Helping an Addicted Loved One

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Why “Setting Your Loved One Down” is the Best Way of Helping an Addicted Loved One

When you find yourself fighting desperately to save the life of someone you love, there is an overwhelming tendency to reach out and steer the course of his or her ship. You know he or she is suffering. You may have even been there yourself at one point. And all you want to do is help.

You say to yourself, over and over again, “Maybe if I just . . .”

But at the end of the day, you know that he or she is the only person who can change his or her life. After all, what can you do about the chains of addiction when the addict is the one holding the key?

A Morsel of Wisdom from an Old Monk

Two traveling monks, sworn to an oath of silence and celibacy, came to a river that was flooding over the banks. As they were preparing to swim across, they noticed a harlot stranded on the other side.

Without thinking, the older monk swam across, picked her up, and brought her safely back. When he set her down, she thanked him and he bowed before turning to cross the river again. The younger monk was shocked that he had not only touched a harlot, but addressed her directly too!

For miles, the younger monk was furious at his elder for breaking his vows.

Finally, he snapped, shouting at the older monk, “How could you pick up that woman? How could you speak to her and break your vows?”

The older monk turned ever so slightly and said, “I set her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

What Does It Mean to Set Her Down?

If you think about this parable for a moment, you’ll begin to realize two important details that you can use in your own life when trying to help a person who has an addiction.

First, the monk helped the woman because she needed help and she was asking for help. Both the “needing” and the “asking” part are necessary before you can start helping. It doesn’t mean they will, but you have a better chance if they come to you.

Second, as soon as the task was done—as soon as the woman was safe and well—the monk set her down both physically and mentally. What does this really mean to “set her down?” Perhaps, it means to let yourself release the burden from your shoulders and live your own life. Perhaps, it also means that you let your loved one be responsible for his or her own actions, even if he or she is hurting.

Set Your Loved One Down and Love Them More

At first glance, this idea of setting down your loved ones who are struggling with addictions might seem backwards, but it could mean the difference between being pushed away when they think you are controlling them or letting them come to you because they trust you will help them. When you step into someone else’s life, and you try to direct it, you take away his or her ability to live their own life.

So set your loved one down. Live your life without carrying his or her burden. And help your loved ones when they are in need—asking for your help.

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