Real Help for Real Living
Prayer requests are handled differently in different churches. Some are printed in the bulletin. Sometimes the minister reads the requests. Some people share prayer concerns during the service. Some churches gather around you for the “laying on of hands.”
Regardless of the tradition, there are two prayer requests that have never been nor will ever be uttered during the Sunday morning service. The first is “I have hemorrhoids.” Don’t even think about the “laying on of hands” in this scenario. The other is asking for prayer because a loved one is an alcoholic or drug addict.
I mentioned that to a pastor and his answer was, “Yes, I have heard that prayer asked” but always in the privacy of the pastor’s office. Never before the rest of the congregation.
Substance abuse, whether it is alcohol or drugs, carries an “ocean” of shame for the non-addict with a loved one caught in this problem. To admit one has a family member or loved one with this problem is almost to say, “I’m damaged goods because my loved one is an addict. I failed at being a good parent” or “I failed at choosing the right mate.”
What do you do? Permit me to speak to you – the non-addict.
I am responsible “to” others, not “for” others. (Did you catch the difference? If not, go back and read it again.) When I speak at a church, I am responsible to be there, to be there on time and to have something from God’s word to challenge the congregation. I am responsible “to” you. I’m not responsible “for” you. I can’t control whether you are taking notes on my sermon or working on your grocery list. That is your decision, not mine.
Every addict needs someone in his life to keep him from facing the consequences of his addictive behavior. That non-addicted person confuses love with enabling. I’ve had too many conversations with parents who ask the following about their 23-year-old, young adult child: First, should I bail him or her out of jail? Second, should I replace his or her car when he or she totaled it during the last drinking binge?
The answer is NO. Instead of replacing the car, I counseled one family to buy their love one a bike. While biking to work, the addict would have to ponder the question, “Was that fifth can of beer worth it enough to bike to work instead of driving?”
The family never called me back. I’m sure they replaced the car.
Think of the typical cowboy movie where the bad guy gets shot, falls off the roof and dies. In reality, if that did happen, the director would be arrested for murder. Instead, the actor is confident to fall off the roof because the director has placed a big, blue “air pillow” next to the saloon. After the actor lands on the blue pillow, he hops off, crew members move the pillow, and he lies down and does his death-and-dying scene. That’s what you and I see while watching the movie.
We never see the safety nets.
Every addict has a big, blue, air pillow in his or her life, someone who will prevent the addict from facing the consequences of his or her behavior. If you decide to move the pillow and allow your loved one to land hard on the ground, they will stand up and curse you out.
Normally, that’s enough for you to apologize and return the pillow to its rightful place (note my sarcasm). After all, you hate conflict. But if you do that, your loved one will never change.
Change comes only when you move the pillow, and say, “I’m going to honor your decision to drink and drive and wreck the car and get arrested.”
Since I am not going to bail you out of jail or buy you another car – or allow you to use mine (and here is the key phrase) – what are you going to do about it? When your loved one finishes cursing you out, telling you he or she hates your God and wishing he or she was never born, call me at 704-333-HOPE, ext. 202. I’ll support you for taking the first step of moving your loved one from a life of insanity to a life of serenity.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friends.
Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission and a regular South Charlotte Weekly columnist. He is available to speak to your group. Call 704-334-4635, ext. 213, to schedule him.