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Marriages Devastated by Addiction

Jennifer Slattery“My husband’s addicted to crack, and I’m leaving him.”

I couldn’t believe my friend’s words. This from one of the sweetest, most godly women I knew. As she continued to tell me about the chaos and utter destructi
on that had ripped through her home, all I could think of was, “How did I not know?”

I first met Joy at a homeschool “playgroup” gathering and was instantly drawn to her. She was quiet, quick to smile, and always seemed so peaceful. As a mother of two teenage boys, she’d been homeschooling much longer than I had and appeared to have everything figured out. She was one of those women us younger moms looked up to and wanted to emulate.

And maybe that’s why, when her marriage and family began to fall apart, she didn’t come to any of us. I can’t help but wonder if our expectations of her, though unintentional, kept her from asking for help.

My friend’s struggle became the inspiration for my latest novel, Breaking Free. As I researched issues surrounding drug use and alcoholism, I learned addiction is more common than we realize. Data indicates drug and alcohol addiction is becoming more prevalent, resulting in 23.5 million Americans enslaved by their addictions[1]. According to a 2015 Gallup pole, more than 30 percent of families surveyed said alcohol use caused trouble for their family. That’s three out of every tenth person we encounter.

As I watched my friend and her children fight for survival and sanity against this insidious disease, I realized no family is immune to the ravages of addiction. But neither must they tread these tumultuous waters alone.

There are numerous ways we can help believers who are married to addicts, and the first is to be fully present.

Looking back over my time with my friend, I realized I was often distracted and focused on myself. As a result, our conversations tended to remain surface level. What if I’d gone deeper? What if I’d paid attention to her body language and responses, refusing to settle for an “I’m fine” when I asked her how she was?

We live in a busy and largely impersonal world where it’s easy to hold quick, casual conversations, but God longs for us to go deeper. To focus on others, alert to their facial expressions, body language, and what they may or may not be saying between the lines. We need to slow down, make our friends a priority, and create opportunities for them to share their fears and hurts.

The second way we can help is to create and maintain an atmosphere of grace.

We women can be so hard on one another, often without even realizing it. I think many times this stems from our own insecurities. In our efforts to prove we’re valuable and great mothers and wives, we present an image of perfection. This in turn can create an implied expectation of perfection in the others around us.

An attitude of grace, however, gives our friends permission to be imperfect. To have imperfect marriages and children. This in turn creates a “safe place” where our friends can openly and honestly share their deepest hurts and trials.      

Finally, we need to convey a commitment to longsuffering love, a love that stays even when—especially when—things get hard.

Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (NLT).

Addiction is a hard, lonely road, not just for the addict but for their loved ones as well. A strong support system can give our friends the courage and strength to fight for emotional and marital health.

Addiction is a destructive force that tears apart families and plunges God’s precious children into shame, but His love, shown through us, can help pull them out. We can’t assume our friends and their marriages are OK. We need to go deeper, focusing on the needs and emotional cues in our friends, creating an atmosphere of grace, and choosing to stand beside our friends when their life gets hard. If we do that, I believe God can use us to bring hope and healing to the hurting women we encounter each day.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Jennifer Slattery or her novel, Breaking Free, visit Jennifer’s site or the Breaking Free book page.

[1] Staff writer. “New Data Show Millions of Americans With Alcohol and Drug Addiction Could Benefit From Healthcare R.” Accessed 2/10/2016

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