Our lives have often been described as a walk, a path and even a race. These are good metaphors because during our life’s journey we experience highs and lows and many twists of fate. Unfortunately though many times in life we stumble and fall.
Like they say it is not the number of times we fall, but rather the number of times we get up that counts.
When we do fall, hopefully we are surrounded by friends and loved ones that can help us get back onto our feet in times of need. Knowing that we may be in need of help someday ourselves, we in turn are often eager to reach out a helping hand to those around us who are in need. I know I have been blessed with the love and support of my family and others in my life and in turn want to be of service to them in any way I can.
Our capacity for compassion and care for those in need is truly remarkable and has allowed our species to rise to the top of the food chain. We could not have survived without our tribes as hunter-gatherers. We are hard-wired to be social creatures and being isolated can have devastating effects to a person’s quality and duration of their life.
In times of war or natural disasters, we come together to provide assistance in whatever ways we can. After 9/11 the country was unified after the terror attacks. People flooded to ground zero to offer whatever aid they could. Donations of blood and money typically peak after these tragedies occur.
During war, we offer our support to fallen soldiers and their families. In WWII, rationing and other forms of sacrifice were made to help the troops who were on the front line. The US Navy Seals have a code in which they leave no man behind – whether alive or dead. If one Navy SEAL falls the others come to their rescue, regardless of the potential cost to those attempting to retrieve their fallen comrade.
But what do we do when a person we love and care for is battling an addiction, particularly drugs and/or alcohol. How do we help them?
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc, (NCADD) addiction is the nation’s number one health problem, “straining the economy, the health care system, the criminal justice system and threatens job security, public safety, marital and family life.” NCADD sates that 8% of the US population over 12-years of age has used an illegal drug in the past 3-days.
A member of my family suffers with addiction and recently relapsed. Their struggle and how to love them while providing what is best for them is a cross I bear.
I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun.
The Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as our selves and to practice forgiveness. Forgiving an addict is relatively easy for me as it is understandable how chemical dependence can occur. But how do I love them, when it turns out that the way I have shown this love could in fact be enabling them? That is my love may be aiding the addiction and not the person I love. Perhaps I have become too enmeshed in my loved one’s illness and in turn have become addicted to the addict’s issues.
The metaphor of the airplane oxygen masks comes in sometimes to help folks in dealing with a family member’s crisis. “You first put on your oxygen mask and then you can help the person beside you.” But ultimately if the plane is going to crash – you don’t want to be on the plane, regardless of who is sitting by you.
Part of the challenge for us who love a person with addiction is letting go for our need to protect them. We let go and let our loved one learn from their mistakes. We can’t keep our brother from the hard lessons they must learn. But when they are ready for help we can be there.
Unfortunately the addict often crashes and burns, hitting rock bottom as they say. A potentially redeeming aspect of this fall is that when a person is flat on the back, they can focus on God and his love.
God, or Higher Power in the 12-step recovery programs, is a key aspect for recovery from substance abuse. Releasing the addiction to their Higher Power and beginning to open up to recovery liberates the addicted person.
Meanwhile the addict and all who love them can benefit from the Serenity Prayer’s opening lines, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Yes I am my brother’s keeper and my brother has an addiction. I trust that the same God that loves me and has guided me through struggle will be there to guide my brother through this time. I will do what I can – releasing the rest to God.
While a junkie may be like a setting sun in that we cant control their arc. We can, however, love them through the night that they may experience on their own so they may rise again tomorrow, shining more brightly. We can let go and let God take care of them, freeing us to be able lend a truly helping hand when the time is right.