Nothing begins without an individual’s will to make it begin. Even though people’s addictions are different, some truths, like this one, never vary—Freedom from addiction and associated behavior begins with a tiny flicker of will. We often feel torn between supporting loved ones and trying to meet our own needs for well-being and safety, especially when our loved ones continue with destructive behaviors. We want to show our love for them while at the same time protecting ourselves and others.
When do people finally become willing to abstain?
People say individuals finally become willing to abstain when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution. Our loved ones must reach this point. Continuing in the addiction is like a degenerative disease. It eats at the ability to function normally.
Why do you think your loved one lies and attempts to hide their addictions?
Setting boundaries means that we indicate a border or a limit around certain actions or individuals that we do not allow others to cross. This helps us avoid feeling like we are victims. When our needs are not adequately met, we have a responsibility to speak with our loved ones in a way that allows them the agency to decide whether they will help us or not. It is not in our best interest to complain. When we complain, we may secretly accuse a listener of causing our woes without them having a remedy. We may consider ourselves powerless by thinking SOMEBODY should fix us. By reducing complaining, we can reduce misery and stress. Realize life isn’t fair. (Robins eat worms…cats kill birds…) Take responsibility.
Be an Actor, rather than a Victim. Some examples of Victim statements are: "I have no choices or options. Other people make me depressed, disappointed or hurt. I can’t survive (be happy) without someone who is (stronger, smarter, bigger) by my side. I will be nothing. (If you wonder what "co-dependency" is, this is it.)
What are some other "victim" statements?
Some examples of Actor statements are: "I create or find choices and options for myself. I create my own moods. I am in charge of the way I react to the behavior of others and the events they create. Pleasing others has nothing to do with my worth. When I need others, I reach out to them. I ask for what I want and allow others to give it to me on their own terms. I am a survivor. Even if I choose to love and live with others, I CAN stand alone. I CAN take care of myself. I am entitled to make mistakes and I grow by learning from my mistakes." Destructive judgments of others aren't relevant.
Can you think of an "actor" statement to apply to your life?
Being open and honest with our loved ones about our pain and how we want their help can be difficult. However, our vulnerability helps us be more authentic and helps our loved ones relate to us better. If they continue to cross our boundaries by being unkind or unloving as a result of their addiction, then enforcing consequences becomes our next course of action.
We have a responsibility to set and clearly communicate boundaries, make rules, and hold family members accountable for their choices. This is not done to control others but rather to minimize the negative impact of the addiction and help our families stay safe. Setting boundaries helps us to remember that we are worthy of love and kindness in our lives. Many spouses and family members find that when they communicate openly about their feelings and experiences and then set firm boundaries and consequences, their loved ones understand more fully the damaging effects of their choices and actions. Experiencing consequences can provide the motivation they need to find healing and recovery. Setting limits can help invite the Spirit into our homes. It will help us be open, honest, humble, and assertive and it allows all to better exercise their own agency.
Rarely do people caught in addictive behaviors admit to being addicted. To avoid detection and the consequences of choices, they deny, minimize or hide behaviors. They do not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, they slip deeper into addictions. As their powerlessness over addiction increased, many found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and even God.
Have you seen this happen?
When addicts resort to lies and secrecy or blame others, they weaken spiritually. With each act of dishonesty, they bind themselves with “flaxen cords” that soon became as strong as chains. When brought face to face with reality they can no longer hide addictions by telling one more lie or by saying, “It’s not that bad!”
If you have not felt able to be as open or honest with your loved one as you would like, what can you do to communicate more candidly?
In providing consequences we should seek the Lord’s guidance. The Spirit can help us know what is best for our loved one and for us. There is not one approach that is right for everyone.
Mistakes are learning opportunities. Our boundaries and consequences should be based on agency— centered on what we can and will do rather than on what we want or expect someone else to do. Boundaries and consequences should be clear and concrete. They should be inspired by and communicated with love, not with anger or as punishment. They may involve a natural result of actions taken. We can start with simple and specific limits we can carry out. For example, an appropriate boundary is to insist that our homes be free from pornography, addictive substances, or related negative influences. If our loved one crosses one of these boundaries, then we enforce a related consequence. This lets our loved one know that we will not allow inappropriate behavior.
|Art by Amberle Stoffers|
What are some consequences that can be enforced if your loved one crosses a boundary?
How can you appropriately respond to a loved one who repeatedly fails to respect boundaries you set?
We can seek help by consulting with a trusted support person, ecclesiastical leader, or professional counselor. This helps us to evaluate our thinking and to be alert to any boundary or consequence that is not motivated by true and loving principles. The pain we feel as a result of our loved one’s addiction may seem unbearable. We may find ourselves wondering, “How long can I keep on enduring this?” At times, the only option for relief may seem to be to separate ourselves from our loved ones or even end our relationship with them. On the other hand, we should make every reasonable effort to preserve our family relationships. We should seek the Lord’s direction and strength to sustain us.
What can you do to show commitment to your relationship by maintaining clear limits?
Any abuse we experience at the hands of our loved ones is unacceptable. Those who suffer from addictions sometimes participate in abusive behavior. While we pray that our hearts will be filled with “tolerance and love" we know the Lord does not want us to endure abuse. We should take necessary steps to preserve our well-being, remain safe, and stop the abuse. We need to seek help from Heavenly Father, church leaders, or other trusted individuals about how to protect ourselves. In some instances, separation or divorce may be justified.
How can you appropriately respond to a loved one who is abusive?
Personal Learning and Application
Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, insights, and plans to implement what you learn. As the needs and circumstances in your life change, repeating these answers will provide you with new insights. Go back to the questions in the chapter. Write your answers. Each time you go through a chapter, your answers might change.
Additional questions for reflection and journaling:
1. What are some things I can do to relieve stress?
2. What things in life don't seem "fair" to you?
3. If someone dropped you a million dollars, what would you do?
4. What would you do if allotted two extra hours per day?
5. If you knew you would die Monday, what would you do this weekend?
6. If you were to speak with your guardian angel, what would you say?