You do not need to ever have had experienced being a serious drug addict to understand just how detrimental that lifestyle is to a person, but if one who is initiates a conversation with you about how bad it is, how much they want to escape it, never, ever say “I know how you feel.”
There is no quicker way of losing whatever modicum of trust you have earned with someone than to speak those words to them if you have not been in the place they are right now.
I know of a pastor who, when he meets someone with whom he is speaking to lights up a cigarette while doing so, will look at that cigarette, then back to the person, then back to the cigarette, attempting to shame them by his gaze. My friends, it does not work.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1st Cor. 1:18)
You must remember this, when you are attempting to reach someone for the Lord Jesus Christ, they do not have a clue about anything you are talking about, and, as many of them do, they will believe that you have led a perfectly normal life, one of never falling into temptation.
“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1st Cor. 9:22)
The conversation must always lead to the Savior, but not always at the beginning of it.
An old saying for you that fits quite well here, “People do not care what you think, unless they think you care.”
The topic of the conversation after the initial greetings and expected niceties, must always be about them, and a simple “How ya doing?” is not going to accomplish that. The questions must be formulated after they have offered something, and here you must have ears that hear.
But there is something even more important, they must not just think you care, they must know that you honestly do. Your compassion must be real, not feigned, or they will see right through you.
Remember, the purpose of the conversation is to lead them to the cross, if you become their friend over time, well and good. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24) But do not attempt to pretend you know what they are talking about or how they feel about it if you have not been there yourself.
“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matt. 14:14)
Empathy, compassion, is not our normal attribute, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit, and if you are going to reveal to them the love that was once and continues to be offered to you, you must, as best as you are able, go down into that pit with them. Once you are down there, you know the way out, they do not.
That is where the important, the eternal conversation can begin.
You may not know anything about what they are talking about, you may have never experienced anything like what they are going through in your entire life, but you have the best teacher on the subject right in front of you. Listen to them, grieve with them, share their burden, let them know you honestly care, let compassion and love for your neighbor shine through you.
Then, and only then, when you have listened, ask them to listen.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1st Peter 2:24)
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8)
They will see His compassion in you, they will see His love coming through you. What they do in those next moments is up to them, you have shown them the way out, the choice is now theirs.
They are living souls my friends, never offer them platitudes.