(by Dawson McAllister)
Loving someone with a substance abuse issue is a long, hard journey – a journey where you often feel hopeless and helpless. The anxiety and sleepless nights caused by wondering if your loved one is okay can begin to wear you down physically, emotionally, and mentally.
If you find yourself on this road, my best advice is to stay in prayer and encourage others to pray with you. In addition to asking God to rescue your loved one, pray for patience when things don’t change as quickly as you desire and pray for continued faith… that you will never doubt God’s great compassion for the one you love.
My best advice is to stay in prayer and encourage others to pray with you.
It will also be important to educate yourself about substance abuse. Read as much as you can, learn from other’s stories, and ask questions. We have a Resource Page to help get you started. It is filled with videos, blogs, downloadable eBooks, etc. – Substance Abuse Resources
If you’re just beginning to suspect that your child or someone close to you has an addiction, here are some signs and symptoms to watch for. These can vary from person to person. However, the most common signs of substance abuse include:
• Neglecting responsibilities
• Distancing from family members, friends, and other loved ones
• Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
• Financial problems or an unexplained need for money
• Suspected theft from family members
• Lies, lies and more lies
• Sudden change in friends, hangouts, and hobbies
• Getting into trouble, such as fights, accidents, and illegal activities
• Sudden mood swings, irritability, and angry outbursts
• Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness, sometimes followed by nausea
• Lack of motivation; being lethargic or “spaced out”
• Fearfulness, anxiety, and/or paranoia
In addition to behavioral changes, these physical signs of substance abuse are often present:
• Bloodshot eyes, with pupils larger or smaller than normal
• Change in appetite
• Change in sleep patterns
• Sudden weight loss or gain
• Unusual odor on breath, body, and/or clothing
• Tremors, slurred speech, and/or impaired coordination
If you’ve already realized they have an addiction, you might be at the point of confronting them and pleading with them to get help. At this point, you will most likely be met with denial. In fact, they are likely denying it to themselves as much as to you, because their addiction is like a living being. It will fight to stay alive. The first line of defense to maintain the addiction is to keep hidden, so they construct powerful arguments for why they are not hooked. They will likely use one of these statements:
• “I can quit anytime I want.”
• “I just use when I want to.”
• “My habit isn’t hurting anybody.”
• “I’ll quit someday, but I’m having too much fun right now.”
These and other statements prove the addict has not yet come out of denial and is not yet ready to start the long journey to freedom. Once somebody who’s addicted says, “I can’t go on like this; I will do whatever it takes to be set free,” the path to healing can finally begin. I wish there were some perfect words that would get the user to realize his or her problem, but I don’t know of any, so I end up back on my knees seeking God in prayer.
It’s also helpful to find professional guidance as you seek to help your loved one. Perhaps an intervention will be necessary. Our friends over at www.interventionink.com specialize in helping families of addicts. You may want to read their story. They come from a place of understanding. The founders of the organization lost their son to a cocaine overdose.
For outsiders, it can be so hard to understand why the person won’t get the help they need. However, the user is more comfortable with their addiction than they are willing to take the hard steps toward getting clean. It has become a way of life. And, unfortunately, if the family has tried to keep the addict out of trouble by providing money, not reporting theft, and so on, the addict’s current reality is easier and less scary than facing the unknown of treatment. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
If your loved one has reached the point of admitting they have a problem and is ready to seek treatment, this is good, but a lot of work still exists. For example, it takes a lot of humility to break free. Just about every sobriety program teaches that the addict must admit they are powerless over their addiction. It’s humbling for anyone to say, “I cannot help myself by myself; I am powerless over this monster called addiction.” And there is that old enemy called shame always there ready to discourage someone from going forward. When the going gets tough, it is also very easy to long for that escape again and slip back to the addiction.
In the end, we know that only God can empower an addict to make the changes necessary for freedom. The most well-known and used program that helps people overcome addictions is the Twelve-Step Program. Five of the twelve steps deal directly with one’s relationship with the Lord, such as step three which is, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.”
Only God can empower an addict to make the changes necessary for freedom.
If you have a child or loved one struggling with substance abuse, please know that the situation is NOT hopeless. People all around the world have overcome addictions. There is professional help and support available. And, more importantly, with God nothing is impossible, for, as Philippians 4:13 assures: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s true! John 8:36 adds further encouragement: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
I was very inspired by this young man’s call to my show. He was about to use IV drugs after being clean for a year, but he stopped because he just “happened” to plug in a radio and hear my show. I have no doubt that people were praying for Kyle and that God rescued him. Take a listen.