How to Love Someone in the Throes of Addiction

Christ-like love is possible and does not depend on being able to control the situation.

Posted in , Apr 10, 2018


My good friend Liz’s nephew died of an overdose last week. It was horrible but half-expected news, the final lesson in an unwanted crash course in learning that love isn’t always as straightforward as you think. For how do you go about loving a terrific kid when he lies and manipulates and betrays your trust? What does it mean to be supportive when anything you give can be sold and the funds used to shoot up? How do you decide what to believe when heroin has demagnetized a young man's moral compass? What’s the difference between holding on to hope for his recovery and mere wishing?

I walked alongside Liz—often late at night—as she talked through yet another setback, yet another sober living house eviction, yet another request for money. The hard reality was that she could not make matters better for her nephew, and that the best choice was to set clear boundaries so she didn’t make things worse. She assured her nephew he was loved and valued, encourage him to consider treatment again, and said no when he asked her to pay for things. She wrestled with finding a balance between being honest with him and venting her frustration at his behavior elsewhere. She prayed for him and asked others to pray. 

Slowly Liz let go (as much as she could) of all that she couldn’t control. For she knew the issue wasn’t control, but how to love someone lost in the throes of addiction

Often we grieve loss of control because we don't want loved ones to hurt—and we don't want to suffer ourselves, either. We don't really know how to love without being able to do something to make things better. Yet Jesus loved even the most confused and sinful and troubled and sick, so we know there must be a way. It isn’t a painless way, but Christ-like love is possible and does not depend on being able to control the situation. 

If you would, please join me today in praying for faith, wisdom and perseverance for all families who are struggling to love and help someone with a drug addiction. Pray, too, for the souls of kids who use, and those who grieve. This is something we can and should do: connect our concern for others to the love of Christ who knows suffering, and who, ultimately, will wipe every tear from our eyes. Lord, teach us to love, even in the hardest circumstances.

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