To love an addict is to run out of tears
There’s advice everywhere for addicts. But what about the people who LOVE them?
Because it breaks your heart to watch someone you love ensnared in the net, struggling, unable to get out long enough to find something or someone they love MORE than that “high.”
I saw a dog paralyzed by a speeding car on the freeway one time. Raising its head, desperate, doomed. That is what it is like to watch a beloved struggle against addiction. Suffering, dying, trapped…and we cannot save them.
First hard thing: When you love someone more than your own life, you want to help them, give them things, cherish them like you always have. Then find out that is no-no number one. That is no longer “love” but “enabling.” And your heart falls, desperate to find another way to say “I love you.” When you have always done everything for everyone you love, it is a hammer blow to your heart to be stopped.
And when you love them, you miss the “real” them. Miss being able to talk to them about anything and everything, share your souls. It is like you have already lost them.
You love them so much you want to spare them the hard truth…that their addiction is killing you too.
You can only watch from behind the glass. Powerless. Grieving. Inconsolable.
They don’t want to hear what we say. Our “advice.” Or “rules.” No words of ours are safe.
Their “drug of choice” has become their perfect lover. Always there, easily available. Always whispering the lie that THIS time it will be wonderful. THIS time it will heal their brokenness. THIS time will be their last. THIS time…
Hard to watch, to those who love them. We would give anything to be what they need, to share real life with our Beloved. To be the reward, the friend, the hero, the joy they seek. Their addiction is their best friend, when you wish you were. They can’t live without it.
But they can apparently live without you. They don’t have to tell you. That kick to the gut sucks your breath away every day. Like watching them die. Every day.
So, how to love and not “enable,” help and not hurt, stay seated on the sideline when you would gladly dive to the deep end of the ocean to save them. How to take it when they tell you what you did wrong. How to keep from blaming them for the holes in your own life. How.
Experts tell us we cannot “fix” or blame. And we need a PhD to discern the difference between “helping” and “enabling.” Balance and boundaries and caution, O my.
Nar-Anon agrees: “Your role as helper is not to DO things for the person you are helping but to BE things, not to try to train and change his actions, but to train and change your actions. As you change your negatives to positives—fear to faith; contempt for what he does to respect for the potential within him; rejection to release with love … “
So maybe our spiritual journey, like a good book, can only “show, not tell.” The best sermons, like they say, are lived, not preached.
So we learn to preach to them only with our lives. Our prayers for them. Our spiritual choice over fleshly drives. Giving them the secret sacrifices they will never know we gave.
O, my beloved addict, come away. Lord, save the miracle. Give mine to them. My heart breaks either way.
Love, on its knees. Love, willing to give the miracle it needs itself to the addict it loves. Love, seeking an even more perfect love for their trapped beloved. And there is only one. Our love is bottomless. But the Lord’s is the only one that is “perfect.”
“Perfect Love casts out fear.” I John 4:8
So we cling to that Love ourselves. The perfect one. Offer all our own wounds and pains and desires and expectations to Him. And pray. And release. And breathe.
Only then is there room for the miracle. The miracle we could never preach, but could only give. Could never tell, could only show. Which is probably why most addicts only prosper in communities of other addicts. No white coats or preachers ,moms or dads telling them what they WISH they’d do. Or what they did wrong. But only other victims, sharing what they have learned.
God is humble. His love is constant. He doesn’t seem to mind if they (we?) call Him our “higher power” for a while, or the journey a “spiritual” one instead of a straightup Jesus one.
We let them do it their way. The road is long and hard. And they have to start somewhere.
Everyone is entitled to their own journey.
And we hang back and pray that God, that humble Lord willing to go first, will hold them, love them, save them, by any miracle necessary. We pray, believe, sacrifice our own need to preach, teach, criticize or judge. And wait. In faith.
Could we even do it for anything but love?
That is how we are like God Himself.
And love remains, for all time, the most powerful force in the universe.