They say distance makes the heart grow fonder.
But is that really true?
Does space between two loved ones create closeness?
If we’re going to be honest, that saying makes us feel better when we can’t be with someone we love. But distance doesn’t bring us closer. Instead, it brings us pain.
It’s easy to see this when thinking of “distance” as being geographical such as when one spouse is away in the military, a new couple living in separate states sparks a new online romance, or a company sends a parent away for a month to forge new business prospects.
What’s not quite so easy to see is when “distance” occurs in the same geographical location.
This is the difficult experience families and loved ones of addicts have to endure.
And it comes in two forms.
The first is when the person struggling with an addiction goes to rehab. In some cases, geographical distance is a factor here. But not always. Either way, however, even if the addict attends a rehab in the same city as his or her family lives in, the contact and interaction between the two is limited.
This is the “so close yet so far” scenario. It’s like a traveler who always wanted to see Mexico who goes to El Paso, Texas. Looking across the border, (s)he can see Mexico as clear as day. Not having a passport, however, (s)he cannot cross the border. It’s right there. But at the same time, it’s just as far as Mars.
This is how families with loved ones in rehab feel.
Another battle these families face is “distance” when the addict is right in front of them. And this is truly a difficult situation to be in.
What happens here is the addict is not in rehab. (S)he is home, physically present with the family. But the addiction has removed the addict from the family in all other ways. Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and even financially. It’s as if the person is there, just like Mexico is right there in front of El Paso. But at the same time, it’s as if the person were as far away as Mars.
Both scenarios, loved ones in rehab and love ones still at home with an addiction, are painful experiences for everyone involved.
But that doesn’t mean they’re hopeless. In fact, there are specific ways those of us who find ourselves in either of these two scenarios can cope.
Let’s explore those ways of coping within each of the two contexts, one at a time.
First, families with a loved one in rehab. How do we cope with this situation?
Make Use of the Opportunity to Heal
One of the things that makes coping with prolonged periods of stress and pain difficult is the wearing down we experience in the process.
The broken promises, abuse, and cycles of frustration wear us down. And we get tired of living in this situation.
But we love the person dearly, so when (s)he goes away to get help in rehab, we feel lost. Our entire focus in life has been this person and the problem of their addiction. Being apart can, initially, make us feel even worse.
And being so drained from fighting this battle all this time and leave us so empty that we now struggle to cope with the separation rebab has caused us.
Therefore, one of the best things we can do to cope with this pain is heal. By getting ourselves strong again, we equip ourselves to deal with stress.
And an excellent time to take care of ourselves and heal is when the person we love is away in rehab. Seeing this as an opportunity rather than a burden will give us the right perspective of this new season and will help us cope with it better.
Cling to Future Results
Another way to cope is to recognize the reason our loved one is in rehab. It is to change. To get better. To fix the situation.
Holding on to these future results that can come from rehab is a way to deal with what we feel. It gives us the sense that the separation is worth it and that we will experience something good down the road for the temporary pain we are experiencing now.
Now, let’s consider the other dilemma. How do we cope with having a loved one physically present but actually absent because of the addiction?
The truth is that we cannot cope alone in this situation. We need help. And help is often the last thing we want to reach out for. But even if we do want to reach out, we sometimes don’t know who to reach for.
When caught in this dilemma, we cope by reaching out to three types of people who can help us through this season.
Friends and Other Family Members
Other loved ones and people who are close to us can provide several things during this season.
One, they are a place a safety, helping us cope with the fear and stress that arise from living with an addict.
Second, they are a source of comfort. It’s helpful to know that someone knows what we’re going through.
Sometimes, however, just talking with friends and family isn’t enough. We need someone with special training who can help us. Those equipped to do this provide us with two important things in this situation.
One, they give us a place to divulge. We can release the pain built up inside of us by being probed professionally by someone who is trained to asked the right questions.
Two, they give us perspective. Sometimes, in these situations, we feel like we’re crazy. As if something is wrong with us. And even think what’s happening is our fault. Trained professionals can give us perspective on these confusing thoughts and emotions. They help us see more clearly that we are not at fault and have simply been abused by someone with an addiction.
We can find these professionals is various medical and mental health facilities. But those who work in rehab facilities are some of thebest-equippedd individuals to work with since they are trained specifically in the areas of life that are related to drug and alcohol addiction.
This verse is powerful. And it is a promise. When we find ourselves in troubled times, God – our refuge and strength – promises that we can find something else, Him.
When overwhelmed and filled with doubt, fear, and anxiety, Christ promises to be our peace.
We simply have to reach out to Him the same way we reach out to friends, loved ones, and professionals. Simply talk with Him about the situation and His peace, which is beyond what we can even understand, will cover both our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:7).
Overall, these situations are painful experiences.
Nobody wants to be separated from someone they love. And at first glance, we may not realize that distance does in fact occur even when geographical issues are not involved.
Whether someone we love is away in rehab or if an addict in our family is away-at-home, we still feel the sting of separation.
So if you have experienced the pain of separation during rehab or prolonged addictions in the past, have hope. Be encouraged and know that God will see you through.