The Gift of Grace

by Guy Kettlehack

Guy Kettelhack, author of twenty-five self help and recovery books and Psybersquare's resident addiction and recovery expert, was asked to comment on the case of Ruth*. Ruth is a middle-aged woman whose twenty-six year-old son is seemingly an alcoholic. He's lost a number of jobs, and recently has asked Ruth for a "loan" to help him "get on his feet" after losing another job. Guy's response follows.

If Ruth's twenty-six year-old son is indeed an "alcoholic in denial," there's really only one choice here, agonizing as it may be for Ruth to make. Say no to the loan, and go to Alanon.

Having known many alcoholics stubbornly unwilling to admit their disease -- but maybe mostly from having been one myself -- I'm convinced that the human capacity for denial knows no bounds. However, just because an alcoholic is "in denial" doesn't mean that we have to be. By saying no to her son, Ruth is giving him the clear message, not only that she refuses to enable him to drink anymore, but also that -- for herself -- she has identified his real problem (even if he refuses to) as alcoholism.

This probably will not effect any miraculous change in her son (indeed, for a while, he may get worse), but it will lay the groundwork for Ruth's own recovery and healing, which she absolutely needs to attend to first. We tend to blame alcoholics in our families as the "problem." And indeed, they are. But they're not the only problem. It is a great truth that alcoholism is a family disease. The ways in which the family often protects the alcoholic (and perpetuates its own denial that the family member is sick) -- looking the other way, rationalizing, covering up, rushing in to fix the mess, hoping that "this time" things will be different -- all bespeak a host of family dynamics that need to be looked at and on an individual basis, one day at a time, changed.

The best way for Ruth to do this is to go to Alanon, which was created to help family members of alcoholics accomplish three crucial tasks:
  1. Stop enabling the alcoholic to drink.

  2. Learn about the disease the family member is afflicted with.

  3. Follow a program of recovery themselves.

A possible happy result for Ruth may be that, by refusing to "take the bait" and once again fix her son's dilemma temporarily with money, she may give him compelling cause to look at the consequences of his own actions a little differently.

If he's honest, open and willing enough, he may eventually know the gift of grace that we call recovery. I hope and pray - along with Ruth -- that he does.

But, in the meantime, I appeal to Ruth to do her praying while she's driving to the nearest Alanon meeting.

*The name has been changed to protect her identity.


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