Help for Families of Addicts - Part 3 Codependence, Enabling, Family Addiction Intervention
What is Codependence
An inability to sustain oneself without the cooperating power of another who is equally, but differently, in need of sustenance.
Co-dependents need each other for different purposes. Usually the addict is dependant upon getting their needs met apart from God. They do so through the help of a cooperative fellow dependent. The other dependent party is usually unable to sustain oneself unless they are meeting people’s needs. Being the only means of support of a dependent person is the source of their strength. One is dependent on being supported; the other is dependent upon supporting. One could say that co-dependents are a match made in hell. This behavior often manifests itself in a love-hate relationship.
What is Enabling
Enabling is furnishing sufficient power for one to overcome through humanity what God intends to be accomplished through His Trinity.
Enablement is different than codependency in that the enabler does not assist out of personal dependence, but rather out of their individual reliance. The enabler most often struggles to accept God’s sovereignty in the life of their loved-one. These “bouts with doubt” lead them to rely on their own devices. Their enablement is intended to empower a failing person to lighten the consequences of their mistakes. Although well-intentioned, this is usually done out of self love. Self love is a legitimate natural love, but it has selfish motives. Frequently, the selfish motive is fear of letting go or losing control of the dependent one. This behavior manifests itself in help that hurts.
The deepest grief in the world is watching your loved-one die a slow death right before your eyes. They are still alive on the outside, but dead on the inside. Your loved-one will lie, steal, and manipulate you with promises, only to break them time and time again. It seems as if they just don't care! Their heart, in a sense, has died. Sometimes you wish you could just close the casket and get on with your life. If you have an addict living in your home, you will eventually have to put them out. That’s right, put them out.
You may put off making this decision as long as you want to, but you are not helping them by letting them stay high all the time at your home. When you feed them, and give them a place to stay, you are enabling them to keep using. By your actions, you are encouraging them to continue in their addictive lifestyle. They will stay high for as long as they can get away with it. Everyday they will do more, and more damage to themselves as well as everyone around them. The kindest thing you can do for your addictive loved-one is to kick them out of your home if they don't respond to your offer to help.
When the prodigal son (mentioned in Luke 15:11-32) went off to the far country, he did not come to his senses when there was plenty of money around and partying going on. He woke up to reality when he was feeding hogs, and getting really hungry. The only way you can help your loved-one that refuses to get help is by allowing them to hit rock-bottom sooner rather than later. Let them hit bottom before they have sustained so much physical and mental damage that their life, in all essence, is destroyed.
Your addicted loved-one might have to live there for a while, but they will eventually get tired of living at rock-bottom. They will beg and plead, and they will deny they are using. They will ask for money. They will want to use your car. They will beg you to give them a little more time to get back on their feet. You have to cut them off completely! Don't lie for your loved-one to their boss. Don't give them the one hundred dollars they want, and don't make their car payment for them…THE ONLY WAY TO HELP IS TO LET THEM FAIL! Let them get fired, let them be hungry, force them to walk and not drive!
They might end up homeless--living in a dumpster, hungry, jobless, and alone-- but they must face the hard, cold reality of their destructive lifestyle that they have chosen. An addict is not going to quit using until they hit rock-bottom. Rock-bottom, simply put, is the place where the painful consequences of addiction exceed the pleasure of that addiction. The addict may hit rock-bottom in the county jail, when the car is repossessed, when the husband or wife leaves, or when the children are taken away from him or her. They might hit rock-bottom when they are hungry and the family abandons them. They might hit rock-bottom when there is no place to crash anymore. Don't let them continue to play games with you; do not take action to help your loved-one avoid hitting rock-bottom.
Again, only if your loved-one will not take serious action to get help with their addiction should you put them out of your home. If they are willing to get involved in the local chapter of Reformers Unanimous, or go to the Men's or Women's School of Discipleship we should offer every ounce of support we can muster.
If your addicted loved-one is going to live in your home while attending a class or program you must have a strict regiment of conditions for them. If time allows for it, make them get a job and go to work. If they want a car, they can pay for it. But, if necessary, they can walk to work. If you give them a ride, make them pay for the ride even if it is only a small amount. Even if you only charge them 25 cents it will still remove the appearance of “getting something for nothing”. You can give them a safe place to live away from their ungodly friends, but if they live with you, insist that they pay rent and keep the place clean. If they won't pay the rent you charge, make them leave. If they run up a big phone bill and won't pay, make them leave. If they steal from you or threaten you, make them leave. You must set limits and boundaries, real limits and real boundaries. If you renege by not issuing appropriate consequences for rule violations you are only hurting your loved-one. You must be stern.
It is important that you set the conditions for the addicted person; they must not have any input into this process whatsoever. You have to get you loved-one accustomed to living on somebody else’s terms! It is hard to see your loved-one eventually become homeless or to be put in jail. To observe this is surely one of the most frightening things a parent could observe, and nobody enjoys having to see this happen; however, this system of hard-core reality is the only thing that the addict will acknowledge. At this point you may ask yourself, "Why does it have to get so ugly?" Because it hurts bad to get off drugs.
The withdrawal from a substance can truly be an agony that lasts for weeks, if not months. The typical drug addict will do almost anything to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal. Your loved-one will not start in this recovery program until they perceive that it will hurt worse to continue using then it would to get help (and face the withdrawals). When it hurts worse to use than it does to quit, they will get the help they need, and they will make an honest effort to quit. Don't expect them to go through the discomfort of withdrawal just because you asked them to. Drug withdrawals can include very severe symptoms such as intense anxiety, deep depression, fatigue, body aches, low grade fever, chills, and, much, much more. Sometimes, the depression can linger up to one year, secondary to the fact of the drug-induced manipulation of the brain's neurotransmitters, brain-cell injury, and even brain-cell death.
So, you do have a choice! Making the appropriate choice will probably hurt. Your loved-one will cry and scream and call you all sorts of names. They may even threaten you or other family members. They will tell you it will be different this time if you let them have their way. Don’t fall for it! Be willing to leave them at the RU discipleship homes if necessary. They will say that they hate you and maybe even curse you every day, but that is okay and to be expected. Look at it this way: they are still alive to curse; they could be dead! You are doing the right thing when you let them hit rock-bottom, but as mentioned before, they will make you absolutely miserable. Know that in the end, if they endure the pain of beating their addiction and succeed, they will forever be grateful for the sacrifices that you made.
Family Addiction Intervention
As you approach your loved-one in regards to the consequences of their addiction, you must come to them in a spirit that is not critical or condemning. You want to take an approach that is strictly informative and empathetic, demonstrating your desire to help. As you approach the loved-one that is addicted, be ready to immediately offer options to help them break the bondage of their addiction and find freedom. Be ready to give them something concrete they can do today. Make sure that they understand, to the best of your ability, that you are offering help and not punishment.
When you approach your loved-one, have information about the Reformers Unanimous International ministry ready to show them. This way, if they are receptive to your offer to help, you will be able to capitalize on their openness and not risk the chance that they may change their mind. Furthermore, we recommend that before you confront your loved one, you speak to a Reformers Unanimous director in your area. Ask the director if he would be present with you to help you and your loved-one start the process of finding freedom from addiction. Also for the non-functioning addict, you should consider investigating the Reformers Unanimous Schools of Discipleship in Rockford, Illinois. At these residential homes, your loved-one will be afforded several months to separate from ungodly influences and transform their thinking through discipleship, and counseling. There, they will find a thorough discipleship program that will introduce them to the truth, and help them apply it to their daily lives. Graduates of our discipleship homes have an 82% success rate over their addictions.
I do want to caution you, though. Be ready for denial and refusal to get help. Do not be discouraged! The fact that your loved-one refused you today does not mean your attempt is a failure. Your loved-one has heard you, and needs time to think about it. An addict must want to be done with addiction in order to be successful in overcoming addiction.