If you or a loved one has ever struggled with alcoholism, or if you’ve ever struggled to reconcile your understanding of a perfect God with your imperfect world, please consider reading Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk.
Author Heather Harpham Kopp is not afraid to ask the untouchable questions. She has a solid understanding of Biblical truths, yet she is courageous enough to voice raw fears about how her understanding of God plays out in the life she is “supposed” to live as a “good Christian.”
Heather addresses the secret issues of shame head on, then pieces together her life’s history to come to an understanding of where that shame arose from. She recognizes and grieves the hypocrisy she exhibited as her son slid into substance abuse while she pretended her own addiction didn’t exist. She is fair and compassionate toward her husband and his role in her alcoholism. When she enters rehab, she must face her personal prejudices—not only about people, but also about her God.
A noteworthy thread in Heather’s story is her ability to write truthfully about her life as an alcoholic while treating her family, her friends, and herself with respect.
One of the book’s most fascinating themes is Heather’s ongoing struggle to reconcile her beliefs about whether alcoholism is a sin or a sickness. Consider her words here:
Part of me preferred the simplicity and moral clarity of the sin paradigm. It was conveniently cut and dried. But if my alcoholism was purely a sin issue, why couldn’t I win the battle? How many times had I repented, begged forgiveness of God, and sworn off drinking—only to fail miserably and drink even more to deal with the guilt? And yet, I also couldn’t say that sin didn’t play a part. Of course it did. I sinned every time I hid my drinking, drank to get drunk, or lied to my husband.
Later, Heather continues in this way:
I knew I needed help with my drinking problem. And my life did feel completely unmanageable, as I’d been living it. But something about saying I was powerless over alcohol didn’t wash. Wasn’t it defeatist to keep declaring yourself too weak to say no? How would admitting that you can’t resist drinking help you to do so? Adding to my doubts were some old tapes in my head from my past. “You can’t just say you’re powerless over sin,” they reminded me. “What about Paul’s advice to ‘fight the good fight’? What about God’s promise not to give us any temptation greater than we can handle? If a Christian is no longer a slave to sin, how can you claim to be powerless over alcohol?” Ironically, these were the same verses I had often used to convince myself I should be able to quit drinking.
Not only does Sober Mercies dive deeply into a difficult subject, it is also beautifully written. It felt like the author had gently taken my hand as we walked through her story, and that she never gave me more than I could handle at once and always anticipated where my questions would go next.
Sober Mercies includes discussion questions at the back for reading groups, so if something about Heather’s story resonates with you, please consider picking up a copy and talking about it with a friend. And if you’re looking for hope in the throes of alcoholism, consider reaching out the worldwide group Alcoholics Anonymous, where someone like Heather wants to walk the path of recovery with you.
Here with you,