Father in Alcohol Recovery Gives Perspective to Those With Other Addictions

Bearded adult man praying to God sitting at home in the sunbeam. A Muslim or Christian raises his hands to God. Crossed hands in prayer gesture close up

John Cook, Marriage and Family Counselor at Wisconsin Lutheran Christian Counseling, Milwaukee, WI

A father in recovery writes to his wife and children. His perspective can be applied to those involved with other addictions.

To My Family, Whom I Love…

I know that this letter is too long in coming. Maybe you won’t agree with or appreciate what you will read, but I think it is important that I try to explain why it has taken me so long to begin my recovery. I need you to understand what I see as important to happen for me to remain in recovery. So, here goes.

For a long time, I could not see that I was addicted. I knew I was causing you great difficulties and that our lives were getting more out of control. I was not connecting the negative happenings to my dependency.

I remember the Christmas when there was not enough money to buy gifts. Somehow, I convinced myself it wasn’t my wasteful and addicted behavior that caused that situation. Kids, I can still see your tears. You didn’t complain. In fact, I saw a look in your eyes that seemed to say, “Can’t you make this different, Dad?” In response, I dove deeper into my addiction.

You see, my addiction (I guess any addition for that matter) produces a lot of guilt and even shame. That guilt ate away at me as I fought to bring my behavior under control, but I failed. I saw our family drifting farther and farther apart by my addiction, but felt powerless to change what was happening.

Dear, I know you did not get married expecting to have to deal with a problem like this. I blamed you for the problems that my addiction caused. I could always rationalize that it was your fault — that you were unreasonable, selfish, or impossible to live with. At some level, I knew that my actions were tearing apart our marriage, but I would not admit it. I hate that I felt like a failure–as a father, husband, and an employee. So, my dependency grew.

Even more painful was the feeling that I was a failure as a Christian. Sure, I knew all the passages about what Jesus did. I rejoiced that all of you were going to heaven because of your faith in the Savior. But, I felt I was somehow different.

I could not understand how God could forgive me. Because I was addicted, I felt unworthy and ashamed. How could I possibly go to God and ask for help when I daily spit in his face through my dependency? As you know, my dependency continued to worsen, aided by my endless guilt.

This is the past that I can never erase from my memory nor, unfortunately, from your memories. But the good news is, as you know, God stepped in and rescued me. I couldn’t clean up my act on my own, so God started me on the way.

The way he started it was the day that all of you sat down with me and shared exactly what my dependency was doing and how it made you feel. The intense pain I saw in your eyes was like a stab to my heart and conscience. I wasn’t immediately “cured,” but God kept that memory alive inside of me and through it planted a growing seed of recovery.

To keep me in recovery, God has worked wonders with you as a supportive, forgiving family. Thank you. I see how much you love me and openly share that love. That gives me a little bit of God here on earth. You love me and support me despite the ways I have hurt you and let you down. My recovery is truly strengthened because of my family.

Even if God had not given me a family like you, he has also put Christian friends in my life to whom I need to be accountable. I need to meet with them on a regular basis to share my struggles. My dependency may not be active, but there are still a good number of other problem areas to handle. I hope you know that I am not trying to avoid spending time with you, my family. I just need the support I get through my Christian friends.

I also see how God has changed me through my recovery. He used the counseling I received to help me discover that I am not the weak, less than others person I always felt I was. He reminded me of who I am because of what Jesus did.

God has taught me that my way is not always the best. (That’s something that I wish he wouldn’t

have to show me so often!) He has also proven to me, many times, that being uncomfortable with people or events in my life is not bad. I can still trust that he is taking care of me, no matter how I feel.

God used a source for all of this teaching that I really did not know how to use, even though I thought I did. God opened up the Bible for me. I understand more clearly Paul talking about good things he tried to do but couldn’t and the bad things he constantly struggled against but lost. I have seen how God does more than I could ever imagine, all because of his love.

That Jesus was sent to die for us and to rescue us while we were still sinners, helps to explain how my recovery began, and does wonders for my humility. His mercies, which freely come every day, power my recovery. His Word tells me that each day his mercies are new. What a truly wonderful God we have!

I know I have a long way to go to become the husband and father that you need and want. I also know that my recovery is only as secure as my relationship with God, you, and my good Christian friends. I just wanted you to know that, with God’s help, I’m not going to give up on my recovery. I don’t need my dependency as much as I need my Savior’s love. I need to live out my recovery in the same way I need to live out my faith–one day at a time. For today then, I can truly agree with Paul that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).


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