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November 19, 2020 1:00 am
Author Craig Svensson thought moving and the change of scenery would be good for the family, especially his son, Eric, who was struggling with drug addiction. But Eric sought out the same kind of friends he had before. He was forced by the court to attend AA meetings, where he met more people with drug connections. Eventually, Eric's addiction became dangerous for the family, and they asked him to move out. Svensson talks openly about the heartache involved in watching a son choose opposite values from you as he fell deeper into the abyss of addiction.
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Parents of prodigal space hard choices. Greg Spencer knows about that firsthand.
His son started wandering from the faith and making destructive choices when he was still in high school. It became a point when he got older and was an adult. We simply couldn't have them in our home when he would come home and be intoxicated and put us at risk because of things he might do, and you have to think about that you think about your own safety, the safety of your spouse and so want to become an adult that reality is if you can use drugs and income at her home and use drugs here come intoxicated.
We can have you continuing to live here.
This is family life today. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson on Bob Lapine. You can find us firstname.lastname@example.org what are the right foundries to put in place when you have a son or daughter who is a prodigal making choices that violate your value system or put your family at risk talk more with Greg Spencer about that today and welcome to family life today. Thanks for joining us. As I've talked to couples over the years about subjects we addressed on family life to the thing that we come back to all the time. When it comes to parenting is that whenever we start talking about issues related to kids being prodigal's parents are paying particular attention parents who don't have kids who are acting out want to do whatever they can to try to head that off. If there's anything they can do and parents words going on. This is dominating a marriage and a family when you got a child who's making bad decisions. Everything else kind gets on hold until you can try to get your arms around the situation.
I have many friends that have been and are in those situations and they feel desperate for help there, looking everywhere and especially to God for help because they are at a loss to know exactly what to do this a lot more families than you think the other all over your church and they don't want to be bound by this site.
There is some shame and there's privacy and there's all of that going on. And yet they need help and support and encouragement in the prayers of others.
We get to give him help. Today we got a friend joining us this week on family life today to talk about this Craig Svensson is here. Greg welcome back to me with Greg as written a book called the painful path of a prodigal, Craig and his wife have been married for 36 years. They have three children, including one who spent a long season as a prodigal hand and we've already heard this week about how your son at age 12, 13 starts acting out disobedient self-willed in school at age 15, you find him smoking marijuana over on the side of the house you intervene you get involved try to figure out how we can get our arms around all of this you got a job transfer in the middle of this you went from teaching at one University to teaching that University of Iowa so your family now moves to Iowa and you guys were thinking change of scenery. Change location. Maybe this is the thing that will break the spell that was our hope that was our prayer.
It look like God was opening the door to help. For that you know as a parent you want to do what you can, you know, ultimately it takes God to do the work in their hearts, and until that happens, nothing, nothing is going to happen but yet the Bible teaches us as parents we want to fulfill a parental responsibility. We want to create the best environment for them. We want to try to give them the resources and the environment that will best allow them to flourish and that seemed like a great opportunity for us.
It did not turn out that way but we know as parents we took that step to try to be able to give him the opportunity to turn a new direction.
Did you arrive in Iowa and Eric just started seeking out the same kind of folks he had been hanging out with the Michigan very quickly and this actually came to as a surprise to us. But the drug problem was actually worse and I was that he than it was in metropolitan Detroit. It took a while before we realize that and it was really our son is said to us you don't understand what's different here. My friends parents use drugs with them while that never happened in Metro Detroit. Now I don't want to disparage all of I was a wonderful place the left, but in the people that he engage with and of course he sought out the drug using people.
It was pretty shocking to us.
How many parents were using drugs with their children.
In fact, the ultimate to fast-forward a little bit. Things just kept getting worse than he got involved in legal difficulties. Ultimately, he was sentenced to a residential program in Iowa and he was placed into a center that was mostly filled with kids who were addicts.
He was only experimenting still real at that time, he would need anybody's criteria for being an addict, but in that center, there were he's he shared 10 months residential with 24 other kids and they would have these sessions where parents would come and it appeared that we were the only parents where at least one of us was not currently or had not recently been in prison for drugs. It was just very different environment and it turned out to be, in some ways a worse environment than it come from. Had he graduated from marijuana to other things. By this point Cassie had started using stimulants and some other drugs meth not to our knowledge he was using stimulants are available over the counter that he could gain access to one of the challenges that we found is what the courts decide to do in the intervene and one of the things that they did was they forced him to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and as a teenager going Alcoholics Anonymous what that importantly does is it introduces you to a whole lot of people that have access to drugs in the community that you might not necessarily have a large portion of the people that were in the alcoholics anonymous group that he went to were just there to fulfill their legal responsibilities that some judges told you to go to so many sessions for so long or whatever they were there because they want change themselves. They were just filling their court mandated requirements and so what it did is it introduced him to a network that he could get a supply of all kinds of different drugs here by training your pharmacologist. Yes, you can spot when eyes are red and bloodshot. Yes, you can spot when people aren't acting the way they ought to be acting as your son coming home and you go. He's hi. Sure, there were times that definitely what you do. By the point in time that we began seeing them coming home like that. There was already judicial action and he was on probation and the difficulty with that is you have a probation officer and when you violate that probation by using drugs, etc. then they courts ramp up what their action is going to bill you.
And that's ultimately what happened with them. We certainly over the years, and even beyond that, it became a point when he got older and was an adult. We simply couldn't have them in our home when he would come home and be intoxicated and put us at risk because of things he might do, and you have to think about that you think about your own safety, the safety of your spouse and so want to become an adult that reality is if you connect use drugs or to coming to her home and use drugs here come intoxicated. We can have you continuing to live here and put us in danger.
How is that I mean, that's a the right decision that had to be extremely hard to do so. It is incredibly hard to do as a parent what you want to do is protect them because you know putting them out into the street is not a good thing. There were peers of times over the years that our son was homeless. We were then moved on to Purdue University and he was in Iowa and of course, like any kid he would call us and say I don't place to live. Can you pay for an apartment. Can you put me up in a hotel, but we know any resources that we would send one ultimately be used for drugs and it's incredibly difficult decision to allow your kid to be homeless. In fact, what we did is I think is important for parents. When you come to hard decisions you need to have someone that can check your motions and make sure you're not making decisions in anger because by that point in time your child is hurt you terribly. I was going to say like I'm crying for you guys thinking about the pain you've gone through that.
I also think it probably happened so much that your heart starts to protect itself and become a little bit hardened to the police or the things does not happen. It can happen and you can even I have one chapter I bookings affection for your child, and it seems like a strange thing, and maybe some people hearing. That's a heck of that ever happened. But when your kid is hurt you again and again and again. It's harden and those are times when you need people that you can turn to in confidence and they can check your heart we could talk through decisions when you can face on those really hard decisions and say this I just want to listen and want you to tell us if we need to be thinking of something that were not if there's warning flags. If you think were responding in emotional ways that we shouldn't and everybody's gonna need someone to turn like to in those moments where they can get some advice and get some insight. I'm curious as you and your wife sat down with Eric and you just said what's happening, what's going on in your heart. How would he respond if he would acknowledge that he was making destructive choices and he was making choices that he knew hurt us hurt him the most baffling thing was his repeated responses but but I like using drugs is very hard to see, especially as the consequences were piling up jail ultimately ended up spending three years in a maximum security prison in Iowa health consequences over and over and over and you sit back and you say how can you say you like taking drugs when you see what it is done to your life and it was so baffling to us.
But at the same time my wife and I work in our community with the homeless. We've been working for over a decade and a significant portion homeless community are serious drug users and their lives are a shambles because of drugs, but yet they don't want to walk away.
The way they see consequences has become so distorted that they don't recognize the magnitude of destruction in their life that the drugs have brought honesty about two things but first I'll ask you about how you processed the shame and the personal responsibility that comes with our son is doing this we must be bad parents. This must be we must be responsible, at some level for what he's doing. That guilt yeah and then secondly is a pharmacologist talk about how you understand addictive personality and addictive biology and was there something going on with him biologically that was causing him to be predisposed in this direction talk about the shame and the guilt side first Kenya sure will first of all, you feel like a failure when you're Chagas out front when they're making rebellious and destructive choices.
The reality is that every child has to make their own choices and you realize that as a parent we all make mistakes. However, children turn out. We've all made mistakes and I think that's an important point to remember because we we can take a very formulaic approach to parenting. If I do a BNC. Everything will turn out all right. Well we know that's not true than many biblical examples and where did Jesus fail in his discipleship with Judas, the Judas would only turn from him but little turn on him and betray him unto death, and there's many other examples of that in the Bible and you have to recognize that an individual their choices in life is not driven just by what they taught. That doesn't mean we shouldn't desire to teach them rightly as parents we have that responsibility.
But it doesn't guarantee everything and have to recognize that as a parent, so you have to realize that your failures do not determine their destiny of God's the one that does the redemptive work in heart and if God is drawing your child to himself.
It will happen no matter how good or how poor a parent you are and God is the one that has to do that work and it there is forgiveness and where we might fail as a parent and we need to be able to embrace that forgiveness and there may be times when you have done things that you need to seek forgiveness from your child and we should be hesitant to do that because that's actually very important teaching moment is to help them see how to respond when we sin when we sin against them and seek their forgiveness. They learn that and so as parents we should do that.
What you can't do is beat yourself up over your failures and whether their real failures or not we have to embrace the forgiveness that God gives and move on. Just as God gives us forgiveness.
We realize that that's what another person should do, but we can't be held hostage. If they refuse to forgive now is that hard to do as I'm sitting here thinking I could say the same words and I've laid in bed at night over decisions I've made that affected Mike my sons not even very tragically, but just missed opportunities whatever and I lay there thinking if I'd only if I'd only they would've and I know in my head, I can let that shame go. I can let that regret go. I can receive God's forgiveness, but I lay there and I can't hear been there are hardest time was the first time our son appeared in court and to see him walk into the courtroom and an orange jumpsuit with his wrists and his ankle shackled and his wrist shackled to a big thick leather belt that was around his waist. My wife and I went home and just said where did we go so wrong then just write ourselves to sleep so sure.
We have been there.
To me the most important thing is a solid belief in the sovereignty of God. That's what gives you confidence and peace to know that God is sovereign and to trust in his sovereign work and I like the fact that you acknowledge parents may make mistakes on those mistakes may have consequences in the life of a child we got on the fact that our parenting is not not inconsequential to the lives of our kids, and is not apparent in the universe that hasn't made a mystery, but by the same token, your child's choices are not solely your responsibility. Every child has to make his own choices and mix in the providence and sovereignty of God on the the top of all of this and as parents we can say Lord forgive me for the mistakes I've made Lord poor grace on this Lord bring beauty from these ashes and walk in confidence that God is sovereign over the affairs of men is a time at church that you are seeking prayer care about that when happen when at one point at the beginning you are asking for prayer for Eric this was early on in a prayer with the rebellion of our son and I just answered a prayer meeting for prayers for her son who was beginning to rebel and a man came up to be much taller than I am stuck his finger in my face and said the Bible says that if you train up a child in the way he should go when he is old he will not depart from it. And if your child is in following the Lord, it's your fault and nobody else's in the turn on his heels and walked away.
I'm sure that was very helpful. Shocking. As much is anything else you know heroes looking for help I was looking for others to pray and what I ended up being was condemned. I think that that was probably an extreme example of being judged by others, but we experience some other cases we we have gotten to know other parents of prodigal's and they talk about.
That's one of the most painful experiences is the way they're judged by other people with their the actions of their children.
And this is obviously an area where sometimes the church falls short when the church should be there to help and support and we can gratefully say.
More often than not, people were there to help and support us in comfort and guide us and to be there with us, but a good word every parent whose listing you don't have a prodigal maybe your kids are doing fine. You see something going on in somebody else's family. Pray for them and encourage them support them, help them don't come up with some kind of self-righteous. This is all your fault thing Craig. I always wonder if I know a family struggling with something, do they want us to approach and ask how can a prayer to we avoided. I don't want it to be awkward and embarrassing. What's the best approach to help other parents.
It probably depends on your relationship with them. If you have no relationship with all coming up out of the blue asking them. That is probably can be hard but you can always pray for them.
If you know but if you move them sometimes just simply saying we continue to pray for you. Just giving them that assurance and that knowledge can be encouragement if you've got a close relationship, then you might even be able to asked specifically and maybe there's ways you can actually reach out to their child. What you don't want to do is create an environment where parents are probed about WHAT'S going on. We can fall under the guise of wanting to praise wisely getting into the salacious details of something that we don't really need to know and is not helpful for the parent to rehearse that either because as you rehearse that over and over and over again. It can strike against your affection for the child as a parent you don't want to be running around rehearsing as a parent.
There's also a sense, which will protect your child, your desire is to see them come to faith in Christ to turn to be like the prodigal child in Luke chapter 15 and come back right and so you want to protect the reputation as much as they can. You don't want to share things unnecessarily. I know this is somewhat controversial, but talk about the biology of addiction and are certain people predisposed in this direction.
Well it's interesting method of just finished writing the draft of a book on the subject of addiction that I spent the last several years writing and of course my professional background. Everything addiction is a choice. It is mostly in the snow in one model that's can explain all addiction.
It's mostly in acculturation. It's a process of people using drugs with peers and getting deeper and deeper into it as they go deeper and deeper into a peer group that using drugs other biological effects of it.
There certainly are because it's not all, drugs that are addictive, so biology is important. The science on whether there are people who are predisposed is not very strong.
Quite frankly, the best evidence is with alcohol and it does seem that there's some predisposition but no one is a predetermined alcoholic. No one becomes an addict because they take a drug wants because they take a drink.
Once there might be some people who are more inclined because of their personality, there's no such thing, though, as an addictive personality. There might be personality traits that make you more inclined to get into drug use but it really is in acculturation process were over. Of time you enter into a drug using culture, getting into a wider array of drugs and getting into using drugs more frequently and it becomes a part of your life and one of the reasons why it's hard for people to leave it is because that's their culture.
Now and would be like us moving to a foreign culture. You probably know that most missionaries only served one term why because it's really hard to go live in a foreign culture is not the only reason is a big part of it right, trying to live in a culture that's very different things hard so taking somebody who's become very entrenched in drug abuse and drug use, and all of the things associated with a particle and now asking the step away from that, leaving it what you're asking them to do is now live in a new culture and that's what is so very difficult to leave druggies behind so your say set the biology aside, the, the sociology of drug use may be more power to the biology of drug.
There's no question biology certainly has a role because there are biological changes that happen, but far more important is the acculturation process.
Often times we hear that addiction is really trying to escape. Is that a part of it. Again, I don't think we can explain all addiction by one Monterey but sounds complicated, it is complete. If you think about most addiction begins in the teen years effect 90% of heroin addicts follow the exact same pattern it 12 or 13, they start using intoxicating substances that are legal but not for them. It starts with tobacco and then alcohol things that often might be available for them to get hold of in the home. Then it moves to marijuana, then it generally moves to some type of stimulant, some type of tablets and then ultimately heroin 90% of hairnets have that at absolute same pattern as you can see it's in acculturation process and normally what it is. It's an accumulation of drug use of words they don't use only heroin they use a variety of different drugs so they're getting absorbed and drawn and drawn into a culture. Over time that's happening at a time when people are trying to figure out their large teens are confused by the world whose expectations for them are not written down and will clear they've got all these biological changes going on in there trying to find their place in the world and sometimes they find a place of acceptance in the drug using culture that can be a magnet for them. Particularly if a child is finding a hard time locating their place outside of that it's interesting as I hear you Doug by that sort of from the mere scientists in the sense and the biological side there's the spiritual side God warns us the sins of the father will visit through the legacy to the generations and so I'm a guy come from two alcoholic parents. I don't know about the biology part. I just know if I'm not careful. I'm to continue that addiction. And I've always thought of that as a spiritual senses like me. I gotta protect myself from alcohol because it's in my family legacy in my voice. So in our house. We didn't have it in our house because it was like I don't know all the biology of this but I know the sins of the father thing I gotta be very careful something her parents listen right now. Be very careful know your biology know your spiritual lineage and legacy right and be careful because we don't know all that the aspects of it, but it could pass through you, so be careful.
I'm thinking of parents listening, thinking that's it I'm putting him to homeschool my Dilemma that you are in the middle of Montana recorded they've never read another human being really and and the thing is you. You can try to protect all you want and you can separate yourself from the world but you can't separate yourself from the flesh and the devil you know the Bible also tells us that blessed man doesn't sit in the seat of scoffers you know who you hang out with is going to have an impact in your life and the Proverbs are filled with warnings about who you hang out with. If you walk with the wise you'll be wise. The friend of fools, cancer treatments, yes it does me. People can't find trouble where they want to find it.
But the Bible is filled with wisdom about being careful where you go, what you do love not the world of the things of the world and I'm sure you tried to point Arial in this group of friends play on the team the. The kids who go to youth group and he just wouldn't interest cigarettes correct correct and you can't create that hunger in them. You can try to provide an opportunity of God begins to move in the heart that there are people that will help them but again, ultimately it comes that God has to do that work. Jesus said that that work is as mysterious as the wind right when he took Nicodemus and so is really important to realize that the greatest thing that we need to do is be in prayer that God will do a work in their lives. We do everything else we should his parents, but ultimately it comes to whether God is going to do a work in their lives.
And that's what I think all of us as parents need to remember today it's what you point us to in the book you've written the painful path of a prodigal biblical help and hope for those who love the way word and rebellious.
We have copies of Craig's book available.
Our family life today resource Center you can order it from us email@example.com or you can call one 803 586-329-1800 F as in family L as in life, and then the word today to get a copy of Craig's book again. The title is the painful path of a prodigal order firstname.lastname@example.org or call one 800 FL today to get a copy. You know we've said this before but it bears repeating.
Kids make their own choices. Parents can do the best job they know how to do discipling their kids and kids can still make destructive choices. There are no guarantees that come with parenting and yet we have a responsibility to raise our kids like you and your wife did Craig to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord to point them toward Jesus to talk to them about the Bible. The holidays provide us with kind of a ready-made opportunity to be able to reinforce biblical truth this week we could be talking about gratitude and thanksgiving and why it's good to have a thankful heart.
Memorize some Bible verses about gratitude or Thanksgiving and then as we head into the Christmas season. There are plenty of opportunities to talk about Jesus coming and why he came and why we celebrate that family life created a resource called the 12 names of Christmas a dozen Christmas ornaments designed for young children, each one pointing to a different name or title of Jesus.
So there's an ornament that portrays him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Another one that portrays him as the good Shepherd or the bread of life for the living water. All of these ornaments are designed to help stimulate engagement with your kids around spiritual themes during the Christmas season and we're making this resource. The 12 names of Christmas available to those of you who can help support the ministry of family life with a donation this week when you go to family life to date.com to donate online or call one 800 FL today to make a donation over the phone, you can ask for your copy of the 12 names of Christmas were happy to send it out to you.
Let me just remind you what you're investing in. When you donate the family life today is the spiritual health of marriages and families all around the world. You are expanding the reach of this ministry so that more people can more often receive practical biblical help and hope for their marriages and for their families. Thanks in advance for your donations. We look forward to hearing from you and we appreciate your partnership and we hope you can join us again tomorrow and were to hear from Greg Svensson about the phone call that no parent wants to receive, especially when they have a prodigal will hear that story tomorrow and I hope to be with us for that I will think our engineer today. Keith Lynch along with our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our hosts Dave and Ann Wilson. I'm Bob Lapine will see you back next time for another edition of family life today.
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