This article was written by BCC Founder and Counselor Dr. Ron Allchin as part of our new series on addiction. In this series, our counselors are sharing how everyone can understand, overcome, and find freedom from addiction.
Living with an addict requires the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job!
Solomon, the wisest man of his time, had many experiences only to find them worthless and empty without God as his purpose for living. Job patiently went through devastating circumstances with family and friends and found God sufficient and trustworthy.
If you live with an addict, you understand your need for wisdom and patience!
Many in our secular community hold to a medical model and see the addict as a VICTIM of biological and physiological causes, a brain problem, heredity, trapped in a disease with no real cure and beyond their control. “Once an addict, always an addict” is the mantra.
This approach contradicts Scripture in 1Cor 6: 9-11, “and such were some of you.”
Others hold to a simplistic Christian model, believing the addict who chose that behavior needs to just make the choice to change back. “It is as easy as that!” Instantaneous change is expected.
The addict is then seen as a VILLAN just making the wrong choices, deserving judgment rather than mercy. He receives condemnation and rejection from family and the church community rather than understanding, discipleship, and accountability. He’s left feeling abandoned, lonely, and hopeless for lasting change.
This model contradicts Scripture in 2 Pet 2:5-10 as we are changed through the sanctification process which is a life-long cooperation between the person and His Lord.
To successfully live with an addict, you must understand and embrace a Biblical view of addiction.
An addict can become a VICTOR as he submits to “intense, personalized discipleship.”
Biblical counselors believe in the sufficient Word of God that addresses everything a person needs for life and godliness (2Pet 1:3-4). We recognize the complexity of sin, the hope of salvation, the battle with idolatry of the heart, and the wonderful hope of progressive sanctification with freedom from addiction and maturing holiness as the result.
It is necessary to understand that heart change and behavior change work together in tandem. Behavioral change without heart change will be vanity. Heart change takes patience, a fruit of the Holy Spirit producing perseverance.
How about the practical issues that often surface in a family living with an addict? Whether you live with a teen, a young adult, or a spouse, the issues are often the same.
Here is some more practical advice for you:
It is a loving decision to set Biblical boundaries for the addict.
Certain behaviors are unacceptable and must be addressed graciously and firmly. Standards for living in the home are for all, and they include the person struggling with addictions. Love motivated consequences must be clear for broken boundaries. God has rules, boundaries, and consequences for all of us!
Encourage your loved one to see a Biblical counselor who can expose the “idols of his heart” and help him to realize the deeper heart motivations of his addiction. Only then will he be open to lasting change.
Punishments won’t fix the problem.
Addiction is not turned around by just setting boundaries and announcing the consequences. While necessary, they must be balanced with opportunities to reach his heart through Biblical truths that bring hope and eventually freedom from addiction. That doesn’t mean consequences are not enforced, but they must be enforced out of love, not anger.
The family of an addict will be lied to frequently. Addicts will say or do anything to “worship” their addiction. That is a part of their blindness! Until eyes are open to their enslavement through understanding Romans 6, they will tell the family what they want to hear, but will often later be exposed as just a part of the “ritual” of their addictive behavior. These lies must be exposed in truth and love, not in anger (Jas 1:20).
Steward and protect your family assets.
It is necessary when living with an addict to be one step ahead of him! Lying and stealing are often part of their addictive rituals. In order to finance their habit, addicts have been known to steal things of value with little consideration for their family or the value of things to the owners. Until his heart is redirected toward loving God and others, the addict’s love for himself and his idolatry consumes his heart.
It is appropriate for you to lock up valuables, make funds unavailable, and do what is necessary to prevent theft. Prosecute if necessary since Scripture admonishes the fool who will only change through catastrophe (Prov 19:16, 17:2).
Addicts tend to move from one addiction to another.
This possibility often fools a family into thinking an alcohol addiction is over, only to find a drug addiction as the new secret. Any addiction is loving and worshipping that substance or behavior more than he loves God. An addiction must be replaced with a genuine, growing love and obedience to God if the change is to be lasting. Until then, be alert to a transference of love to another type of addiction.
Peace, joy, and hope comes only in relationship to the Lord.
The family living with an addict must find their peace, joy, and hope vertically rather than hoping for it horizontally through the addict.
Living with an addict is an up-and-down battle. The family must not let the success nor the failure of the one with an addiction be the thermostat of their Christian walk. Their example of love for the Lord and for the addict, as well as a consistent walk with the Lord, will be perhaps the most influential example to their loved one that he, too, can walk in freedom from addictions.
Romans 6, 7, and 8 is a passage that brings clear hope for the addict. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom 15:13)