Addiction is an epidemic in this country. By some estimates, at least 50% of the U.S. population has an addicted person in their family. For those who love an addict the desire to be helpful, to care for them, to see them change is enormous. We hurt when those we love are hurting. But, as with most situations, how we help is extremely important. It is of paramount importance that helpers know their limitations, know their role, and know themselves.
No one can change an addict. Change comes as part of a process that involves, among many things, the addicts own willingness to change. No one can force a person into healing. Neither can anyone single person be solely responsible for another’s recovery. We must all know our finite human, and individual limitations. Addiction care is extremely involved and requires a lot of time, commitment, and engagement. No one can be constantly responsible for their loved ones, with them 24/7, or available at the drop of a hat. We have to accept this. We also have to recognize what we can and cannot do. God did not give us omnicompetence, and even with education there are limitations to what any one individual is capable of. We must rely on others, we must trust God, we must encourage accountability and responsibility in the addict himself. Knowing our limitations is crucial to truly being helpful.
We must also know what our role is as helpers. We must accept that we are able to support, encourage, and hold accountable, but we cannot be the real agents of change. It is not uncommon for family members of an addict to assume more responsibility for the addict’s life, mistakes, and sobriety than they should. This tends to create false guilt in the family members, and strains already fragile relationships. Knowing your role saves your much lost energy. It also preserves the help that can be offered, as opposed to over-extending one’s self.
Finally, knowing yourself is extremely important. Knowing your own temptations and weaknesses allows you to be on guard against harming yourself while trying to care for others. Too many helpers neglect their own physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual health when caught up in the care of others. Others fall prey to all sorts of sinful temptations because they have not taken care to heed Paul’s warning: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Gal. 6:1b). We need to know ourselves even as we seek to care for others.
In this new series we are going to look at six things NOT to do when seeking to help those addicts we love. The goal of the series is to be both a help and an encouragement to those family and friends who are not sure what to do next, not sure how to be helpful, or who have been trying but feel stuck and discouraged. The series will explore the helper, not the process, but it will give some hope and strategy for developing an appropriate helping relationship in these difficult situations. I pray it will be a service to you.