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First Thoughts

When Your Loved One is Consumed by Drugs, Alcohol, and Life-Dominating Sins

One of the most devastating things a parent can learn is that your child is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or any other life-dominating sin! We question many times, “what did I do wrong as a parent?” The same can be true when it is not our child but a close family member or even a friend.

From studying Scripture, we know that Psalm 1:1 teaches us the progression of mankind toward sin. God tells us in this verse, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Did you pick up that progress there? Walks, stands, sits? Your loved one has taken that progression, and something other than God has now become their master. The root of an addiction is really a desire of their heart that has turned into an idol they worship. The Bible tells us to “Have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), so to pursue this idol and follow this choice is a sin.

As parents, we want to do everything possible to help. Even through our frustration and anger with them, we are called upon to continue to love well. We are even called to grow in our love for them but also to be very careful not to be manipulated by them. Addicts are usually persuasive manipulators, as they are seeking by any means possible to serve the things that they’re worshipping. True love is not controlled by manipulation! As they try to manipulate you to give them what they want, don’t give in to manipulation.

When you are helping your adult child break free from the addictions they are pursuing, you must continually point them to the God of the Bible and, by his grace, love them unconditionally. Remember, the desire to pursue sin comes from their heart, and thus, you can do nothing to change their heart. Only God can change them. So, you need to be very diligent in your prayers. Pray for God to grant them repentance. Pray for them to submit to the Lord and refrain from the behaviors that led to their addiction. If your loved one is not a believer, pray specifically for them to be saved and seek the opportunity to share the gospel with them regularly! Their biggest problem in life is not their addiction! Their lack of a saving relationship is their biggest problem in life, as it is for any person in our world who isn’t a believer.

It is important to remember that sin is what got them where they are, and sin will keep them there. Their only hope is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Sometimes it will take a devastating event coming into their life to cause them to stop pursuing the thing they are serving in their addiction. Be fervent but not pushy. Continue to show them the truth about this sin that is besetting them. Call them to trust in Jesus and submit to him daily.

What are some key elements to us helping our loved one serve God rather than a sinful, life-dominating substance?

  • Speaking honestly about what is going on. We try to sugarcoat things a lot in our society. We should call this pursuit of sinful desires what the Bible calls it. The Bible refers to substance abuse as “drunkenness.” God tells us to be drunk on the Spirit rather than wine. Substance abuse is not an illness, but it is a sinful choice to trust in something else to meet our needs rather than our loving God!
  • Help your addicted family member come up with a plan for change and help them stick to it. This can be hard to do, but it must be non-negotiable. Lovingly help them to pursue the plan that comes from God’s word. The plan for change should include times to be home, a commitment to not use any kind of substances at all, attending church, including worship and Sunday School small groups, submitting to an accountability partner to meet with weekly, staying away from ungodly influences and people they’ve hung with before, forsaking filthy language, committing to total truthfulness, and submitting to periodic, random drug testing.
  • It is vital that your loved one has a job and a plan for how to spend their free time as well so they don’t have idle time on their hands. They will also need help managing money so that they don’t fall back into sin. As a loved one, it is vital to help them budget their money well so that there is no room to give into the desires of their heart.
  • Above all, your loved one needs to know Jesus supremely! Some of the treatment programs in our world will encourage your loved one to pursue “god as you understand him.” We should encourage them to know the true God and worship him. He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Our eyes need to be firmly focused on him so that we aren’t pulled away to worship another idol rather than submitting to him.

Can God help your loved one to forsake the gods they’ve chosen to worship? Absolutely! He’s helped you and me to do so and to trust him as Lord of our life! God tells us, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

Recommended Resources:

Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts by Mark E. Shaw

Freedom from Addiction: Turning from Your Addictive Behavior by Edward T. Welch

Steve Clifton is the Pastor of Care and Discipleship and has served First Baptist Church of Jacksonville since 1996 in a variety of pastoral positions. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Church Music Performance from Arkansas State University in 1983 and completed post-graduate work in the field of Christian Education. He became certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors in 2017 and earned a specialization in addictions counseling in 2021.

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