Drinking Family Members
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire. Jude 1:22-23
Last summer, my son had a tonsillectomy, a painful procedure for which he was prescribed opioid pain medications. This made me a little nervous. It was a similar surgical procedure that was my first exposure to opioids. It made my wife even a little more nervous though, but for different reasons – me. It made her uncomfortable to have opioid pain medications in the house because of my addiction. So, she handled them. She knew where they were. I did not. She administered them to our son. I never even saw them.
There was a tiny part of me that wanted to object to this. I’m eight years sober. I’m the physician after all. I can help my son with his medications! That approach would not have been healthy, for me or my wife. For her sake, she needed to be able to handle and hide the medication. For my sake, I had to accept that I shouldn’t expose myself unnecessarily to temptation, no matter how strong I thought I was. The truth is, I have abused those same medications and it’s possible that I could do so again. So why put myself at risk?
I run into a version of this quandary occasionally, though it usually has to do with alcohol and drinking family members. Should the family members of an alcoholic stop drinking? Sometimes, it’s a husband who wants to keep alcohol in the house. He feels that he doesn’t have a problem, so why should his wife’s alcoholism affect him? Sometimes it’s the parents of an adult child who insist on having alcohol at family functions, despite knowing that their son struggles with alcohol. Those who struggle don’t want to admit weakness and don’t want their problem to affect others, so they say, No it’s fine. Have a drink. It won’t bother me. The family members are more than willing to accept this because they want a drink, and they feel that the individual’s problem shouldn’t dictate their behavior.
Every family must figure this out on their own, but I’d suggest a couple of things. The individual’s problem with alcohol isn’t isolated to the individual. Addiction makes everyone sick. It may not be fair, but everyone close to the alcoholic is affected by the addiction and everyone close may have to make sacrifices for the sake of the individual and for themselves. The alcoholic may be afraid to ask, but having alcohol in the house or at the Thanksgiving table is terribly deadly to the sobriety of an alcoholic. To me, insisting on alcohol shows how little the rest of the family cares for the alcoholic. If I need alcohol so badly that I can’t give it up when I’m around the alcoholic, then I’m the one with a problem.
My wife doesn’t drink, so this is easy for me to say, but I’ve also seen first hand – with my son’s pain medications – how careful she is not to expose me to temptation. I appreciate that and I love her for it. I could be offended, or I could just admit that I have a weakness from which she is trying to protect me. Addiction made my whole family sick and whether we like it or not, we all play a part in getting healthy and sober.