I listened with sadness as my friend told me about her nephew’s addiction. He told her recently that he would rather lose both his legs than give up heroin. While he may state it more boldly than most people, the heroin epidemic has enslaved so many of our sons and daughters who no longer care about anything other than using heroin.
In our Love Them To Life ministry, we talk about “assisting them to brokenness,” meaning that we allow our loved ones to experience the consequences of their choices without enabling or rescuing them until they come to a place of brokenness and repentance. The pattern was given to us in Luke 15: 11-32, known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Many books, articles, and sermons have been written and preached on this parable, yet it is fresh and pertinent to our situations as those who love addicts.
The key points for us are:
1. The father allowed his son to leave. We can’t make choices for our kids. When they have their minds set on doing things their own way, we need to take our hands off and trust them to God.
2. He waited and watched. He did not rescue. He did not go drag the young man home. He did not search for him and pull him out of the pig slop. He prepared himself by waiting and watching for the day his son repented.
3. He accepted him back into the home WHEN his son turned away from his sin, humbled himself, and acknowledged what he had done.
I read an article recently written by a former addict, who is the son of a well-known pastor and author, in which he advocated “let them come home” while still active in their addiction. There are a number of problems with that advice:
1. Giving them a place to live does not assist them to brokenness. Housing is one of the basic human needs. It wasn’t until the prodigal son was living with the pigs that he humbled himself and offered to live as a servant in his father’s house.
2. If your child is addicted, it is not a matter of “if” they will steal from you and anyone else in the home, it is a matter of “when.” THEY WILL STEAL! When the ravages of withdrawal begin, including uncontrollable diarrhea, vomiting, shakes, sweats, and abdominal cramping, an addict doesn’t care about the sentimental value of jewelry or other things in the home. They only care about getting the drug to stop the symptoms.
3. Having an addicted person in the home colors all of the relationships in the household. If you have other children living in your home, they will be negatively affected by having their sibling destroy themselves in front of them. In addition, the addicted person becomes the focal point for the family dynamics and that takes away any sort of normalcy from the home.
Many parents inadvertently enable their children (and many times assist them to their death) by bailing them out of the consequences of their actions. I wonder how much sooner my own son would have turned away from his addiction if we had not bailed him out, paid his fines, and given him a place to live, essentially pulling him out of the pig slop. While it is counterintuitive to a loving parent’s heart to watch the destruction and not “do something,” taking our hands off, praying, and trusting God to keep our hearts in one piece while we wait and watch is truly the most loving course of action.