When You Love An Addict
Chances are you know or love someone that is addicted to drugs or alcohol. There’s help for you here.
You’re Not Alone
Five years ago I learned that my son was addicted to drugs. That was the day my world went black. I thought I was the only one. As it turns out, I’m not alone and neither are you.
When You Love An Addict
A recent study revealed that 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. That’s one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12. One in 10 over the age of 12! Chances are pretty good that you know someone that’s an addict. Chances are also pretty good that you love someone that’s an addict and it’s wreaking havoc in your world.
When you love an addict you feel a range of extreme emotions — fear, panic, depression, confusion, denial, anger, anxiety. When you love an addict, you go through a grieving process. You grieve the loss of a dream and shrouded in shame, you often grieve alone. When you love an addict your stress and anxiety can create significant health issues for you and lead you to do things that inadvertently do more harm than good for your addicts recovery.
But here’s what I want you to know. When you love an addict, you can get better. You don’t have to put your life on hold. You can live the abundant life we’re promised in John 10:10. You can get closer to God and grow spiritually and emotionally. You can learn to cope. You can be of service to others. As you get better, your family situation is bound to improve. Thanks to my parent support group, I’ve learned how to live even while my addict is active in his disease. You can too.
If you’re in the throws of addiction, I want to share some truth and words of comfort with you that you won’t hear from people who haven’t walked in your shoes?
The Three C’s
You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. And you can’t cure it.
The first time I heard “you didn’t cause it”, I wept tears of relief. I was so riddled with guilt and “if only.” Half the parents in my support group say, “If only I were more strict.” The other half says, “If only I were more lenient.” You can drive yourself mad with “If only.” I wasn’t a perfect mother but who is? The truth is, I did the best I could at the time and so did you. You can’t cause an addict to be an addict any more than you can cause cancer. The disease of addiction lies dormant until the addict takes that first sip, puff, or pill.
Once they wake that sleeping giant, you quickly learn that you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. You can’t but God can. I’ve listened to hundreds of testimonies from recovering addicts. I’ve never once heard them say, “Thank goodness for my mom and dad, husband, wife. I’ve recovered because of them.” We need to stop trying to be their Savior. They have their own God and we’re not it. We need to get out of the way. Detach in love. Let go and let God. Or as some say, “Let go or get dragged.”
The Fourth C
There is a 4th C, contributing.
You may inadvertently be contributing to the disease. The more I gave; money, cars, help getting jobs, unsolicited advice; the deeper my son sank. The more we help, the more we hurt. Addicts don’t seek recovery without pain and consequences. Consider the parable of the prodigal son. He didn’t come home when he had money, friends, and parties. He came home when he was hungry, hurting, and alone.
This is a progressive disease. It may have started out as fun and games but now it’s life and death. Your addict is not weak, careless, or rebellious. You can’t just shake them out of it. No one wants to be free more than they do. You may not see it, but they are ashamed, afraid and desperate. The more you know about the disease, the more compassionate you become. Like the prodigal son’s father, keep your eyes and your heart open. Someday you’ll spot them walking up the path and they’ll be ready to do whatever it takes to restore their life and their relationships. Hang on to hope.
No Quick Fix
There’s no quick fix. I went to recovery meetings wanting someone to tell me how to fix it and fix it fast. If there were a foolproof program, I would send him there at any cost. The truth is, many programs work when the addict is willing to work the program. Nothing works before they’re ready. Brace yourself, because this is a long bumpy road for most people. You need to take good care of you and not lose sight of all your other loved ones. You can’t put your life on hold waiting for someone else’s recovery.
The God Box
On those days you just can’t function, pull out your God Box. Write your worries on a piece of paper, drop them in the box and put it away for a while. Ask God to hold your loved one tightly while you go about your day. You choose when you’ll open your God Box to pray for them, share your heart with God, have a good cry. Then give it right back to God. He’ll hold them for you.
This is not the time to isolate. This is the time to connect. Choose your connections wisely. There are a plethora of recovery meetings all over the country nearly every day of the week. Talk to people who have wisely walked down this path. They will help you get your bearings and they will help you draw closer to God.
This is not the path you chose for yourself or your loved one. But it is the path God has for you at this moment. Walk down this road one day at a time. Hold your head up knowing God has chosen you for such a time as this.
Open Letter From An Alcoholic
I’d like to close with this, a letter from an alcoholic. We read it at the beginning of the support meeting I attend. It’s given me and countless others a lot of insight and comfort over the years.
I am an alcoholic. I need your help. Don’t lecture, blame, or scold me. You wouldn’t be angry at me for having cancer or diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease too.
Don’t pour out my liquor. It’s just a waste of time because I can always find ways of getting more.
Don’t let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion about myself. I hate myself enough already.
Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.
Don’t accept my promises. I’ll promise anything to get off the hook. But the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, even though I mean them at the time.
Don’t make empty threats. Once you have made a decision, stick to it.
Don’t believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. Denial of my reality is a symptom of my illness. Moreover, I’m likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.
Don’t let me take advantage of you exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without dimension of justice.
Don’t cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking.
Don’t lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the very crisis that would prompt me to seek help. I can continue to deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an automatic escape for the consequences of my drinking.
Above all, do learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me.
I love you.
Someone Needs to Hear This
Someone in your circle of friends needs to hear this message. They love an addict or have a friend that does. They need to be reminded that joy can grow even in the hard places of the agonizing trial of this disease. I can’t reach them but you can. All you need to do is click share. Want to go deeper on this topic? Don’t forget to download the study guide.
Please share your strength and hope on this topic by leaving a comment below.