One of the most difficult situations a family has to deal with is when a loved one is addicted to opiate drugs like prescription painkillers or heroin. This type of addiction changes the person, and no matter how they try to hide their problem, someone controlled by drugs or alcohol will struggle with relationships, with their physical health, with their behavior, and with their psychological health. This can leave families and loved ones in a tough place, as they want to show love to the addict but don’t know how to do it and don’t know the boundaries they should establish. Families and friends of addicts can follow all sorts of suggestions and guidelines for how to treat the drug user in their life, but the bottom line is, no matter what else we do, we should strive to show Christ’s love to the opiate addict.
Show them you care.
When we care about and show empathy and love for others, we are reflecting Christ’s love. God loves us, even though we daily disobey Him and sin. He continues to take care of us, provide for us, and forgive us. If the opiate addict in your life comes to you, sorry for their actions and what they’ve put you through, forgive them. Show them you care about them by listening to them, giving godly advice and telling them you want what’s best for them. Don’t hold grudges or try to get others to turn against them. Before every word and action, ask yourself if what you are about to do or say will help that person in the long run, or if you are just doing it to make yourself feel better. God’s love is also a selfless love, and loving like God loves means we have to sometimes swallow our pride, do things we don’t want to do and be willing to make sacrifices for the other person.
One of the most helpful ways we can show love to the opiate addict is to get them into a treatment program. There is only so much family members can personally do for the individual who is addicted to opiates, and more often than not they need to enlist the help of professionals. Encourage your loved one to enroll in a program where they can safely detox and then address the underlying issues that have contributed to the addiction.
We need to show love to the opiate addict, but this does not mean you should let them run the show or give them whatever they want. Part of loving someone is knowing when to say no and when tough love is what they need. If your loved one has a problem with prescription painkillers or heroin, don’t give them money, which they can use to buy more drugs. It will be difficult to say no and watch them struggle to pay bills and buy necessities, but allowing them to easily go out and get more drugs is not the loving thing to do. In the same way, do not enable the addict. Don’t make it easy for them to continue in that lifestyle. Whether they want you to call in sick to work for them, make excuses to family and friends for their behavior, or lie for them to the doctor, loved ones need to be strong enough to say no to enabling.
Set boundaries with regard to your relationship as well. Don’t engage your family member or friend in useless discussions that only lead to arguments. You can’t argue someone into treatment or sobriety. Lay out the facts, tell the person you care and leave it at that. If the person wants to make excuses for their behavior or try to talk you into giving them money or giving into any other harmful request, walk away. Heated agreements at this point are not helpful because the person is most likely not in the right frame of mind to have a meaningful discussion, and these constant arguments only drive the wedge between you deeper, making it more difficult to repair the relationship later.
Make Christ a part of your life.
Finally, be sure to keep Christ in your life and in your loved one’s life, because He is the one who can work the miracle of sobriety. Encourage your loved one to go to church or Bible study, or share God’s word with them yourself. Help them find a Christian rehab program that will not only give them the help they need to get sober but will do so with a Christian focus. A Christian treatment program will facilitate a strengthening of faith and will provide true hope for the person’s future.
Above all, pray for the opiate addict. Place the person in God’s capable hands and trust He will carry out His plans for you and the addicted person in your life. Work on your own spiritual health and allow your own faith to be strengthened through the study of God’s word so that you are better equipped to share God’s love with your loved one.