Q&A: As a recovering alcoholic, how can I convince my children I want to reconcile?Written by Focus on the Family
Question: A number of years ago my lifelong struggle with alcoholism finally led to the dissolution of my marriage and family. There are no words to express the feelings of remorse and grief that torment me every day as a result of this tragedy. I’m happy to say that I’ve recently found the Lord, and I’m in the process of kicking my drinking habit. Now I’d like to re-establish contact with my kids, but they don’t want anything to do with me. How can I be reconciled with them?
It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve given your heart to Christ and put your life on a new footing. We want to encourage you to keep moving in that direction, strengthening your walk with God through prayer, serious study of the Scriptures and regular involvement with a solid Bible-believing evangelical church. As regards your relationship with your children, it’s vital that you proceed with caution and resist the temptation to entertain unrealistic expectations. It is true that, in the spiritual realm, God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ for all your past mistakes and removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. Unfortunately, the Bible also teaches very clearly that, where human relationships are concerned, there is a sense in which we "reap what we sow."
Where your children are concerned, it’s vital that you proceed with caution. You need to be realistic. It’s true that, in the spiritual realm, God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ. All your past mistakes have been taken away and removed from you as far as the east is from the west. Unfortunately, when it comes to human relationships, there’s a very real sense in which you “reap what you sow.”
There’s a reason your kids don’t want anything to do with you right now. Through your addictive behaviour, you’ve destroyed their family and deprived them of the stability and security they desperately needed during their most formative years. In some sense or other, they’ll be dealing with the fallout of this for as long as they live. Harsh as this sounds, it’s the inescapable truth. At this point it’s unrealistic for you to expect your children to welcome you back with open arms. Your interest in re-establishing a relationship with them is understandable and commendable, but you’re going to have to earn the right to make that dream come true. This will require patience, humility and time – probably a great deal of time.
Before doing anything else, it might be worth your while to ask yourself some tough questions. What exactly is behind your desire to reconnect with your kids? Do you really have their best interests at heart, or are you simply trying to get rid of your own feelings of guilt? Scripture says that there is a vast difference between selfish guilt or "worldly sorrow," which only produces death, and the "godly sorrow" that inspires genuine repentance and leads to salvation – in other words, genuine remorse for harming another person and breaking a relationship (2 Corinthians 7:10).
If you sincerely want what’s best for your children, you should give them the time and space they need in order to reconnect with you. Let them move toward you at their own pace, which may be cautious and slow. Don’t expect to start with personal visits or phone conversations. It would be much better to express your remorse and ask their forgiveness through letters or e-mail.
Let them know that you understand how much pain and anger they must feel and that you will respect their wishes regarding reconciliation. If and when they decide that they’re ready to meet with you, you’d be wise to arrange this with the help of an experienced family therapist. Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department can refer you to a professional in your area. Just call 1.800.661.9800 and ask for our counselling assistant.
Should you require any further assistance in dealing with your alcohol problem, Focus on the Family Canada offers a number of resources designed to meet the needs of individuals and families dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. We recommend the book The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not Enough by Sharon Hersh.
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