Enabling and Maintaining Boundaries
Your restoration is what we pray for. 2 Corinthians 13:9
As a physician, I often must serve as a gatekeeper of controlled medications. It’s not uncommon for the one addicted to come to me, asking for something that I believe would be harmful to him. The one addicted to alcohol may want opiates while he’s in treatment. The one struggling with methamphetamines may want access to his medical marijuana. To me it’s an obviously self-destructive request, but to the addicted, it makes total sense. I’ll say no, and often the patient will say something like this, If you don’t give me what I need, then I’ll have to leave treatment and get it on the street. It will be your fault when I relapse.
I know I’m being manipulated and of course I don’t give in to the threat, but the patient uses it because he knows that I care about his recovery. If I didn’t care, the threat would be meaningless. I do carry some burden for those around me who wrestle with addiction and so, I want to do what I can to help them find faith and recovery. For my own good, and for the good of the patient though, there must be boundaries to my involvement in his life. If I gave him what he wanted, I would become part of the problem.
As Christians, we’re to love our neighbors, doing what we can to help them find faith and transformation. We should pray for those struggling, asking God to restore them to sobriety and a right relationship with him. We should do what we can to reach out and help, continually showing God’s love. When the opportunity arises, we can even talk to them about faith, getting help, going to meetings, or even going to treatment.
What we should not do is allow the destruction to spill over into our lives. In the story above, of prescribing controlled substances to the one in treatment, it’s obvious. When it’s someone close to us, it’s not as easy and the closer they are, the harder it is. When a family member needs to be bailed out, it can be tremendously difficult to let him suffer consequences. When the one addicted asks for help, but really just wants us to enable his use, it’s necessary to say no.
We must love those around us, but we must always make sure we’re not getting sucked into the destruction. We are to love and care, but we must also have boundaries. So, we pray, we help, we encourage, we point in the right direction, but we cannot engage in evil, self-destructive behavior ourselves.