Enabling a Loved One: A Christian Perspective

We all have one in our family. The loved one who drinks a little too much, gambles, or takes a few too many pain pills. These family members can be the root of arguments, suffering, and drama. It can be very stressful to deal with loved ones who have a drinking problem or other issues with addiction.

Well-meaning families have usually tried everything. They write checks, beg loved ones, pray to God, fast, and usually try to control every problem that comes up. What is hard is to realize is that by interfering in the natural course of events, we are not allowing God to handle the problem.

Enabling is what we do when we don’t allow someone to experience the consequences of their own behavior. Many factors affect our decision to help an addict or not. We are the product of our own upbringing, and if we were witness to the covering up or controlling of problems, we will naturally do it ourselves.

Another factor is the shame and embarrassment that comes with having a family member who gets arrested, has their name in the paper, is summoned to court dates, or causes destruction. We understandably want to take away our pain and that of our affected loved one and so we do what we can to smooth over the issues and relieve the anguish.

What helps? Counseling with our spiritual father and addiction professionals can help us discern whether we are doing the right or wrong things. Our spiritual father can help us decide where God can work His magic and where we should stay out of it. Many times this will take years of therapy or work on our part to release ourselves from the overwhelming feeling of responsibility towards someone who is making poor decisions.

I have been involved with a co-dependency group for almost twenty years. At first I went to help a loved one who was in recovery, but soon it became evident that the program was for me. I was not attending my church on a regular basis, and I felt overwhelmed by my own problems. After taking part in the co-dependency meetings, I went back to my church and became involved. My love for Christ has grown in the wake of my release from problems that were really not my own.

Recently I wrote my first book about my spiritual journey. It includes my own struggle with overcoming control and perfectionism. We are not perfect; only God is. If you are dealing with an addict or alcoholic loved one, or if you suspect you or someone in your family is having difficulty, I encourage you to seek help from your spiritual father, a professional counselor, or attend a twelve-step program for families in your local area.

Joanne Jamis Cain is the author of Ordinary IS Extraordinary.

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Joanne Jamis Cain is a steward of the Holy Trinity…
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