It was Christmas night and my Aunt Anne was too drunk to drive her and her children home that night so I took them to their apartment. Her beautiful little girls were small and highly energized from all of the day’s activities. I struggled a bit with what to do with the presents they were bringing home. Of course I was going to help carry them in, but what if Anne has any trouble and starts to fall. It was icy out and so this was a concern even if she was not drunk. Somehow, we all made it inside. The girls put on their pajamas and Anne invited me to sit with her for a bit. I did not realize it then, but she wanted me to help her. I was pretty oblivious to how to help anyone with addiction issues at the time so maybe that is why I missed her pleas. She talked about how she had lost jobs and relationships because of her drinking. Multiple times she stopped to thank me for getting her home. I’m not sure if she knew that I also had previously had a drinking problem; but she did know that something had changed in my life. She knew that I had started going to college and was consistently going to church. I told her about my dreams of being a missionary and helping people. She smiled and beamed as only Anne could. The idea of helping people made her happy. When she was sober she would help just about anyone she could. I told her about my Christian salvation experience as being the base that encouraged me to do this sort of work. This resonated with her as she reflected on all that she had learned in her Catholic School upbringing. As the night wore on a bit the girls had all gone to sleep and she asked if I could come back and explain all of that Bible stuff to her. I said I would and scheduled time a couple of days later to set up a Bible study at her kitchen table.
While it seems silly now, all I could think about on the way home as I reflected on this conversation was, “If you see that alcohol is ruining your life. Just quit.” I now realize that if it was that easy everyone with an addiction would do that. The method does work for some people. I had simply quit; but I had the help of the Holy Spirit. At that time I still did not comprehend how much help that the Holy Spirit had given me and how success had more to do with Him than with me.
Over the course of that week I met with Anne and the girls a couple of times. I gave her a protestant Bible and worked through a couple of Bible study worksheets. When it was time to go back to school I handed her a worksheet with questions and where she could look the answers up in the Bible. I prayed with her and let her know to mail me her answers and I would send her more questions. When I came back in the Spring I would visit with her more.
She did a couple of sheets and we both got busy and didn’t think much of it. When spring came our schedules never meshed and I did not see her during that break. While we did see each other from time to time over the next couple of years, we never regained the momentum of that first visit. Stories would get to me of her doing well at work, falling off the wagon, getting fired, losing her housing, going into treatment, doing great at treatment and then restarting the cycle. I prayed for her to beat this addiction but I kept thinking she should simply quit drinking. She never did. A few years later she choked on her own vomit after binge drinking and passed away. I was the one who had to tell my dad that his sister had died. I hated that.
Her brother, my Uncle Mike struggled with drugs of all sorts. The one that really tore him up though was methamphetamine. The addiction made him look prematurely old; he too had struggles with keeping a job. After a short stay in prison, it looked as if he had beaten the addiction. He had a home, a somewhat steady job and he started a beautiful family. Unfortunately, the years of abuse weakened his body and when sickness arrived he could not get well and ultimately he too was taken from us too soon.
Over the past several years I have learned much about addiction and I have learned to deeply hate what addiction does to lives, families and communities. I have also learned that while folks love their addicted family and friends they really don’t know how to help. My whole being believes that if I knew then what I know now I would have both my aunt and uncle with me today. I am confident that you love your family and friends too and that you want to see them alive and free. Now let us begin that quest.
There are many things that must be done if you wish to help others who are trapped in addiction. Be aware that this is a challenging mission that you are taking on, consider carefully the cost. It will cost you tears; it will cause old wounds to be reopened. Insecurity will rain on you as you engage the man or woman who is trapped in addiction. There are costs that will be more personal that I cannot imagine warning you about in this writing.
Also I feel compelled to warn you that all of those that you want to rescue may not want to be rescued. Do not give up on them. But only change tactics
Others that you try to rescue might not make it out of their prison. Overdose and suicide are very real possibilities. Brace yourself. Allow that reality to be a fire in your gut, motivating you to get to work and get on your knees.
Be bold, be strong. You are not alone in this battle. The prize is the return of the men and women that you love to an abundant life. When they are free they will look around and say this is the Derek or the Marie that I was meant to be. With all that I have said fear may be coming to you. Do not worry we will deal with that fear and we will work together. You are not alone.
Part one of this series is a parable that tells a story that outlines the concepts and ideas that will aid you in the mission but the story will help you to remember the points and maybe prepare you for what lies ahead. Hopefully, the format will answer many of your questions. If you have further questions feel free to contact me through Facebook, Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Part two of this series will lay out the simple facts without the story format. This would be a good reference or if you don’t have time for the story you can jump to the facts.
Finally, I invite you to start support groups to help other families deal with addictions and the challenges that go with it. I would be happy to help you in any way that I can to get you started.