RIP George Jones, Alcoholic

Jones is an accurate face of the disease of alcoholism, of relapse and denial. His struggles were as much an inspiration as his successes.

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Guideposts Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan's dog, Millie

Sometimes failure can be inspiring.

I was driving to a hiking spot with Millie when I heard on NPR that George Jones, perhaps the greatest country music artist ever and certainly the most influential, had died at 81, which was a miracle in itself.

A few minutes later I got a text from one of our online editors wondering if paying tribute to Jones on our Facebook page was proper in light of the wild and intemperate life he mostly led, especially his painfully public battle with the bottle and his several failed marriages.

I thought about all this while Millie and I hiked. Last week I wrote about legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall and his struggle for sobriety, a struggle he eventually won and that led him to a deep Christian faith.

George Jones faced his alcoholism with less positive long-term results.

But sober he did stay for periods of time, especially in his later years, and he made hit after hit longer than people once thought he’d stay alive. That in itself was inspiring and miraculous. He even recorded some religious music later in his storied career, and his brutal binges became far less frequent.

As inspiring as I find Pat Summerall, Jones is really a more accurate face of the disease of alcoholism. For many alcoholics it is a struggle to stay sober. Alcoholism is a disease of relapse and denial.

In my book, The Promise of Hope, I reveal my own long struggle to find a sober path in life and how it became quite literally a life-or-death choice. That choice was to believe in a loving God who could save me and admit that I couldn’t save myself. Strange as it may sound, it was the hardest choice of my life. That is how much I wanted to drink myself into oblivion.

Millie and I finished our hike in a few hours and as I stared at my beautiful Golden Retriever it struck me that had I not made that choice years ago, I would never have known this wonderful dog, or this life and the people I love so much, the work that brings me such satisfaction, the wholly undeserved grace poured forth by a higher power. Millie sat there like a symbol, a reminder of the gifts of sobriety and how precious they are. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

I decided it would be fine for Guideposts to pay tribute to the late great George Jones. His struggles were as much an inspiration as his successes. RIP, George. You never gave up trying. You kept fighting. In the end, I think you were winning.

If there is someone in your life struggling with alcohol or drugs, say a prayer for them. And if you would also like others to send up prayers for them, go to Guideposts’ OurPrayer.

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