for alcoholics and the people who love them :: hope on Good Friday

This is not a post about whether or not it matters if you have a glass of wine with dinner. I’m not writing about how to help a loved one who is an alcoholic or how to get help for yourself or how to anything, really.

This is a post about hope. And for alcoholics and the people who love them, hope can be a hard sell.

***

Beer was as much a part of my family growing up as stockings at Christmas, white cake on our birthday, and the kittens living in our shed. I didn’t question it, didn’t wonder about it, and didn’t know to blame it for any of my insecurities.

with dad

My dad drank beer everyday until I was 10 years old.

I didn’t have to go to college to learn what ‘passed out drunk’ looked like.

He snored on the floor in the early evenings while we watched TV. We tossed a shoe or twenty in his direction during Little House on the Prairie because his snoring was so loud we couldn’t hear the details of what was happening in Walnut Grove.

I thought all the worlds dads came home and fell asleep on the floor.

***

There are a lot of stories I could share about those early years growing up so I’m surprised at what I’m about to share with you. Instead of something from those early days, it was this – from years after he stopped drinking.

***

By the time I went to college, my dad had been sober for over 10 years. He was a believer in Jesus by now and our family dynamic had changed from dysfunctional to slightly less dysfunctional. Everyone has their role and it seems like in families with addiction, the roles have a stronger hold and are more deeply rooted in insecurity.

I could be wrong about that.

But my role was to be the good girl and I carried on that way for many years.

A month before I was married, I went with my girlfriends to the beach, a sort of bachelorette weekend, I guess. They made me a veil to wear to dinner and we sang karaoke - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, of course - at a little restaurant with palm trees in the front.

beach

It was the best kind of Cameron-Diaz-romantic-comedy cliche.

But we weren’t drinking. I remember the waiter gave me a hard time about that, pushed and teased. It’s your bachelorette party! Live it up a little! I laughed it off the first few times he said it, but by the fourth time he came to our table and teased, I was done.

Looking back on that night at the restaurant, I wish more than anything to have been confident, breezy, and lighthearted with that waiter.

Instead, I pushed back, defended myself, told him if his dad was an alcoholic, maybe he would have made the same choice for his bachelorette party.

And besides all that, some people don’t need beer to have fun.

It was all very high-horse of me. Lord have mercy on my bratty soul.

We all come from the same mound of dust and here I was, being snippy with a flirty waiter, dirt all up in my teeth.

I went on for a while that way. My friends weren’t quite sure what to say and when I was finished I desperately wanted to sink into a hole beneath the table.

Unfortunately the booths at the restaurant we chose did not come supplied with trap doors.

I can still feel the anger of that night and it wasn’t simply about the waiter teasing us for not drinking at my bachelorette party. I just hated it was an issue at all.

I hated that a big amber colored arrow pointed to my history – my father, my grandfather before him – a genealogy of addiction.

I hated how beer made me afraid.

***

Dad stopped drinking when he was thirty-five. That’s how old I am now.

He didn’t stop because someone said the right thing, lectured the right way, loved him enough. He didn’t stop because I was a good girl or because mom made his favorite breakfast or because any of us asked him to.

He made the choice to stop drinking because he wanted to stop. I see it as a miracle.

Even though addiction is part of our family story, it isn’t the whole story. And it isn’t the finished story.

Addiction didn’t win.

But for years, it seemed like it would.

Good Friday promises otherwise. Good Friday promises that nothing can separate us from the love of God because love chose to be separated from Himself instead.

God turned on himself for our sakes. He tore himself apart so that our brokenness, our betrayal and our addictions wouldn’t be the end of our stories.

Jesus was separated so you will never have to be separate again. Even when it seems like you’re fighting a losing battle. Even when it seems like hope is dead.

Hope did die. But Hope didn’t stay dead.

hope

My parents have been married for 40 years. We look to them for wisdom and for counsel. We consider them friends.

We laugh together. We plan together. We have a dream together.

The same God who turned water into wine turns alcoholics into dreamers.

It doesn’t make sense and those two things don’t seem to go together, but they do somehow. And I don’t have to understand it for it to change my life.

***

Maybe your story is dark, scary, and fierce. Maybe life feels like one long good Friday – the death part. Maybe it would help to hear about hope from someone who was hopeless and then lived to tell about it – from an alcoholic himself.

My dad has had a blog longer than I have. He writes about hope, about change, about how life is better when you see how things fit. That’s meaningful all by itself, but it’s more meaningful when you know where he’s come from.

How does a history of addiction fit? He’s starting a series on Monday called Everything Fits: The struggler’s guide to confusion, waiting, regret, and hopelessness. You can learn more about that series on his blog. (and a little fun fact, those dots in his header are clickable, which to me feels like a cool secret).

But he’s also sharing his two e-books for free until Easter Sunday.

From Beer to Eternity: A little story of addiction and beyond :: ”This is a story of impossibilities: an addict who couldn’t quit but did; a marriage that could have ended but didn’t; a man who seemed dead, but lived.” It’s available for FREE through Sunday at midnight, March 31.

Scary Hope: Courage and a kick to hug hope, face fear, and get going :: This one is FREE through March 31, too. You don’t have to own a Kindle to get the books; you can download a Kindle app for free at Amazon.

“Hope, wonderful hope! The bright sun in the morning, the ring of twelve-string guitars, fresh red strawberries, sleeping puppies, giggling babies, inspiring choruses that never end, and the way the air smells giddy on a surprising warm afternoon in March after a long frozen winter. That’s how your dream of fulfilled hope feels, only better. But first, the scary. Do you really want change? You know you have a longing, a hope. Maybe you don’t even know exactly what it looks like. But you yearn and you dream for something beyond your reach. You have the hope, but do you want the change?”

Gary Morland, Scary Hope

And one last thing: If you have a teenage girl in your life who considers her role in the family to be the good girl like I did, my book Graceful could be an appropriate read for her. It is on sale for only $5 at LifeWay through Easter Sunday, March 31.

Comments

  1. says

    What you said about roles in alcoholic families makes sense. My husband’s father lost his life to alcoholism, and while he quit a couple times, he never actually wanted to. Now my sons are short a grandfather already. It’s pretty heartbreaking.

    • Shar says

      I wish I would’ve read your words when I was a young daughter of an alcoholic father. However, unlike your dad, mine never was able to get free from his addiction and the personal demons he must have been battling. He died of emphysema in 1995. Since then, I have often thought of how his coming home angry and drunk eventually passing out on the couch has affected the person I became. We (my two older brothers and myself) took our roles, much like your family and as a result I grew up very insecure avoiding even the slightest hint of conflict. I still stuggle with the lies that I’m not good enough or worthy enough and have trouble dealing with difficult situations, but here I am in my mid 50′s and I choose daily to accept Jesus has made me good enough through his sacrifice. This hope that Jesus offers is free and yet some days I still find it hard to grasp. But on this bittersweet day called Good Friday, my savior loved me enough to take my sins and shame to the cross and to say “It is finished”!

      • Jillie says

        Oh Shar…Your description of your brothers and yourself, and your roles within your alcoholic home, mirror my own. How we always tried to be ‘good’. It was like walking on eggshells. Don’t upset Mom. Don’t upset Dad. The fears and constant anxiety. And the insecurity! I still grow fearful in the face of any confrontation, and I’m 56 years old, for cryin’ out loud! In our home, we had absolutely no voice. We were to be seen and not heard. To this day, I fear rejection if I offer my opinion. I too, know in my head that Christ says I’m plenty good enough just because I’m me and I belong to Him. But I don’t always know if it’s reached my heart yet.

  2. says

    I love your father’s blog and am so looking forward to his series! He is such an awesome story teller. I am so grateful to have a window into just how amazing grace really is through his writing, yours and Nester’s. Reading all three really gives me hope for my brokenness as well.
    Kim´s last blog post ..When the Worst Thing That Could Happen Does

  3. Emily says

    My mom isn’t a full blown alcoholic (I don’t think) but she does drink to the point of a couple months ago my mom was really drunk but I didn’t know at first I thought that was her normal behavior. But I it was sorta comforting that I am not the only one afraid of alcohol. I am only 17 and have been addicted to purging and cutting and even though my parents want me to drink and to try it I am afraid that I would become addicted to yet another thing or end up like my mom drinking when somthing ticks her off. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Connie says

    Emily,

    There are so many thoughts racing through my mind right now, so many emotions galloping across my soul. I don’t know where to start to share them, so I’ll just say thank you…for willingly being a vessel through which God can bring His words to the world.

    • says

      You’re welcome, Connie. It always feels risky to share some of these things, mainly because the lines between what is my story and what belongs to my dad and others in my family – well, those lines aren’t always so clear.

      I’m glad to know the post has helped you to think – maybe even to process.

  5. says

    LOVE. Emily, there are about a bazillion thoughts running around in my brain about how your words resonate with me. My 4 tater tots running around my living room are sorta hindering me from making any of them coherent though:) Just, thanks. I am smack in the middle between debilitating and thriving in my own story of brokenness, so…thanks!
    Mandy´s last blog post ..Taking It Personally

  6. says

    What a beautiful story of hope to share on Good Friday. I’ve read your dad’s book, Scary Hope, and it brought hope to my husband and I as we walked through a 20-month unemployment journey. You mentioned it on your blog one day and I downloaded it and read it. It was touching so many places in my heart that I asked my husband if he’d let me read it aloud to him. He agreed, and it touched places in his heart, too. There is HOPE and HIS name is JESUS.

    Thank you for sharing your so very personal story with all of us.
    Pam´s last blog post ..It’s not an ordinary Thursday . . .

  7. says

    Open, honest, and brave. I’m not surprised that’s what you always bring. I love the tie between that struggle and Good Friday. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it works for every struggle there is in this life. Thank you for your transparency.
    Sara´s last blog post ..What the Fudge

  8. says

    Thank you for this Emily. Not sure if I told you but my mother is an alcoholic, so I can relate, to all of it and more. Love the redemption in your Dad’s story, I’m looking forward to sharing mine in hope that it will be a conduit of grace to someone, like your words are here. I’m going to share this on my weekend Sabbath post. Sending lots of love to you.
    Shelly Miller´s last blog post ..Surrendering to Sabbath – Week 11

  9. says

    Yep, it all fits. And only God could take all these pieces–how this affected that, how that affected this, and how they both affected the next thing, and the next, and whoa! It’s complicated!–only God could take all those pieces and weave them together into a story that’s beautiful and wonderful. Oh, God. How grateful I am for redemption.

    And how grateful I am for people who can tell the story of redemption the way you can, my friend. I love you.
    Richella at Imparting Grace´s last blog post ..Thoughts for Good Friday

  10. Lisa says

    I cried as I read this,not for me,for my grandchildren.Their dad is an alcoholic and they were kicked out by him,them and my daughter a year ago,the divorce is terrible,he wanted them out but mean with it also.DNA has had to be done because I think he doesn’t want HIS children to grow up like him,but in the meantime he gives them and my daughter a hard road,even harder than living in fear with him.Thank you for sharing this,WE know there is hope,and she and her children go to church and her church family have stood beside her every step of the way.He did show up for their Baptising,and we thought then there was hope,only to be once again pushed back from him and his alcohol.Please remember them in everyone’s prayers.

  11. says

    “Even though addiction is part of our family story, it isn’t the whole story. And it isn’t the finished story.” That’s one of my favorite passages in your beautifully written post, Emily. Every family–let me say that again: every family–has something. But that “something” is surely not the whole story. Even better, “it isn’t the finished story.”
    My other favorite line is this one: “Hope did die. But Hope didn’t stay dead.” That’s really the crux of the Easter story, isn’t it. And it’s the pivotal point on which we can base our lives–and go on, even. in. Darkness. Hope lives.
    (I felt moved today to write about Good Friday too, not the easiest of topics, but important.) Easter blessings to you!
    Vivi´s last blog post ..Good Friday: A Matter of Perspective

  12. says

    My father drank for my entire childhood and finally stopped when I was in my early 20′s. He regrets so much of his missing my life and he was a very mean drunk. But I believe in forgiveness, and he has changed and is now funny and an amazing grandfather. He has always loved the Lord, and I know it was his faith in God and prayer that got him through it. Thank you for sharing this story and thank you for putting into words what I’ve felt many times when people say you never relax and have a drink at a party or dinner or vacation. When you grow up like that there is no relaxing, you become the responsible one. Have a Blessed Easter
    Stacy´s last blog post ..Thankful looking for a lesson

  13. Ruth says

    It is hard to grow up with an drunken father and it leaves scars on our lives…that last a lifetime! I grew up as an only child in this terrifying household and learned to live in fear of upsetting anyone. My father also stopped drinking when I was 16 and was able to hold a real job for the first time…..and father a new baby ! a new baby sister who was “God’s special gift” to them. She grew up in a totally different home…loved and doting on. I became the built-in babysitter! He died at 58 and mom lived many years , living to love her baby girl…..I left home at 18 and got married. She and I are now adults and have nothing to do with each other. More to the story….but you get the idea.

  14. says

    As an alcoholic in recovery, I appreciate this post, and I look forward to reading your dad’s words. It is an amazing miracle to live a second-chance life full of hope.

  15. Jami Murphy says

    WOW!!! My friend sent this to me because she thought of me and my brother while reading it. Now I know why!! As with many of the ones who have replied, this was like opening up the pages of my personal history book.
    My dad drank my whole entire life. Like you, I knew what “passed out drunk” looked like WAY sooner than any of my friends. At 8, I knew what the front of a beer joint looked like. Years, and years, and YEARS of memories like these. And, like you, I was the “good girl”. I was scared of drinking and the effects it would have on me. That’s not to say that I didn’t experiment with it when I got married, but I hated the memories of it enough to not want it as a permanent fixture in my life. Dad finally stopped drinking when he was in the hospital with congestive (sp?) heart failure. The doctors told him that if he continued to drink, he wouldn’t live. That was, almost, 3 years ago. I’m 39, and he’ll be 81 in May. He hasn’t turned his life to the Lord yet, but he’s still here and God ain’t through!!
    As for my brother, he is a chronic alcoholic. He drinks Vodka with EVERYTHING. He has been in the hospital with pancreatitis twice. While there, he went through detox. He has been in rehab. He’s done the AA thing. He’s lost his wife, (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing), but unfortunately, doesn’t have the relationship with his kids that he’d love to have. He’s an A&M graduate. The only college grad in our immediate family, as a matter of fact. He’s 38, my little brother, and he breaks my heart.
    BUT GOD….my brother owes me a “favor” =) because we have loaned my husband’s truck to him for a while. I told him the other day, “I think you owe me a church visit.” PRAISE THE LORD, he and his son are coming to church tomorrow!!! Even if it’s not necessarily a willing church visit, God can work through anything, and I’m EXPECTING Him to – in the name of Jesus!!!
    Thank you for sharing this. It’s not easy to tell all when you’d rather forget the majority of that all. BUT, you can’t share God’s glory from it if you don’t share the all. Right?
    God bless you all!
    Happy Easter – JESUS IS ALIVE!!

  16. Rebecca says

    I am thankful that you, your dad (and your mom), and your sister have been so open and willing to share. Your family gives me hope. I see some of how God has connected the dots, as your dad says. And where you said, “I just hated it was an issue at all. I hated that a big amber colored arrow pointed to my history”—I so feel that anger and feel hopeless at times. But then you said, “Hope did die. But Hope didn’t stay dead.” Oh how encouraging that is! Thank you for writing, for sharing, for being vulnerable with your story. God is in charge of the generations and not our history or the enemy.
    I am looking forward to your dad’s series. And the things I learned about your sister (and your whole family) this week have been so encouraging.
    God Bless and have a wonderful Easter weekend!

  17. says

    I have read both of your father’s books and also read his blog. I appreciate how your family shares openly. Only God can truly heal a family. I am so thankful for His grace and mercy and patience with us all. I think all of our families have some dysfunction. I have some memories from childhood that I choose to not linger on. I recommend these books highly.

    Blessings and love,
    Debbie
    Debbie´s last blog post ..Five Minute Friday ~ Broken

  18. judy says

    I’d like a book like Graceful “for the Good Boy.” Your book might be helpful for me (an adult child of adult children) but my son whose father is drinking and smoking himself to death…. probably wouldn’t appreciate it: ) Please let me know if you could recommend a book for someone like him “the no longer a boy” at 21. I’m concerned about him. I appreciate any suggestions from anyone reading this. Thank you!

    • says

      Ha! Thanks for your kind words, Hazel.

      It’s true, being a good girl protected me from a lot of things, but there is a false safety in that kind of life. I’ve learned that good girls have their own set of ugly, even addictions – addicted to other people’s opinions, addicted to control, addicted to managing outcomes – it really was not the way I wanted to live.

      I’ve learned there really is no such thing as a “good girl.” We are all desperate and needy for a Savior. Trying to be good kept me blind for a while, thinking I could handle life on my own. And underneath the good exterior was the same kind of mess I judged in other people.

  19. Jessica says

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can completely relate. I was the Good Girl. And I have plenty of holier-than-thou memories on file to prove it. I can’t tell you how much of a blessing your book was. Thank you for having the courage to say these things.

  20. Carly says

    When you proclaim your dad’s decision (and ability) to quit drinking as a miracle, I EMPHATICALLY say “Yes!!” My mom battled addiction for years: recovery, relapse, recovery, relapse; until she died at age 53 of an accidental death during a relapse. There are no words to the pain in my heart, the way that she went, the fact that alcohol “won,” and I was left motherless at the age of 30. Except it didn’t; it simply can’t– she is healed and whole and with her Savior and I live to shed light on the horror that is alcoholism. I often get flak for not drinking and hold my tongue often on the reason why, but I could get snippy if pushed. Don’t you hold shame for how you responded. Nobody gets the pain, fear, worry, walking-on-eggshell feelings unless they’ve been there, and I am doing my darnedest to make sure I break that cycle and my kids never have to experience that! Thank you for this. I love to hear success stories and am excited to read your dad’s blog.

  21. says

    Oh my goodness. As I sit here near tears… How did I not find this post sooner?
    I’ve been meaning to read your book (I have it on goodreads and everything) but haven’t had the time. Now that I see how much your story reminds me of mine, though, I think I’m gonna have to make the time.

    My Dad’s a functioning alcoholic. He says he’s better (and I can’t deny the fact that he is better than when I was little), but fact is that he still drinks, and when he has one drink, he has a dozen. I’m not super close to my Dad, but just about every image of him in my brain involves him w/ a beer in his hand. He’s never been physical (at least w/me), but the emotional drainage that has put on me since childhood… I can’t describe. It’s one of the (many) reasons I’ve distanced myself from him. Too much emotional turmoil, between him and my grandmother (another story for another day!), I couldn’t handle it, even as a kid.

    I was also the “good girl”. Heck, I still am. For the most part, at least. Sophomore at a Christian college with a 3.7 GPA. Involved in missions work and am a member of a service club on campus.
    Because I have such a broken, dysfunctional family, I wanted to be perfect. I’ve tried so dang hard. I couldn’t (and never will) be seen as good enough for my grandmother. I’m too emotional, I’m too fat, I’m not good enough or smart enough; that’s all I ever was, despite all my attempts to prove otherwise.

    I’m an overly emotional type A control freak; if I am not the “good girl”, I’m something I’ve never been before-in unknown territory in a sense- and that scares the crap outta me. It’s hard not to be the “good girl” cause I’ve never been given an alternative.

    I’ve never thought of alcoholism and my “good girl” mentality going together, but it just clicks. Seeing how alcohol and anger issues have affected my family make me worry about me; what if I start drinking and become addicted? What if I’m not the good girl everyone hoped I’d be? What if I screw up? What if I fail? Those thoughts always linger.

    Thanks for your story because it gives ME hope for mine. My Dad hasn’t crossed the threshold of sobriety yet, but I hope he will. He’s engaged to a wonderful lady that wants to support him, so I hope he takes that and actually does something with it. I’m still a good girl, but I’m working on being a good girl for ME, and for the right reasons. I can’t let my family’s past ruin my future.
    Thank you for the reminder of the cross, and that life is waiting to be restored.

    Thank you for reminding me that there is hope.
    Jordan Taylor´s last blog post ..Thank you for the Cross, Lord

  22. Gina says

    Great post, Emily. I read both of your dad’s books last year, and they were very inspiring. My father was an alcoholic, and my husband was going down that road, too. I thank God that he is now sober, although it is still a struggle. My husband also read the books…he loved them as well.

  23. says

    What a touching post! You have reached deep within yourself and shared your soul. This will be a real help to many. I do not know the trauma of being the child of an alcoholic (though plentiful dysfunctional home scars in other areas). I do, however know the trauma of being a young wife to an alcoholic. I also know the story of being ” The Good Girl”. God bless you for sharing and your father as he uses his past to offer hope to others.

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