FOR CLERGY AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS
| The clergy has come to recognize that alcoholism is a complex disease; it affects not only the alcoholic but the entire family emotionally, spiritually and physically. It erodes family bonds, and it often isolates family members from others in their community.
As a member of the clergy, you are in a unique position to help when families and friends of problem drinkers seek guidance from you. But first you need to recognize the ripple effects of alcoholism and help the family break down the roadblocks of their denial. The wife of an alcoholic may come to you, for instance, complaining about violence, problems with her children, lack of financial support, or lack of communication.
AL-ANON members describe the kinds of stories you're likely to hear: "...it's been another harrowing weekend... Jim didn't come home Friday night-payday and when he finally showed up around 6:00 AM Saturday, he was disheveled and had hardly anything left of his paycheck. Later in the day, he beat one of the children for playing too loudly. Saturday night he went out and got drunk again and Sunday he took his feeling out on me."
Another member of your congregation makes an appointment to see you. He unburdens a tale of woe you had no idea existed in his home. He describes scenes of anguish: finding his infant son unattended in the crib when he comes home from work, his wife passed out drunk on the kitchen floor. You've seen the family together at services and find it hard to believe this attractive woman can be as her husband describes her.
A member of the clergy, who is familiar with the problems facing families of alcoholics, offers advice to his peers: "One of the greatest services an enlightened clergy can perform once the presence of alcoholism has been acknowledged, is to suggest that the non-alcoholic partner take advantage of the tremendous resources of help and healing available in AL-ANON.... Once the spouse of an alcoholic has found the acceptance and understanding of the AL-ANON fellowship, emotional and spiritual growth begins...The AL-ANON program teaches a change in attitude and style of living and members of the fellowship who thus develop new priorities for their lives, are able to make a significant spiritual contribution to any religious community."
"This isn't, however, to minimize the contribution of the counselor. The family's frequent lack of understanding of the forces at work in alcoholism, demands considerable insight and interpretation on the part of the counselor. It requires much more than passive listening. Such counseling is, in effect, two persons working together to explore and resolve a problem." (Taken from "The Clergy and the Family Disease" in AL-ANON FACES ALCOHOLISM by AFG, Inc.)
These materials are adapted and reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA