Phase 1 Be not afraid.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. – Zechariah 4:6
Do not be afraid. You are not alone. God, Himself, will go before you and you will see His victory. The pain, frustration and fears you are feeling are breaking God’s heart. Know that he loves the victim even more than you do and this whole mess is crushing His tender heart. As you engage with these beautiful men and women know that He is right there with you. He will protect you, cry with you, encourage you and inspire you. These parents, your sons or daughters, grandparents or other relatives or friends that have been captured in addiction need to be rescued. This mission has been given to you because you can do it. Our all-knowing and all loving Father would not give you the mission if He thought that you could not rise to the occasion. He realizes that you do not believe that you have what it takes. So He calls you to believe in Him. He will teach, share and give you glimpses of hope when there seems to be no hope. God is with you and He will not forsake you. Consider this mission with all seriousness and brace yourself for the difficulties ahead of you.
Understand that fear is the most common root to addiction. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointing people. Fear of not being accepted. That is why we must address fear head on. We cannot look the other way when fear rears its head and hope to succeed in our quest to help our loved ones. What are your fears? Are you close enough to your loved one to have passed these fears onto them? It may be that you will need to address your own fears as well.
Phase 2: Learn balance This is going to be a rollercoaster ride. There will be moments when you want to give the world to your addicted love one. You must resist. There are other times when you will want to kill your loved one that is trapped in addiction. Obviously, DON’T do it. We must find the balance of healthy boundaries. Be firm and loving. Never quit loving them. The addiction is ruling their lives. Strive to reach deep within your compassion genes and let loose. Seek out the truth and balance it all with absolute truth. If you don’t learn the balance you will be burned and hurt badly. They will never get well unless you learn balance. As you do this, it is critical that you guide them. If you push them too much; the pressure itself can cause relapse. Realize that if the person trapped in addiction doesn’t want out there is little that you can do. Set boundaries, love them but don’t push them. Definitely pray for them in this area because they have been living life in the extremes so this idea of a balanced life will seem dull.
Phase 3: Learn how to stop. There are times on the quest when you must simply go on vacation and be unreachable. Leave it all behind. If your loved one is in the midst of a bender they won’t even notice. But get away. Enjoy nature. Check out museums and other cultures. Whatever you do, work to not think about your loved one for a season. This does not make you evil. But it helps you to recreate your soul, your willingness to endure. Those living in addiction count on you to get weak and give into their endless requests for money or other help. All help must be done thoughtfully with an end toward redemption and healing. If you find yourself giving money or other helps to your loved one out of guilt you are in trouble.
Phase 4: Learn how to steer: There are going to be incredible obstacles some manmade, some thrown up by others that are trapped in addiction.
Legal/ Court Systems
Over time you will have to work with the legal and court system. Do not try to do this alone. This system can be confusing and complicated. Find allies that can help you. It won’t always seem like it but they are there to help you. If possible schedule time to talk to a drug court judge and find out more about success rates and what you can do to partner with the court for your community.
Treatment centers all have their own guidelines and policies. You may not understand them but they were developed for good reasons. This does not mean that all treatment centers are without fault. It is good to ask the why questions and help them improve their systems. For the most part these programs are operating with an intention to help your loved one overcome their addiction.
Make sure to do the research. Every treatment center has their, own rules or guidelines and style. Discover what these are and make sure that your loved one is made aware of what the expectations will be. Many families worry that if they tell those that are in addiction the rules that they will not be able to get their loved one to sign up. The problem is that when they are done with treatment you will want them to trust you. Being honest and upfront will help build that trust. Holding back on the truth will only hurt their recovery.
As you do your investigation ask about their philosophy of addiction recovery. Some treat addiction like a disease. Today this is very common. They will say that addiction is like heart disease. People eat poorly and don’t exercise and they end up with heart disease. They did not choose the heart disease; but it is there do to small poor choices. In the same way the person with an addiction made some small choices that grew into the addiction. While the metaphor does work on some levels it breaks down on one key point. Nobody, and I mean nobody loves their heart disease. People in addiction love their addiction. They dream about their drug, alcohol, pornography or whatever their drug of choice might be. When they smell something close they get excited and they start to fantasize about it. It is ok if they have that philosophy. But being aware of it can help you later when you are welcoming your loved one home.
Note: There are some programs that are only in it for the money. Avoid these at all costs. Look for those that will truly love your friend or family member and want to see them improve. You should be able to find success stories for any program that is older than a year or two. Check in with the graduates and see how they are doing? Consider if the treatment center is keeping up with this person. Aftercare typically is not included in most programs so if they are doing it, they must care.
Phase 5: Maintenance Now that they are clean and sober the real work starts. Like in all relationships you must find a way to communicate. Most people caught in addiction have a “tell” a signal that they are getting ready to use. Spend time with them, watch them carefully and call them out before they head out the door to relapse. One young lady I worked with that was struggling with a sexual addiction would always put on a hat if she was going to relapse. Initially she did not even realize that she was doing this. Once it was discovered it was easy enough to call her aside if she was wearing a hat and help her refocus in the right direction.
Take time to notice who your loved one is hanging out with consistently. People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peers. Many will argue that they need to help their friends also find recovery. In many ways this is true. Service is a key component of the healing process. The time trapped in addiction and selfishness must be redeemed. However, they need to balance time with healthy individuals and invite healthy folks into the process. All of this is part of the process.
If you are reading this than someone that you care about is struggling with an addiction. I am going to give some general words of advice that you should keep in mind.
This is an ultra distance race in multiple environments and not a sprint: From time to time I will hear so called experts talking about a pill to help people overcome their addiction. Things like methadone are touted as an easy solution to addiction. My ears hear their voice, but I wonder if they are listening to themselves? Think about the irony of using one drug to cure an addiction to another drug. That is similar to paying one credit card with another credit card. There is no shortcut. I hate to be the one to break that to you. Getting healing will be a long, painful and difficult journey. Those that tout quick and easy solutions are diluted at best and charlatans at worst. Brace yourself for the battle ahead.
An ultra runner knows that he or she has a long run ahead. If they came prepared to do a fifty yard dash then they will fail. Focus your mind and envision success in the distant future. Yes it can get better and better but there could be setbacks, relapse and more visits to jails in your future.
I tell you all of this because I want you to brace yourself for the truth and encourage you to stay with your loved one throughout the experience. Something that can help is to find a quiet place and envision what life without the addiction could be like. There is no magic here but it gives a moment of hope to see your loved one with you on a beach in complete sobriety and peace having a blast.
This person trapped in addiction is not the same person as the one you love: There was this lady that I once worked with who was a stereotype of a librarian. She always had her nose in a book, her hair was in a tight bun and she spoke softly. Her entire life was a picture of organization and joy. Less than two weeks later I saw her again but would not have known it was her if she did not introduce herself to me. This time I can only describe her appearance like you might imagine the demoniac from Bible fame. Her hair was going in every direction and she was beyond loud and demanding. Her clothing was all awry and she was shaking the gate of the shelter where I worked. Hatred seethed from her mouth. This woman had discovered methamphetamine and it had shaken her to the core.
I am sure that you have seen the transformation. It looks different for each person but some of the common versions are:
Paranoid: They keep looking behind them or pulling the shades tight. Every little sound frightens them. These fears are typically extremely irrational. They are so afraid that it will be contagious. This might be a good time to take the kids away for a little adventure to grandmas. Nobody should witness this.
Violent: If your loved one is typically violent you must get yourself safe as soon as possible. Even if you suspect that they are using than put a safety plan in action.
Mello: Nothing seems to matter to them in this state. Most of the time, we don’t get too worried about this person. However, they find it difficult to keep a job since you must care to do a good job. They also can be in the way if there is an emergency. Many house fires start because those in this state fall asleep smoking and then don’t have a focus to put it out.
Delusional: This version will be killing bugs that you can’t see or will try to get you to wear foil on your head because the CIA is listening to your thoughts. They are scary and typically you will not be able to rationalize with them.
You must take care of yourself first: This will feel selfish and unnatural but it is a key to success. Regardless of what is going on with your loved one, you must eat right and exercise. You must find a way from the chaos and find joy again in a hobby. Live your life fully and completely. When one trapped in addiction is sober and clean they can be welcome to join you in adventures. Read good books and meditate on positive thoughts. There is nothing easier than getting your mind into a negative spin when they are using or drinking. They are making their choices, you are not required to go down the toilet with them. Create a secret savings account they don’t know about so that you have spare money to enable you to get away.
Clean up the house: If your loved one is an alcoholic you must get all alcoholic beverages out of the house. Consider this. If your loved one was a diabetic you would not put chocolate cake on the counter. Yes you can eat the cake, but because you are filled with love you forsake the cake. With many drugs there are smells, tastes and attitudes that are triggers to relapse. Take note of those triggers and work toward not giving them the excuse that they are looking for you to give them. These sometimes seem out of place. Simple things like light bulbs or the smell of ammonia can serve as triggers. It may not be possible to remove every single trigger but being aware of them helps greatly.
Share the truth: Friends and family already suspect that something is wrong. There is no need to try to hide it from them. I have a friend who finally opened up with his mother in law about his wife’s addiction. She knew it but was afraid to tell him. Now together they work as a team to help this woman find healing from her addiction. They refuse to be played off of each other and together they are addressing the issue with truth and love.
You must allow natural consequences to take place: Recently I read a story about a woman whose husband was violent when he was using. On nearly every occasion he would throw a huge fit in the kitchen and throw the trashcan across the room and dump the contents of the fridge and then storm out of the house for several hours. She would spend several hours cleaning up the mess and fixing the damage that he caused. Later he would return home and pass out in their bed. When morning came she would tell him what happened and he would look at the kitchen and deny that it happened. She was tired because she had spent much of the night working and worrying and did not have the energy to battle. Eventually, she decided that she had enough. The next time that he trashed the kitchen she took a warm bath and went to bed. When she woke up in the morning, her husband was in the kitchen cleaning up the mess and patching the hole he had made in the wall. He never did that again.
If you have plans to go out with the kids than go ahead without them. You don’t need to forsake your plans. This is really important if kids are involved, they are the innocent victims. Never miss a school play or baseball game simply because your spouse or other family member cannot control their addiction. Have fun, which will be a natural consequence.
What is not a natural consequence is a lecture. They know they messed up again. Remind them that you love them and you are praying for their recovery. Ask what you can do to help them find healing. Offer to go to a recovery service with them. Yes the first time you go it will be scary. Typically these services are loud with people that are pierced and tattooed (not you standard church crowd). Amazingly you will soon love these men and women because they are all at different stages of healing. Some will defend and care for you when you have needs.
Little things matter: Avoid driving through areas of town where there is a liquor store or a house where they used to purchase their drugs. Consider changing phone numbers and help them choose clean and sober friends. Everything must change: people, places and things.
Develop an escape plan: Similar to living in an abusive relationship you need to have a strategy for that moment when you really are tired of the lies and the addiction. Where will you stay? How will you pay for it? Having a bag packed and in the trunk of the car is often a good move. You can checkout most domestic abuse websites for a standard checklist. Write out the plan and then stick with it.
The addiction is the enemy not your loved one: It is ok to hate addiction and how it destroys life. I know that this will be a tough thing to do but focus on separating the drug from the loved one. They are a prisoner and the sooner you figure out how to work together the sooner you both can celebrate that vision that you have created in your mind regarding your loved one.