“Ask a Priest: What If I Hate My Drunken Relatives?”

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Q: My grandfather likes to drink, and almost always gets drunk, especially on holidays or birthdays. He isn’t physically abusive or anything, but for some reason I really can’t stand drunken people. I feel disgusted by them even, especially if the drunken person is my relative. Often, I start to feel a straight-up hatred toward them. I know it is wrong, but that is what I feel. Sometimes I think that I would rather die than live with them. I don’t know what to do. I am afraid that I will never stop hating drunken people and especially drunken family members. I really don’t know if I wanted to ask something precise. Maybe I just wanted to confess how I feel. — Gabija

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your grandfather has a drinking problem. Possibly he suffers from alcoholism.

Some people consider alcoholism a kind of disease. People get addicted and find alcohol hard to resist. Such people need help rather than condemnation.

Ideally, your grandfather should seek treatment for the drinking. At the very least, it would be good to pray for him.

As for your sentiments of hatred, there are a few things to consider here.

It is one thing for a spontaneous feeling of anger to arise when you see someone drunk. You might not be able to control that feeling in the moment.

Very different, however, is a feeling of hatred to which you give consent. As Christians we can hate a sin but not the sinner.

It might help to recall that Jesus loves your grandfather just as Our Lord loves you — and he died for both of you on Calvary.

Moreover, just as Jesus forgives us, he wants us to forgive others.

Nurturing hatred and a lack of forgiveness will do more harm to you than it will to your grandfather.

The danger is that your own heart can grow hard. That is a path you don’t want to travel.

You might want to explore how this anger toward drunken people developed. Anger is a reaction to some present evil that one feels powerless to overcome. Perhaps you were traumatized or frightened by a drunk at some point in your life. Or maybe you lost someone to a drunken driver. Your grandfather might not be the only one who needs help.

Perhaps it would help to meditate on the passion and death of Jesus, and realize that he did for everyone.

We are all sons and daughters of God. So, treating others well in our thoughts, words and deeds pleases God.

It might help to talk to other family members and see if they can encourage your grandfather to seek out treatment for his drinking.

For yourself, you might want to stay close to the sacrament of confession. Having a regular confessor can help. He might be able to guide you in order to ensure that you get the help you need, too.

You might also look into Al-Anon, which aims to help those whose struggle with the drinking problems of family members. Some Al-Anon groups meet online.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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One Comment
  1. There are a lot of ‘unknowns’ in the statement describing a grandfather and drinking. First is, how old is this person? Does the grandfather ‘drink’ when at a party at her specific home (if he or she is old enough to give her own home parties) If that is the case, do not serve liquor, wine, or beer at home parties. Grandpa won’t mind.

    If his or her child (your parents) are giving the party; IF THE SON or DAUGHTER understands their father (this person’s grandfather) has a problem with alcohol and they serve it at their home, the problem lies with the one enabling. Not the one with an addiction. That goes for any addiction. DON’T SERVE any alcoholic beverages.

    Correct Father, alcoholism is a disease first, rather than a sin 2nd. Drinking becomes a sin when it consumes a person’s entire life and one can’t hold a job, support family, support grandma. Some people can drink one beer and ‘appear’ intoxicated (but are ok in terms of functioning) This is another ‘unknown.’

    in my opinion. What of grandma? Does she believe her husband has a drinking problem? Without ‘condemning’ grandpa, how about talking about his like of alcohol at a party to his children (your parents) and to grandma. Did grandpa’s son or daughter have a good and happy childhood? Does grandma seem anxious for living with grandpa? This is not known in the broad statement of grandpa’s like of drink.

    I agree with your advice, Father; this question is more about the person exploring ‘themselves’ than grandpa. If he is not physically abusive, if grandma and grandpa’s children seem happily raised… then perhaps this person, PERHAPS mind you, is looking to find ‘fault’ in something or someone, to ‘feel good’ about themselves. It has been known to happen. Another unknown is how old grandpa is.

    This question belongs in the confessional and not a public question to a website.

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