by Eric Dunbar
A drug addict can be described as a person with chronic and often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use. But a drug addict can also be described as someone who has developed an unusual love affair with their drug or drugs of choice.
The impact of drug addiction is always felt first by the immediate family of the drug addict, but it doesn’t stop there. Drug addiction also affects extended family members of the drug addict as well. Some family members may experience feelings of abandonment, embarrassment, anxiety, concern, fear, anger, and guilt. Many will either refuse to put up with, or unable to endure the pain of an abusive relationship, so they cut ties with the addicted family member.
Many families are trying to find ways to re-establish the bond with drug addict family members, but how do you love a drug addict when all they ever do is complain and lie? How do you love someone that will steal everything you own if it is not locked down? How do you love a a person who will at times despise you, even though it should be evident that you genuinely care? And while there are no generic answers to these questions, there are ways of safeguarding your own heart while you search for answers. Let’s begin with love.
What is Love?
We use the word “love” so loosely, its true meaning has been lost in a panorama of terms and pidgin. For example, when we say, “I love my car, I love my cat, or I love my computer,” can we really equate that same emotional feeling of love to mean the same as saying, “I love my wife, I love my husband, I love my son or I love my daughter?” Love is more than just a word. Love is a commitment that stands firm in the face of any and all types of adversity. The Bible perfectly defines love in such a way that we cannot miss its true meaning.
The Bible gives us the most accurate description of perfect love: “Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Learn to Love Yourself First
It doesn’t matter if you are the addicted person or the victim of an abusive relationship with a drug addict, love begins with you. If you don’t love you, how can you love someone else, and how can you honestly expect that someone else will love you? Drug addicts have a unique way of turning your weaknesses against you to get what they want, so it helps to love yourself.
Be careful that you do not love yourself to the point of becoming “full of yourself.” Self-centered, arrogant, egotistical people cannot love anyone because they love only themselves. Focus on loving yourself with pure love that seeks to do good, and seeks the good in others and for others.
You Cannot Change Your Drug Addict Lover or Family Member
Most people believe that if they try to be understanding, if they are kind long enough, their drug addict lover or family member will change their addictive behavior. Here’s a quick reality check: You will never be able to change your drug addict lover or family member, so you might as well get over it and get on with your life.
If you are in a relationship with a drug addict, you must see the relationship for what it is. Like it or not, your lover is cheating on you with a drug. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will be able to get past the shock of knowing that this person whom you care so much for is in love with something else — a drug.
Do not make the terrible mistake of believing that you can change your drug addict spouse. All of your efforts will not accomplish this impossible feat. One of the most devastating mistake couples make is to think that if they persist long enough, they will be able to change their partner’s views and opinions. You cannot change your partner, only he or she can do that.
The seductive power of drug addiction goes far beyond that which you can see. I remember how I was seduced by my drug of choice — crack-cocaine. Before I knew what hit me, I had fallen madly in love with a drug. My family tried to help me, but they were saying all the wrong things. Even today, I still remember how they condemned me, and how they repeatedly preached sermons that sound like “100 reasons why you should not use drugs.” I did not want to hear their sermons, so I would shut them out.
One of the worst things you can do to a drug addict is to condemn them. When you reach out to that drug addict lover or family member, be careful not to make statements that sound condemning. Avoid saying things like, “I never thought you would turn out like this,” or “you’re never going to be anything but a drug addict.” Remember that condemnation kills but love breathes life.
How Do You Compete With Drug Addiction?
The number one rule when competing with a drug addiction for your drug addict partner’s love is don’t! Never compete with a drug for your lover. If you do, you will lose. Instead you should claim ownership of your lover. You don’t compete for access to what is already yours, you just claim it. There is no competition in love because love is a choice.
A drug addict will commit their life to the drug or drugs that they are addicted to. They will do whatever is necessary to keep their drug addict relationship. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you place conditions on your love for them. Either you love them, or you don’t. Either they will love you back, or they won’t.
Learn to Forgive
If you were to ask the question, “What does it mean to forgive?” you will get a variety of answers. Most people treat forgiveness like they do love; their forgiveness is predicated on preconceived conditions. I have heard people say, “I forgive you but I won’t forget!” Is this what it means to forgive? When you forgive someone you pardon that person never to place their unjust deeds before the court of your judgment. NEVER! When you forgive someone you don’t just ignore or look past the hurt, the wrong, the pain and the injustice that individual has done to you. You forgive them because you can’t look past the things they have done to you. You simply choose to forgive them for your own peace of mind.
God expects that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. When God forgives us he does not remember our sins. He says, “…I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more “(Jeremiah 31:34). In other words, when we hurt God through our disobedience He forgives us when we ask for forgiveness. He does not bring it up in the courts of heaven the next time we offend Him.
When your drug addict spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, or friend does an injustice to you learn to forgive them but do not allow yourself to be compromised again, but by the same token DO NOT bring it up in the court of your judgment, if you do you risk making an enemy rather than a friend.
Respond Only With Love
Before you reach out to your drug addict lover or family member, be ready for the unexpected. Drug addiction will in all likelihood expose a side of the addicted person that you may not be familiar with, or may not be willing to accept, so be prepared for anything.
When you offer someone love you give them hope. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes; love is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything, without weakening. Love never fails, it never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end. So when you have done all that you can to help that drug addict lover or family member, remember that only God can open blind eyes, so in the end simply respond to the negativity of the drug addict with love.