Ask the Thoughtful Pastor: Forced Rehab and Misplaced Forgiveness

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Dear Thoughtful Pastor: Is it possible to force a person into rehab?

My mom confronted my sister about her drug problem again. Of course my sister continues to deny it even though we all know she is lying. She has been using her daughter to hide her drugs for her. She keeps saying she can quit on her own but she can’t. She is stealing money from my parents and she and her family free-load off them. It’s killing my parents. They just want to get her help but don’t know how.   

Are we just supposed to wait until she dies or gets tossed in jail?

Many of us spend much time hoping and praying for healing for those whose addictions are taking them–and their families–down.

As I’ve studied the biblical nature of healing and health, I noted that the person who is ill must want to be healed and to live the life of a well person.

Living as a well person means taking responsibility for our own issues and no longer blaming others or the circumstances around them.

Unfortunately, someone caught in the midst of an addictive cycle cannot think rationally about the nature of getting well because the addiction itself takes over rational thought.

Here’s the situation: you can only do the things that you yourself (or your parents) can control. No one can control your sister’s actions or force her to get well.

Rehab works only when the person who is drug/alcohol dependent seriously wants to change and is willing to pay the cost to do so. Often, that means hitting bottom–like getting tossed in jail. And yes, tragically, too often death intervenes.

Your parents are not helpless here. They can choose their responses. Those may include forbidding her entrance into their house or refusing to help out financially any longer.

The question becomes for all: “What does true love look like here?”

Keep in mind that often the addicted one serves as the scapegoat upon which the rest of the family dumps its own pathologies. If the addictions disappear, a ton of disturbing dysfunction may bubble to the surface–and pressure arise for the addict to backslide.

No easy answers here. Only hard, heart-breaking choices.

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Dear Thoughtful Pastor: In the last year I have struggled with a friendship and continue to listen to sermons and read material on forgiveness to try to let go of the anger I have for this person. I apologized for my part in hurting the relationship, but she never acknowledged her part in some of the problems. She continues to act unkindly towards me. The most ironic part is that she always talks about what a great Christian she is saying, “I’m the best Christian you know!”  I can let go of her transgressions in our friendship which I actually never even told her upset me (I just let her tell me everything I did wrong and then apologize profusely for hurting her).  I’m not expecting the friendship to be what it once was and actually don’t really care to be that close with her again, but I’m angered by her disregard and lack of kindness towards me. We live in the same community, our children are friends, and we share the same friends. I’m having a hard time applying what I have learned about forgiveness to let go of the anger in my heart. Do you have any suggestions?

Well, I showed this question to my husband. His response, “Why does this “friend” need to be forgiven anyway? She sounds like a real ******.” Personally, I call her the classic “mean girl” who somehow manages to be superbly popular in the upside down world of the school-girl pecking order.

Even so, there is forgiveness needed. However, you are going to have to offer it to yourself.

This sounds crazy, but consider this: for some reason, you have made it possible for this “perfect Christian” to routinely mistreat you. You have also given her power over your own soul by your willingness to grovel at her altar of perceived superiority.

You, one created in the image of God, have effectively said, “I have no real worth.” Simply not true.

In the exercise of forgiveness, we often focus on the other rather than self because forgiving ourselves means taking a penetrating, painful, look at our own souls.

Ask, “Why do I permit someone to treat me this way? What do I get out of this? Why do I need to be the bad person?” With answers, you’ll find freedom to release yourself from the power you gave to her.

Forgiveness ultimately replaces anger with deep compassion. Start with compassion toward yourself. Eventually it will also encompass this troubled women.

Forgiveness isn’t easy and never has been. It is the ultimate Christ-act. It starts with you.


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All questions are welcome. You can email your questions to thoughtfulpastor@gmail.com, “like” her Facebook Page, use this form to send them or message her on Twitter. You can also send a question through conventional mail to the following address: Thoughtful Pastor, 314 E. Hickory St., Denton, TX, 76202.

[Note: a version of this column will appear in the Friday, October 30, 2015 print and online editions of The Denton Record Chronicle.]

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