There is no cure for alcoholism – once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Fortunately, however, the disease can be kept in remission with treatment. A person must chose between being a drinking alcoholic or a non-drinking alcoholic. Even after decades of sobriety, alcoholics who believe they can safely drink again either quickly or slowly return to their old out-of-control drinking, with the same devastating consequences.

Treatment begins by coming out of denial. As long as the alcoholic remains in denial about their drinking they will continue to drink and blame everyone and everything else as the cause of their problems. Sometimes an alcoholic will lose everything – job, family and finances – and still deny that alcohol had anything to do with it. Denial is a formidable foe. If an alcoholic is able to muster enough honesty on their own, then recovery can begin. But if they refuse to come out of denial, a planned intervention with a professional can be organized to help them see the truth about their drinking.

Once an alcoholic admits that they have a problem with drinking, the real work begins. Recovery from this illness is a process, not an event, and requires radical change in most areas of life. Learning how to cope with life without the anaesthetizing effects of alcohol is a lifelong process that requires a strong commitment and lots of support. Recovery doesn’t occur in isolation.

One of the most successful treatment programs of the past century is the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. This non-Christian 12-step support group has helped millions of alcoholics stay sober. Most have gone on to build satisfying lives for themselves. Marriages and families have been restored.

The comparable Christian recovery program is called Celebrate Recovery. This recovery program is based on Biblical principles and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The main advantage of both of these non-professional programs is that they offer on-going, free support for those seeking to leave an addictive lifestyle behind. They offer a variety of meetings, seven days a week. Meetings involve teaching, sharing, support and understanding. Practical help is offered to deal with the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of recovery.

After years of drinking, many alcoholics require assistance from the medical profession. A complete physical checkup with a family doctor is highly recommended. Depending on the severity of the alcohol abuse, it may be necessary to go to a detoxification program run by trained medical professionals followed by admittance to an alcohol treatment program. Many also benefit from working with a professional counsellor trained in dealing with alcohol addiction.

Recovery from this disease rests on an individual’s willingness to admit and accept that they can’t control their drinking and that drinking is wrecking their life. It also depends on accepting complete abstinence as a foundational basis of recovery because for an alcoholic, the problem begins with the first drink, not the tenth.

This admittance opens the door for Christ to enter an alcoholic’s life and radically transform them from the inside out. It is an acceptance of Christ as personal Saviour that gives the alcoholic the power to choose to drink or not to drink, one day at a time. And it is involvement with other recovering alcoholics that provides a safe environment in which they can learn how to live without alcohol, one day at a time.

Michele Langmead was a registered counsellor with Focus on the Family Canada at the time of publication. .

© 2010 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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