So you love someone who struggles with addiction.
This journey is long, and I have found that it involves a lot of learning and unlearning ways of living and being!
And rightly so. Just like our addicted loved ones are learning how to live sober (hopefully). If not, please grab my free devotional and prayer journal and start praying now!
Even if our loved ones are not ready to embrace sobriety, just like we expect and hope they will be open to learning a new way to live, we need to take the same approach.
Here are 10 must-read books that helped me:
- Understand Addiction
- Understand How the Brain Works and Changes
- Understand How to Create and Keep Healthy Boundaries
- Heal Trauma
- Experience Personal Growth
- Learn Healthy Ways to Respond and Relate to Our Addicted Loved Ones
While most of us do not have a way of relating to the behaviors of someone who is addicted to a substance or pornography or something else, we need a way to conceptualize the actions of our addicted loved ones. Not because we want to excuse their behavior, but because we need to have compassion and empathy. This is important because the journey of loving someone in addiction involves many setbacks and failures. It will be nearly impossible to love, help, and bear with them and the burden of addiction if we cannot rightly understand the pain underneath the surface of someone who struggles with addiction. That’s why I love the book below. Compassion and empathy make forgiveness and healing possible!
Gabor Matė gives us an eye-opening compassionate look into his work with extremely addicted patients and their stories. He also possesses scientific knowledge of the inner workings of addiction. And that helped me greatly. This book is not from a biblical worldview and I did not agree with his suggestion at the end for how to deal with addiction in our communities. However, I gained a much greater sense of understanding for those who turned to a life of substance abuse, and you will too by reading this book.
It is a fairly large book, but I finished it in a matter of days because it was so fascinating to me!
Understand How the Brain Works and Changes
One of the greatest problems people face who love someone who struggles with addiction is debilitating anxiety, depression, and obsessiveness. They also have to manage anger and sometimes unrelenting levels of stress.
You obsess over what your loved one is doing, where they are, and if they are safe.
You barely sleep. You barely eat, or you overeat trying to comfort yourself from the chaos of loving an addict.
You also know your addicted loved one needs to change. You can see that so clearly!
But how do we change? How do we learn to think, act, and respond differently?
Especially when our old ways of living are no longer working. They have taken a toll on our finances, mental, physical, and relational health.
This book is a great tool for answering the very questions you are asking! Dr. Amen goes through various types of disordered thinking and relationship stumbling blocks, and equips readers with tools to cope and correct in a healthier way! I loved his medical, natural, and practical approach to changing your brain and changing your life!
Again, this is not from a biblical worldview, but God made our brains! As you read along apply biblical wisdom and principles to what you’re reading and try some of the practical steps.
Remember there is ONE way to salvation: Jesus is the way the truth and the Life. But healing can be nuanced and different strategies work best for different situations! Keep an open mind and put on your biblical filter as you read!
2. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems by Daniel G. Amen, MD
Understand How to Create and Keep Healthy Boundaries
This section is the most important in my opinion, and it has also been my greatest struggle as well as the biggest obstacle for others I talk with about loving someone who struggles with addiction.
What are boundaries?
Who needs boundaries?
Why are boundaries important?
And why do we struggle so much to enforce boundaries, especially with those closest to us?
The short answer; boundaries are a necessary life skill to living a peaceful and healthy life. But you will have to fight to establish that peace, and it will take effort to guard it. Especially if you find yourself in relationships with dysfunctional or people who struggle with addiction.
The good news is that there are so many great voices sharing their wisdom and tools. Check out some of my favorite books on boundaries below.
3. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
4. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab
5. Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Glover Tawwab
6. Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others without Losing the Best of Who You Are by Lysa TerKeurst
Maybe you grew up in a chaotic and dysfunctional environment. Or maybe your life was sideswiped by a relationship with your addicted loved one. Either way, life has been unpredictable and chaotic. And I know trauma sounds like a big scary word. So much so that we often don’t want to admit that we are struggling to feel safe in our bodies.
If this is you, these books are going to be a balm to your soul. I want you to understand that God desires healing and wholeness for you, just as much as He desires it for your struggling loved one. Start your healing journey today with these resources and leave behind living in surviving mode all the time. Survival mode is not the life God intended for you, He came to bind up your wounds and lead you into abundant life. There is a pathway to healing—walking with Him and learning from others who have blazed this trail. You are seen, known, loved, and created with great intention and purpose. Get to know God by exploring how He wired you and how He may be leading you to wholeness.
7. Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us Out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode and Into a Life on Connection and Joy by Aundi Kolber MA LPC
8. Strong Like Water: Finding the Freedom, Safety, and Compassion to Move Through Hard Things and Experience True Flourishing by Aundi Kolber MA LPC
9. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kold, MD
Learn Healthy Ways to Respond and Relate to Our Addicted Loved Ones
This last book is for you if:
You are the person your struggling loved one always calls when they need something.
They depend on you for money, rides, and other support even when they are in active addiction.
You find yourself reaching out and making arrangements to get them into rehab. You try harder than them and are always trying to convince them to go to treatment even though they display actions that prove they are not ready.
You are overwhelmed by guilt. You feel like their addiction is your fault somehow and it is your responsibility to save them.
You are a nurse or in some other helping profession and find yourself overextending yourself often to rescue or save others in trouble or from the consequences of their own bad choices. Even at the risk of your safety and well-being.
Now, I am not saying it is always wrong to help our addicted loved ones. But when we do get involved when we need to do so with wisdom and guidance from God and godly counsel. We need to do so prayerfully. If you struggle with any of the scenarios above, you need to read Melody’s book. She helps us to understand how sometimes the actions we take with our addicted loved ones are actually not helpful, but may be perpetuating the cycle of addiction. Or hindering our loved one’s willingness to get sober. This is a highly-rated book and a must-read if you love someone who struggles with addiction.
10. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
The path of loving someone who struggles with addiction is complicated and long. And for many of us, there is so much we don’t know when we get started on this journey. But we are not alone. Nor do we have to be an expert to engage with our struggling loved ones in a God-honoring way. There are tons of great resources! And many people who have walked the high highs and low lows of this road.
I hope these ten books will be resources that God uses to help you learn and grow. And that you soon realize all the ways God uses the horrible reality of addiction to heal and sanctify us into His image. So that we can be an eternal source of hope and help to others. Addiction is often a gift in this way. And while we never asked for this, if you allow God, He will use it for your good, the good of others, and His glory!
Want to get started with a free Christian faith-based resource instead? Download my free devotional below.
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