Part 5: When to Help, When to Not Help

You may be seeing things that are difficult, so it’s time to say this. Be kind to yourself. Be understanding. You have done what you needed to do. It’s okay. Today is a new day and a new chance. Some of this will be difficult to hear, but remember, it’s your intervention too. And that’s a good thing. Someone (Jesus) loves you enough to have you in this place right here, right now. Know that God is on your side. He is for you, not against you. He loves you and the person you are struggling with. He sees the entire picture.

As you move into intervention, this next step can feel brutal. But it has one primary objective: to let pain take effect. If you have befriended pain, what does that mean? Simply put, you agree with pain’s agenda. You say, “go ahead, pain, have your way.”

Family members that block pain create barriers rather than pathways towards redemption. Of course this is not done intentionally. The only way for you to know if you are in any way participating in blocking pain, you’ll need to see how you interact in your own relationship.

Facing the ways you may have encouraged addiction rather than helped disable it is a courageous step! No matter how you’ve interacted, remember it’s not your fault. You are never responsible for the actions of others, but you can get swept up in the cycle of it.

Let’s take a look at how this can occur.

We simply intervene in the wrong thing- we remove the consequences of the addict’s bad behavior which may be the very thing that would set them free.

Poor choices yield negative results; that’s one of the best growth tools available. Mistakes, failure and bad choices create experiences that can shape us to make better choices in the future. Thus, when we intervene in the area of natural consequences, we prevent someone’s growth and maturity.

Jeff kept spending money to support his habit. While his mother was aware of his addiction, she continued to be manipulated. When he couldn’t pay his rent, or afford to buy his favorite concert ticket, Jeff’s mom paid it for him. Jeff had no motivation to quit. He had the best of both worlds.

We can continue to take responsibility for the problems of the addict rather than let them bear that weight.

Family members are sometimes more concerned about the addict’s situation than is the addict. In the addiction cycle, addicts are oftentimes numbed and unaware of the complete chaos and insanity they create. When Julie received a drunk-driving ticket and was put in jail, her mother was hysterical. She drove four hours to claim Julie’s car, have it towed and repaired, and to post bail money. As Julie came out of jail, she was disrespectful and rude, with no appreciation for her mom’s efforts. She immediately went drinking, all while her mother secured an expensive lawyer to bail her out of her bad choices. Julie didn’t need to own her problems, because her mother carried them for her.

We can allow the addict’s denial to become our reality, rather than see the truth of the situation.

Denial is a powerful force that demands everyone to respond to it. Rather than deal with addiction, denial forces members to view it through the addict’s perspective. When addiction becomes the voice of truth, everyone involved will feel insane. Literally.

Tom’s addiction was ruling the home, as he terrorized the family with all the things they were doing wrong. The focus and blame was continually placed on them throughout the day, giving Tom permission to continue to use. The family obliged and agreed with him, thus helping perpetuate that denial. That’s because they were too afraid and beaten down to come against Tom. Outside help was needed for them, as well as for Tom.

Denial may have aided them in the moment, but it in turn created weakness, despair and an imprisoned environment. No one, not one single person in this earth, has the right to dictate truth to you unless it aligns with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Asking ourselves if we’ve participated in denial is in itself an indication that perhaps we aren’t in denial anymore. For a person to be truly in denial, they would immediately slam the door on this statement and say “that doesn’t apply to me.” And if you’ve done that, you might not even be reading this anymore! So if you are still reading, then good news. You’ve become willing to explore the possibility. It’s like opening a door to a darkened room. Light is going to project itself in the room to the extent that you are willing to let it. And then, those tough questions remain. How much has the addiction controlled me? How have I been living under its terrifying reality?

We can fill in the gaps for the addict, making up for what they can’t do.

While the addict can do irresponsible things, they usually are failing to do their God-given duty. From work to home, the addict often doesn’t need to fulfill their role because someone else is already doing it for them. In fact, addicts need a person who is overly responsible in order to function.  Marilyn worked two jobs to support her husband. He had no ambition to find a job, and said he was entitled to be at home. He lived off the benefits of his wife’s income, all while offering very little in return. Marilyn did everything for her husband, and he had no incentive to learn to carry his weight, or certainly to stop his addiction. Marilyn unknowingly perpetuated rather than ended the addiction cycle.

Now there is a catch to this issue. Truth be known change bears a cost, some situations more than others. Like the addict, you’ll need to reach the place where the cost of change is less painful than the cost of remaining the same. In fact, that’s where all change begins.

Working through those details may be difficult. If you give up responsibility, you might find yourself homeless and on the street. You can’t simply quit a job waiting for _____________ to kick in and support their fair share. That makes releasing responsibility to be extremely difficult for people in marriage. In fact, it requires planning that this material cannot offer.

But let’s say you have an adult child living at home. You’ve offered them a place to live. You’ve continued to shower them with free amenities. You’ve even maintained their laundry and meals. You may need to prepare to cut some of this off, but not before offering an alternative. Furthermore, if you’ve overly supported someone, they may not have proper life skills. You may need a long-term plan to basically support them how to wean from your care.

The 12 Step Program deals with this area, as it encourages an addict to become self-supportive almost immediately. This may need to be worked out in greater detail as you proceed with an intervention plan.

We excuse the addict’s behavior and are willing to blame others for their choices.

When the family supports the addict’s behavior, they will actually look for ways to protect the addict from even having to admit a problem. In fact, this is the most common error parents and close family members make. In their own idea of “love,” they see “a good heart” underneath the addict, and don’t ever deal with the wrongful behavior. This protection can become so extreme, if anything or anyone threatens that person, the family can actually lie and manipulate in the same way as the addict.

Frank was in denial over his wife’s problem, and didn’t want to do anything that would hurt or disrupt her. Thus, when people tried to convince him to get her help, he was defensive. He excused and justified her behavior to where he lied and covered for her. In doing so, he was protecting the very bondage she was under.  He was serving her addiction every bit as much as she.

Turning the Corner

If you stop enabling, understand you have essentially removed your finger from the plug and all the resources to maintain the addiction will drain. You can expect backlash. You should always seek outside assistance if violence or excessive threats could potentially harm you or the addict. It’s also important to make adjustments in the tone of love, not shame. In fact, if shame is present, it must first be dealt with before healthy intervention can occur. Your unwillingness to participate isn’t a lack of love but a call to use your resources to support a solution.  You would rather hurt their addiction and let pain have its perfect work. You are befriending pain only because it will lead them to the hope of change.

Does stopping enabling have a risk? Of course. Addiction can kill, especially addiction to drugs and alcohol. Sadly, not everyone makes it.  That’s why, when help is wanted, it should always be offered to the struggling addict—as long as it aligns with the addict’s sobriety and healing. Not only that, there is a time and place to help, and it can be unbelievably hard to know the difference. For example, does the shivering heroine addict that shows up at mom’s house at 2 am deserve a warm night sleep? No one has the answer. It depends strictly on how God moves your heart. The answer isn’t what you are going in each instance (no one can tell you that, only God knows), but how you manage the relationship over the long haul. You are either promoting a solution – by allowing pain – or demoting a solution by removing it.

Despite how “mean” it may appear, you know your heart, and the addict will eventually prayerfully understand that what you were doing was in fact love. You are standing up for the real person they are. You are saying “no way, I’m not a friend of this addiction.”  It lets the addict know you are absolutely committed to their wellbeing, and will absolutely not condone the lifestyle of addiction.

Please note: some people’s addiction are more severe than others. Some require immediate professional help and may involve mental health problems in addition. Cutting off a person entirely is not recommended without first seeking guidance – but the goal should be they are not dependent on you to manage their life.

Read Part 6