Caring for a Parent Struggling With Alcoholism

Karen had a difficult childhood growing up with her father, John, who was an alcoholic. According to Karen, she was always walking on eggshells as she never knew what would happen next. The family tried everything, including an intervention, but he simply could not stop drinking. He died at the age of 70 from alcoholism. There is a strong genetic factor to the disease as his father was also an alcoholic, who abandoned the family when John was young.

Karen and her two siblings saw their father when he was at his lowest. During that time, he passed out several times at home, and fortunately, her brother found him. John’s wife, Jean, was literally at her wits end. She turned to her priest, who suggested an intervention. Everyone in the family wrote letters, and a social worker facilitated the conversation. Karen says the letters were heartfelt, and everyone described their bottom line. At this point, Karen had three children, and she wrote that she would no longer bring her children to the family home as she could not trust her father alone with the children for safety reasons.

After the intervention, John went to a treatment center for six weeks, but his sobriety didn’t last long. It was a disease that would haunt him the rest of his life. Even with the support of his faithful wife and three children, he could not stop drinking. Eventually he lost his job as he could no longer function at work. Karen says the loss of his job was the “perfect storm” for him sinking further into the abyss.

Jean and the family attended Al-Anon meetings regularly and educated themselves about the disease, even though John did not attend AA meetings himself. They prayed fervently even when it seemed that their prayers were unanswered. It was such a difficult time for the entire family, and they often felt helpless. After his death, John’s children spoke openly about the disease. Even today, they watch the grandchildren’s behavior closely to recognize any signs of alcoholism early on.

It is important to remember that it is an illness. The modern disease theory of alcoholism states that problem drinking is sometimes caused by a disease of the brain, characterized by altered brain structure and function. The American Medical Association declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956.

Karen says, “This is truly a horrible disease that affects the entire family. It eventually cost my father everything, including his job and health. It greatly affected our family’s relationships. It is so difficult to care for someone who won’t stop drinking.” Although Karen and her family saw first-hand how totally devastating this illness can be, their prayers never stopped. In their case, it made their family closer.

What Helped:

  • Faith and fervent prayers.
  • Their priest and the social worker who helped with the intervention.
  • Al-Anon meetings.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 69:13 But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose. Answer me because of your great love, because you keep your promise to save.

Psalm 143:1 Lord, hear my prayer! In your righteousness listen to my plea; answer me in your faithfulness!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, sometimes it does seem that there isn’t an answer to our prayers. Help us to keep discouragement at bay and await Your glorious intervention. You are always in control, so we continue to turn to You with open and thankful hearts. We trust that You will not abandon us in our time of need.

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2 thoughts on “Caring for a Parent Struggling With Alcoholism

  1. Cathy F. says:

    This family has been very courageous and steadfast in the wake of this devastating disease. Sharing their personal journey and challenges they experienced in the struggle to help their father will certainly help others who may be going through a similar situation. My prayers of healing, enlightenment and wisdom are for those families and for those individuals struggling with the disease .

  2. Pat Watson says:

    So sad for the family of the alcoholic. There is no way to guarantee their sobriety if they aren’t convinced of the need for them to stop drinking.

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