1 in 4 Americans Are Affected by a Loved One Who is Addicted
Families are an important dynamic in the Recovery of Individuals and the healing of the lives they have hurt with their addiction.
Families are an important dynamic in the Recovery of Individuals and the healing of the lives they have hurt with their addiction.
“I have not seen or heard from my son in four weeks. I know he was alive a month ago because he stopped by his grandparent’s house asking for food and money. You see, my son is running from multiple warrants for drug possession. I know that he has guns, and I’m afraid he’ll kill himself or someone else–including me. I’m actually praying he will get arrested and go to prison so that he can at least realize that he has a problem. This is the hardest, saddest time of my life, and if it were not for my walk with the Lord, I don’t know what I would do. Even now I wonder if I can make it as I am increasingly overwhelmed with anxiety over whether my son is dead or alive. If it were not for the Reformers Unanimous program and the support of my leadership that I have found there, I don’t think I could carry on—it’s just so hard.”
The above is an excerpt from a letter written by a woman who is just like you and me. What has happened to this woman, tragically, can happen to anybody. Addiction is a problem that breaks down the walls of all socio-economic classes and devours whoever it can, regardless of their upbringing or background. Imagine, if you will, the one whom you love–the happy, healthy, young person with a great future ahead of him; a talented student, a generous giver, a loving friend, a new parent, and they are losing everything to addiction! All of their time and money goes into their addiction. They lose their job. Their car is repossessed, their house is foreclosed, and their spouse leaves them. The grief is unrelenting; it is almost worse than a death. A selfish, lying, evasive, and suspicious monster replaces your formerly happy and generous loved one. They get violent and abusive towards you. They may even threaten to harm you and steal from you.
When you approach your loved one about the situation, about the drug addiction, about the extreme consequences that are transpiring in their life, they will be in denial. They will outright deny any usage of drugs! Any drug paraphernalia that you might find in their room, house, or vehicle will belong to a friend, according to your loved one. If you happen catch your loved-one with the drug in hand, they will most likely concede to using it, but they will vehemently deny they are addicted. They may even say, “Somebody planted the drug on me!” “Oh, I have just taken it once or twice, and it is doing no harm!” They can even go to the length of saying, “I work better on this stuff. It helps me concentrate better!” The person may tell you they can drive more safely while on the drug and that it helps them compensate for their shortcomings. They even go as far as to say they are doing it for your own good so that they can make more money, be more productive, get better grades, and be a better person for you.
At times, your loved-one may discontinue use of the drug for a while in a feeble effort to prove to you that they are not an addict, but, unfortunately, they rarely can stay off for a very long time. They attempt this feat in order to demonstrate that they have some type of control over the situation (which they obviously don’t). Your loved-one thinks of it as a crutch, hobby, or choice. They use the drug as a medicine, and in their own mind and thought processes, it works! It gives them endless energy, a focus and drive they have never experienced. Everything seems to be fun, interesting, and it feels so wonderful to be high and alive. They know they are dying from the consequences of continued use, but they do not care. It feels so good to die!
It is my desire in writing this information to help those who have an addicted loved-one. I want to help you understand what, exactly, is going on in your addicted loved-one’s mind and their life. Hopefully my insights, both personal and observed, will give you guidance through this most difficult time in your life.
An inability to sustain oneself without the cooperating power of another who is equally, but differently, in need of sustenance.
Co-dependents need each other for different purposes. Usually the addict is dependant upon getting their needs met apart from God. They do so through the help of a cooperative fellow dependent. The other dependent party is usually unable to sustain oneself unless they are meeting people’s needs. Being the only means of support of a dependent person is the source of their strength. One is dependent on being supported; the other is dependent upon supporting. One could say that co-dependents are a match made in hell. This behavior often manifests itself in a love-hate relationship.
Enabling is furnishing sufficient power for one to overcome through humanity what God intends to be accomplished through His Trinity.
Enablement is different than codependency in that the enabler does not assist out of personal dependence, but rather out of their individual reliance. The enabler most often struggles to accept God’s sovereignty in the life of their loved-one. These “bouts with doubt” lead them to rely on their own devices. Their enablement is intended to empower a failing person to lighten the consequences of their mistakes. Although well-intentioned, this is usually done out of self love. Self love is a legitimate natural love, but it has selfish motives. Frequently, the selfish motive is fear of letting go or losing control of the dependent one. This behavior manifests itself in help that hurts.
The deepest grief in the world is watching your loved-one die a slow death right before your eyes. They are still alive on the outside, but dead on the inside. Your loved-one will lie, steal, and manipulate you with promises, only to break them time and time again. It seems as if they just don’t care! Their heart, in a sense, has died. Sometimes you wish you could just close the casket and get on with your life. If you have an addict living in your home, you will eventually have to put them out. That’s right, put them out.
You may put off making this decision as long as you want to, but you are not helping them by letting them stay high all the time at your home. When you feed them, and give them a place to stay, you are enabling them to keep using. By your actions, you are encouraging them to continue in their addictive lifestyle. They will stay high for as long as they can get away with it. Everyday they will do more and more damage to themselves as well as everyone around them. The kindest thing you can do for your addictive loved-one is to kick them out of your home if they don’t respond to your offer to help.
When the prodigal son (mentioned in Luke 15:11-32) went off to the far country, he did not come to his senses when there was plenty of money around and partying going on. He woke up to reality when he was feeding hogs, and getting really hungry. The only way you can help your loved-one that refuses to get help is by allowing them to hit rock-bottom sooner rather than later. Let them hit bottom before they have sustained so much physical and mental damage that their life, in all essence, is destroyed.
Your addicted loved-one might have to live there for a while, but they will eventually get tired of living at rock-bottom. They will beg and plead, and they will deny they are using. They will ask for money. They will want to use your car. They will beg you to give them a little more time to get back on their feet. You have to cut them off completely! Don’t lie for your loved-one to their boss. Don’t give them the one hundred dollars they want, and don’t make their car payment for them…THE ONLY WAY TO HELP IS TO LET THEM FAIL! Let them get fired, let them be hungry, force them to walk and not drive!
They might end up homeless–living in a dumpster, hungry, jobless, and alone– but they must face the hard, cold reality of their destructive lifestyle that they have chosen. An addict is not going to quit using until they hit rock-bottom. Rock-bottom, simply put, is the place where the painful consequences of addiction exceed the pleasure of that addiction. The addict may hit rock-bottom in the county jail, when the car is repossessed, when the husband or wife leaves, or when the children are taken away from him or her. They might hit rock-bottom when they are hungry and the family abandons them. They might hit rock-bottom when there is no place to crash anymore. Don’t let them continue to play games with you; do not take action to help your loved-one avoid hitting rock-bottom.
Again, only if your loved-one will not take serious action to get help with their addiction should you put them out of your home. If they are willing to get involved in the local chapter of RU, or go to the Men’s or Women’s School of Discipleship we should offer every ounce of support we can muster.
If your addicted loved-one is going to live in your home while attending a class or program you must have a strict regiment of conditions for them. If time allows for it, make them get a job and go to work. If they want a car, they can pay for it. But, if necessary, they can walk to work. If you give them a ride, make them pay for the ride even if it is only a small amount. Even if you only charge them 25 cents it will still remove the appearance of “getting something for nothing”. You can give them a safe place to live away from their ungodly friends, but if they live with you, insist that they pay rent and keep the place clean. If they won’t pay the rent you charge, make them leave. If they run up a big phone bill and won’t pay, make them leave. If they steal from you or threaten you, make them leave. You must set limits and boundaries, real limits and real boundaries. If you renege by not issuing appropriate consequences for rule violations you are only hurting your loved-one. You must be stern.
It is important that you set the conditions for the addicted person; they must not have any input into this process whatsoever. You have to get you loved-one accustomed to living on somebody else’s terms! It is hard to see your loved-one eventually become homeless or to be put in jail. To observe this is surely one of the most frightening things a parent could observe, and nobody enjoys having to see this happen; however, this system of hard-core reality is the only thing that the addict will acknowledge. At this point you may ask yourself, “Why does it have to get so ugly?” Because it hurts bad to get off drugs.
The withdrawal from a substance can truly be an agony that lasts for weeks, if not months. The typical drug addict will do almost anything to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal. Your loved-one will not start in this recovery program until they perceive that it will hurt worse to continue using then it would to get help (and face the withdrawals). When it hurts worse to use than it does to quit, they will get the help they need, and they will make an honest effort to quit. Don’t expect them to go through the discomfort of withdrawal just because you asked them to. Drug withdrawals can include very severe symptoms such as intense anxiety, deep depression, fatigue, body aches, low grade fever, chills, and, much, much more. Sometimes, the depression can linger up to one year, secondary to the fact of the drug-induced manipulation of the brain’s neurotransmitters, brain-cell injury, and even brain-cell death.
So, you do have a choice! Making the appropriate choice will probably hurt. Your loved-one will cry and scream and call you all sorts of names. They may even threaten you or other family members. They will tell you it will be different this time if you let them have their way. Don’t fall for it! Be willing to leave them at the RU discipleship homes if necessary. They will say that they hate you and maybe even curse you every day, but that is okay and to be expected. Look at it this way: they are still alive to curse; they could be dead! You are doing the right thing when you let them hit rock-bottom, but as mentioned before, they will make you absolutely miserable. Know that in the end, if they endure the pain of beating their addiction and succeed, they will forever be grateful for the sacrifices that you made.
As you approach your loved-one in regards to the consequences of their addiction, you must come to them in a spirit that is not critical or condemning. You want to take an approach that is strictly informative and empathetic, demonstrating your desire to help. As you approach the loved-one that is addicted, be ready to immediately offer options to help them break the bondage of their addiction and find freedom. Be ready to give them something concrete they can do today. Make sure that they understand, to the best of your ability, that you are offering help and not punishment.
When you approach your loved-one, have information about the RU Recovery Program ready to show them. This way, if they are receptive to your offer to help, you will be able to capitalize on their openness and not risk the chance that they may change their mind. Furthermore, we recommend that before you confront your loved one, you speak to a RU director in your area. Ask the director if he would be present with you to help you and your loved-one start the process of finding freedom from addiction. Also for the non-functioning addict, you should consider investigating the RU Schools of Discipleship in Rockford, Illinois. At these residential homes, your loved-one will be afforded several months to separate from ungodly influences and transform their thinking through discipleship, and counseling. There, they will find a thorough discipleship program that will introduce them to the truth, and help them apply it to their daily lives.
I do want to caution you, though. Be ready for denial and refusal to get help. Do not be discouraged! The fact that your loved-one refused you today does not mean your attempt is a failure. Your loved-one has heard you, and needs time to think about it. An addict must want to be done with addiction in order to be successful in overcoming addiction.
If the addict is your child, this can be very damaging and destructive to your marriage. An addicted child knows who the “softie” is in your home. If the addict is a son, it is generally the mother who is the soft one; if she is a daughter, it usually is the father who is the softer one. That being said, when the father gives up on the son and refuses to bail him out of jail, the mother takes over and believes whatever the child tells her. I have had mothers in this situation tell me, “It is different now. He just needs a little money to tie him over until he gets paid.” I’ve also heard, “His friends talked him into it. He did not want to sell the drugs.” Another quote I’ve heard from mothers is, “If we don’t give him food, he won’t have anything to eat.”
Sometimes, when the father resorts to “tough love” and “cuts off” his own son because of addiction, the mother gets angry. She may be feeling enormous guilt over what has happened to her son in the past. She will defend her poor little boy no matter what he does. And again, as I have mentioned, you can reverse the role in regards to the father and daughter. If dad and mom are not careful, the marriage can be fractured. The manipulative child will play one parent against the other. Another tactic the addict will use is when they accuse one parent of abuse and lie about the past to manipulate the sympathetic partner. Trust between spouses is destroyed, communication is broken down, and the child’s only hope for the discipline he needs is gone. Counseling for mom and dad is essential. Not only for the survival of their marriage but for the sake of the addicted child.
This is why it is imperative for you to get your addicted loved-one involved in a local chapter of Reformers Unanimous. This is the very best thing you can do not only for the addict, but also for those who love the addict and are affected by his behavior. Go on the website (Reformu.com) and find a chapter close by to you, and then whole-heartedly dive into the program alongside your addicted loved-one. There, again, you will be introduced to the Truth–which is Jesus Christ. You will also be instructed on how to live and walk in the Truth. In doing so you will help yourself, your marriage, and your family. It is the best tool that you can give your loved-one who is in active addiction right now.
The situation for the spouse of an addict is a little different than that of parents of an addicted child. Spouses have the additional pain of being rejected and being abandoned by their husband or wife. Even if they don’t actually leave you, they are not the same person you married. The grief of watching the man, or woman you love die slowly is indescribable.
You remember the good times you shared together, and the love and joy you shared. You remember the look that was on their face when you got engaged. You see all of these things in your mind’s eye, and you just want to die because it hurts so badly. Your addicted spouse gets enraged at little things. They are angry and hostile one minute and happy and loving the next. You never know what to expect. They make promises to do things with you and the kids and then don’t show up. Many will, at times, become violent, and destroy household objects such as the children’s toys. In an act of sheer desperation, your addicted spouse may go as far as to tear up the picture your child drew for them. You have been abandoned, abused, rejected, and humiliated. You are grieved at the loss of the relationship that you held with your spouse.
You must realize that you cannot fix your spouse. As much as you love them, you cannot make them go back to what they used to be. You can be there for them if, and when, they finally decide to take action, but until your spouse decides to get help your hands are basically tied. One thing, and the best thing, you can do for you and your children is to get involved in a local chapter of Reformers Unanimous and diligently get to know Jesus Christ and walk with Him. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and your children. The RU program will teach you more about what your addicted spouse is going through and offer you the support that you need. It will provide comfort to you in an otherwise helpless situation. Additionally, if your spouse sees you faithfully attend each week, he or she just may become curious enough to try it out.
No matter how ugly life becomes as a result of your spouse’s addiction, don’t quit praying, and certainly don’t quit progressing in the Reformers Unanimous Discipleship Program. As you and your children abide in the love and peace and joy and comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ, your spouse may continue to get worse. Remember though that they must hit rock bottom in order to get better! God is hearing, and He is answering your prayer. He is taking your spouse to a place where there is no where to turn to except the Lord.
Prayer is a powerful tool that God has given His children. God is not standing by helpless. It may not look very pretty and may not be what you expected at all, but God knows exactly what He is doing. God knows how to change a heart, not just the behavior. In order to truly change behavior, there must first be a change of belief in an individual’s heart, and the only one that can do that is God.
Your addicted spouse has a choice in how they respond to God’s moving in their life. God has chosen to give us all free will. He has so much respect for our free will that He will not force us to respond to Him. The Bible does not clearly tell us how long the prodigal father had to wait for his son to come back home. It might have been days, weeks, months, and even years. As the prodigal’s father felt, you too feel helpless and discouraged. You want to do something to fix your spouse. The most powerful thing that you can do, as we have already mentioned, is accept the truth and that is Jesus Christ.
You must abide in Him, walk with Him, and pray to Him. It is easy to get discouraged because sometimes it does not look like anything is happening, but you just keep walking with Jesus and praying. The Holy Spirit is on the job. You can’t physically see it, but the Holy Spirit is working. There is eternal stuff going on, and most of it is not visible to our physical eye. You must realize that it takes incredible courage and strength to quit a drug habit. It also takes brutal honesty and a real change of belief in the heart to escape the bondage of drug addiction.
Your addicted loved-one cannot possibly beat addiction using their strength alone. But Jesus can do it in them. He supplies the strength to become clean and to stay clean. Most drug addicts are very lonely people. They have run everybody off. They really need a friend, somebody who understands them and really cares. They need somebody that sees through the lies and won’t play games with them. They need somebody that won’t condemn them. In fact, the addict is typically looking for Jesus, but they just don’t know it consciously.
Every time you pray and as you walk with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit speaks to your loved one’s heart. He speaks peace, mercy, and love. It might happen at two o’clock in the morning while they are sleeping off a buzz in the back seat of someone’s car, or it may happen when they hear a familiar Christian hymn. It might happen when a stranger shows them just a glimpse of compassion. Jesus knows when their spirit is open to hearing His soft, loving voice and it is then that the Spirit of God will speak!
His presence is so gentle and so tender that your loved one is drawn to it. Oh yes, they might resist and certainly can. But, His gentle voice, His compassionate invitation is always there. It is like when Lazarus was dead in the tomb, no life, no joy, and no useful purpose in his dead body. It really does remind you of someone living an addictive lifestyle. But, as Jesus called forth to Lazarus to come out of that tomb, He is also calling to your loved one to come out of the tomb of addiction and to experience life in Him.
As your addicted loved-one responds to Jesus, they will then understand that they are not alone. They draw close to His presence. Jesus understands your loved-one. He knows what motivates them and what they are really afraid of. He knows what lies they believe, and He exposes the lie and teaches the Truth. Pray that your loved-one accepts it!
The closer your loved-one gets to Jesus, the more they walk and abide in Jesus—meaning that they become more like Jesus. They slowly take on the character of Jesus. They submit to the Holy Spirit of God instead of submitting to the urges and passions of their drug of choice. They grow in the love of Jesus. They respect and draw strength from Him. They feel loved and valued by Jesus. They heal inside. They don’t need the drug to feel good any more. Your addicted loved-one cannot play games with Jesus. If they are honestly trying to stay clean, Jesus will continue to work with them.
The addicted can’t have their drug and freedom in Jesus at the same time. Jesus will always hear your loved one’s honest cry for help. He won’t play games if your loved one chooses the drug, and the drug is what they will get. Jesus is only willing to help those who accept His help by faith. As they experience the presence and power of Jesus, and as they continue in the discipleship program of Reformers Unanimous, I believe they will start valuing the presence of Jesus more than the high of the drug.
Your loved-one will find out that Jesus does not hang out with their drug friends, does not appreciate their lifestyle, and that He finds pornography offensive. Jesus does not mind working with your addictive loved-one when they run into the wall of depression and when they are feeling tired and down. Your loved-one will learn how to pray and work through their frustration and depression instead of drugging them away. Jesus will help them grow. Jesus will help them heal, and this healing is lasting and deep.
Your loved-one will begin to see as they progress through the Reformers Unanimous program, (whether it is at the local chapter or at the homes in Rockford) that they are changing. They will have a calmness and peace that does not need anybody or anything. We find that when Jesus does something, He does it right and complete. Your loved one can’t quit on their own strength. They can only quit in the strength of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ living in them. Your loved one will go through agony getting off the drugs. They go through this agony for the sake of the One who went through agony for them on the cross at Calvary.
A few weeks of discomfort is nothing in exchange for what Christ endured for all humanity. The power to overcome addiction is found in one place—Jesus Christ! Your loved-one needs this power, and Reformers Unanimous can give it to them! Won’t you please allow us to introduce you to the help that you and your addicted loved one need?
Helping an addict through recovery can seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone we have a variety of options to help you in time in your life. You can browse the resources below or contact us at 734-788-8535 to speak confidentially with one of our caring staff. Our staff is very caring and knowledgeable and would love to take your call and answer your questions. We know it can be tough to pick up the phone and ask for help, but this could be the most important call you ever make for yourself or your loved one!