We recently held a one-day seminar on the topic of addictions. One of the most often asked questions is, “What do I do when my loved one is addicted?” A wife/mother naturally wants to help her loved one to stop using their drug of choice, and will stop at next to nothing to try to make this happen.
If you have a loved one who is addicted, the first thing you must do is to find support for yourself from a strong, biblical Christian woman. You will need someone who is not afraid to tell you the hard stuff; to tell you the things you do not want to hear, and point out when you have begun to play God. You may also need the encouragement to do the necessary physical and spiritual things for your loved one.
One of those things is to bring the matter into the light within the church. Many people are fearful of exposing their loved ones addictive behaviors. They fear being judged or ostracized by other Christians. They also fear “something bad” happening to their loved one. The honest news I have for them is, something bad is already happening to their loved one! I encourage wives/mothers to allow the church to step in and minister to them and to their addicted loved one. We desire repentance and reconciliation from the addict, and implementing the discipline process set forth in Matthew 18 will urge your loved one towards repentance. The church sending a loud message of love, compassion, and providing spiritual care is critical.
Understand that your loved one may take their allegiance to substance abuse to their grave. This is a difficult reality to face, but you must understand there is nothing you can do to force repentance, and the cessation of substance abuse. The sad reality is that addicts- Christian addicts- die every day, directly and indirectly from the use of alcohol and drugs.
If your loved one is high or intoxicated, don’t bother arguing with them at that time. The time to confront them is when they are sober or at the very least when they are minimally intoxicated. When you do confront them, be sure to confront the behavior only. Don’t attack the person, attack the problem!
Be ready, because your addicted loved one may try to barter with you in an attempt to calm you down. S/he may offer to stop using one drug or substance in favor of another to pacify you and take the heat off the situation. Sometimes the addict will say they will “quit” using drugs. When you find the hidden marijuana and confront them, s/he may be surprised you meant all the drugs. Often, marijuana is not looked upon as a drug that is problematic. Remind your loved of of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43-50:
if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life
crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if
your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life
lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to
sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and
the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good,
but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have
salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (ESV)
We are often asked about “helping” addicted children with financial, lodging, and travel issues. Our counsel is to set firm boundaries to detach yourself from providing these things. Do not provide a car, insurance, gas money, or any other funds to your addicted loved one. Many parents/spouses say they feel cruel cutting off the finances to the addict. They provide cars and gas money so the addict can get to work and then are shocked when he or she spends all their money on drugs.
They also fear s/he will not eat, will sleep under a bridge, or fall into harms way. For this reason, many parents allow their addicted children to live in the home, and usually rent free. We support removing the unrepentant and active addict from the home/living situation. There is a great emotional struggle in changing the locks and not allowing them back inside, despite their begging and pleading. Allowing the addict to experience natural consequences for their actions requires a leap of faith and is a heavy but necessary burden for the loved ones of the addict.
Instituting boundaries is critical. Even so, you do not control whether the addict uses drugs or not. You do however, control whether or how much you contribute to their ability to use. Requiring them to pay rent, for a car, insurance, and the gas to drive it will cause them to divert their money away from their addiction.
What you must realize is that “addiction” is really idolatry. The “addict” is an idolater, a person who is worshiping something other than God. Their love is for the created thing rather than the creator (Romans 1) and very often,what they love most of all is themselves. Their love for pleasure, feeling good, feeling nothing, escape, good times all plays a role in their idolatry. As a person who loves the addicted idolater, you have to see their circumstances through biblical eyes.
Contrary to the world’s psychological claptrap, their is nothing concrete to prove “addiction” is genetic or that a person is born with any sort of a propensity toward addiction beyond what is said of us in Scripture:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; Isa. 53:6.
This is such an important topic, I am going to carry it over into my next post. Until then…