by Dr. Paul Hardy
Founder and Executive Director– Recovery for Life Ministries
He sits before me, flowing, shoulder-length hair with a strong athletic build. Wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops, you know he has to be a surfer. M. has become a friend, a counselee and a disciple. We have had deep discussions about life, his relationships and especially his recovery. I refer to him as an emotional vampire because his drive as an addict basically sucked the emotions from all those around him. Today, he is here to talk about a very personal matter and seek advice about how to work with a “delicate situation” as he calls it.
After we talked through his options and I offer a few words of Christ-centered advice, I stopped our talked and asked him this question. “M., I’m going to be addressing over one-hundred substance abuse counselors on Friday. What would you like to make sure that they know from your heart to theirs?”
“Dr. Paul, they have to know that unless they have paced all night, frantacilly craving one more hit of a drug, unless they have been to the point that they would do anything, I mean really anything, just to get high one more time, unless they have been there, don’t tell me you understand what’s going on with me. You don’t understand.”
This understanding is key to working with recovering addicts. For counselors, family and friends, it may be beyond reach. If we have not walked a few miles in their shoes, we do not have the right to pass sentence on their motives. The best we can do is to listen to the heart of the matter and follow a few simple guidelines. Obviously, the addict’s actions must be policed and consequences must become reality. That still does not mean that we “understand.”
Understanding Emotional Vampires
• There is a part of them that is good and right and pure. In their worst and darkest moments, people who do terrible things to get drugs and alcohol, still have a deep sense of longing to be something wholesome and blessed. The Apostle Paul shares the struggles between the flesh and the spirit in Romans 8 and tells us that within him the struggle was between what he knew to be right and what he desired in his flesh. The struggle is so much more obvious and prevalent in the addict.
• They have very little understanding about boundaries. One young lady who stole from her grandmother said, “I figured even if that one hundred dollar bill is yours, you’d probably want me to have it. Your credit card and jewelry too.” A teen we interviewed had stolen his grandfather’s pistol and a few coins. “It was just some old junk he had hidden in a drawer.” They were actually priceless heirlooms passed down from generations, sold for $50 and a few rocks of crack cocaine never to be recovered.
• We must become educators. Friends and family must step aside from their emotional attachments and become educated and educators. We have to become resource agents who point the addict in the right direction. WE are not the destiny of that direction. The emotional entrapment of the addict begins with manipulation. Their goal is to lie, steal and cheat for one more high. Therefore, we must detach from the emotions, point them in the right direction and then, LET THEM GO.
When the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) is manipulated by his son to give him his inheritance, he simply gives him his portion and lets him go. What brings the wandering son or daughter back to the fold? What drives them to a state of recovery?
When no one gave him anything, he came to his senses. Luke 15:16
This blog article was written by Dr. Paul Hardy, a champion for the cause of broken and addicted people. For the last 12 years, he and his wife Suzie have dedicated their lives to helping people break free from the bondages of addictions and compulsive behaviors. Together, they founded Recovery for Life, a non-profit that ministers to over 300 people a week in the Virginia Beach, Tidewater area. He is also the Director of the Life Counseling and Recovery Center of Eastern Virginia. Visit their Recovery for Life website (formerly Recovery for the City)