Heather Kopp’s book “Sober Mercies” is so much more than the courageous story of a woman facing her demons.

Sober Mercies

She weaves her story of childhood experiences and adult choices in a vulnerable and honest telling.  She doesn’t play the victim card, but rather takes us through her journey of recognizing what led her to her downfall and why faith alone wasn’t enough to save her from alcohol.

Heather also powerfully and purposefully addresses what many in the church sweep under the carpet; Christians harshly judging each other for admitting to struggles like addiction.  In a refreshing display of transparency, Heather reveals how her faith took a serious hit when she finally admitted to having a drinking problem.

Her story of a life as a Christian addict in recovery is inspiring, and no doubt will give many people in the church permission to admit Christians have the same struggles as non-Christians.  But what I appreciated most from “Sober Mercies” was something far different, a gift really.

I’ve never read a book before that gave me such an intimate glimpse into the mind of an alcoholic.  Sure, I’ve read the clinical descriptions, and my childhood was spent watching my parents live out alcoholism.  But I’ve never understood, or probably even considered, what it must be like on the other side of addiction.  Heather gave me a window into what may have been going on inside my parent’s minds as they drank their way through my childhood.

Without mincing any words; Heather describes the gradual descent from enjoying a glass of wine, to using it as a coping mechanism, to the eventual requirement for alcohol to always be center stage –albeit a hidden star.  Though I realize no one make a conscious choice to be an addict, my resentment always left me feeling like my parents chose alcohol over me.  I’ve now been given the opportunity to consider the possibility maybe it wasn’t quite so clear cut.

Heather speaks to the effects alcoholism had on her mothering.  She is, at times, incredulous at how much danger her choices created for her boys.  When she was drinking, she either didn’t realize she was making a bad choice, or she justified it.  Now, she acknowledges the damage it did to her marriage and her kids.  This gave me pause to hope my mom also has regret about her choices.  It’s never far from my mind; wondering if she remembers the dangers she put me in.

Being parented by alcoholics gave me plenty of motivation not to become addicted to anything.  As a child, I thought all I had to do was not consume anything addicting.  Such a childish concept didn’t stop me from actually trying things, however.  When I was about 9 or 10, I snuck out between the wood shed and the fuel shed and lit up a smuggled Lucky Strike.  (I don’t miss the irony now, recognizing it was indeed Lucky I didn’t start a fire.)  I thought for sure I’d cough my lungs out then, but by golly I gave smoking another few tries over the years; even hiding up a tree in the cemetery once.  I knew how to mix drinks at an early age, and drank in middle school a few times with a neighbor girl.  In high school, I got drunk twice, and it was then the light bulb went on.  I became very aware of the dangerous path I’d unexpectedly landed on.  I was reminded of my earlier resolution not to become an addict and I stopped drinking.

I plowed through life feeling like I’d dodged the addiction bullet because I didn’t drink, do drugs or even drink coffee.  Nope, I was better than that.  I chose not to become an addict.  Little did I realize my behavior actually mimicked that of an addict.  The difference was I was addicted to control, work, and food.

Heather writes about the “alcoholism is a disease” controversy.  I’ll admit I have always been one to bristle at this description.  As she acknowledges, calling it a disease can give the impression that the alcoholic has no responsibility for the addiction.  As if they are helpless victims who should only be given compassion for their unfortunate fate.  It infuriated me when people talked about alcoholics having a disease.  They got off the hook, while I got left with the consequences.  As I read Heather’s view, it gave me another perspective to consider.  It is true, the physiological component cannot be ignored.  I am not fully convinced it’s a disease –as I would define disease – but I am now more open-minded about the concept.

“Sober Mercies” isn’t just about alcoholism, or even about addiction.  It’s about personal growth; taking responsibility for our own lives; being honest with ourselves, each other, and God; forgiveness of self and others; and above all it’s about Hope. She summed it up beautifully on page 63 saying “…I left that (meeting) knowing I’d found something infinitely more important than answers.  And that was hope.”

Heather Kopp

I would recommend this book for anyone struggling with their marriage, job, parenting, faith, addictions of any kind, resentment, or if you love someone struggling with these issues.

Heather writes from the heart, and she touched mine.

Visit Heather at http://www.soberboots.com.

Click to read an excerpt on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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