By Lisa Crist, PRM Associate Counselor, LMSW, MSW
Loving someone with an addiction is a difficult and painful experience. We desperately want to help our loved one, yet their hostile, abusive and sometimes criminal behavior breaks our hearts and destroys trust. How do we respond in love without enabling our family member to continue in their sickness?
There are many falsehoods and myths associated with addiction. Most people with substance or alcohol use disorder are not “choosing” to be addicts; they have a diagnosable condition requiring intensive treatment. Arm yourself with as much education as possible in order to respond appropriately to the person you love. Seek out places to discover more about addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an excellent place to find resources for help and education: samhsa.gov.
Many Christians resist sharing their stories for fear of judgement by others. Please understand this: It is not your fault your family member is ill. Addiction is a family disease, and the entire family needs help to recover. Simply put, you cannot navigate this issue alone.
Parents and Friends of Addicted Loved Ones (palgroup.org) provide family members hope in hopeless situations. Celebrate Recovery (celebraterecovery.com) provides Christ-based 12-step help to families plagued by addiction; check your home church or search your local area for meetings.
Many of you have heard it takes “tough love” to help a person with addiction. This is true; however, this kind of love is tough on the person doing the loving rather than on the one being loved. We think we are helping our family member by rescuing them. In fact, we are enabling the addiction to continue every time we intervene to prevent them from falling.
Resist the temptation to “help” your family member with money, housing, or anything else standing between them and getting help. Get out of God’s way and let natural consequences happen.
This is difficult. People with addiction are not always loveable. They use manipulation as a tool to get you to do what they want. Take the tool out of their hands by not withholding your love from them. See them if it is safe do to so. Give them nothing but your time and attention. Practice saying things like, “I love you so much, and I will not give you any money at any time.”
Above all, pray for God to overwhelm your loved one with His love. They may not acknowledge or appreciate it, but you can have peace knowing that you are loving them in the best way possible.