I recently spoke with a person whose addicted loved one was fully out of control. The occasion for the call was a need to vent over the recent events that stirred up anger, rage, bitterness and anxiety for this person. Their addicted loved one had pawned a cherished family heirloom for drugs. That wasn't the only story. Lies, manipulation, abuses and shattered trust were the theme of every story. If you have an actively using addicted loved one in your life, you know the feeling because you've been there.
To add to the confusion, the addict was working things in the marriage of this person, telling this person's spouse exactly what they want to hear so the addict can get what they want. Are you outraged just hearing these stories? We should be, because these are outrageous stories.
The big question from family members and loved ones of active addicts is "What do I do to make this stop?"
Here are some guiding principles:
1) You can't stop them from using.
Using is a choice and compulsion of the addict. It is not your choice it is theirs. It is not your addiction, it is theirs. They need help, recovery, counsel, medical help, deliverance, and a choice to see their powerlessness over the drug and turn their lives over to the care of God. But you can't stop them from using.
Now that you know this, what about you? The addiction of the family and friends of active addicts is the tug to stay wrapped up in a toxic identity. We have our own illness and our own addiction. We too must stop "using" by staying on the roller coaster of life with an addict.
2) You aren't required to participate in their destruction.
Active users are on a path of destruction. If material goods are being pawned fro drugs, then giving them anything material is like placing the heronie and needles in their hands. By giving them things or money, you are participating in their destruction. You are not required to do so. If they are calling you at all hours of the day or night in crisis mode, you are not required to respond. Stop and think for a moment, "Is this crisis real?"
Now that you know this, what about you? If you think about it, "helping" the addict in times of crisis is a drug that causes us to think we are offering solutions when we are not. Participating in the destruction of the addict is your drug and you must put it down in the same way that your loved one must put their drug down.
3) You must set boundaries.
How stable are your emotions and your day-to-day activities when you are bound to the ups and downs of the addict's life? Cut the cord and seek help for your own soul. You simply can't be truly helpful and compassionate toward an addict when you are being stabbed in the heart by their daily actions. You need to set boundaries so you can heal. Learning to set boundaries is not easy, but it is possible and can be accomplished in the company of people who share your experiences.
Now that you know this, what about you? What boundaries should be set that involve the phone, personal interactions, locations, etc. Only you can set them. Only you can take back control of a situation that has spun out of control. No one can "make you" be involved with the active addict.
4) You have your own addiction to deal with.
Codependency, caretaking and enabling are addictive behaviors. They trigger the very same internal mechanisms and responses as drugs and alcohol. You must get help for you.
There is only one Savior who is sufficient to save the life of your addicted loved one, and that is Jesus Christ.
Stope believing the lie that you can save them. You can't.
Stop believing the lie that you must stay involved with them. You don't.
Stop believing the lie that there is nothing wrong with you. There is.
Start setting boundaries so as to not participate in their destruction.
Start seeking help for your own soul so you can heal.
Start dealing with your own addictive behaviors.
Surrender both your life, and the life of your addicted loved one, to the care of God.
Would you like to attend a meeting to help you on this path? Click here.
Everyone has a soul, and the soul within every person contains the mind, thoughts, patterns of thoughts, emotions, and the will. The will is strong and once the will within a person is bent in a particular direction it is powerful in guiding the flesh. The Body goes where the will takes it. In the case of those people affected by addition, the will plays a vital role in the continuance or discontinuance of their illness.
Step Two of God's Plan (by Pastor Tracy Strawberry)
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God based on the true understanding of Him.
If you have ever been in a relationship with an addict of any kind, how many times have you tried to appeal to their will? You may have said things like, "Don't you know you're killing yourself?" or "Just walk away from this before you cause more damage!" These statements, and a thousand others like them, are all directed at the human will... as if our rant and directive will change their will. Step Two clearly tells us that a change of the will is needed and that the change and the decision both come from within the person, not the external directive.
So, if this is true, and it is, then what can be done to help those gripped by addiction arrive at the place where they are ready to turn their own will and lives over the care of God? In order to answer this question we need the true understanding of what is at work.
Prayer is an atmosphere changer, not a will changer. Prayer is so very powerful. Prayer will open the door to solutions previously not known because we know that God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Jesus once shared a parable with His Disciples so that they would "always pray and ever give up." If we will participate with God in bringing true and lasting change to the lives of those suffering in addiction, we must exchange our directives, usually laden with anxiety, for prayers spoken powerfully, yet humbly, on our knees. Only God can change the atmosphere...
Where there's a will, there's only one way, and that is prayer.
Is it nearly impossible for you to understand addiction? I mean, really... why would anyone subject themselves to such detriment? ... Right? Are you one of the people who just shakes their head in disbelief wondering why people don't just stop taking the drug... sipping the drink... smoking the substance... shooting up... etc.? If you are, here's a thought for you to ponder: It's easier for you to understand the addict than you think.
Addiction is a habitual act created by the drawing and seductive affects of a person, place, or thing. The habit produces a "beneficial result" (pleasurable to the person) albeit destructive in some way that ultimately follows a path of increased attachment and increased destruction. Given this definition, it's easy to see that many people are addicts of some kind, not just the classic drug/alcohol user.
Still not convinced?
Here's a test that will work for many people: Give up sugar.
"That's not the same as heroine or alcohol!" you demand. Sugar overconsumption may not lead to death as quickly as a heroine overdose, but, left unchecked, leads to many physical issues.
Heard enough? Are you able to understand the plight of the addict with any amount of compassion? Why don't you just give up sugar? It has just been revealed to you that it's harmful, and you could benefit in your health if it went away, right? The evidence is compelling, so why don't you just quit?
Give up sugar. Go through sugar detox (that's not meant to be funny). Then stare into the condition of other addicts.
If sugar isn't your thing, perhaps coffee, fried foods, or a host of other habits are the handcuffs that keep you tied up.
You see, it really is easier (or harder) than you think to understand addiction. What will you do with this understanding?
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 CEV Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. (4) He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.
For the family members and friends of addicted persons, becoming a partner in their addictive dependence, or codependent, is most always a reality. At the beginning, good intentions are what drive the codependent to act the way they do. Someone has to do something! If I don't rescue them, watch their every move, and clean up their messes, they'll self-destruct! However, a well-intentioned heart never guarantees right and godly responses. The deep, deep pit of destruction that comes from the over involvement of the codependent is not godly.
How can this be? How can good intentions be ungodly? God loves us... and I love my loved one. How can this be so wrong? Because Jesus Christ came to us in human flesh, and interacted with people; because He was tempted as we were and yet never sinned; because He is holy and pure and full of grace and truth, all we have to do is stare intently, and observe, the behavior and words of Jesus to see just how different He is from us in dealing with broken people. Here are two examples of godly responses Jesus gives that contradict our over-involved, codependent actions.
1. Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
41 But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.” (Luke 19:41-44, NLT)
Jesus draws a clear boundary between what He has come to give to Israel, and their unwillingness to receive it. Codependents become relentless and manipulative in their need to force the addict to respond in better ways, but Jesus leaves us to the results of our choices. Jesus explains his heart's desire through tears and weeping, yet pronounces their unwillingness to recognize what opportunity there was right before them.
2. The Rich Man
17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus encounters a man with great wealth. The man wants to know what must be done to have eternal life. Jesus speaks plain truth to the man by revealing both the commandments and the real issue which was his idolatry to his money. Jesus, feeling genuine love for the man, tells him the truth and then leaves the decision to him. The man walks away sad. Does Jesus follow him and try to bargain for a different response? Does Jesus get over involved in his life and attempt to manage his money for him?
The Truth of Codependence: It adds to the problem.
The Way out of Codependence: Be like Jesus in our interactions with our loved ones.
The Real Struggle: Things will get uncomfortable.
The Truth of Being Like Jesus: People will walk away from us, and we will weep over them.
There is help and hope for those struggling with codependency. If you are one of those people and want help, call Addiction Response Ministry. There are weekly meetings to help you.
May you find your way to a more godly relationship with your loved one.
God has this way of delivering news before He delivers the result. Usually, the person who receives the news has a hard time believing the result. The reason God does this is that He needs to challenge and shake-up our thinking to get us to perceive things as He does.
Consider the most hopeless case of addiction you know...perhaps that's you reading this right now. Imagine God saying, "Greetings, my clean, sober, healed, victorious child!" You may not believe that could ever be true, but God has already declared it to be true. There's a great story in the Bible about a man named Gideon that illustrates this principle.
"The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."
(Judges 6:11-13 NIV)
Gideon is hiding from the enemy who is so oppressive that anything the Jews have is immediately and forcefully stolen. God sends and angel to proclaim that Gideon is a "mighty warrior!" Sound ridiculous? It certainly did to Gideon. He was not able to conceptualize his own victory but God already had it planned.
In the grip of addiction, you cannot conceptualize your own freedom, but God has already declared it to be true.
Beyond the declaration, God calls Gideon into multiple steps of obedience, one at a time. Gideon is faithful and has enough belief to take God at His word, one step at a time.
Are you willing to believe God enough to take things one step at a time and be obedient to His will?
God even does the irrational, unthinkable, and gets Gideon to reduce the size of his army to 300 men so that God shows him that the victory over their enemy was due to the Lord's strength, not the power of their army.
God is willing to display His power in your weakness and deliver you to a place of freedom.
Ultimately, Gideon gets the victory God promised and there is peace in the land.
You can experience the victory and deliverance you seek from the grip of drugs. It takes God's power and your willing obedience. That combination simply cannot and will not fail!
You are one decision in the direction of God's will for your life to begin your miraculous journey to freedom. If you can't believe it, don't worry, because God can!
Father, in the name of Jesus, we receive your promise of freedom for our lives when we cannot believe it for ourselves. We say, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Show us, step by step, your will and your ways and help us to walk away from the drug, away from the alcohol, away from the toxic relationship, away from whatever has us in bondage and into your light. Give us the needed strength and wisdom. We need you and believe you even when we cannot believe in ourselves.
Wherever you find addiction you will also find dysfunction. The two are joined at the hip. Because of the severe ill of addiction, the dysfunction is very clear. Friends and loved ones of the addict may say, "they used to be so full of life and now I just don't know who they are anymore." That is true of everyone who engages with the issue of addiction... the rules of relationships change. When it comes to the addict and their codependent, significant other, the rules of their relationship may look something like this:
From the Viewpoint of the Addict:
It doesn't take long before the illness spreads to everyone involved. The rules of an ill relationship have no good end. If you continue to play by the rules of dysfunctional relationships, nothing will change, and, in fact, things will only get worse. You may ask, "How can that be? I'm trying to help!" The only way that true change can happen is if the rules of the relationship change. The loved one of the addict is in a better place to change the rules than the addict many times. Changing the rules is hard, but not impossible.
1) You must detach. This is not divorce. Detachment is changing the rules of engagement and placing responsibility and accountability back on the individuals to whom they belong. Detachment says, "You may choose _______ but that doesn't mean I clean up after you." Detachment says, "I love you too much to keep on with the rules the way they are."
2) You must focus on self. Loved ones of addicts must shift the focus back to themselves and care for their own well being. In the absence of the over-involvement you have been giving the addict, you trust them into the care of God, and then you trust yourself into the care of God. Only His presence and power can change us.
3) You must establish new rules. This list will be completely different. A new list of rules might look like this:
It's time to admit that most people who care deeply for the addicted and desire to see true transformational change come to all who are affected by addiction have no idea how to respond to the hurting.
Feeling Helpless will either drive you further into a problem, or drive you away from the problem.
The other night one of our team received a call from someone who's church was engaged in an outdoor neighborhood outreach event. During the event, which was open to anyone who desired to come, two self-confessing heroin addicts came and began to pour out their souls as to their struggles with their addiction. They confessed to the crimes their lives had been reduced to in order to maintain the habit they could not stop on their own. They were asking for help.
The phone call came to one of our tem. "I told them that there was a group of churches in our area working together to help people like them so I'm calling you. What do we do? What should I say? How can we help them?" At this point in the story it would be great to report that solutions were immediately offered that were perfectly fit to the needs. It would be stunning to report that we found them beds in a rehab center that very night and they were now on their way to wholeness. That would be nice, but that is not how the conversation continued. Instead, both parties were scrambling to unearth answers from the recesses of their minds to offer some hopeful crumb of wisdom to the couple. There was an overwhelming sense of helplessness in the conversation.
Feeling helpless is the perfect impetus to drive us to learn more, gather information, seek more answers, and ready our minds for truly adequate responses to the issues. The next day, two of our team members discussed how we will begin to engage in more efforts to inform our responses and use this moment of helplessness to drive us further into the problem, not further away.
And so much more.
Uninformed, uneducated, unwise compassion will not be enough. On the phone, compassion was dripping from the conversation, but there was a drought of wisdom and knowledge.
Feeling Helpless will either drive you further into a problem, or drive you away from the problem.
At Addiction Response Ministry, we're ready to press in. Pray for us that we would be wise and equip ourselves, and thereby the church, to respond better.
Lovingly responding to people must always contain the full truth because truth sets people free. Love engages and cares for the person, and the truth reveals the facts of the person. Factual, truthful, gracious revelation, one-on-one with a person opens the door to true freedom in Christ.
One reality of addiction is that you can find it in the seats of your local church on any given Sunday. Yes, that is true. In order for the church to disengage from their own contribution to the cover-up that allows addiction to continue week-after-week inside its own walls, the church must become healthy in the way it addresses this issue.
Jesus is the Master of addressing people with both truth and grace. He has this way of cutting through the cover-ups and revealing what is really going on inside a person's life. Here are a few examples of what Jesus has done, and how the church can mirror His model in the church today. People can't be set free unless their cover is blown. Is denial in the church any different than denial in the addict? Is avoidance in the church getting people any closer to healing and restoration?
1. Don't Fear the Truth, Fear ongoing Denial. People tend to fear speaking the truth. Think for a moment about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. She says to Jesus, "I have no husband." Jesus replies, "You've had five..." The woman responds, "I see you're a prophet." The woman ends up introducing people to Jesus and does not curse Him for the truth. The truth set her free. It is less caring to withhold truth than to speak it. Do you know an addicted person in the church? Speaking the truth is not the enemy, denial is.
2. Don't Speak Until Love is In Place. The kind of love God has for us is decidedly intentional. He chooses to love us even when we don't love Him back. He seeks our best even when we insult Him. You can't always be guaranteed that your words will be received well, but you can ensure that your words are grounded in pure motives and intentions. Think of Jesus' interaction with the rich young man who wanted to know what he had to do to gain eternal life. After suggesting that he follow the commands of the law, Jesus gets down to business and reveals that his issue is his addiction to his wealth. However, the scriptures say "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Whether or not the man loved Jesus in return is immaterial. What is important is that all truth be grounded in true love.
3. Be Ready to Address Addiction In All Its Forms. Drugs and alcohol are the obvious substances that typify addiction, but what about other addictions of the emotional, relational, monetary, sexual, excessive kind? They are just as real in the church. Part of the reason many drug and alcohol abusers won't grace the doors of a church is that they feel unwelcome by people who have as many issues as they do. Is your church a safe place for people to be real and know that they can find help, hope and healing? Does your church selectively judge certain addictions on a different scale than others?
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free! AMEN.
"After all I've done, and all the ways I've screwed up my life, there is no way God could love me or ever forgive me."
This is something that many addicted people, hurting people, struggling and confused people will say, but it is a lie. God's not mad at you.
"God's not mad at you because He knows what's wrong with you." This is one of the most striking statements made by Tracy Strawberry in her book, "Clean, Sober & Saved: The Power & Process of Change." You may feel like you'll never be quite good enough for God, but the basis of actual reality is not based on your feelings, but on the truth of Who God is, what God knows about you, and what He's already done to help you.
#1: God sees it all.
There is nothing hidden from God. You have no secrets from Him, so there's nothing He doesn't already know about you. This is a good thing. You don't have to fear God, nor do you have to hide from Him. Many of us hide from God for fear that He'll find out what we've done. We don't have to hide because there is nothing to hide.
#2: God knows what's really going on.
Whatever is your "deal" God already knows what's causing it. Whenever we struggle with issues in our life like rage, hatred, substance abuse, manipulative behavior, using people, sexual impropriety, greed and more, God doesn't just look at the surface issue, He knows the deep roots beneath the weeds on the surface. Again, even if we don't entirely understand this, the good news is that He does.
#3: God knows how to fix it, and already made a way.
Getting beyond our struggles is never impossible with God. He knows that the sinful nature within you (not just you, but every human being... even the ones you think have it all together) is the root beneath the surface feeding the weeds above ground. In His great love, God gave us His Son, Jesus, to take care of that on your behalf. Jesus breaks its power, cancels the death penalty, forgives the offenses, offers mercy, restores your soul, and places you on a new path to healing and freedom.
Put down the old and take up the new.
Put down the drugs and take up healing.
Put down the lies and take up the truth.
Put away the past and begin a new future.
Because God loves you and wants to heal you.
If you want to talk about your struggles with someone who can offer spiritual, Christ-centered guidance, call 716-222-0299. (Your confidential call will be returned no later than within 24 hours.)
For families, spouses, and close friends of addicts the pain is just as real as the pain of the addicted one themselves. In fact, the pain and daily struggle of striving to manage the unmanageable life of an addict leaves the lives of the loved ones just as unmanageable.
The emotions and struggles are overwhelming and never let up. Pain, depression, obsessive worry, anxiety, fear, hatred, anger, frustration, rage and others are the daily reality of many who live with, or are very close to, an addict. When an addict is taking the drugs, they know that it leads to harm and is really no way to live. In the same way, when the family members of addicts are desperately scrambling to manage the unmanageable life of an addict, they know deep inside that it is really no way to live. If the families and loved ones of addicts do not take care of themselves, then who will be left to help? If the minds of the loved ones are given over to insanity, then who will wisely respond to the real issues and needs?
The Bible says this about an optimum way to live. Galatians 5:16 NIV So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Living by the Spirit of God leads to health and life. When we live according to the sin of others, we live a life of sin ourselves. Both persons are trapped and both need help. How then, do family members of addicts find rest for their own souls and learn to care best for their loved ones? We must follow the ways of our Lord.
1. Surrender the care of our loved one to the care of God.
Family members of addicts usually believe that no one understands why they must do what they do. Not even God. This is not truth. No one will ever care for a human being or love them more than God Himself. For God so loved you, your addicted family member, and the rest of the world that He gave us Jesus. He is able to care for your loved one. He is also able to do it with more wisdom and insight than we can. In prayer, we can bravely, albeit with difficulty, go to God and surrender the daily activities of managing the lives of the addict to God.
2. Admit our own helplessness.
1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Family members rarely take care of their own needs because there is no time left after managing the needs of the addict. This becomes an addiction unto itself and must be cast on the Lord. Why? Because He cares for you too. It's okay to admit our helplessness to God. In fact, if we don't, we won't leave room for Him to work. In prayer, cast your anxiety on Him and say, "I can't do this on my own any longer."
3. Trust God.
When you begin to change the rules with the addict by which the game of your lives has been played, then lives will be upset. People will begin to try to force you into your old behavior. You may experience extreme guilt or worry. In those moments, we must trust God with laser focus. He is more trustworthy than anyone or anything. The bible has wisdom for these moments: Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
4. Don't Isolate. Get Help from an understanding community.
Isolating has been the pattern for the family of the addicts all along. It's time to blow the cover off and emerge from hiding. There is help. The support you need is waiting by making one simple call to the Addiction Response Ministry phone line at 716-222-0299. Christian guidance, a compassionate voice, an understanding ear and resources for engaging in community are awaiting you. Don't travel the difficult path alone.
You are loved. Your addicted loved one is loved. There is hope and healing awaiting you. Amen.