8 Steps to Confronting an Addict: The Nathan Approach

BY IN Dealing with the Addict NO COMMENTS YET , ,

The snare of addiction is an evil murky pit.

Confronting your loved one caught in a web of addiction can be just as miry.

Is there a biblical model we can follow to help guide us through the miry waters? 2 Samuel 12 comes to mind when speaking of confronting. In this passage, Nathan, the prophet, confronts King David about his adultery. Even though addiction and David’s woes are different, the process of confronting can still be applied.

2  Samuel 12: 1-15

The Nathan Approach

Did you catch the approach Nathan used to confront David? Emotional manipulation, anger, yelling, and threatening? Passivity? Avoidance? Dismissal?


Out of our own frustrations we often resort to such means because we do not know how to deal with the circumstance. If not these strategies, then how do you deal with confronting? I think Nathan’s approach of confronting can help us.

Here are 8 steps we can learn from the text:

1        The Lord sent Nathan. Your approachGo in the strength of God, not your own strength. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God to allow you to see what He sees. Ask God to give you a heart like His. Ask God to remove any pride in your own heart.

2       Nathan goes with a story given to him by God. Your approach:  Be prepared in what you will say. Ask God to show you what words to use. Notice, Nathan does not put David on the defense. Or approach him with harsh words. He approaches him respectfully. He finds something David can relate to. Choose your words wisely. If need be, write down what you will say.

3        Nathan exposes the secret. Your approachExpose the secret with facts and evidence.  Some examples: finding paraphernalia, or noticing physical, emotional, social, and mental changes. 

Take out the emotion, use evidence and facts. For example: “I found these burned spoons in your room with q-tips. You say you are not using, but here is the evidence that says you are.” Maybe it is more subtle: They are staying up days on end, then sleep for days. They avoid eye contact. Or isolate themselves. Their color is ashen. Maybe they have lost a significant amount of weight.

Do not use emotional manipulation, threatening, crying, yelling, or anger. Go with a motive of restoration. Have your antennas up if you suspect drug abuse. If they are using, you will find the evidence. An addict keeps his paraphernalia on him or in close proximity. He will display physical, mental, and emotional symptoms eventually. The drug will wear on him.

4        The problem is not between Nathan and King David. Your approach: Don’t make it a personal issue. No matter how much the addict blame shifts, guilt’s, manipulates, or attacks you, the problem is not you personally.  Understand secrets are common for the addict.  Keep the focus on evidence of usage.

5        God did not tell Nathan how King David would respond. Your approachBrace yourself for any reaction, especially defensiveness and anger. Most addicts will usually lie when confronted. When there is evidence they will try to explain it away, or react by becoming very angry and walk off. Notice King David was “furious” when first confronted. Don’t let anger deter you. But also notice something else. When Nathan says to David, “You are that man”, David quickly realizes he has been exposed, his secret out in the open. What is strikingly beautiful is David’s response to his secret: He acknowledges his sin. He acknowledges what he has done! See, God already knew his secret. And God knows the secret of the addicts using, even when they continue to deny. However, just like David, the addict, when confronted, may have the same response David did. He may acknowledge his secret openly. Why? So healing can begin.

6        Nathan speaks the truth in love to King David. Your approach: Reflect God’s heart. Speak truth in love. Stay focused on facts. Resist speaking with venomAlways check your motive before confronting. There is a way to be firm and not buckle under emotion.

7        When confronted King David confessesYour approach: Realize a confession may come, or not. You are making tremendous headway if the addict is honest. That is so huge! Acknowledge him for this. However, most will fight the truth and fight to keep the secret.

8        King David faced consequences for his actions, but God was still merciful. Your approach: Extend mercy but have consequences. For example, an addict who may be living with you uses. The agreement being no drug usage if living in your home. If the person relapses, the consequence could be detox, inpatient rehab, & a recovery plan for the next year.

Remember detox is not recovery. Think through the consequences you will implement. You will have to set what the boundaries are and STICK TO THEM! Always remembering the end goal is restoration.

There is an absolutely fascinating redemptive end to King David’s story. You can find the story in Psalm 51.

Thanks for letting me share my heart with you. I pray your faith in God would prompt you to continue to persevere in the faith.

What are some ways you have confronted your loved one? What worked? What didn’t? What advice would you give someone else about confronting an addict?

So, what do you think ?