The Alcoholic’s Daughter


The miracle began when, with my husband and son, I moved back into the neighborhood where I had lived as a youth. Jane, * a non-member and a woman who had had trouble with alcohol for years, still lived there—with her husband, small daughter, and mother. For years, the neighbors had avoided dealing with Jane’s problem by deliberately having no contact with her family.

Although I remembered the stories of Jane’s wildness and drinking from my high school days, I also remembered her compassion as a nurse. She had never seemed too busy to come in the night to help someone in pain. She couldn’t be all bad, I decided. After all these years I would accept her good qualities and ignore the rumors.

I soon became aware that not all was rumor. Jane was an alcoholic. During her drinking bouts anything might happen. But the rest of the time she was a fine wife, a model mother, and a great friend. No one, however, seemed able to help her overcome her alcoholism. She was literally drinking herself to death.

Her family despaired. They accepted, they loved, they tried to cope, and their agonized hearts cried out for help. I could only offer Jane my love and friendship.

Since Jane’s daughter, Mary, and my son were almost the same age, I began including her in our family activities. We took her to church with us and on picnics and outings. She also stayed with us when Jane was drunk and out of control. For example, I remember one day I met Jane coming out of the liquor store, carrying a brown paper sack containing bottles of liquor. As soon as she saw me, Jane thrust Mary’s hand into mine and asked me to take Mary home. For several days, Jane’s mother, her husband, and I managed to care for Mary and keep things as normal as possible for her.

Through the years, a strong relationship developed between our families. I was amazed at how fast little Mary absorbed gospel teachings. She took the gospel into her home in bits and pieces, insisting on blessing the food when she was only three, and adding daily by precept and example.

Jane’s love for Mary, her desire to be the right kind of mother, and her frustration about her alcoholism almost overwhelmed her. She became desperate to change her life-style. One day she told me of a place that “cured” alcoholics. It wasn’t an easy process—most gave up under the pressure and sank back into despair. But Jane decided to risk all. She would rather die than continue the way she was.

The cure was expensive, but her family somehow got together the money needed. For months, Jane was gone. Later she compared that time to a literal hell, full of anguish and suffering.

While Jane was away, I wrote her letters of love and encouragement. One stressed the value of prayer and how much it could help. I never knew how much that letter helped her until years later when she took it from her purse, almost shredded from many readings, and read parts of it in a testimony meeting.

Jane made it. She was one of the few who were really cured. Her health had been practically ruined from the drinking, but her spirit was triumphant. She had won her fight. But there was more to come.

One day Jane came to talk to my husband and me. She told us that Mary, nearly ten now, wanted to be baptized. The real surprise came when Jane told us she wanted to be baptized, too. She wanted my husband to perform the ordinance for both of them.

Jane and Mary became faithful members of the Church. A short while later Jane’s husband and mother joined. The years passed. Then one day Mary brought a young man to see me. They spoke of plans to wed. Six months later Mary and her young man were married, and Jane’s family was sealed in the temple. The miracle was complete.

[illustration] Illustrated by Mitchell W. Heinz

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    Note

  1.   *

    Jane’s name and that of her daughter have been changed.