Helping from the Heart: 3 loving ways to support someone with an addiction
Each of our hearts has been touched by someone suffering from an addiction, but one question always lingers when we come face-to-face with this issue: What can I do to help? Here are three loving ways to support someone when they need it most.
“Please God, don’t let it be true,” you hear yourself begging. But deep down inside you know it is. You’ve heard other people talking about it. You’ve even glanced at the books and articles dealing with it. But now that you’re faced with it personally you have no idea what to do next. How did it get to this point? Your loved one has an addiction.
So what do you do? How do you help someone who has become dependent on something other than God to help them make it through each day?
It was this question that haunted me daily as I struggled to end my own 27-year “relationship” with eating disorders. I tried everything under the sun — literally. Therapy, medications, suicide, church, metaphysics — if it crossed my path then it had to finally be the one thing that would once and for all end my suffering and pleading. But nothing worked.
It wasn’t until I had found myself looking up at rock bottom that I finally realized none of the things I’d ever tried before were ever going to save me from myself. It was time to end the vicious cycle of insanity and try something I’d never before explored. I began to search for the essence of God and what that meant for me specifically. I wanted to know if He truly does love me and if He wants more for me than to just barely survive another day.
Once I began to seek his heart for me rather than his hand to save me, I reluctantly released my grip on the illusion of how life is "supposed" to look and my world began to ever so slowly transform. I could be raw and real – and incredibly imperfect – with God and he still kept me close to his heart. I eventually became more and more confident because of this new relationship with him. Even though there were years of unlearning that still needed to take place, I found myself actually embracing the calorie rather than fearing it.
It was through that process that I’ve been able to untwist and expose the depth of the lies that those of us with addictions tell ourselves nearly every minute of every day. I’m now able to share with you the three most loving and empowering ways you can support your friends, family or self in the midst of the battles and pain of addiction:
1. Acknowledge the person, not the problem
Each one of us is desperate to know that we matter — not for what we do, but for who we are. Even when you know addiction is the only lens through which that person can see, love him for his own essence and allow him the space to be where he is without judgment, solutions or pity. Feel your way back to a time when you were struggling with something and were longing for someone to just be there for you. You didn’t want them to fix you in that moment, but you just needed to breathe and be loved unconditionally. By offering this gift of what seems like practically nothing, you’re giving that person the greatest, most powerful tool of healing ever known — the gift of acceptance.
Even though you may not know exactly what your friend is going through in that moment, there’s a good chance that you do know just how deep her pain can cut. Open the door for her to express to you what she's going through and then let her know you’re right there with her. Temporarily slip into her shoes and walk in her perspective. By doing this, you’re validating that her feelings and reality are real — whether they make sense to you at the time or not. This will help keep the lines of communication flowing, offering you the opportunity to consistently speak your truth in love and with respect and also give her a chance to uncover on her own the true issues that are being masked by addiction.
3. Keep your eyes on the road
Many times we care so deeply for our friends that we often take on their pain as our own. As you walk the journey with your loved one, there more than likely will come a time when the path becomes too narrow for both of you to travel together. Once that place has been reached and professional help is ready to be introduced and accepted, you can continue walking your own path knowing that you loved unconditionally and were able to bring the true essence of God into the life of someone you hold as close to your heart as God does to His very own.
Danica Trebel is a mom to two AMAZING teenage sons, a recovering perfectionist and a Life and Family Dynamics Coach. She specializes in helping families tune up their relationships through perspective, communication and faith www.danicatrebel.com