The Alcoholic’s Daughter
January 1989

“The Alcoholic’s Daughter,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 58–59

The Alcoholic’s Daughter

The miracle began when, with my husband and son, I moved back into the neighborhood of my youth. Jane,* 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 shunning the 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 ease another’s 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 binges 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 and my son were almost the same age, I began including little Mary in our plans. We took her to church with us and on picnics and outings. She also stayed with us when things at home got out of hand. Soon Jane began to call me when she felt temptation coming on.

One day I met Jane uptown. She was coming out of the liquor store, the familiar brown paper sack tucked under her arm. 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 bond grew 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 was a tough cure—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 scraped the money together. For months, Jane was gone. Later she compared it 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.

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

  • Erma Braack teaches Gospel Doctrine in the Springfield Second Ward, Springfield Missouri Stake.

Illustrated by Mitchell W. Heinz