What troubles me most about Shaun’s death is that he couldn’t/didn’t come to me for help. When we were at the beach the week immediately preceding his death, he got a very bad sunburn and was very sick the rest of the trip. We thought he had sun poisoning. Now, I know that he was dealing with the physical realities of heroin withdrawal. A friend of Megan and Will’s, who is a nurse practitioner, was at the beach the same time we were and could’ve prescribed something for his withdrawal pains but he chose to try and deal with it alone. Why with help so near did he choose to go it alone?
Shaun was determined not to disappoint us again and now he had a fiancé who he didn’t want to disappoint also. That, plus the fact Shaun never really saw his addiction as a disease and, therefore, had to solve it alone, left him vulnerable to satan’s attack. When it’s a disease you go to the doctor for help and the doctor addicts need to be treated by is the Great Physician, Jesus, and the medicine you need to take is a 12 step or comparable program. The disease is chronic so you must take the medicine the rest of your life.
Today I’d like to explore his not wanting to disappoint us. The reason behind that, I think, is codependency. “Codependency is defined as a psychological condition or relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another. Historically, the concept of codependency comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous, part of a dawning realization that the problem was not solely the addicts, but also the family and friends who contributed a network for the alcoholic.” A counselor friend of mine once explained it like this, I get a headache and you take the aspirin, that’s codependency. In other words, your problems are my problems.
My wife and I are both adult children of addicts and, therefore, codependent. The root of Shaun’s disease started with us. It wasn’t genetic but rather a learned and experienced disease. In a fallen world it’s unfortunate but we parents can scar our children even when trying so hard not to. That’s why it is so important to follow Jesus’ admonition to Peter, James and John in the garden of Gethsemane to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” We can’t fight the good fight alone, we need help, powerful help.
The battles we encounter in life are fought on 2 fronts. The first is between our ears and in our minds. If we prevail in the battle there, we are, more than likely, going to prevail in the second front.
Jesus knew Peter was going to disown him three times when they were together in the garden of Gethsemane and encouraged him to victory by telling him to watch and pray. If Peter had stayed awake and understood his need for dependence on God and God alone and not in his own strength, then perhaps he would not have fallen three times. The victory of Jesus on the cross started in the garden of Gethsemane as well where he prayed “take this winecup of fury from my hand” but after falling on his face and praying He was able to proclaim “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will”. Peter’s failure started in the garden of Gethsemane where instead of praying and trusting God, he trusted in his own strength and power and utterly failed.
Looking at Shaun’s call history on his phone sometime after his death, we noted that he called his dealer five or six times the night of his death. He’d call her and hang up, call her and hang up, call her and hang up. The last time he didn’t hang up. His death was sealed because rather than watching and praying to God, he apparently trusted in his own strength and none of us are any match, alone, with Satan. To paraphrase Jesus, his spirit was indeed willing but his flesh was weak.
The key to defeating codependency is exchanging it for God-dependency and that change occurs over a lifetime, one choice at a time. We have to fight the good fight between our ears (renewing our minds) and on our knees (praying) and stop simply reacting to circumstances long enough to pray and allow God to reveal His will to us. Every choice in life offers us 2 prayer options, glorify God through it or save us from whatever it is we’re confronting. Like Jesus, our choice must always be, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will”.