Whether it’s a family member, parent, sibling, spouse, or friend, it can be challenging to love an addict. Heck, it can be downright DIFFICULT. And what does it mean (or look like) to love an addict? Below, we’ll discuss how to love the addict in your life, and find comfort through this trial.
For more on addiction, please be sure to read these articles too: How to Survive a Trial and Overcome Suffering, Powerful Bible Verses to Overcome Addiction, and Listen to the Broken to Blessed Addiction Podcast + More
Loving an addict is hard
Let’s get one thing clear: Loving an addict can be one of the hardest things we’ll ever do.
If you’ve had to deal with another person’s addiction for months (or years) of your life, I’m sure you can look back at times when you’ve lost your cool. You may have cried, screamed, begged and pleaded, threatened, or even tried to punish the addict, hoping something would make them change.
You tried tough love.
Sadly, this usually doesn’t work. It only leaves you feeling more broken. And it gives the addict the ammo they need to feel justified in their addiction. Before you know it, you’re screaming, crying, and begging them all over again.
Here are a few things that may happen if you’ve been dealing with a family member’s addiction for an extended period of time:
- It can make us angry that they’re not stepping into the “role” you think they should be playing (parent, spouse, sibling, friend roles).
- We may start to question God why this will never end.
- We can become bitter and hateful towards the addict.
- Physical problems can manifest, such as anxiety and distress that causes stomach issues, headaches, and even heart palpations.
None of these things are healthy ways of thinking. That’s why it’s important that if we decide to continue a relationship with an addict, that we learn to love them instead of try to punish them. Easier said that done, trust me I know!
For the record: abuse is not okay
I’m never going to tell you that you should take abuse from an addict.
If the addict in your life gets physically abusive, or you feel like your life is at risk, please seek help and a safe space immediately. When children are involved, we need to be especially careful and mindful about how we handle these situations.
That being said, we must understand that verbal abuse from an addict is to be expected, unfortunately. Remember, anyone that is experiencing severe addiction is not in a good place. We cannot expect someone that cannot control addictive habits to be able to control their emotions.
And to be clear: it’s not that it’s okay that we receive verbal abuse from an addict either— and we definitely need to set boundaries. Just because someone does not physically harm you, does not mean they have the right to emotionally harm you. However, if we choose to continue on with an addict, we must understand that this comes with the territory. Sticking by someone means that you do so even during the hard times, not just the good times.
This truly is one of the hardest battles you’ll ever face. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But again, if you feel like your life is at risk and boundaries are being crossed, I cannot stress this enough: seek help immediately.
How to love an addict: 3 ways
It can be so difficult to love a person through an addiction, especially if you’ve been deeply hurt by the addicts actions or words, or both.
However, the Bible encourages us to love our enemies. And while our loved ones are not our enemies, their behaviors when under the influence can blur the lines– it can make us start to feel like they are indeed enemies.
Below are 3 ways to love an addict, even when you don’t want to.
Love them where they are
Loving an addict where they are simply means that we exercise patience, showing kindness even when we don’t want to.
Don’t say they don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve God’s love, but his mercies and loving kindness are new every morning. Every day He gives us another chance, and He wants us to do the same:
Luke 6:27-31 NKJV 27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
And when I say “be kind,” I’m not telling you that you have to bend over backwards, enable them, or kiss their butts. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be quiet. Pointing out their flaws, getting in their face, and showing tough love can backfire, quickly.
That’s when you stop, and be still. Understand that this is a battle between them and the Lord. If that means that you have to remove yourself temporarily from the situation, do it. But do not stay and try to battle it out with the addict. This isn’t loving them where they are– it’s only adding flames to the fire.
We have to allow others to dignity to make their own choices. And this includes sobriety.
Luke 6:35-36 ESV 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Matthew 5:38-42 ESV 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[a] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Don’t repay evil for evil by lashing out at them. It will only make things worse. Love them were they are, right now. God will do the rest.
We have to forgive. And yeah, sometimes they don’t deserve forgiveness.
But again, we don’t either.
We don’t deserve to be forgiven for all the things we have done (and continue to do), but Christ died for us. While we were yet sinners, Christ paid the ultimate price for our shortcomings.
Ephesians 4:32 NKJV 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we say what they did is OK. It means that we don’t want to carry that burden anymore. We’re giving it to the Lord. This is something we may have to repeat daily. Hour by hour. Minute by minute.
“But how many times must I forgive this person?” you may be asking. The answer can be found in Matthew:
Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Seventy times seven. Did you catch that?
This isn’t a literal amount. It simply means that we’ll have to forgive the person multiple times. And sometimes, so many times that we lose count. 70 x 7, and then some.
Work on your faith and pray for them
Don’t drink the poison and expect the addict in your life to die from it.
Instead of focusing on what they’re doing, grow your faith and pray. We need to get our eyes off the addict and back on the Lord. And we need to stay in our own lane, instead of swerving across traffic to get to the addict (figuratively speaking).
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
We won’t know why this takes as long as it does sometimes. We could pray for days, months, or years for a person before we see real change.
The point is that we have to TRUST the Lord that He will get us through this trial. We may have to turn to Him again and again, but this only strengthens our faith.
1 Corinthains 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b]6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Listen to the podcast episode
If you’re dealing with the struggle of having an addict in your life, I’m deeply sorry for any pain this has caused you.
Please know that you’re not alone in this fight– there are so many people dealing with this trial too, even as you read this.
Today I want you to ask yourself: what can I learn from this trial? Why would God allow this to happen again? The point is not to be angry towards the Lord for allowing this in your life– it’s an opportunity to reflect on how we can approach this differently. Not with a grumbling heart, but with a servants heart.
We need to have compassion and learn to love the addict. How will you love an addict today?
Any mental health information contained within this post is for general purposes only. It is not in any way a substitute for specific medical advice. You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in these webpages.
If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.