Do you have a family member who is an addict or recovering addict? Joan Nesbitt’s experience as the sister of an addict has struck a nerve with many who have had similar experiences. In her piece, My Sister is an Addict and for Years I Stayed the Hell Away, Joan describes her sister, a drug addict whose actions, coupled with Joan’s contempt, severed their relationship and estranged the two for most of their lives.
Joan describes it like this: “I made sure P knew she was not invited to my wedding. I made my mother promise not to take my children around her. When she was sent to jail, many times, I never bothered to ask where or why or for how long. I refused to visit her in the hospital after she was nearly beaten to death with a steel pipe until my mother tearfully begged me to go, after which I stood in the doorway of her dingy hospital room because I wasn’t brave enough to cross the linoleum abyss between my anger and her pain.”
She goes on to talk about how her own anger at her sister kept her away for years. She writes about how forgiveness and healing are hard things that she’s only starting to understand and apply.
Can you relate? Addiction is so crippling in relationships. Former all-star baseball player and current pastor Darryl Strawberry, along with his wife, ministry partner and fellow recovering addict Tracy, sat down for an interview about overcoming addiction with Crosswalk.com. The Strawberrys share how they found their way out of drug addiction and into new life together, and how they learned to let God heal them as individuals before focusing on the issues in their marriage.
When they first met, Tracy was one year into her recovery, while Darryl had just come off a four day binge of smoking crack. Tracy talks about how God was there to help her cope with the fallout of both her and her husband’s choices. “It was a lot of confusion. A lot of brokenness. It was very difficult. But surrendering my life to Christ and coming to him bitter and angry—he can handle your bitterness, he can handle your anger, he can handle anything that you are, anything that you’ve done.”
Dr. David Hawkins of the Marriage Recovery Center often tackles relationship issues that stem from addiction. In one particular Dr. David column, he shares a letter from a husband who is furious at his wife’s overspending. Dr. David explains how her problem is really an addiction and must be treated like any other addiction. He shares some great advice that family members of addicts can apply.
First, family members need to read about and understand the process of addiction. “Knowledge and wisdom are critical first steps when facing any problem.”
Second, after educating yourself, know that your family member may still continue to deny his or her problem. Dr. David writes, “Addicts deny and minimize their problems, making those who confront them feel crazy. Armed with knowledge about this process, you’ll be less likely to fight with her. You won’t win this battle by convincing her of her problem. She must come to that realization on her own.”
Third, “prepare to take a tough stand. Addicts must reach their “bottom,” where their addiction no longer works for them… In the meantime, you must set a firm boundary.” It’s important to seek counseling on this because boundaries are going to look different in every situation.
Fourth, “you must be prepared to take on the role of support and encouragement, not blaming and discouragement. Blame and shame are not helpful, as she undoubtedly already feels ashamed of her situation. While she will initially resent you for taking a stand, sometime in the future she’ll thank you for your strength.”
Finally, remind your friend/family member/spouse that you love them. “Let her know, firmly, that you are taking this stand because you love her. Remind her that you’re committed to her and will seek help with her. Let her know that you are open to exploring any role you might play in her problems and the unhappiness that may be fueling her addiction, while remaining firm that an intervention is critically necessary.”
Do you have a family member or friend who has struggled with addiction? What has your experience been like? How has God helped you through it?
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.