I RECENTLY SHARED a post on Facebook on the topic of LIVING WITH AN ADDICT (the author of which was not identified). I was not prepared for the strong reaction to the post as scores and scores of people, who have been down that road, shared some tender and anguished thoughts on the topic, and then, again, scores and scores, of people shared the post to their pages. Clearly, THE TOPIC STRUCK A NERVE.
Addiction is something that touches the lives of every human being because everyone knows someone that they care about who has or is battling an addiction.
My knowledge of addiction is academic (via education/workshops/trainings), experiential (working as a counselor for people with addictions), and it is personal. So let me tell you what I KNOW about people with addictions.
PEOPLE WITH AN ADDICTION ARE some of the kindest, meanest, most truthful, most deceitful, gentlest, cruelest, quietest, loudest, hardest working, laziest, most giving, most selfish, most loving, most heartless, most caring, most uncaring, most humble, most prideful people on the planet, which simply means they are the extreme versions of ourselves because we all can have any and all of those traits at any given time. But even though they are a mirror of ourselves and should make us say “there but for the grace of God go I”, what many people tend to do is vilify those who struggle with an addiction—shaming them, condemning them, making fun of them, marginalizing them, shunning them, telling them to “just say no,” none of which helps.
THERE ARE NO PAT ANSWERS for overcoming an addiction or in dealing with someone who has an addiction because of the countless, multi-faceted factors involved. It’s fascinating to me how much people think they know about addiction when they actually know nothing about addiction.
While there are no simple answers to the complex problem of addiction, THERE ARE SOME TRUTHS that I’d like to share:
TRUTH #1 – If you are struggling with an addiction and are trying to step out of that black, hopeless life, YOU CANNOT DO IT ON YOUR OWN. How long have you been trying to do that? Can’t you see that you are not strong enough, smart enough, or wise enough to find and follow the path to wellness and wholeness? YOU NEED HELP, and that help can, and should, take many forms, as in:
- developing an intimate relationship with God
- Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous
- Celebrate Recovery
- a licensed counselor with experience in treating addictions
- a healthy social support system
TRUTH #2 – If someone you love is lost in the labyrinth of addiction YOU CANNOT SAVE THEM. How many times and ways have you tried and seen your efforts go for naught? Countless times, right? You have to accept that YOU ARE POWERLESS to make them change. Rather than focusing on your loved one, you need to focus on yourself and your feelings of guilt, shame, regret, anger or resentment (or all the above). Those helpful resources I mentioned for the addict are also excellent resources for you, except that Alanon is a 12-step program specifically for the family members.
TRUTH #3 – THE FACE OF ADDICTION is the face of your neighbor, your fellow church member, your fellow employee, your boss, your child’s school teacher, even yourself. ADDICTION IS NO RESPECTOR OF PERSONS. It crosses all socio-economic strata. No one ever made it a goal to become an addict or alcoholic. But step-by-step, slowly but surely, they headed down that road until one day their lives became completely unmanageable.
Sadly, there will never come a time when our world is free from the scourge of addictions. We are too human, too driven for instant gratification, too influenced by the charms of Satan. BUT INDIVIDUAL BATTLES CAN BE WON; they can be won “one day at a time.”