You Cannot Recover for Someone Else
Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. Acts 12:18
It’s natural to feel a burden for those whom we know to be suffering. When I get to know an addict and I pour myself into his life, I become emotionally invested. Then, when he fails to find recovery, I’m frustrated. I’ve prayed. I’ve invited him to meetings. Still, he’s not getting it, and I hurt for him. God, what must I do?
At those times, I have to remind myself that there are things that I can and cannot do. Yes, I can share my story and try to influence, but no, I cannot recover – or find faith – for anyone else. I must remind myself that I don’t carry that burden and that their misery isn’t my fault.
In reading today’s passage, I have to wonder if Peter felt any burden over the fate of his guards. In the story, Herod imprisoned Peter but an angel set him free. The next morning, Herod put those guards to death. Did Peter feel guilty? Was their death the price of his freedom? This evil wasn’t Peter’s fault of course. It was Herod’s. It was Herod’s evil plan to imprison Peter and it was Herod who put the guards to death. Peter bore absolutely no responsibility.
Still, we often misplace the burden of responsibility. Particularly with addiction, we desperately want to help and in our impotence, we feel guilty. I wish there was something I could do. The closer the one suffering is to us, the more intense the feeling of failure. If it’s a family member, the sense of responsibility can be overwhelming.
What can we do with those around us suffering in addiction? This is probably the most common question I get. I usually answer that first, boundaries are absolutely necessary. The addict’s self-destruction isn’t your fault and you must separate yourself from it if possible. This may mean that you radically distance yourself, which can be horribly painful. Second, you continue to pray. Third, you do what you can to love and help the addict without enabling. Whenever you can, you point the way to faith and recovery. Finally – and this may be the hardest part – you leave the outcome up to the addict and God. You cannot connect the two. You cannot have faith – or recover – for someone else. You can do that only for yourself.