Blog

4 Lies we believe when loving an addict

None of us ever plan to have an addicted loved-one. We don’t go into friendships/relationships/marriages/having children thinking “I better be prepared in case this person ends up with some bad habits.” So, when we find ourselves in just that position, it’s normal that we don’t know what to do. When we add in the spiritual element, the very real fact that we have an enemy who wants to see our loved ones (and us) destroyed, chaos and confusion can take hold in our lives. So many of us have tried to help, wanted to help, even been desperate to help, only to see our best efforts fall flat (at best) or enable (at worst). Here are 4 of the biggest lies that I believed while my husband was in his addiction and recovery:

1. I’m not the one who needs help

“What should I do at the meeting?” I asked awkwardly, “I mean, since I’ve never struggled with being addicted drugs or alcohol?” With kindness, and a little pity, the woman sitting across from me simply said, “Ask God to show you where your own hang-ups are.” Still feeling frustrated and nervous I attended my first group meeting. Not yet understanding co-dependency, and knowing that God was calling us to work with people who struggle with addictions, I sat down in a circle of women who wanted to recover from chemical dependency. Terrified that I would be found out as a “fake” I tried hard to avoid pointed questions and over-sharing. What I learned from being in that group has forever changed me. I got to see the human side of addiction; see moms desperate to be reunited with their kids, women who were willing to put in the hard work to become who God said they were, ladies who loved and laughed and cried and cared about each other. I did ask God to reveal to me where I needed to recover, and he used this group meeting to teach me about trusting him with the people I care about.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

He taught me that He is the one who works in their lives, it’s not my job to fix them or change them.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

He taught me that I wasn’t in control, and what a sweet blessing that really is!

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7  (NLT)

It’s easy to think we don’t need help, but that’s a lie that will keep us from healing and learning what to do.

 

2. What I say doesn’t matter

Anger, tears, apathy, manipulation, begging, and belittling are a few of the ways that we try to talk our loved ones out of their struggle. Words are a big deal to me. I say a lot of them, write a lot of them, and I take the words of others to heart (any other “Words of Affirmation” love-language people out there?). I love using good words to communicate my exact thoughts and feelings. When my boyfriend (now husband) started admitting little things to be about his new habits, I was often at a loss for words. What should I say to encourage him to stop? What if my words push him away? How can I convey my concern and change his heart, but not lose him? Fast-forward several years, we are newly weds and I’m coming home to find him high-as-a-kite more often than not. Concern had turned to desperation. Sometimes anger spurred mean words and accusations. Sometimes hurt poured out tears and I would beg him to stop. I tried threats, I tried shame, I tried anything I could think of to pierce his heart. It wasn’t until I decided to turn it over to God, to really trust Him, that I began to see any change. I know the power of words well, so I turned my efforts to being firm, but kind. I took the words I poured onto my husband and started to pour them out to God in prayer. Instead of begging my husband to stop, I started begging God to move. Instead of crying to get my way, I was crying to my Heavenly Father, who loves me and holds me.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)   

Instead of anger and belittling, I started treating my husband with respect. Not because he was worthy of it on his own merits, but because God calls me to do it out of my love for Him.

“Respect each other out of your reverence for Christ. For wives, this means respect your husbands as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:21-22 (NLT)

Prayer made all the difference. How I spoke to my husband and to the Lord changed everything.

3. I can’t tell anyone else

“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

One of the most common lies I’ve seen believed is that we can’t share with anyone because “they won’t understand.” This verse from Ecclesiastes states that nothing we are going through is new, other people have gone through them too! The enemy wants us to feel all alone, isolated, and secretive. He wants us to believe that our loved-one will never forgive us. He knows that if we reach out, if we tell someone whats going on, then we might hear the two best words we can hear – “Me too.” God created us, in His image, to be relational. We were never supposed to walk through life without support and accountability. When we find a person we can trust, and we share what we are going through, we have an ally in the fight. We have someone to pray for us, check in on us, ask about things, and keep us accountable for how we are handle them.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

We need to seek out people we trust, who love God and who will support you, and to share with them whats going on.

 

4. It’s hopeless

The biggest, and perhaps worst, lie that Satan tells us is that our loved-one’s situation, that our situation, is hopeless. When we believe that things are hopeless, we give up. We stop praying, stop caring, stop seeking help. We may write them off, we may block them out, we may detach, all in an effort to stop our pain. We may feel depressed or anxious, always expecting the next big disaster. When we started visiting St Kitts to prepare for our move here, we would share with people we met why God was sending us to their country. We would talk about starting recovery programs to help people with addictions. Multiple times we were responded to with, “Oh, don’t bother to help the adults here. The adults here are hopeless.” You can see how the hopelessness has effected the culture. There were no recovery programs, no help for anyone beyond detoxing in the hospital. If you believe something is hopeless, then you don’t believe that thing with ever change. Thats why having HOPE means everything in this journey. The best way to find our hope for our loved-ones is by having faith that God can do anything, even change them.

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

” I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NLT)

This list does not include every single lie that we hear while we are walking on this journey. Many of the things we think come from lies that we have believed most of our lives, how we have learned to cope with our pain, or what the world around us tries to sell as truth. The best way to defeat the lies is by knowing what God says, what the real truth is. If you are in the midst of loving someone who is in addiction, then get into the Word of God. Open your bible every day and ask God to speak His truth to you. Just like light drives out the darkness, the truth of God will drive out the lies.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 (NLT)

If you or a loved one needs help, please contact us for support and guidance.

Why does addiction kill some and others recover?

As a man that battled a horrific addiction to opiates and now a pastor and director for an addiction recovery program, I have seen both sides of the question in the title. I have done funerals for men that were not any crazier, wilder, or riskier then I was. They died from doing the exact same thing I was doing when I lived a life of addiction. Why did I survive and they didn’t?

Now I could try and explain these deaths in the direction of how some people get laced drugs (like fentanyl laced heroin) or have unknown medical issues (like cardiomyopathy) but that doesn’t explain the whole story. I don’t write the next words flippantly because this is an extremely hard topic for me to discuss. I have images of the pain and sorrow of mother’s faces that come from burying their children, burnt into my mind. Not only that, I have lost people that I love to addiction.

So the question, “Why does addiction kill some and others recover?”, is a question that I cannot answer completely or to everyone’s satisfaction.  What I can say is that God is Sovereign and we are not promised tomorrow. I know without a shred of doubt based on the authority of God’s word that people recover from addiction.

I have to admit that early on my default position was to shake my fist at God and say why did you not save them? I would even get frustrated and ask God why would you call me to a ministry that is so littered with destruction? This just doesn’t seem right. God revealed to me through His word and other pastors that the feeling I had, “that it is not right”, is exactly what the Bible teaches. God created a perfect place where we could live in perfect unity with Him without the destruction of pain and death. Something did go way wrong.

As you read the creation/fall account in Genesis 1-3, you see that God’s perfect creation was devastated by sin. That death and destruction entered into the world and a curse came upon the earth. We have all tasted the brokenness of a fallen world. I cannot blame Adam or Eve for this curse as a result of sin because I willingly participated in it. The hope that I hold onto dearly is that God promises that one day all this ends for the redeemed. God provides a way out of this darkness and destruction through Jesus. Not only that, God says in James 1 that He can even use this pain and suffering to bring Him glory. He can use the seasons of trial to cause us to draw closer to Him and persevere.

 

God promises one day that the presence of sin will be removed for the redeemed. But he also makes promises for us here and now. God says that He will provide rest from the chaos. He promises that we can have true peace and joy when everything going on around us should cause the opposite.  He tells us that we do not have to worry or be overwhelmed with anxiety. He promises that His children have victory over death, that death has no sting. So even though I have officiated funerals for believers, I can rest assured that Jesus conquered death and one day we will meet again.

I hold steadfast to these promises and they encourage me to faithfully bring the message of hope from the Gospel. About bondage, God lays out in His word that we can have victory from the yokes of slavery and that includes the chains of addiction. When I read these truths I see that breaking the chains of addiction doesn’t have to be a mundane daily admittance of “I am an addict”. No, it’s actually the opposite: I am a blood stained child of the Kingdom; I am made new and I am not defined by the wickedness of my past; I press on to know the Lord; I don’t claim to be perfect but I don’t look back and I press on toward the goal to which Christ called me.

If someone you know is struggling with addiction then step in and have hard conversations. Make it as hard as possible for them to stay in addiction and as easy as possible for them to walk into recovery. If you personally are struggling with addiction, reach out and get help. There are some really good programs out there now that can be the catalyst to launch you into the “new creation” that God has called you to so be bold and act. Press on brother or sister and behold your creator. What you behold is what you will become more like.

I close this blog with a verse that has helped me have peace about“Why does addiction kill some and others recover?”.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“[16] So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV)

Trying to love an addict–”I couldn’t be his savior”

Our story started early. It started sweetly, passionately, and romantically. Sixteen and seventeen, two teenagers experiencing love for the first time, experience life and the freedoms that come from growing up a little bit at a time. It started slowly, then all at once it was everything we had ever wanted. We were certain that it was all we would even want; all we would ever need. The man who still makes me catch my breath today has been taking my breath away for the last 14 years. Most of those breath-stealing moments have been from joy and admiration, but we walked through a season where the wind was knocked out of my lungs for a very different reason.

Just months after Aaron was declaring his love for me and his plans to marry me when we “grew up,” he was introduced to the enticing draw of drugs and alcohol. He had friends who partied on the weekends, got high to relax through the week, and still appeared to have it all together the rest of the time. These friends didn’t seem like the ones they warn you about. They were friends from sports, friends from good families, and friends who made the honor roll. They were just normal people and it made their habits seem normal too. Aaron has told me that once he experienced his first high he knew that he wanted to feel that way as often as possible. Just trying something out rolled into a desperate need, into a desire that wouldn’t be ignored. It led to doing whatever it took, and for Aaron that looked like dealing drugs to the other kids at school. Before we had our 1 year anniversary of dating, Aaron was a drug-dealing drug-addict and I had no idea what had changed him.

We didn’t attend the same school. All the friends and parties and drugs were in one part of Aaron’s life, and he kept me, and church, and his family in another. I remember recognizing little things – he wasn’t where he said he would be, he didn’t always keep his story straight, he was defensive and quick to deflect, quick to get angry – but I had given my heart to this boy and I ignored the things I saw, or gave up quickly after a question or two. If it meant risking losing him, I wasn’t willing to take the risk. If it meant exposing something that my parents would be upset about or that my friends would disapprove of, I wasn’t going to go there. What he thought of me, what everyone thought about me, thats what I cared about most.

Well, sin has a way of always coming to the surface. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. Luke 8:17  There are points of my teenage years burned into my brain because sin was exposed: when everyone I knew found out I was having sex, when Aaron finally confessed to using and selling drugs, when friends gossiped about us, when my home life was was unstable. They are little marks in a line of wonderful memories, but they make an impression just the same. Aaron confessing came at a point where the lying was too much for him to keep up. He had been found out, and every carefully crafted story came crashing down around him. He finally told his parents and I what had been going on. In my naivety I thought “well, he loves me so I know he’ll quit.”

Loving me was not enough. It’s not to supposed to be! I couldn’t be his savior, and that has never been my responsibility. I wish I could say I figured that out quickly, but it took years and it took the Lord moving for me to understand my real roll in Aaron’s life.

The next several years were filled with ups and downs. As we grew up we would shift between him hiding his habits to me joining in. The only constant thing was that I felt like I would die without him. I just knew if I tried hard enough, loved him well enough, begged him desperately enough that he would stop. When that didn’t work, I decided to try to be ok with it all. After all, at this point I had started partying too. Who was I to judge? I may have hated the feeling of being high, but I’d take a hit anyway, I’d drink all night too. All my new grown-up work friends were doing the same things. What would they think of me if I acted cool about it in front of them, but then didn’t join in or got upset if Aaron did? To not be liked, to be looked down on, to be pushed away, to have someone change their mind about me was the absolutely worse thing that I could imagine.

In the midst of this Aaron and I had gotten married. We were just twenty and twenty-one! Babies, but we knew that we were committed to forever. I thought that marriage would be the key to change. I thought that somehow coming home from the honeymoon would make us magically transform into responsible people. It did not. It did, however, push us to try and look like it. We started attending church more regularly and we even joined a newlyweds small group. What started as trying to look good became, for me, a call back to my first love, back to Jesus. I didn’t change overnight, but my attitudes and desires slowly transformed. Aaron didn’t get there quite that fast. In my desire to assimilate into my new grown-up world at my job, I had re-introduced him to the drugs he had once tried to get away from, and now he was in as deep as ever. For the first time I began to realize that I was helpless to change the man I loved. All I could do was meet with the Lord, and pray, and beg Him to move heaven and earth to save my husband from his addiction. I would come home and find Aaron high, I would find stashes hidden in cupboards, I would smell it on his clothes or in his hair. No amount of crying or nagging ever made a difference. But prayer? Prayer does incredible things! As I began to let go of control and hand it over to God, He began to change my husband.

When we found out we were pregnant with out first child, a precious little girl, God helped my man to see what kind of life we were on track to have verses what kind of life we could have if we were living for God together. We both decided to seek the Lord, we surrounded ourselves with Christian friends, and we quit going to our normal bars and quit hanging out with friends who got high and drunk. We still loved them, we just knew we couldn’t go out with them. We started to admit and confess to other believers how we had been living. As God transformed our lives, we gained confidence to share what he was doing and what he had done!

Fast forward several years, and a lot more learning and growing, we now have the immense privilege to serve in recovery ministry in the country of St. Kitts. God is redeeming our past mistakes and making something beautiful grow out of what used to be an ugly mess. The name of this is blog is John 10 ten because in this verse, John reminds us that while Satan wants to destroy us, God wants to give us full and abundant lives!  I did a lot of things wrong while trying to love an addict. It’s my prayer that this blog is a chance to help talk through those mistakes, and to point us back to how God calls us to love Him first and to allow Him to bring change for us and those we love.

Another incredible story of God’s redemption belongs to my brother-in-law Adam Comer and his wife Katie Comer. Adam is now the pastor and CEO of S2L Recovery, a recovery lodge for men in Murfreesboro, TN. If you know a man who is ready to start his journey of recovery, please check out S2L Recovery. God has been moving at S2L and just this last month they were privileged to baptize 8 men who have committed themselves to Christ! We thank God all the time for what S2L did for Adam, and for what God is doing through Adam’s obedience now.