There are so many grandparents these days who are morbidly concerned for their children and especially grandchildren. A scourge has hit the heart of family and it bleeds into every sinew of connection, poisoning intimacy. It takes its prisoners on many accounts and it ruins myriad lives. In some cases, it takes no prisoners because death is involved.
Drugs and addictions steal the heart of the family member. Their heart is no longer for what is best for everyone. Their loyalties are divided; their heart is for the substance now. Drugs and addictions kill the hope that once throbbed and thrived within them. Those dreams seem lost and, at least for a time, irretrievable. And drugs and addictions destroy every semblance of peace and safety from the family unit. There is never a time when everyone can relax, and perhaps there are some who are never at ease.
Despite the chatter of the drug user — who has become an evangelist for their substance — there is no good thing about their substances/s of choice; it only produces harm. They have come to protect a component of their life they will not, and in many cases cannot, live without. Addiction causes the addict to manipulate people; they must in order to get what they need. We may also know something of this. We may share some of their story as our history. So many of us do, and this is how we can testify to the truth, that drugs and addictions are a scourge for society. We paid the price. And so did our loved ones. Addiction is no respecter of persons. It can snare anyone.
So, what can be done?
The prevailing wisdom is tough love. We do not enable them. We do not bail them out. We pray for the rock bottom experience that will bring them to their senses. We don’t make excuses for them. We do not give them money or the means to continue their harmful habits. Hard as these things are, we must pray that they find no enablement. Unfortunately, there are always some who will insist on ‘helping’ them.
What if there are dependents involved? This is the saddest reality, because we become eye witnesses to the abuses of neglect, among other abuses that are carried out. The World Health Organization (WHO) arrange child abuse into four categories: physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, and neglect. If we see abuse, what should we do? We should do the right thing, of course. Be prepared to report it. Do as much as is possible to get the abused the help they require. But be warned, things often get worse before they get better. You will need every ounce of strength and every minute of support. The situation may get more painful than you could have previously imagined possible.
One thing we can do is pray. Another thing we can do is be a positive influence in the children’s lives, but we also must be prepared for an eventuality where access to them may be curtailed if the drug addicted family member feels threatened. Things can turn nasty quickly.
It can be difficult, even impossible, not to enable yet maintain a working relationship.
One thing to remember always is we need to exercise the wisdom of self-restraint. Maybe you are the only sensible adult influence in the child’s life. That’s a precious role you have. You have a God-anointed function in their lives. Do what you reasonably can to stay a part of their lives. And see what you can get them involved in that builds hope, joy, and peace into their lives.
But we should resist the temptation to retain a role in drug-affected lives through enabling the addict.
Where we as grandparents and parents (and at times as children of addicts) do well is to have faith that change can occur, but change only occurs when the person needing to change is honest with themselves and others and stays honest.