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  • Writer's pictureDawn Ward

The Ripple Effect of Living with Addiction

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

ripples in water
"He leads me beside the still waters." Psalms 23:2

You Can’t Stop Mother Nature

Have you ever thought about the ripple effect a crisis like addiction brings into the family? Throw a rock into a lake and watch the ripple effect in action. No matter how calm the water, even the tiniest pebble causes movement. When a bomb drops, we race to try and control its collateral damage, but it is impossible because the ripple effect is already in motion.

Every action has a reaction. Our addicted children, spouses, and loved ones become the epicenter of our homes, and their behavior dictates how everyone else in the family will react. It determines how friends and acquaintances will react. It can even effect our jobs and our health because there is always a reaction to their action, unless we choose to stop it. The truth is that no one can make us react a certain way.

Perhaps, the center of your life isn’t an addicted loved one. It might be a family member in poor mental or physical health or one who has failed to grow up and take personal responsibility for their lives. Maybe their poor life choices have caused them to depend on you financially. Maybe their failure to handle their own stuff is wearing you down emotionally. Either way, that person and their behavior takes over and becomes the life-controlling force by which others adjust and respond accordingly. If they panic, you panic. If they get angry, you become fearful or angry yourself. If they become combative, you may either fight back or retreat for safety. You may fall into the role of peacemaker just to keep tempers from escalating. For those who are living with addicted loved ones, it’s not uncommon to enable them in an attempt to help them.

The ripple effect from the chaos of trying to co-exist with someone who is out of control can go on for weeks or months, even years. We crave peace and stillness, but the negative ripple effect is too strong.

The Ripple Effect in Relationships

For lack of a better term, society uses the word codependency to describe the unhealthy relationship that can develop between people in a relationship.

There are many ways our attempts to help our addicted or troubled family members end up hurting us and others. We try to save them or prevent them from using. We run interference for them. We help them get jobs. We pay fines or bail them out. They become our epicenter, and the ripple effect of our actions can be devastating.

In our pursuit to find peace, we will need to change who that epicenter is in our lives. When the next bomb drops, and it will because we still live on Planet Earth, Jesus should be the one we center our focus upon. Our children, our husband, or lack thereof, our finances, our jobs cannot be the axis around which our world revolves.

“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV

Beside Still Waters

How do we let go of our need to help and rescue our hurting loved ones and let God handle them? How will they survive without our help? Once we are ready to admit that living life at the mercy of someone else’s behavior is no way to live, the next step will be making a plan to change our reactions or ripple effect to their actions.

First. We will need to ask the Lord to come into the chaos and show us those areas we should let go of and release to Him. We will adjust our focus off the people who consume our every thought and put it back on the Lord through meditating on the scriptures, prayer, and praise. Instead of panicking, we move to a place where the earth quits shaking and the waters are a little calmer, to that place of stillness and peace. We pray. We praise. We keep hope alive.

Next. We work on ourselves and our thinking and response patterns. We begin by deciding to make a change. It will take effort but it will be well worth it in the end. We make changes in how we think and respond to circumstances that normally cause us to panic. To do so we must be aware of our body’s response to stress. What does it feel like when flight-or-fight hits? Headache? Nausea? Heart racing? Do you try to take control or rush into fix? These are behaviors to look out for when trying to change the negative ripple effect responses of living under tumultuous conditions. Awareness is imperative if we desire transformation. Changing how we respond will at first feel like we are a duck out of water, but with practice it will soon feel natural.

Finally, we make positive changes in our relationships with others. We go out and enjoy family and friends, even if our child or loved one is self-destructing because we know that we know that God is always keeping watch over them. We encourage each other instead of bringing each other down. We remind each other that Jesus is still on the throne, not the one who shouts the loudest, demanding our attention.

These small baby steps, while they may seem mechanical at first, will eventually change the ripple effect in our lives into something positive and life changing. When you drop a pebble in the water, you will see a beautiful ripple radiating out from the place where it landed. Go ahead, drop your little pebble in and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Pinterest pin ripples in water

Dear Lord,

We humbly come to You and ask that we will always be aware of our actions and their ripple effect. May they always glorify You as we submit to Your will.


Beautiful Blessings, Dawn

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