Do’s and Don’ts for Dealing with an Addict in Your Life

Since there are more than 23 million Americans struggling with drug or alcohol abuse problems, there are many millions more family and other loved ones suffering right along with them. This could make this problem one of our country’s most pervasive ills.

woman trying to deal with an addict

One survey reported that 64% of people have experienced addiction in someone close to them. A father, mother, child, uncle, close friend—it’s not hard to find someone who has lost control of their drug or alcohol consumption.

So it is both important and useful to have some guidelines when you’re dealing with an addicted person. To help you in this crisis situation, here are some Do’s and Don’ts.

Do: Maintain your own balance and integrity. Don’t let the addicted person draw you into using drugs or alcohol with him/her. Also, don’t let him convince you that you’re wrong for seeing the problem.

Don’t: Expect results just by asking him/her to quit. It will seldom (if ever) do any good to say, “If you loved me, you’d quit.” The compulsion to get more alcohol or drugs is bigger then he is and it’s usually bigger than his love for his family. It’s just flat-out overwhelming. If you accept this, you can get started on the solution.

Do: Find a rehab program for your loved one. If you have any choice in the matter, ask plenty of questions before selecting one. Find out exactly how the program works, ask if you can talk to someone who has completed the program. The program should make sense to you.

Don’t: If at all possible, don’t choose a time-limited 30-day program. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends a program of longer than that for a better chance of sobriety. Addiction seldom occurs overnight and there is plenty of destruction of life skills along the way. It takes time to rebuild a life.

Do: If humanly possible, stand by the addicted person in your life. Sometimes, especially when there are kids, it’s vital to remove yourself and the children from the situation. If you can, let the addicted person know that you support him and his recovery. The drugs have already convinced him that he is worthless so when he has support, there is a greater chance he can turn things around during rehab.

Don’t: Put yourself in a situation where you can be abused mentally or physically. If you are vulnerable due to size, emotional state or other reason, find your own support. Family, counselors, ministers, even law enforcement can and should be utilized. You might feel ashamed or embarrassed about being in this situation. That’s completely natural. You must speak out for your own protection. You can’t help anyone if you are beaten down or ill yourself.

Do: Insist on rehab as the right answer for addiction. Families with an addicted loved one live in terror of the phone call that tells them that their addicted loved one is dead or has been jailed. Find an effective rehab program and make this the only solution you will accept—not promises that she will “cut down,” “wean herself off,” or “only do it one more time.”

Don’t: Expect that the person will immediately take off for rehab when you first approach him. You may have to intervene. Either find a professional interventionist who has successfully gotten many people to rehab or get together with all your family and the addict’s close friends and cut off all means of escape. If some have been providing money or shelter, they must agree that rehab is the only option. There must be no way out other than going to rehab.

Do: If you are going to stage an intervention, it must be done from caring and love. Criticism or blame will only push the person further into his unconfrontable guilt. Drugs are already his solution for this guilt.

Don’t: Assume that his going to rehab means that everything has been resolved. He will need your love, guidance, and support during rehab and afterward as he establishes a new, sober life for himself. Help him move back into life in a step-by-step manner, maintaining your support.

For more help and advice on dealing with an addict in your life, read the 14 Rules You Must Never Break When Dealing with an Addict.