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Q: Someone I love is an alcoholic and we both desperately need help.

A: Thanks so much for reaching out; I know what you're going through firsthand, and I can appreciate very much how difficult all this must be for you. When we love someone who has this disease, our emotions usually run rampant, and the more we isolate with this "crazy" feeling the more sick we become. So taking the time to seek some answers is a sign that you're ready to get some relief.

I always say that there is no such thing as one addict in a family. This disease affects the entire family dynamic—we become "enablers" or victims, and learn a complex assortment of behaviors that truly robs us of the peace God wants for us in our daily lives. As someone who grew up in a family where addiction was present, I understand how difficult it is to find our way out of this darkness, and to make the sometimes tough decisions that must occur when we love an addict.

Although I can't diagnose exactly what's going on with your particular situation, I will make some general comments. First, alcoholism is both chronic and progressive, and it does not get better without treatment. Secondly, if someone is not willing to voluntarily enter treatment, and is an adult, there is really little you can do to force him or her to get better. (There is the option known as "intervention," but this is a highly specialized event that must be organized and rehearsed with a professional who is expert in this event.)

When we "allow" someone to continue drinking or using drugs, even if it seems "Christian" or "loving," we are actually enabling them to stay sick. We must express our non-judgmental love to this person, and let him/her know that we will do anything to help should they seek help. But until they seek this help, we must learn to limit our desire to “save” them. Often this can mean making some tough decisions that; might not “feel right,” such as limiting contact, not supporting them financially, etc. As difficult as it can be, we must surrender to Christ the sometimes overwhelming desire to "fix" them. Because it won't work.

If you have an alcoholic or drug addict living with you, you need to become very serious about protecting yourself and your home. We are doing alcoholics NO favors by allowing them food and shelter while they continue actively pursuing their own destruction. A book that might really help you in this regard is called Choices and Consequences. It should be available through any major bookstore.

I strongly urge you to contact an organization called ALA-NON. Their nationwide toll free number is 888-4AL-ANON. They will direct you to people in your area more than willing to reach out to you and offer hope and healing. They are people who are experiencing (or have experienced in the past) what you are going through now. They can help you learn to let go in healthy ways, and learn about boundaries that will help you disconnect in a loving way. They have lots of printed educational material, and suggestions for books that can help. Also, see the “links” page of my web site for a number of other recovery resources.

You are not alone in this, though I'm sure at times you feel that you are. This is not hopeless, though I'm sure sometimes it feels so. Keep reaching out. Should your loved one ever desire treatment, the ALA-NON folks can help you out with that, too. Or call the Alcoholics Anonymous national number on my web site for information regarding meetings in your area. And, of course, pray without ceasing for your loved one and everyone who in relationship with him/her... because he/she will need that love.

My book, Prodigal Song: A Memoir, also available on the web site, tells my own story of family dysfunction and the progression of my alcoholism. Many readers have found it an interesting look into the mind of an addict, and it has helped them.

I pray that you and yours will be proactive, reach out for help, and discover that God waits beyond the shame and fear with healing and hope.


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