September is Recovery Month and we have a few goals in this emphasis.
*We seek to find hope in the Gospel for dealing with all of our obsessions, addictions, and the sinful weights that are holding us down from following God wholeheartedly.
*We seek to remove the stigma of dealing with persistent sins and addictions by admitting we are all sinners and we all need help.
*We seek to reveal the resources available in our community for those who are ready to seek out help.
I find these goals to be very Gospel-centered, as Jesus reached out to the hurting and struggling he encountered with a spirit of compassion and healing.
One of the ways that addictions and sinful behaviors take a toll in our lives is the beating that all of our relationships take. The relationship with Self – the loss of self-respect, the way that our own actions weigh on us and the lack of control that we experience. The relationship with God – there are struggles to continue in relationship to the Lord when we continue down the path of addiction, allowing obsessive behaviors reign in our lives. Feel far away from God. The relationship with others – particularly our family and close friends. When addiction is a part of the relationship it becomes more difficult to maintain the relationship.
“Once a substance user progresses from occasional use to addiction, they are likely to have a single focus: obtaining and using the substance.” – Eric Patterson
This is the reason for the existence of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen. Al-anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who believe their lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. It’s a mutual support recovery program. (http://al-anon.org) Whenever we talk about recovery, we are never talking about one person – but a system of persons. Our addictions, obsessions and persistent sins have taken a toll on everyone around us. Our relationships are in recovery. One step toward recovery is to notice what God did when he created relationships in the beginning. When God created the world he revealed His intentions for relationships for human beings.
God Revealed the Value of Life (2:7)
“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.”Genesis 2:7 , CSB
Into the dusty unfinished landscape comes a being that is made of a combination of earth and spirit. Initially, life on our planet found its origins in the Lord God. Human beings are significant to God because He gives them the breath of life. Even when life choices and issues and diseases are active in making life more difficult, we believe every life is valuable and important and has potential. That’s why we promote recovery not rejection when someone falls. Sometimes people even feel that they are unworthy of God’s love. The value of our individual lives is immeasurable. God reveals this when he breathes the breath of life into Adam.
God Revealed the Value of Work (2:15)
“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it”.Genesis 2:15 , CSB
God didn’t give Adam a hammock, but a workplace in which to thrive. He was naming all the animals (how did he come up with aardvark?) He had a brand new garden to tend – can you imagine the beauty! He gave him duty and responsibility. We often think we find the greatest pleasure in leisure, but actually it is in accomplishing something for which we worked hard.
When addiction is present, Working, providing for our family and building lives we can be proud of are all endangered. Relationships between employers and coworkers are endangered. The family pressure of having uncertain income is an incredible stress. The value of work and caring for others is diminished when the focus is on ourselves and what we want.
God Revealed the Value of Boundaries (2:16-17)
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die”Genesis 2:16-17 , CSB
You wouldn’t think that Adam would have any boundaries. There’s no peer pressure yet! There are no people and places or things to get him into trouble! How would he get into any trouble at this point? Why does he need boundaries? There was that one thing. God told him not to eat of a certain tree. So simple even humans couldn’t mess it up. Right. Since even Adam had some boundaries, I’m sure that all humans need them.
Addiction is the loss of boundaries – and that causes stress and trouble for everyone in relationship to those who are in trouble. Each of the things that God is revealing about what He values is impacted when we are not in control of our lives.
God Revealed the Value of Companionship (2:21-22)
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.Genesis 2:21-22 , CSB
We are not meant to live alone – whether we have spouses, friendships, or belong to groups that enrich our lives, we are to be in relationship with others. Adam had named all the animals, but he saw Eve, all he could say was Whoa-Man! (I apologize for this old joke but I couldn’t stop myself. jed)
When we consider the needs of the first man, God determined he should have the companionship of a woman…another human being. Matthew Henry writes, “She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
What we do in life impacts everyone around us. No one more than our spouse and children. As we read the story of the origins of humanity, this is a featured principle. God revealed the value of life, work, boundaries, companionship. But also in this story we can see that ….
God Revealed the Path of Destruction (Genesis 3:8-12)
We know life doesn’t stay that way. Adam and Eve did cross the one boundary God had set up. They ate the forbidden fruit.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man replied, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”Genesis 3:8-12 , CSB
In addiction, obsession, and irresponsible behavior we refuse to leave behind – there is dysfunction, imbalance, unhappiness, and shame.
Secrecy – due to strong feelings of shame, guilt, and fear of judgment the lies begin to pile up. Where they are, Who they are with, The events of the day, Why they are behaving differently, Why money is missing.
Distrust – Friends and Family begin to notice differences between fact and fiction. Often leads to the emergence of a number of relationship-damaging issues like jealousy, anger, fear, and resentment.
Anger and Abuse – Anger and violence can become concerns as a relationship deteriorates. Frustrations will be high, but if someone is using a substance that is known to cause aggression, the situation may be even more dangerous.
Blame – everyone except myself.
We need recovery in our relationships because they can become so damaged.
God Revealed the Necessity of Grace (Genesis 3:21)
The Lord God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them.Genesis 3:21 , CSB
Adam and Eve still had to face the consequences of their behavior. God, however, reached out with forgiving grace and met them in their need. When we fail to live God’s way there may be difficult consequences, but His love is always present, strong, and giving us what we most need.
Grace is not Enabling. Enabling – In a flawed attempt to help the addict, a loved one will transition into an enabler. Enabling includes:
- Taking on responsibility for the behaviors and feelings of the addicted loved one.
- Working hard to minimize their negative consequences.
- Accepting blame.
- Making excuses.
The line between helping and enabling is often extremely difficult for those who love someone struggling with addiction to discern. What can we do to get back to the blessing God has for us? A restoration of Balance and joy?
- Remember that what God wants for us is best
- Listen to the right voices: God, those who have made it through recovery
- Trust God who covers our shame
- Walk closely with God throughout the losses and pain of a fallen world
- Believe God for a return to Eden
When we are seeking recovery, we also are seeking recovery of the relationships that we have damaged along the way. Relationships with God, Self, Others.
When we are facing the destruction of relationships in our lives, in the lives of others around us and also in our relationship to God, we should remember this Creation story. When we see God in this chapter reach out to the humans he created and loves we should see Him reaching out to us as well. How have you opened up your life to the Father? Is He still trying to find you in your shame or have you responded to Him and received the cleansing grace and forgiveness He wants to give you?
No matter who you are, every life is valuable to God and He is waiting for you right now.
- To restore you to new life.
- To restore your relationships.
- To help you in your recovery.
- What’s the most interesting element of the Creation story to you? What sticks in your mind after reading through this account again?
- What are the implications of the truth that God is our Creator? How does that relate to our relationships? The value of life? How does this help us see how to relate to persons who may be caught up in an addiction / obsession / behavior that is destructive?
- God created Adam and gave him work to do. In what ways does this teach us to value work? Rest is important (necessary) but work fulfills us in certain ways that leisure cannot. What are some of those ways? What are some of the ways we can honor God in our work?
- Boundaries are important to all relationships. What are some examples of common boundaries in relationships? How does addiction destroy boundaries that are necessary for relationships to thrive?
- Companionship, whether in marriage or friendship or support group, is a part of the makeup of human relationships. How would you describe the importance of relationships to keeping our lives on a straight path?
- What is the difference between God’s grace and enabling behavior that is common when there someone in the home with an addiction / obsession / destructive behavior?
- Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was rescued as God reached out to them. We’ve all found ourselves at times when we needed to recover our relationship to God. What is the main message you would like for someone to know who has found themselves going down a destructive path in life?
How Drug Addiction Hurts Relationships By Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC
Relationships and Addiction