How to Deal with an Addict
Ephesians 4:15 Speaking the truth in love…
It is not uncommon for me to be approached by the family member of an addict, who desperately wants to know how to deal with the addiction. Do I just love him? Do I kick him out of the house? How can I make him get help?
It is not our nature to handle this conflict well. When confronted with the disastrous behavior an addict, we often err in one of two ways. Either we sweep truth and consequences under the rug, trying to love the addict back to sobriety, or, we beat him over the head with the brutal truth. The direction in which we err is often due to personality. Some of us are more prone to whip out the bible and start hammering away with the truth, while some of us want to hug it out. We follow our natural instinct, which is rarely to strike the right balance of truth and love.
Paul, in today’s passage, said that we are to always speak the truth in love so that we may be Christ’s body here on Earth. Truth and love are two sides of the same coin, each requiring the other to be whole. One without the other is inadequate at best and destructive at worst.
While loving an addict often means I must tell him the truth, this does not mean that truth equals love. If I tell someone the truth, I have loved him, right? Truth by itself however, is cold, heartless and mean. If I see a brother in need, it will do him little good to inform him of his need if I remain unwilling to help him. Truth without love is judgmental and is often as destructive as doing nothing.
The opposite is true as well. Love without truth is unhelpful as it enables the addict. If I see a brother in need and I simply tell him how much I love him without ever addressing the reason he is in need, it will just encourage him to continue in the toxic behavior that produced the need in the first place.
How then, do I interact with the addict? Paul’s words are the best advice I can give. In dealing with the addict, I must always make a purposeful choice to strike the right balance of truth and love.
When confronted with toxic behavior of the addict, it is appropriate and necessary to say, I love you but I will not allow you to remain in my home when you are using. I will not participate in a conversation in which you are abusive. I will help you get the help you need but I will not enable you on your destructive path. I love you too much for that. I love you but that does not mean I will ignore or participate in your inappropriate behavior.
This love and truth approach will not be appreciated by the addict who only desires to be enabled. I must realize though, that I am not responsible for the behavior of the addict. I am only responsible for acting right myself. I need to choose truth and love so that I may be who God wants me to be. I must leave the results up to him.