Living With an Addict

Addiction is a devastating disease that affects not just the addict, but the loved ones as well. It is a painful experience that can have long-lasting emotional, behavioral and financial consequences.  Here are some tips for living and dealing with a person who’s addicted to drugs: Take care of yourself. Dealing with a drug addict is very emotionally draining and very time consuming. Make time to do things away from the addict and return the focus to positive things in your life. Don’t let your loved one’s addiction become the focus of your life. Protect your money. Feeding an addiction is very expensive, and many addicts will use money that’s needed for bills, groceries and other necessities to feed their habit. Keep a separate checking and savings account that only you have access to. Don’t enable the addict. Oftentimes addiction creates codependent relationships in which family members or partners lie for and cover up for the addict. You may think this is helping the addict, but it is only enabling their addiction. Make it clear that you are no longer willing to be a part of your loved one’s addiction. Don’t accept abusive behavior. Addiction is not an excuse for physical violence or emotional abuse. If your loved one is dangerous to live with, get out and stay out until sobriety is achieved for a marked amount of time. Join a support group. Remember that you are not alone. Furthermore, these three ideas are worth considering when dealing with addiction:

1) Setting boundaries

2) Communication and/or Intervention

3) Practicing detachment

Setting boundaries: Let the addict know exactly what acceptable behavior to you is. For example, you might tell your spouse that if they go to jail again for drunk driving that you are not going to bail them out again. This is an example of setting a boundary. It is not a threat; instead you are simply stating what is unacceptable in the relationship. Setting these types of boundaries might not change the addict’s behavior directly, but it can start to make a dent in their denial and get them thinking. Your strategy in setting effective boundaries should be to distance yourself from the chaos that an addict creates. Let them know that you are not going to be a part of that chaos.

Intervention:  Intervention is about setting a family meeting to communicate your concerns with the addict; it is an opportunity to share your observations, goals and reinforce boundaries and limits. A proper intervention must be done with love and respect in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental manner, offering options, support and a way out of addiction. There are two types of intervention: An informal one:  where family and friends of an addict approach him/her to discuss their concerns; Or, a professionally facilitated intervention- which is a structured method of assisting a person and family struggling with addiction issues.

Appropriate things to address during an intervention are:

  • How you feel about what’s happening to the addict.
  • How his or her actions are affecting you.
  • A clear statement that you will not tolerate drug use any longer.
  • An explanation of the consequences for continued use.

Word of caution: there is a good possibility that an intervention will not be successful, and may even damage the relationships further;   Research shows that an intervention is not the most effective way for dealing with addiction.

Practicing detachment: Another thing that you can do to help a struggling addict is to detach from them emotionally. This is difficult and might seem counter intuitive to some people, but in the long run it is the best behavior that you can display in order to move the addict closer to change. The idea is to still care for and about the person without rescuing them from their own natural consequences. In other words, no more bailing them out of jail or trying to cover for them when they screw up really bad. Sometimes we have to back off and let them skin their knee a few times in order to learn a lesson. You can never deny an addict of their pain….they will always find a way to self-destruct if that is their mission. Detachment is about letting them do this without becoming emotionally involved in their pain. Because when you become emotionally involved, you have a tendency to step in and rescue them from their pain and thus deny them of a learning experience. You deny them of the chance to suffer great pain that might force them to finally change. So practice detachment and let them fall down and experience their own consequences. If you continue to deny them these natural consequences then there is no motivation for them to change their life and seek help.Sometimes pain is the only motivator that works. And sometimes even that fails.


  1. Alicia says

    Thank you for writing this article. It has helped me understand that I have enabled someone close to me in the past, and I’ve decided to distance myself from them until they get back on-track. I felt guilty about doing this , but I believe it is the best thing for them AND me. Do you have any tips that may help me keep the boundaries I’ve set?

  2. T says

    My husband has been clean for 5 yrs an about a month ago he dissapered for about 6 hours while I was at work,when I got home he was drunk:( I cried more than I think I ever have over a relaps because 5 yrs down the drain!! Then I convinced myself it was a lil mess up an he really didn’t even mess up that bad cause he didn’t relaps on the harder drugs he use to be on!!! Yeah I know dumb of me I know better:( anyways now I come home from work on my lunch breaks an 3 days in a row he is not home an I have even caught him in lies about where he is at, today he looked high:( an I feel CRUSHED!!!! We have been together 12 yrs an battled with his addiction for 11 the first year I didn’t know he used…what do I do???? It’s hard to stay at work because I don’t know what he’s doing an want to make sure he doesn’t use !!! But we have kids an I’m the only one working so everytime I go looking for him an mess up a job I feel like I’m failing my children!!!! So I fail him or fail them an work just thinks I’m sorry for not staying at work all day I get upset an leave an can’t tell them why!!!! Then the people around us think I’m like supper jealouse because I constantly have to know where he’s at an I can’t tell them the real reason!! I’m a rageing river of emotions mostly mad an hurt!!!!!! Life seems hopless most of the time!!!!!!

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