Michael’s alcoholism didn’t exhibit the usual signs. He didn’t lose his job or get arrested for driving under the influence. When Michael entered treatment in 1995, however, he knew that his marriage and family hung in the balance.
When Michael married Peggy in 1974, dealing with alcoholism wasn’t in their plan. For Peggy, the illness was cruelly ironic, since her family has a history of alcoholism. She later confided to Michael that of all the illnesses they could have faced–even cancer–alcoholism was last on the list. No one chooses to have cancer, but many people think that addiction results from a personal choice rather than a disease.
Despite the possible risks to his marriage, Michael had reached the point “where you need to be rigorously honest.” He needed to admit his own brokenness to Peggy, despite his feelings of shame, remorse, and helplessness. He took a risk, with no guarantee that Peggy would support him.
The ordeal has made them stronger. Peggy learned to deal with Michael’s illness with help from counseling and close friends. Two years ago, Michael completed a masters program in counseling psychology and works with individuals and families who are dealing with addictions.
Michael likes to quote Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, who says: “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and then watching the evidence change.” Michael and Peggy believed even when their marriage received a shock that neither had foreseen. They also know that through it all, “God was doing for them what they could not have done for themselves.”