What can I do about my family member’s addiction?
Most families that have an addict in their life are overwhelmed, exhausted and chained to chronic fear of the next looming crisis. They feel betrayed, used and wounded financially, relationally, emotionally and even spiritually by the addiction that has taken control of their loved one’s life. They have made efforts to help, to rescue and change their loved one. But despite best intentions, the cycle of addiction seems to repeat over and over again.
Addictive behavior takes on many forms – and may have different meaning depending on its unique circumstances. But in a basic way, an addiction occurs whenever a person exhibits compulsive behavior that causes them to engage in risky and unhealthy behavior to maintain the next “high.” An addict cannot stop using their drug or behavior of choice, even though they often insist they have no problem. This is called bondage.
Usually, the addictions that inflict the most damage involve chemical abuse or unhealthy sexual behaviors, but they can extend to many other behaviors. Addictive behavior is maddening and confounding. It’s like watching someone with a fatal love affair give up everything and everyone just to satisfy the object of their obsession. It will consume their every thought, desire, and driving motivation. And in its fiery trail is the carnage of lies, manipulation, deceitfulness and devastation. Anyone who has experienced addiction has a personal account of exactly what that meant. And like millions of others dealing with the ravages of this cycle, there will come a breaking point.
While it’s vitally important you learn about addiction and the nature of the substance or activity that is involved, it’s just as important you understand some critical intervention principles. These will help not just in releasing the person you love that has a problem, but it will offer you a means to focus on a solution to maintain your own sense of well being.
The Storm Of Addiction – What Is Happening To Me?
If you’ve been walking beside an active addict, chances are you’ve sometimes felt you were losing your mind. The insanity of addiction can be likened to a full-force tornado sweeping through a neighborhood and wreaking havoc in its path. The tornado is the addiction, and the neighborhood is your own life. In truth, whether you choose it or not, you’ve been hit by the addict’s lifestyle. And in efforts to help, fix and protect them, you find yourself in the midst of full force winds trying to glue broken pieces together. And truth be known – it doesn’t work.
Yet doing nothing surely can’t be a better option, can it? The problem is you feel overpowered – you feel that addiction is enormous and it has stolen the precious person you love and the dreams you carry in your heart. You are fighting for them, and you are fighting for the future.
Or, perhaps you feel beyond hope. You are just trying to survive the wreckage of the past years the best you know how. Life has been dulled by the addiction’s endless demands and its oppressive grip. But is living in a “demolished home” the life God designed? Of course not. The question then is how can you handle the addiction and what are your options?
If you are in a supportive role with the addict in your life, it must be stated that your desire to help is noble and good. But attaining sanity in the midst of the storm requires a different approach. And to be honest, you can rebuild with or without that person involved. That’s because there are methods of taking back control from the addict where you can essentially leave the tornado and do your part from the sidelines.
Your decision to do that has various challenges. In fact, ask yourself: if you could leave the storm and find retreat, would you? Or do you fear leaving ________________ behind? Do you feel so victimized by _________________ that you feel leaving is impossible? These are very tough questions that probably can’t be answered right now. But to get you thinking, it’s vital you address them at some point.
When we address intervention, leaving the storm of someone’s addiction doesn’t mean leaving the relationship necessarily. It means no longer participating in its insanity. Understand, it is justifiable to want to steer someone out of harm’s way, except when they are taking you down with them because of wrongful behavior. One of the most entangled truths found in Christianity happens when we mistake love as the willingness to tolerate and live with someone’s sinful and unhealthy lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we can’t fight for someone. The Bible puts it this way:
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. – Galatians 6:1
Being able to assist in a person’s restoration without allowing their lifestyle to cause us to stumble takes precision and wisdom. We may not have the temptation of the addiction, but we become entangled and we can get dragged down with it in other ways – control, anger, resentment, to name a few.
The purpose of this resource is to help you identify ways to intervene, without threatening to become bogged down and injured by someone else’s negative lifestyle. Furthermore, it will offer you a method to secure your own well being, even if doing so feels uncomfortable.
You might not want to make yourself part of the discussion right now. After all, ____________ has the problem. But the truth is – it has affected you. To help you see this in more detail, we are encouraging you read this scenario, playing it out in your mind and see if you can relate.
For a brief moment, close your eyes and imagine the frightening scene of being inside a plane that needed to make an emergency crash landing. The cabin starts to lose oxygen. You are gripped in terror as you realize that breathing is becoming difficult and you fumble to grab your oxygen mask. In the chaos, you notice a young girl and a little baby who need your assistance. You feel heartbroken for them and are moved with compassion. You move over to aid, until you feel a quick drop, and realize that you are close to passing out. You have to make a dramatic choice – do you secure theirs or your own? How can you be selfish in the midst of such crisis? You only have a split second to decide, and then the words suddenly pop into your head – “before securing someone’s mask be sure to secure your own.” You quickly place the mask onto your face and begin to inhale deep breaths. You now you feel empowered with the oxygen fueling your body to help those that can’t help themselves.
Now think of your own crisis with addiction. It’s like that plane heading for a wreck and running out of oxygen. You and the addict are both suffocating, but they seem ignorant of their options. You can consume yourself with efforts to aid and rescue them to the demise of your needs. Or, you can connect to a life source and gain the tools and wisdom to understand how you can even help ____________.
This process is a means of empowerment – it’s your oxygen mask so to speak. It is meant to uplift and encourage you in the crisis of addiction so you can be strengthened to make choices.
Yes, we are going to address your love one’s addiction in this material. But no, fixing them and giving away everything you have isn’t the solution. You will learn more about what that involves, but more than likely it will mean finding additional support resources. If you have those resources accessible right now, use them! It might be finding a meeting with others parents or spouses of addicts that is specific to your situation (alcohol, drugs, sex). It might be securing a counselor or a mentor. You might just need to reach out to a trusted friend. Whatever that would look like, allow that life line to assist you.
- What can I do right now to be supported?
- Have I been giving out of lack? Have I been suffocating?