feel guilty about your emotions or behavior, it’s time to find another group.

Reach Out for Help Today

Don’t ever doubt that God loves you or that you and your family can meet this challenge. “…you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6) Your family can heal, but healing must start with that first step.  Contact a Christian rehab facility today about starting the recovery process for yourself or a loved one. The path to sobriety can be challenging, tedious, and long, but it’s a journey that will significantly enhance your emotional and spiritual well-being.