A Note from Chris Adams: Last week we started discussing the topic of addiction and the impact that it has on women who battle with addictions as well as the entire family. Today, Dr. Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA, addresses the topic from the perspective of having a husband who has an addiction. Although this is a very painful and messy topic, it is one that so many women, both outside and inside our churches, are facing daily.
A normal conversation over coffee in a popular gathering place.
That’s what we were having until the words and tears began flooding out of her. Her perfect makeup, hair, and image dissolved away as she told the story of her life. Her story included a dad with an alcohol addiction.
The mom and daughters had a “normal” routine of secretly getting her and her sister out of the house because her dad turned into a monster when he drank. They stayed in a cheap hotel on the far side of town so no one would see them and discover the secret: an addiction controlled the family. She put on a fake smile and went to school hoping no one could see through the facade, one that had remained in place until that day over coffee.
Keeping up appearances for a lifetime had left her exhausted and alone. As in most families with a person with addictive behaviors, ways of dealing with life and the impact of addictive behaviors are learned young and can stay with someone for all of her life.
- The feeling of walking on eggshells, afraid to upset the addictive person, leads to being a people pleaser who is afraid of confrontation.
- The feeling of censoring every word, every thought, every sentence, so no one will have a clue of what is happening in the family, leads to the need to isolate oneself and guard against close personal relationships.
- The feeling of being on constant alert for signs that the addictive person is tipping from sobriety into succumbing to the addiction, leads to an inability to relax, to living in a constant state of stress and distress.
- The feeling of living in the unknown of what will happen next leads to a distrust of any type of commitment.
- The feeling of not being able to trust anyone or anything because bad things continue to happen even though promises have been made that things will be different leads to a distrust of everyone and everything.
- The feeling of being responsible for keeping the integrity of the family intact, leads to the need to control every situation and person. Codependency and manipulation create an inward-focused, dependent family.
The life of a woman who has lived or is living in a family with an addict is complicated. It is hard work to deal with the demands of life while riding the roller coaster of addictions. Her life is full of conflict, isolation, hurts, mistrust, and unpredictability.
What does a woman who has been impacted by an addicted family member need?
- A safe place to talk. She needs a place where she is accepted and a place free from judgment.
- Confidentiality. She needs a place where her secrets are kept until she is ready to share her story.
- Support. Emotional issues, even PTSD, can result from having a family member who has an addiction problem.
- Counseling to get past her woundedness.
- To be saved from herself. She needs to understand that unhealthiness or toxicity in a family spreads quickly; wounded people wound others. Families with addicts are frequently infected with codependency, manipulation, and control. Helping her become aware of these will help her stop the pattern of unhealthy relationships for future generations.
- New ways to interact with others. Because normal relationships have not been patterned for her, she reacts based on what she has seen all of her life. Equipping her with new relationship skills will help her build a healthy support community around her.
The most important thing we can do is remind her that Christ loves and accepts her—that He is with her and for her as she walks through this life. He can heal her hurts, encourage her heart, and give her hope for the future.
Next week we will continue this discussion on addictions from a different perspective.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.