Tips for Living with Someone Caught Up in Addiction
How to Live with an Alcoholic or Addict
Watching a loved one self-destruct is probably one of the hardest things we can face in life. To make matters worse, this addictive behavior is likely to be having a major impact on our own well-being. It isn’t usually just the person who is caught up in the addiction who suffers, but the whole family.
If you are in this dire position, here are a few suggestions that may help you cope:
Learn About Addiction
A loved one who is caught up in addiction is likely to be doing things that are unreasonable and hurtful. It can be hard to comprehend why this person you care about so much is behaving like this. By learning about the addiction process, you will start to understand how changes in the brain trigger craving and distorted thinking.
A basic understanding of addiction will mean you are in a better position to help this person. More importantly, it will make it easier for you to protect yourself (and others) from the behavior.
Avoid Enabling the Behavior
If you are protecting this person from the consequences of the addictive behavior (e.g. providing excuses or offering financial help), you may be prolonging the problem. This is because most of us who have managed to escape alcohol or drugs did so because it just became too painful to continue. It is understandable that you want to help but sometimes the loving thing is to not rescue or enable. This means the person is forced to confront their actions, and this can break through the wall of denial.
Don’t Accept the Unacceptable
Just because this person has an addiction problem, it does not justify bad behavior. You need to protect yourself as well as other vulnerable members of the family. This means having strict boundaries with real consequences for breaking these boundaries. If the behavior is unacceptable, the best action may be to have this person removed from the home.
Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Manipulated
Dependency on alcohol or drugs turns people into slaves. It can mean they are willing to say anything or do anything to get to the next high. This desperation can turn the person into a skillful manipulator (e.g. “if you didn’t complain so much, I wouldn’t be getting drunk all the time”). Don’t allow this person to use your love for him/her as a weapon against you.
Choose the Right Time to Confront This Person
It is usually a mistake to confront people about the behavior while they are drunk or high. Intoxication makes it hard to think rationally, and the person may respond to any confrontation by becoming defensive, argumentative, and possibly even violent. The best time to confront people about addiction problems is when they are sober and feeling remorseful. It can also be helpful to stage an intervention by involving other family and friends in the confrontation
For more information about living with and alcoholic or addict, please check out our Family Guide