How to Love an Addict from a Christian Perspective
After many years of struggling with an addicted father, our family relationships were on thin ice. For the past few years, my sisters and I completely disagreed on how to deal with my dad while still supporting our mom. I vividly remember fights I had with both of my sisters where they were either really mad with something I did or vice versa. During one of these disagreements with my sister, a question from childhood came to my head that began to guide every decision I made when it came to my father. What would Jesus ACTUALLY do?
My sisters truly are my two best friends. I talk to them on the phone multiple times a week. We talk about everything and love to spend time together. We are all three believers in Christ and are very active in our churches. Both of them are actually married to men in ministry. Even though we disagree and "butt heads" on what we think should be done, we can still love each other, explain our sides of why we think this is best, and agree to disagree.
To find out more about how we all choose to love differently, check out, "How to Love an Addict."
I still remember a fight I got in with my oldest sister and mom. My mom was talking to us on speaker phone. She was mad at my dad, of course. I don't remember exactly what he had done this time, and I don’t remember her exact words in the conversation, but she basically said, "I think it is to the point where I have to get divorce papers."
My mother is a saint, in my opinion. She has loved my father, taken care of him, sometimes enabled him, but there are few times in my memory where she did not show Christ’s love to him through this journey. When I heard the word divorce come out of her mouth, I was livid because I knew those were not her words. Those were my sister’s words in her mouth. I immediately yelled back, "I can’t believe you just said that!" and hung up the phone. They both knew I was broken about what she had just said and also very caught off guard by the statement.
Your ONLY option is divorce?? You haven’t even separated from him.
You're living together and your ONLY option is divorce? I was furious.
Let me be clear, in most situations, I disagree with divorce. If it is for your safety or the safety of your children, that is one thing. But most of the time, it is not the case when divorce happens.
My mom was not physically harmed in any way. When loving someone with an addiction, emotional abuse can happen and in those cases, you should put up boundaries and figure out the best way to protect yourself. But, I whole-heartedly believe the Lord can redeem a marriage from addiction and all the ugliness that comes with it!
Is divorce a boundary?
After I hung up, my mom called again. I knew my sister was trying to protect my mother from the hurt she was experiencing by encouraging her to put up emotional walls and protect herself. My mom agreed she didn't really want a divorce; it seemed drastic enough to get my dad's attention. My sister apologized for how she handled the conversation.
The fight brought me back to that same question. What would Jesus actually do?
This began to be my guide post for everything when dealing with my sisters, mom, and especially my Dad. What would Jesus REALLY do if He were in my situation?? Obviously, Jesus’ earthly father was not an addict, but Jesus gave us many examples throughout scripture of how He handled people who were caught in sin.
What if Joseph had been an addict?
If Joseph were an addict, do you believe Jesus would have taken Mary aside, told her to stop taking care of him, stop seeking help, or leave him?
Would Jesus have cut Joseph out of his life because of his sinful behavior?
[Leah here! If your brother sins against you, take him in private. That doesn't work? Take him to the church. That doesn't work? Treat him as a heathen or tax collector. (Mat. 18:15-18). And how did Jesus treat the heathens and tax collectors? He ate dinner with them. (Mat. 9:10-13)]
"While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
-Matthew 9:10-13 (ESV)
Jesus would have loved Joseph through his proverbial addiction. He would have spoke truth over him, prayed with him, healed him, done everything he possibly could without enabling him to continue his addictive behavior but also remembering that God is in ultimate control of whatever happens.
Addiction is a hard journey to walk through. As a child, you worry about how each decision you make will effect your father, mother, and/or siblings. How each decision or discussion feels like a life or death moment.
My guiding question for you is, and will continue to be, “What would Jesus actually do?”
Start applying W.W.J.D. to your life and see how your reactions start to change. Pay attention to the changes it will have in your prayer life, emotions and other relationships.
As believers, we are to (try to!) emulate Christ no matter what situation is thrown our way. When people look at you in your situation, do they see the world or do they see Jesus?
Lanie Graham is a wife, mother, teacher, and daughter of an addict. She is a blogger and the creator of Speak Truth Over Addiction, where she teaches others how to love like Christ without enabling addictive behaviors, and setting up boundaries for themselves.