Monday, June 9, 2014

Christian Intervention: How to Overcome Co-Dependency

Many Christians with loved ones struggling with addiction want to have faith, but instead, they are sick with worry. This worry becomes sin, and like all sin, it grows and takes on a life of its own until the loved one of the addict is consumed by it. Once consumed, the loved one is fully engaged in enabling and co-dependent behaviors, resulting in a cycle of insanity that’s nearly as dangerous as the addict’s.

Loved ones who have become enablers and co-dependents become highly emotional and extremely confused. They are emotional because they carry the burden of the addict and are entangled in their chaos. Loved ones believe it is their duty to fix the problem and to save the addicts from themselves. They are confused because of the lies they are constantly told and the schemes the addict makes them part of. As a result, the loved one is desperate and carries a heavy weight of guilt and fear.

Parents and spouses of addicts suffer from guilt in relation to their loved ones. This is true for those parents who have a personal history of addiction, and even parents who have raised their children in the church. It’s true for spouses who once partied with the addict, and it’s the case for the Christian spouse who has never tasted alcohol or tried drugs. In other words, guilt doesn’t play favorites.

Guilt is defined as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” It’s no wonder the addict and the devil use guilt to manipulate and entangle God’s people. A few examples of real and perceived guilt by the loved ones of addicts include the following:

·         A single mother regrets not having a father in the life of her child. The addict works on the sympathies of the mother, who then tends to make excuses for the addict’s behavior.
·         A wife feels as though she could have done more for her addicted husband. The husband makes sure his wife feels like she was too much of a nag, too focused on the children, a bad house keeper, unable to satisfy his needs and so on.
·         A husband believes he has failed his wife because he has been unable to fix her addiction problem. The wife piles on the guilt with all the different ways he has failed her as a husband -- Not spiritual enough, loving enough, manly enough, financially stable enough and unable to understand her.

Addicts are notorious for making their loved ones believe they aren’t doing enough when they are actually doing too much. This kind of manipulation results in the loved one accepting the guilt, carrying the burdens, and doing more than they should. Thus, the never-ending cycle begins and keeps going as the addict takes and takes and takes, while the loved one gives and gives and gives.

Fear is another emotion that drives the loved ones of addicts. They are fearful that their loved ones will lose their jobs, lose their families, become homeless, have accidents, overdose or die. While these fears are well-founded based on the dangerous activities and self-destructive habits of an addict, fear should not be allowed to control the choices and behaviors of the loved ones.

Addicts understand how fearful their loved ones are and become experts at using fear to get what they want, which is their drug of choice. For example, the addict will ask for money, the loved one says no, so the addict says that if they don’t get the money, they will be homeless, they won’t have food for their family, they won’t have gas to get to work and will lose their job, and so on. Since the addicts know what the loved one is most concerned about, they will use it to their advantage.

How to stop the cycle of guilt and fear

Christians have the cross, and must use it in order to surrender their loved ones there. The cross is also important for the loves ones to repent, and to overcome guilt and fear. While the loved ones have become desperate for the addict to remember who God is, they themselves have forgotten many key principles of the kingdom.

It’s all about choices. The addict continues to make the choice to continue with their behavior. When loved ones are engaged in enabling and co-dependent behavior, all of their choices are in response to the addict’s behavior. To stop the cycle, it then becomes necessary for the loved ones to make new choices, based on biblical faith and the reality of the situation.

Here are 5 initial steps loved ones need to take when they’re ready to change their co-dependent lifestyle:

1.      Admit they are in over their heads and need God to take over completely.
2.      Commit to the process of change, knowing that it will be extremely difficult and painful. In fact, be willing to die to yourself over and over again.
3.      Choose to set new boundaries. These can be as small as not accepting phone calls when the loved one is high, or not giving money no matter the level of guilt or fear.
4.      Talk with the addict. Tell them about the new boundary. For example: “You are making the choice to continue in your addiction, and now I am making my own choices. I will no longer give you money, no matter what. If you ask, I will answer with ‘My choice is to not give you money as long as you are addicted.’”
5.      Fight the spiritual battle for yourself first, then for the loved one. (A wounded soldier must get well in order to return to the front lines.)

If you are a loved one in need of help, you will find more articles here on www.thesolidrockroad.com You can also send an email to or call 541-778-8680. You can also find my Christian recovery book on titled "Follow The Solid Rock Road: Pathway to Radical Recovery."