Love God with all your heart

January 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Theological Perspectives

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. – 1 John 4:7

Guest Author: Mary Boone, Austin TX

As an interventionist, I have opportunity to reflect on ways in which the illness of addiction robs one of the ability to truly love. Rather than supporting intimacy, commitment, and unconditional warm regard in a family or amongst friends, it promotes distance, broken promises, and ill will. Rather than leading persons to their God, it sets up false gods.

As addiction of any type progresses in families, the Rule of don’t trust; don’t talk; and don’t feel gradually takes over and governs relationships. When life is painful and coping involves addiction to substances or behaviors, a family becomes dysfunctional. Trust is absent because honesty with self and others is absent. Talk is absent because walls of protection surround persons in an effort to avoid facing the truth. Feeling is absent because no one can afford to feel the pain. Relationships become superficial and persons rely on externals for an artificial sense of comfort and security – a false feel-good.

On the other hand, I also have the opportunity to witness the miracle of recovery. The illness of addiction can be a gift that, in recovery, fosters strong relationships, authenticity, and acceptance. It can become the path to loving God with all one’s heart, to healing that makes loving oneself possible, and to compassion and outreach to others.

A Team knowledgeable about supporting persons or family members at critical times and referring them to resources can play an important role in whether the addictive process is interrupted or not. Intervention is any effort that interrupts the progression of addiction and initiates change and healing. Intervention can happen in many ways. Often it is in the form of not rescuing persons from the negative consequences of their behavior and helping them to view the consequence as opportunity to initiate recovery. For many family members, this concept runs counter to what is familiar and feels “un-Christian.” They are in need of education and support.

As I conclude this reflection, I am reminded of an older gentleman in his late seventies whose family developed the courage to talk to him about the effect his drinking had on their lives. As a result, he entered a treatment program. After several months of recovery, he said to me, “I wish my family had talked to me sooner. How different our lives could have been.” Perhaps if a faith community had delivered the message….

Many times I have wondered how it is that some find recovery and many others don’t. I think the difference lies in the support structures that may or may not be present. Core beliefs and values that have developed over time predispose persons to growth in recovery or to continued self-destruction. If helpful support structures that reinforce openness to growth are available early, persons have a much greater opportunity to “grab on” to recovery. Faith communities are definitely one of those support structures.

Faith communities have an essential role to play in finding that path and facilitating the Great Commandment. However, faith communities, which are made up of families, are at risk of adopting the Rule of the dysfunctional families that allows addiction to grow unless there is a commitment made to honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness – the Rule of recovery and healthy functioning. Honesty with self and others cuts through the deception necessary to sustain addiction. Open-mindedness creates an atmosphere in which new information can be incorporated and one’s thinking can change for the better. Willingness is the ingredient necessary to overcome fear and change behavior.

How might faith communities implement such a mission? Creating a Team that is equipped with the necessary tools, such as non-judgmental attitude, understanding, information, and knowledge of resources,, is an important first step. Simply having such a structure in the community goes a long way towards establishing an environment in which addictive behaviors can be addressed openly and without judgment. It will result in greater awareness and persons will not be seduced so easily by the “false feel-goods.”

The Team has an essential role in prevention of addiction and in intervention to stop its progression. Prevention can be viewed as an effort to discourage engaging substance or behavioral addiction by modeling and teaching alternative ways of handling life’s inevitable pain. Prevention can also be viewed as an effort to minimize the damage of addiction in early, middle, or late stages and stop the progression by creating an atmosphere where persons trust one another enough to talk honestly about difficulties and share their feelings.

The team can implement strategies that convey the message, “It is ok to talk about it here.” Concerned family members may be empowered to come forward for support and information. More often than not, it is family members who seek help first. Changed attitudes and behaviors on their part often motivate the addicted persons to seek help.

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 via Flickr

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