When People You Love Struggle With Addiction

As a recovering addict, it’s hard to see people I love struggle with addiction. I can certainly relate to having habits that are hard to break. Honestly, addiction is way more than a bad habit or undesirable behavior.

Next week I’m teaching an “Overcomers” class down at a local homeless shelter. I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to talk and teach on concerning this challenging subject. Through my recovery, I have learned that addiction has many facets and even more faces. There is a lot of ground that I can cover, including sharing my own personal experience and testimony. Addiction is a beast that doesn’t let go easily. It’s a daily fight for most of the people I know who, like me, are living in recovery. The addict is often the last one to know that they have a problem. You can’t diagnose another person’s addiction for them. It’s something they must do themselves.

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People nowadays are addicted to a wide variety of things. My experience has taught me that it’s not usually just one thing that we’re hooked on. After all, the essence of my addiction lies in the realization that I’m not likely to stop at one of anything. The people I will be speaking to at the addictions class struggle with habits ranging from crack cocaine to pornography and everything in between.

NEED HELP? You can find recovery resources here.

While their individual addictions may be different, there are commonalities. The habit has taken over our lives and made them unmanageable. We can’t stop under our own power. It’s not a matter of personal willpower, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or being determined enough to quit the undesired behavior. By nature, addictions are compulsive. We just can’t get enough, no matter how much or how often we consume. The habit morphs into new levels of lows as we seek new highs. What once did the trick suddenly doesn’t light up our jollies anymore. Things get so bad it seems like only death will stop us.

Can we quit? Yes. Most definitely. 

Can we change? Absolutely.

But we need help. We can’t kick these demons on our own. I wish we could. But we can’t. They’ll kill us if we try.

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How do I know if someone I love is struggling with addiction? You’ll know. But that doesn’t mean you can do anything about it until they are willing to admit the problem is real and having a negative impact on their life. They got to want it. You can’t want it bad enough for them. I wish you could. But you can’t.

One thing recovery has repeatedly taught me is that I need to be careful when it comes to taking another person’s inventory. I have my own to take care of and making a list of what’s wrong with so-and-so ain’t my job. Sorry. It’s just not.

TWELVE STEPS TO HELP LEAD YOU OUT OF ADDICTION

It’s up to you to decide if knocking back a bottle of wine by yourself or giving up your rent check to visit the dope man is a problem. You must come to the realization on your own that you have a gambling problem, pop too many pain pills, or that you’re addicted to porn. It’s not something me or anyone else can do for you.

The good news is that once you get to where you can admit you have a problem and that your life has become unmanageable as a result, there are people, like me, who can help you.

All you have to do is call.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

What to Do When the Crazy in Your Life is You

Admitting your life has become unmanageable and asking for help takes courage. You’re not quite sure when it happened, but sometime during the 24-7-365 party, you became powerless over your addictions and compulsions. You may just have one; or if you’re like me you suffer from a combination collectively destroying your life. And make no mistake about it: your addiction and compulsion will kill you, unless you get help.

Getting over yourself, your hurts, habits, and hang-ups isn’t a solo show. You can’t do it alone. You need strength from above and support from a community of people who know what you’re going through because they themselves have gone through it.

It won’t happen overnight. You won’t wake up Monday morning cured. What ails you runs deep and has its roots firmly implanted inside you. Addiction won’t let go easily. You won’t just suddenly give up your compulsion.

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The longer I was out and about actively chasing my highs the floor of my lows gradually dropped lower and lower. What were once solid boundaries crumbled like the walls of Jericho. The friends I once partied with got busy, so I got busy getting new friends. The crowd I hung out with got rougher and rougher. The line between right and wrong faded in the distance. All I cared about was copping a buzz or getting high. No matter what the cost or consequence. The more the merrier. Until one day, everything came crashing down and I found myself  hugging the porcelain god, sick and tired of being sick and tired. Getting clean and sober became a matter of living or dying. The choices before me were clear. One road led to recovery and a new life. The second road led to a lifetime behind bars (the kind they have in jail cells not by the hotel lobby) or an early grave. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen easily. I stumbled a lot early on. And I got up, only to stumble again. But I kept trying. “Hang in there,” they said. “Keep coming back.” So I did.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you can’t quite yet.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7:18 (NIV)

Change

Wherever you are in your journey, know that you don’t have to go it alone. You weren’t meant to. There’s plenty of help out there. You can find meeting rooms for you compulsion or addiction of choice in your community. You can find support and help online (this blog is an example).

Life CAN be different. Life IS worth living. Remember to keep it simple and take it one day at a time. I’m praying for you. You CAN recover. Take the first step…

You’re not alone.

recovery is possible

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37 (NASB

#recovery #itworksifyouworkit #overcomers #together

One Day at a Time

Help Me See

It’s Friday, and the rain continues pouring down as it has the past several hours. Stepping outside, the air is fresh and a little cooler than recent days. While we had a shortage of rain in May, the weather in June certainly has worked hard to compensate for any previous shortfall. I don’t know about you, but it strikes me odd how loosely the experts throw around the words drought and flood. Perhaps, the problem is in my perception or expectation.

I don’t doubt my favorite TV meteorologist’s sincerity. Really. I don’t. But, mentally, the term drought conjures up windblown sandy deserts and from the word flood flow images of rivers of water drowning the land. I don’t see either of those happening on the street where I live. Like global warming, I don’t doubt that it may be happening. I just don’t see the evidence in my neck of the woods because the glaciers in my neighborhood aren’t melting. There are no glaciers where I live.

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For most people, it is easier to assign blame than it is to proclaim praise. Other people’s flaws and faults flash before us like bright beacons warning us of approaching danger. Seeing the good in others requires more time than we are likely to give in the moment. In our hurriedness, we scurry from here to there looking at people without pausing to genuinely see them. Finding the good in those around us demands that we slow down, observe, and listen.

Our current culture tends to promote an atmosphere of blaming others for things happening in our lives while aiding our abdication of accountability for our lives. The problem isn’t our decision-making or our problem-solving. Oh no, that can’t be it. Everything is the fault of someone other than ourselves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my experience, when people disappoint me, I find that I forgot to give them the script outlining how I expected them to act. Simply put, I don’t control other people. I am accountable for me and how I respond and react when life hits me with different curveballs or throws hurdles in my path impeding my progress.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:10-12 (ESV)

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Transformation occurs when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change.

It is important that we stop and see people, searching for the goodness in them all. They are not necessarily what we first see nor how we assess them to be after our initial introduction. We cannot know everyone’s story without them telling us who they are and how they have become who they are at the moment that our paths cross.

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The homeless are that way. They are the lost, lonely, last and least of our society, forgotten and forsaken by our culture. We don’t see them, yet they are there. We don’t believe they live where we live, but they reside in our midst. We are just blind to them. You can see them if you look.

I was reminded of this recently as I waited for my wife, Sweet T, sitting in the parking lot of our local IHOP. Sitting in my pickup, looking in my rearview mirror I noticed a conglomeration of black lawn bags overflowing from a couple of abandoned shopping carts. As I continued to observe the scene behind me, a woman looking older than her age came out of her hiding place and took inventory of the bags before scrummaging through the contents of a specific one that she had selected. Her cragged gloved hands pulled out a pack of slightly used cigarettes that she had no doubt found discarded somewhere on the streets she called home. From inside the pack, she withdrew a cigarette and a pink lighter, pressed the smoke to her lips, and lit the end of the tobacco stick. After inhaling, she released a cloud of smoke into the evening air. Her face looked relieved while her eyes revealed concern and years of hard living. As my wife drove up, the lady behind me disappeared, vanishing into the recesses of her hiding place as quickly and easily as she had appeared. I do not know her story. I know nothing about her. If I allow my mind to wander unchecked and free, I am sure I can reach conclusions, assess blame and abdicate responsibility.

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Experience has taught me that I can pass judgement on my fellow human with the ease of eagles soaring in the skies above. I refrain. I remind myself, I do not know her story. Convicted, all I can do is pray for this stranger whom it is easy to miss in the busy landscape of my life. She is after all, someone’s daughter and perhaps even someone’s mother. She is human and made in the image of God, just like you and me. I can blame her or I can help her. That is the choice God has left up to me.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray that you would allow me to see the good in others no matter how difficult it may at first be to see. Allow me to respond, prayerfully and gratefully, to those whom I encounter today and whom you have chosen beforehand to not only cross my path but enter into my life. Provide me the resources I need to help those less fortunate than me and let me serve as your vessel, your hand, your feet, in bringing them the Good News. Where there is no hope, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, help me shed light. For your glory God. For your praise Almighty.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV)

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