Loving Them to Death

I wrote the following letter to parents of a drug addict son. For their privacy, I changed the names to Sandy (the mother), Frank (the husband) and Bret (the son). The message in this letter is not just for parents, but for anyone who is around an addict. And this day and age, there is a good chance that includes you.

Dear Frank and Sandy,

Because my husband had a drug problem, I have been in several support circles with both drug/alcohol addicts as well as spouses, parents and other loved ones of addicts. I have also read and educated myself as much as possible. Many things I tell you will be hard to hear and you may not be ready to receive them. It is my prayer that if that is the case, you will set this letter aside and pick it up later when you are ready. I just pray your son is not dead by then.

You see, you and your husband are just as sick as Bret. You, just like Bret with his addiction, will have to hit rock bottom before you start recovering from codependency. There is no judgment, this is just the truth. It takes different things for different enablers. Only God knows what it will take for you or when you will hit your rock bottom or when you will be “sick and tired” of all this. Just like the addict, you may have to lose everything before the scales are lifted from your eyes.

The codependent or enabling person’s sick thinking is this: “I am responsible for another person’s well-being or happiness. They believe this to the point that they cannot allow the person they are enabling to reap what they sow. They interfere with God’s spiritual law in Galatians 6:7 that says, “Whatever you sow that is what you reap.” They prevent them from reaping. They tell themselves that Christians are supposed to help. But you see in the Bible are several areas where God allowed his children to reap consequences from poor choices, so they would learn and see their need for Him and return to Him. He loves us too much to cushion us. He cares more for our soul and our character than for our comfort. He says in Matthew 16:26: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

So what if Bret loses his job or his place in society or messes up his education or goes to jail or whatever. We are talking life and death here. This is serious. When a person hits bottom and gets the help he needs – God can restore whatever “worldly thing” he lost. Even his reputation.

I don’t know if you understand that you can never believe a drug addict about anything. Everything, and I mean everything he says to you, is all about a means to use. Don’t be in denial! No one wants to believe this about their child or loved one. But the thing is, it is not Bret – it is the addiction. It is what the addict does. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter how much they love you or anyone in their life, they will do what it takes to use. That is why it is such a sickness. It makes no sense. There is absolutely no reasoning with or talking them into anything. They are the biggest liars and cons you will ever know. Again, it is not them. It is the drugs and that simply is what addicts do, period!!!! I don’t care how much you hope that is not true. Truth is truth.

No drug addict that I have ever seen has ever been able to “take a few days to detox”. If he could do this and it work, he would. If it could be done, there wouldn’t be such an epidemic of addicts in this world. Don’t buy his lies that “he can do it”. Don’t buy the lie that somehow he is different than the millions of other addicts in this world!!!

If you are struggling with looking at this truth, tell yourself this, “My son addicted to drugs.” Say it out loud over and over. Denial is a huge problem in our society. It helps us cope when we don’t have to look at the ugly truth. We water it down with, “Oh, he just has a little problem with drugs.” Just like many parents can’t admit that their kid is an alcoholic. So they say, “Oh, he just has a drinking problem.” And it is no shock that you have rescued him several times. Even the Bible addresses this enabling:

Proverbs 19:18-19, Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again. (NIV)

I believe the reason many addicts don’t get help is that someone is loving them to death. The addict is a master manipulator and blame shifter. He preys on codependent folks who don’t know any better – who think they are helping him. If he can’t manipulate his parents any more, he may try it on friends, relatives or girlfriends. And if they aren’t educated, they too will help him keep using by providing his essentials to live. If someone will take care of his slack, he can spend his time and resources on drugs instead of rent, food, utilities etc.

He may rely on the fact that parents carry a certain amount of guilt. Parents believe the lie that somehow they did something wrong in raising him – this is why he does drugs. So they keep enabling the son in order to make them feel less guilty all the while thinking that they are helping him.

Unless the addict goes to a long term faith based program and does it because he wants to, he doesn’t just come up with some will power to quit. It takes a while first of all just to get the chemical out of your system. Then, they must deal with the deep spiritual issues or the root cause.

Any addict can stop for a while. But it will always come back if it isn’t properly dealt with. There is never a change unless there is a big change in his lifestyle and he does something huge and life changing. Something totally different than what he is already doing and it is better if it is far away in location from where he is now. And I am talking a total abandonment of the world. Parents say, well I hate for him to lose his apartment or job or furniture or whatever. Well set your minds on eternity and the spiritual, not the carnal physical things of the world that we think we have to have. I have seen addicted fathers leave their children for a year to get help. The world would say, how can you leave your kids? They are not going to understand. Well I think one year of someone’s life to be healed once and for all is better than a dead Daddy or a Daddy that continues to drag his loved ones thru the horror of drug addiction over and over their whole lives. Reality is never dealt with. No one sees the elephant in the room. The kids live with it and think it is normal and become an addict themselves or marry one and the cycle continues. Because everyone covered up so the family would keep peace and appear normal.

It is time to get real!!!!! You should not pay for your son’s food or shelter or clothes or anything! The only thing you should ever do for him is tell him you love him too much to continue to enable him. And that when he decides to abandon everything and no matter what the cost, go and get help, that you will gladly take him. He has to find the place. (There are plenty of places) If he is smart enough to get drugs, believe me, he is smart enough to find a rehab.

Another piece of wisdom is to not allow him to pull on your heart strings once he is in a rehab or jail. He will tell you about how everything there is unfair or someone is being mean to him or they aren’t taking care of him. But you will be ready for it. Again, this is not your son. This is typical behavior of the addict. This is what they do!!! And besides, maybe things aren’t fair there. It is not a resort! He put himself there. God may use some of those things that are unfair to remind him that he wants to heal and overcome so he won’t have to stay in a place like that. Addicts are always victims. They don’t have problems, they need problems. This is how they rationalize their behavior. It keeps them from looking inward. The problem, in their mind, is not them, it is everybody or everything else.

The only way he starts to see that maybe some of this is his fault, is if he is in the pit – if you allow him to reap some consequences. When he finds himself in terrible conditions, he may start to say, “I gotta do something about this. I can’t stand living like this anymore.” Maybe I am the problem. He has burned all his bridges -that is a good place for an addict.

I have to say that I have seen some parents who never ever get this. They just don’t have the strength to tell their child no. My uncle was one of them. His heroin addict son was in his forties and had ripped off my sweet Uncle Fred in every way you can think of. You know the scene – you name it and he did it. Kept my uncle in a state of fear for years and years and years. I finally talked to my uncle and felt like he listened. He was close to 70 and totally agreed that he (my uncle) needed to get some help and he actually attended a support group at a nearby church. I was very encouraged and hopeful. Then the next thing I knew, my uncle was bailing his son out of jail again. I asked why. My uncle said it was because his son said they were mistreating him. Well, this is what I told my uncle, “You might as well go shoot your son because you are the reason he will never get any help.” You may say that is harsh, but I don’t care. My nephew was killing my uncle and he was killing himself!!!!!! And my uncle was helping him do it!!!!

I hope you don’t have to go around this mountain too many more times. If you disagree with some or all the things in this letter, that is fine. Please go to a Celebrate Recovery and get help! It is an awesome Christian recovery program for anyone such as codependents, addicts, divorce recovery, depression, workaholics, whatever. In other words, there is help for most folks. You cannot do this by yourself. That is why it is called tough love. It is so hard! It goes against your heart!! You may feel strong one day, then weak the next. That is why you need to talk to a friend you trust in the group that is a Christian and has been down the road and can remind you that you are doing the right thing by not helping him. You have to hear that over and over to remain strong. That is why there are so many codependency support groups.

There is such freedom in knowing that you didn’t Cause it, you can’t Cure it, and you can’t Control it. This is all on Bret. Bret has to do it on his own or it will not be real and won’t stick. Also, you will learn that the only person you can change is yourself. And in case the enemy tries to whisper in your ear that maybe he started using drugs because you didn’t do something right as a parent – then you tell Satan this:

“You are right, I wasn’t a perfect parent. But my son has just as much chance as anyone else to turn to the Lord and allow Him to heal him in any way he needs healing. My son can do all things through Christ who gives him strength. He can turn my son’s mess into a message. In fact, God can use that mess to help him see how much he needs God. So God can turn whatever wrong thing I may have done as a parent into something beautiful, if Bret lets him.”

Please, please, educate yourself. Sit in circles with other folks who have taken off their masks and are serious about not loving their children to death. These parents have fully surrendered and have put down any pride and are willing to learn. They have discovered that they can’t keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different result. And if your spouse refuses to go, so what? You go yourself and don’t depend on the other. You will be allowing God to heal you and help you walk in freedom, regardless if your son or spouse chooses this. Remember, you can only change yourself!

– Valerie Faulkner