As a new Christian who is in the process of kicking a lifelong drinking habit, how can I restore my relationship with my children? A number of years ago my struggles with alcoholism finally destroyed my marriage and family. I really regret the mess I've made, but I've recently found the Lord and am currently in recovery. Now I'd like to reconnect with my kids, but they don't want anything to do with me. What should I do?
It's wonderful to hear that you've given your heart to Christ and put your life on a new path. We want to encourage you to keep moving in that direction, strengthening your walk with God through prayer, serious study of the Scriptures and regular involvement with a solid Bible-believing evangelical church. If you haven't yet found such a church, feel free to contact one of our pastoral counselors for practical help and guidance. You may call them at this number.
As for your relationship with your children, it's vital that you proceed with caution and resist the temptation to entertain unrealistic expectations. It is true that, in the spiritual realm, God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ for all your past mistakes and removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. Unfortunately, the Bible also teaches very clearly that, where human relationships are concerned, there is a sense in which we "reap what we sow."
There's a reason your kids don't want anything to do with you right now. Your addictive behavior led to the destruction their family and deprived them of the stability and security they desperately needed during their most formative years. In some sense or other, they'll be dealing with the fallout of this for as long as they live. Harsh as this sounds, it's the inescapable truth. At this point it's unrealistic for you to expect your children to welcome you back with open arms. Your interest in reestablishing a relationship with them is understandable and worth pursuing, but you're going to have to earn the right to make that dream come true. This will require prayer, patience, humility and time – probably a great deal of time.
Before doing anything else, it might be helpful to ask yourself some tough questions. What exactly is behind your desire to reconnect with your kids? Do you really have their best interests at heart, or are you simply trying to get rid of your own feelings of guilt? Scripture says that there is a vast difference between selfish guilt or "worldly sorrow," which only produces death, and the "godly sorrow" that inspires genuine repentance and leads to salvation – in other words, genuine remorse for harming another person and breaking a relationship (2 Corinthians 7:10).
If you sincerely want what's best for your children, you should give them the time and space they need in order to reconnect with you. Let them move toward you at their own pace, which may be cautious and slow. Don't expect to start with personal visits or phone conversations. It is usually much better to express your remorse and ask their forgiveness through letters or email.
Let them know that you understand how much pain and anger they must feel and that you will respect their wishes regarding reconciliation. If and when they decide that they're ready to meet with you, you'd be wise to arrange this with the help of an experienced family therapist. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can refer you to a licensed professional in your area.