An addict’s behavior will hurt us. It injures us and messes with our sense of identity and worthiness. Addicts hurl lies and accusations at anyone they can to allow someone else to bear the weight of their mistakes. But an addict isn’t only hurting you, they are self destructing. They are literally killing themselves. Why would anyone do this? Obviously it’s not normal behavior. The Bible tells us this truth:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. – John 10:10
There is always a battle lurking behind the scenes. Anyone engaged in destructive behavior is someone being influenced by the enemy. While the addict will feel like your enemy, don’t be deceived. They aren’t the enemy; you share the same enemy. And you prayerfully share the same Father. If your loved one doesn’t know Jesus, God is still their Creator and wants to be their Redeemer. You share in that desire together.
When you define the agenda of God, you find that He is trying to give life and love, and the enemy is the one trying to take it away. Thus, your job is to side with everything God would do to declare war on addiction.
To love someone who offers nothing in return can feel unjust. And that’s because it is. Yet we are recipients of the unjust love of Jesus Christ that relentlessly sought us out when we had nothing to offer. Yes, that means at one point, we were an intervention project and Jesus got a hold of us! God calls us to move with that same love. Thus, He doesn’t guarantee justice when He asks us to love a person struggling with addiction.
Before you moan at this harsh and seemingly unkind truth, loving a person isn’t accepting, condoning or in any way allowing their bad behavior. Remember, God loves the person, and wants to kill the addiction. He would never partner or allow the very thing that would take a person out! Not only that, He would never condone someone’s abuse towards you! It’s not okay to be misused, abused, lied to, hurt, and betrayed. No, you don’t need to dish out more money and bail them out another time from their careless and irresponsible choices. No! No! No! That’s not what love is!
The question then remains, how do we love a person, while wanting to murder the thing that is bringing horrible destruction? Our job in the role of love at first is to simply get out of God’s way. It is deeply humbling to do this. When someone goes astray, God will use discipline to attempt to draw them back. And if we aren’t careful, we can use our own version “love” to remove the very disciplines that God has placed as divine opportunities to bring forth that change in the addict.
If you struggle defining love, you can be assured that for a person with addiction, it will always revolve around wanting them free from substance. What we may need to adjust is how we think that can be attained. Only Jesus has the role of the Savior of the human heart. We will embrace anything that will allow our loved one encounter Him. And we will reject anything that drives and enables the wrongful behaviors to continue.
Separating addiction (behavior) from a person is very difficult – it’s why we must surrender first – we honestly can’t do that on our own strength. It’s also why we need the tools of intervention that we will continue to explore. If you find yourself unsure, read on. If you are trying to sum it all, it might be said this way. “Love is siding with God for a person’s well being.” We are going to start learning shortly exactly how that is done.
A Friend Called Pain
While addiction is the enemy we want to murder, pain is the friend we need to learn to embrace. Addicts run from pain. So do we. Not only that, we try to shield those we love from pain. It is second nature to self-protect, and also protect those we love. In fact, we seem experts in learning how to flee pain and look for ways to soothe. However, pain is the critical key to unlocking a healthy partnership with God as we move toward intervention.
As already mentioned, God disciplines those He loves. He also uses pain as a tool to alert us that something is wrong and needs to be fixed, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. Without pain, we never have a way to perceive we need help. This works for us when there is any physical ailment in our body – pain drives us to seek action. For example, if your arm is broken, you’ll have intense pain and you’ll need to get it treated. If you have heart pain, you need to get to a hospital to diagnose the root. If all our pain sensors broke at one time, it may seem to be a wonderful miracle, until we start getting ill from injury, infection and illness and can do nothing to help ourselves because we have no pain to aid us to get help. The lack of pain didn’t help – in fact it may kill us.
Your ability to allow someone to feel pain may be one of your greatest life challenges, ever. Especially for moms who are by nature taught to ease pain and bind their children’s wounds. Understand, for those who medicate through addiction, they have a pain problem. Addiction is an escape – a quick shortcut to ease pain and bring immediate pleasure. And that’s not even as it relates to their emotional pain. If you are dealing with someone who is using a chemical substance, they have also tricked their body to eliminate pain in a destructive way. The body loses touch with its own pain and can’t appropriately warn you something is wrong. Non-chemical addictions also work to overly stimulate pleasure (such as sex) or to numb out pain (such as anger). Simply put, they are all pain problems.
The addict’s inability to feel pain allows them to reward themselves with whatever benefit the drug or addiction brings, only to stuff the nature of the problem down deeper. Todd likes to get high. It feels good and helps him avoid life, responsibility and his deep-down sense of insecurity. That’s the benefit. The drug isn’t working when it creates more pain than it soothes. When the pain addiction outweighs the benefits, oftentimes help is sought. For Todd, his high is harder and harder to attain, and he begins to steal and finds himself making horrible choices. Then he’s arrested. He feels the pain of that circumstance and suddenly the drug’s benefit are lessened and the pain it caused are heightened. He’s now ready for change.
Someone is ready to get help not because someone kept rescuing them from pain, but because pain beat them down to a place of desperation. Could they kill themselves first? Of course, and that’s where you need to assess the severity. You may be amazed at how much pain can be endured, and yet the addict remains faithful to the addiction.
Typically, if at first you see an addict remain in stubbornness and denial, you know that they need more pain. Thus, we befriend pain as God’s tool to take someone through the journey towards solution. If you see them start to show signs of change, and then fall into old patterns, begin to pray for pain.
The bible instructs us with this truth.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10
Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way (2 Corinthians 7:9).
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way (Hebrews 12:11).
How exactly do you assist in helping pain have its way? We are going to learn next.