If your brother or sister in God comes to you with a problem as serious as addiction, it can be difficult to decide what to do. On the one hand, it behooves you to respond with the grace and respect that your Faith asks of you. While Cane may have said he is not his brother’s keeper, we, as Christians, should strive to be there for our brothers and sisters. And, when your sibling in faith approaches you with a problem as great as an opioid addiction, that means striving to offer the support, love, and understanding they need to recover. That can be incredibly difficult in a world that consistently stigmatizes addiction.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the fact that addiction is a mental health disorder, much like depression or anxiety, you do know that you want to help. As a Christian, you have the option to welcome your brothers and sisters with love and forgiveness, to avoid judgement, and to help them as they find their way back to God’s grace.
No one is perfect. Even the Son of God doubted. Anyone can fall. As Christians, we have the opportunity to help our friends and our brethren back on their feet. Nonjudgement can be difficult considering the stigma and misinformation we’re often taught about addiction. It’s easy to see someone’s opioid use as a personal failing. It isn’t. While opioid addiction stems from poor choices like self-medicating, using pills to feel good, or even (in some cases), taking prescriptions a little too long, the addiction is never the individual’s fault. They didn’t want or ask to be addicted. Genetics, stress, and mental health problems all increase vulnerabilities to addiction. And, addiction is treated with many of the same therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy.
Organizations like AlAnon can offer a lot of resources for learning about addiction and how it affects people. You can also look to books and government resources in your area if you want to learn more.
Eventually, someone struggling with addiction is ill. You wouldn’t judge someone because they have cancer, it’s difficult to judge someone because they have a substance use disorder. God does not judge His flock, nor does he let them fall to the side because they have forsaken him.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul – Psalm 138
Coming to someone with a problem as great as opioid addiction is an act of strength. Admitting to opioid addiction is also an act of strength. It’s also an important first step to getting help and to recovery. By letting you, the congregation, or anyone else know, they have made that powerful first step in not only admitting addiction to others but also to themselves.
A good response is to thank that person for trusting you. To acknowledge the strength required to admit to an addiction and to tell others. Simple acknowledgement of hardship can do a lot to build trust and to make someone feel like they made the right choice. While this is obviously more difficult if that person had no choice but to tell someone or told you after you found them out, it’s still an important step in acknowledging their humanity and the hardship they face.
Some people will immediately be ready to move into rehab and to start getting treatment. Others will need time to come around to the idea, to figure out payment and insurance, and to realize they need it. You can help by preparing with research, support, and even setting things up for them. Of course, if you’re not direct family of the individual involved, you should make sure to collaborate with family members where possible. It may also be a good idea to bring the matter to the attention of your pastor or congregation leader, so that you can work on the problem together.
Essentially, you can find and vet a rehabilitation clinic before bringing it up. In most cases, you want a Christian-based recovery option that uses evidence-based practices to treat addiction. And, if the person you’re trying to help is still addicted, you also want them to offer or support detox.
If someone is using opioids outside of a prescription, or is addicted to them with a prescription, they need help. Whether they’re willing to seek out professional help just now is another question. However, you can talk to them, continue to offer support, and make sure they have everything they need to move away from drugs.
Some ideas include ensuring that they regularly connect with and talk to people. Having regular video calls and reading scripture or talking is one way to do so. Attending 12-Step meetings, online or in person, is another. You have to be able to listen without judging them. And, you have to be able to discuss their options and needs in a way that shows you are concerned for them, and not for what people think of them.
As someone takes the steps to get help, it’s important to continue offering support. Having people who care in your life is one of the primary motivators for change. It’s important that you continue to be there for them as they go to rehab, get out, seek out aftercare, and continue with their lives. At the same time, it’s important not to dwell on addiction. People want to be seen as who they are trying to be, to be given hope that they can be someone else, and not to dwell on addiction. While you do want to help people to remain accountable, in control, and ready to move on, you should move on and treat them as the new people they are working to become. Talk about their family, their progress, their goals, what they’re striving towards, not their addiction, which will hopefully become a thing of the past.
When our brothers and sisters in Christ fall, it is our duty to help them stand up. You shouldn’t risk your own mental or physical health to do so, but often, you can offer immense help by simply being there, talking, and offering nonjudgmental support. If you can, helping in the form of research, learning, and working to connect them with a rehabilitation facility can also be a good tactic. It’s important to continue taking care of yourself, to find balance, and to seek out help and assistance from your community, and from God at the same time.
Addiction is a mental health disorder. It is treatable. People can seek out help and recover, much like they would from any other mental health disorder. It is a long road, it is difficult, and it will require faith and perseverance on their part, but with God’s help, it will happen.