When someone you love is struggling with drugs or alcohol, the situation can be stressful and paralyzing. In some cases, family and friends opt to ignore the problem in hopes that it’s not as severe as it might seem. They may even insist that their loved one:
“…is just dealing with stress.”
“…is just going through a temporary thing.”
“…can control it; (s)he still functions at work.”
“…only really drinks when (s)he is in social environments like parties.”
Denial isn’t helpful for your loved one or yourself. In fact, it can put the person with the addiction at greater risk. And, for Christians who know someone struggling with addiction, there are even more reasons to speak up. The Bible tells us that we shouldn’t sit back and allow our brothers and sisters to get caught up in sin.
Don’t Let Your Loved One Struggle Alone
Brothers and sisters, if someone is (guilty of) sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Enjoying a beer with friends isn’t a sin. Addiction itself isn’t even a sin, and neither is struggling with drugs or alcohol. However, turning away from the life God provided in favor of drugs or alcohol can be a sin. After all, when people struggle with addiction, they often make feeding it their top priority. And, as the Bible states, creating an idol out of something other than God is a sin. And so are the actions that many people might take to seek or use their drugs of choice.
So, by standing aside— whether out of denial or discomfort— Christian friends and family let their addicted loved ones remain in sin. This closes the door to the person’s restoration in the Spirit and the potential return to Christ.
The Matthew 18 Confrontation
The Bible is very clear about the difference between confrontation about sin and judgment of others. For Christians, this means two fundamental methods of approach. On the one hand, you should tread carefully when approaching someone who is not Christian when he or she is struggling with drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, you should be just as cautious when confronting a fellow Christian about his or her addiction. If you need guidance on how to address the issue, Matthew 18 provides a good example of talking to a loved one who about substance abuse.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus talks about people who sin against each other in the church, but the advice is also applicable to those struggling with drugs or alcohol as well. In his speech, Jesus gives a sort of technical manual to follow in cases of confronting sin. First, he says, go to the person in private to discuss the matter. If you know someone struggling with drugs or alcohol, and you have reason to fear his or her safety, then plan ahead before the confrontation. Consider what you want to say, and how to say it. Come from a place of love and concern, not judgment.
If meeting privately does not work, Jesus says to return to the person with a few more trustworthy people. You may want to enlist the help of other loved ones, your church community, or a medical/mental health professional. In cases where a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, this confrontation may come in the form of intervention. The most important thing is that friends and family reach out together in love. The more people showing support, the more likely your loved one will be open to getting help.
Finally, if all else fails, Jesus says to bring the matter to the entire church. It’s important to remember, however, that he was addressing an issue within the church. So, when dealing with a loved one who is struggling with drugs or alcohol, a more appropriate step might be seeking professional help for the intervention. This may be especially necessary if your loved one is also struggling with mental health issues.
Growing Spiritually Together
Approaching a loved one about addiction should never involve judgment. Instead, it should be a process by which you grow spiritually together. Ephesians 4:15 says, “. . . speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
So, before you approach a loved one you believe is struggling with drugs or alcohol, prepare yourself. Reach out for guidance through prayer and spend time with Christ. Ask God for advice on the matter so that you can handle yourself with grace and speak the truth in a firm but loving way. By showing your loved one that you care and that you are not here to judge, even if you can’t understand what he or she is going through, you will increase your chances of being heard.
If you aren’t sure how to approach a loved one struggling with drugs or alcohol— or if your friend or family member is ready to learn about treatment options— call The Road to Freedom at (844) 402-3605 for more information.