Contact the author Duncan Heaster
Living with Alcoholism
1. Understanding The Alcoholic|| 1.1 Introduction|| 1.2 Denial || Deeper Study Box 1: Implications Of Believing That God Sees And Knows All Things || 1.3 Some Medical Aspects || Deeper Study Box 2: Implications Of Believing Human Beings Were Created By God || 1.4 Guilt || 1.5 The Nature Of Sin And Temptation || 2. Understanding Your Response || 2.1 Introduction || 2.2 Denial || 2.3 Helping or Enabling? || 2.4 Detachment ||  2.5 Patience And Forgiveness || Deeper Study Box 3: Repentance And Forgiveness ||  3. The Biblical Answer || 3.1 Introduction || 3.2 Transparency And Conviction || Deeper Study Box 4: Truth: A Biblical Analysis || 3.3 Repentance || 3.4 The New Life ||  4. After The Victory

4. After The Victory

As and when your loved one quits the bottle for good, your problems may not be over. Consider this strange but true statistical phenomena: A relatively large number of partners welcome back their ex-alcoholic partner into family life. He or she remains sober. But they... leave the dried out partner and marry...another alcoholic. Why and how ever could this be? During the period of alcoholism, the partner [especially a woman] takes total authority. They have to make decisions with no reference to the alcoholic. They know best. They are in an extraordinary position of power in the relationship. On drying out, the family or relationship must return to what it was before- a bonding of equals, with no manipulation, superiority, despising of the other. And this is actually incredibly hard. The implications of forgiving the alcoholic practically have to be thought through. It really is hard, very hard. And again, fellowship with others who have been through the same will be of great help.

The parable of the elder brother needs to be thought through. Perhaps this was the essential message of the parable. The elder brother was basically jealous and full of self-pity. He felt that his years of patient obedience [and surely he over-rated his own righteousness!] had all been forgotten just because the prodigal had returned. He forgave nothing- he ran on about how the prodigal had spent his father’s livelihood on whores. His brother’s former sins were utmost in his mind even after his brother had so clearly reformed. And the result was tragic- he no longer wanted to be part of his Father’s fellowship. All because he would not truly forgive.

5. Conclusions

In the end, the question will arise for all involved with the tragedy of alcoholism: Why me? Why am I an alcoholic...why was my destiny to live with an alcoholic? Without an acceptance that God not only really exists but has a serious, powerful plan to manifest Himself in us, and that all aspects of our lives are guided to ultimately enable this, these questions remain tragically unanswered in many unbelieving minds. I am convinced that a just God will not ultimately try any of His children more than others. We must each take up the cross. No matter how many times we stumble and fall whilst bearing it- and even our Lord did this in His final walk to Golgotha- we are to be dominated by the image of cross-carrying discipleship after Him. The way, the path, the channel which each of us is given by our Lord will vary. For some it will be alcohol; for others, living with marital unfaithfulness, narcotics, physical or mental disability. And so the list goes on, as and if we could survey the private struggles of each of God’s children. We each have our path to the cross, to the attempted imitation of Christ to which we are each undeniably, unavoidably called.

As my friend Steve Johnson put it to me once as mystified by events we drove through the snowy fields of Latvia: “It’s the process, not the product”. Or as another dear friend John Stibbs put it to me in the heat of a personal tragedy in suburban Australia, sitting together on a steamy Brisbane veranda: “It’s the ride, not the destination”. As Gregory of Nyssa put it in his Life of Moses : “Virtue is discovered not so much in the attaining as in the trying, the struggling, the running of the race”. Whether or not your family member quits their alcoholism isn’t quite the point, ultimately. It’s your reaction to it, which prepares you for the ultimate destination of the Kingdom. And this is the only end point which is of ultimate consequence, hard as it is to grasp as we live out our lives in a world bent on personal happiness in the here and now. I know how it seems that God is so unfairly distant from you in these crises. Try to grasp the spirit of Manoah, who so wanted God to intervene directly, to send an Angel and tell him what he was to do with his son Samson. “The angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the Angel of the Lord” (Jud. 13:21). It was the very absence of God’s direct appearance in his life that in the end persuaded Manoah that truly, he did have a fully valid relationship with Him. May you know this to be true for you, as so many others have. The Lord Jesus had a way of gently turning comments and questions back on the person who made them, and of redefining the terms used. A man told Him once that he would follow him “whithersoever thou goest”, i.e. to whatever end point the road may lead to. The Lord replied that He had nowhere to lay His head. In other words, it’s the following of Him that we need to focus on, rather than the hardness of some possible great future sacrifice that may lie ahead. It’s the road, and not the destination, that are important (Mt. 8:19-21).

Jeremiah saw his beloved people consumed by the results of their own actions and attitudes. He realized that there but for God’s grace would have gone all of them. Jeremiah thanked God: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we [this is where the emphasis is] are not consumed [i.e., as they have been], because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him” (Lam. 3:22-25).

Appendix 1: The Twelve Steps

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings

8. We made a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out

12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

Appendix 2: Some Christian resources

Anonymous e-mail contact with other Christian alcoholics and their families:

Eastern Europe / Russian speaking counselling: a. d. 1903, Vilnius 2012 LITHUANIA; a.k. 97, Riga 1007 LATVIA

The Caring Network, North America

The Queensland Caring Network, Australia



(1) Caroline Knapp, “The Glass Half Empty”, The New York Times Magazine (9 May 1999), p. 19.

(2) Jean Kinney & Gwen Leaton, Loosening The Grip: A Handbook Of Alcohol Information (St Louis: Mosby, 1995) p. 21. This is an invaluable source of statistics and facts relating to alcoholism.

(3) The most Biblical attempt to justify total abstinence which I have come across is in Peter Masters, Should Christians Drink? The Case For Total Abstinence (London: Wakeman, 2001). But even this, in my opinion, fails to conclusively clinch the case Biblically. I have to leave it at the level of a personal conscience decision.

(4) Jorge Valles, Social Drinking And Alcoholism (Texas Alcohol And Narcotics Educations Council, 1965) p. 14.

(5) Darryl Inaba & William Cohen, Physical And Mental Effects Of Psychoactive Drugs (Ashland, OR: C.N.S., 1993), p. 135.

(6) Roy Hatfield, “Closet Alcoholics In The Church”, Christianity Today, 18 August 1981 p. 28.

(7) This is discussed and documented in some detail in Andre Bustanoby, The Wrath Of Grapes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987).

(8) Jean Kinney & Gwen Leaton, Loosening The Grip: A Handbook Of Alcohol Information (St Louis: Mosby, 1995) p. 21.

(9) For a fine and moving account of a Christian’s deliverance from alcohol abuse, see the thrilling, chilling testimony of Peter Bayliss in The Perils Of Drug And Alcohol Abuse (Birmingham: Care Group Publications, 1999).

(10) Paul Martin, The Healing Mind, 1997, p. 157.

(11) K.M. Magruder, “The Association Of Alcoholism Mortality With Legal Availability Of Alcoholic Beverages”, Alcohol And Drug Education, 1976.