Often I compare working with drug addicts to working with kids in junior high.  There are those that succeed, mature as Christians, and become leaders.  Then there are those that struggle, relapse, have drama and often blame everyone for their misfortunes.  It’s important to draw boundaries with these relationships.

This last week has been difficult for me as I have had a couple of guys on my worship team relapse.  My friend, Trevor, who has been clean and sober for four years, told me the other day that every drug addict is one step away from relapse, and there is no room for error.  He carefully chooses his friends and his locations; he won’t even mess with cough syrup or prescribed pain pills, anything of the sort.  He is very serious about his relationship with Christ and very serious about his recovery.

Then there are those that fall off the wagon.  It’s been disappointing for me to have two of my former worship team guys fall back into old behavior.  What is even more frustrating is the denial that comes with the drug use.  The lack of honesty is so very hard for me.  It actually makes ministry difficult and it’s tempting for me to throw in the towel and go to a “normal” church.

I am reminded of those that have dealt with family members with addictions.  It’s such a difficult road to walk as you see loved ones go down this path.  There are many parents in our church who have abandoned their children because of addiction. I have seen parents that weep for their children who are in addiction.  I have done funerals for families who lost adult children to an overdose. I have had friends with spouses in addiction; I have family members myself who have struggled with addiction.  Addiction is an ugly thing.  The reality is that nobody can deal with their addiction without honesty.  Families always want to believe in their loved ones but unfortunately addicts lie. More than often, families contribute to the addiction by allowing sinful behavior of loved ones and are tolerant of things that should not be tolerated.  It’s a painful cycle.  Drawing healthy boundaries with an addict is the only way a family can survive without co-dependency.

As a people pleaser, it is hard for me to lay down the boundaries with people; therefore working with addicts has had its challenges. One book that has helped me deal with people who have addictions is called “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  It’s a faith based study to help people learn to say “no”.  It’s a book that gives biblical wisdom on drawing boundaries not only with addicts, but in all “dysfunctional” relationships.  It came in handy while I worked for a boss who did not respect the boundaries of others and had unreasonable expectations in employees. It also came in handy with my own children when I recognized some unhealthy parenting that I was falling into.  The book was recommended to me by an adult friend who has had a life long relational struggle with her mother.

In the end I have learned that I can’t change someone or take responsibility for the actions of others.   I can only change my own behavior and actions.  I have also learned that it’s not my job to make everyone happy; after all, some people will never be happy.  All I can do is spread what joy Christ has given me and hope that others will adopt that joy for themselves.  Drawing boundaries is a difficult thing because it doesn’t always please those that it affects.  A child who is not allowed to get their way will get angry when disciplined.  A boss who demands numerous hours of overtime will not be pleased when you say no to another project.  A drug addict who wants to pretend nothing is wrong will be angry when you remind them that their actions are not going to be tolerated.  God does not want us to aid in the sins of others.  He wants us to help others by making strong, healthy boundaries with those that sin. He wants us to be full of grace but that does not mean we tolerate sinful behavior that is destructive.  We are to please God, not people.

3 Comments on “Boundaries

  1. Thanks for sharing! The one thing that I have loved about my church is the grace that is given when someone messes up. All are welcomed, but we have to keep the boundaries with the addicts we are working with. Read the book, it really opened my eyes and helped me understand grace and my role in helping others.

  2. Thanks for recommending a good book; I’m sure I need to read it.
    I’m pretty sure that I don’t have this figured out at all. I’m very tolerant of bad behavior and very sympathetic to people’s trouble. Honestly, the trouble I have is understanding how Jesus did this. You know, he loved the sinners. Then said go and sin no more. And you have the pharisees that were very judgmental and Jesus really didn’t seem to like them. So boundaries is a good word because it is saying, no to allowing hurt/pain/sin…whatever it is and trying to stand in that.
    I still feel responsible for anybody’s problem whatever it might be (ha) at least I’ve figured out that I’m taking on too much responsibility and need to stop it. 🙂

  3. Thats right sister!! Sometimes I think people think Im heartless when it comes to setting limits with addicts, but after twenty plus years of working with them Ive learned my lessons the hard way. Loving an addict, family or not, is not accepting unacceptable behavior, just like with our junior highers :)The best thing you can do to help an addict is to help ” raise the bottom”. Addicts dont usually stop until the pain of using becomes greater than the pain of stopping.Boundaries are good in all areas of our lives and setting them only shows that we care.
    As a Christian, we should show Grace but that doesnt mean that we ignore, turn a blind eye to, or accept the addicts behavior. It is very sad when people choose to go back out and use but once theyve been clean for awhile, thats what it is………..a choice

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