Living with an Alcoholic or Addict

woman being abused by an addict

There are plenty of challenging situations in life but surviving life with an alcoholic or addict is one of the most severe. The problems created by that person’s addiction can be life-threatening, can cause bankruptcy and the mental and emotional stress are unrelenting. Since some people continue to be addicted for years, the situation creates a continuous strain that can sap all the happiness out of family members dealing with this problem.

Because the condition of addiction is often so similar from one person to the next, the actions needed to survive this situation may also be quite similar. Take a look at this advice based on the experience of many who have lived through it before and see what you can implement to improve your situation.

Realize That You Didn’t Cause the Addiction

Unless you were feeding the person drugs or alcohol yourself, you probably didn’t have much to do with causing the addiction. The addicted person may have you believe otherwise. It is very often the nature of addiction that the addict manipulates those around him to keep them from interfering with his ability to get and use drugs. He will accuse others of not understanding, not supporting him, not helping, not realizing how upset/unlucky/sick he is – and so on down a long list. These accusations won’t make much sense and there’s probably little (if any) truth to them. You have to stay strong and not accept these claims.

But while you protect your own sanity by rejecting the manipulation, there is very little to be gained by antagonizing the addict. Don’t bother telling him that he’s manipulating or lying. Just skip it, get yourself to a safe place, ask for support or protection from friends or family.

For further advice on surviving this challenge, read the Narconon series, 14 Rules You Must Never Break When Dealing with Addiction.

Protect Yourself and Others Who Might be Vulnerable

This is extremely important. You will not be able to help anyone if you are sick, injured or beaten down by worry or abuse. Children must feel that their home and daily environment are safe. This could mean temporary relocation while a lasting solution is found. Or it might mean asking for someone else to provide mental or physical support. For example, asking another family member to move into the home so the addicted person knows that someone else could be present any time they choose to drop by. If they are not living with you, it may mean changing locks and proofing the house from intrusion. Schools must be notified that an addicted parent may not pick up children. As much as possible, build a strong perimeter around yourself, children, the elderly and others who could be harmed.

Protect Your Valuables

When someone is addicted, it’s like the drugs or drinks are thinking for him. The drive to prevent withdrawal is so strong that he (or she) may do things that are completely against his true nature – that person he was before addiction took hold. Therefore, you may need to protect your valuables, more so if you have someone addicted to drugs rather than alcohol, as drug addiction can be a very expensive habit.

In that case, you should take a look at what the addicted person might do to obtain money or your valuables. You may need to change bank accounts, credit cards, safe deposit boxes if they have access to these. Any way of access to funds or valuables the addicted person has must be closed.

Not only does this protect your assets, it also shuts down the means the person has of getting money for more drugs. This is a double-edged sword because while it protects your assets, it could mean that the addicted person turns to criminal activity to keep the drugs coming. The ultimate solution is getting the person the help they need to end their addiction.

Consider Who Else Needs to Know

If your assets are shielded, who else might the addicted person turn to for money? He could trade on his past good reputation and bargain with old friends, promising future work for a down payment. She could hit up people she has helped in the past and ask for loans or coerce them into “investing” with her.

The social norms seem to dictate secrecy and silence at this time. You can’t broadcast the bad news of this addiction across town but you can consider confiding in a small circle of friends and associates that the addict may contact. They can also help provide much-needed support.

When you know that someone is addicted, and you’ve seen drugs drive honesty and trustworthiness out the window, it’s very likely that there are others who need this knowledge. One father went so far as to visit a doctor his son was getting pills from and tell the doctor that his son was abusing the pills to the point of total addiction.

Solution to the Problem

An addicted person needs to be cared for by people who know every trick he is going to pull, every lie she is going to tell. This means the support of rehabilitation professionals.

Many will need to have every means of escape cut off and for his usual contacts for getting drugs or money to be far away. This is why in-patient rehabilitation is a better choice for a person deeply immersed in addiction. He has a chance to focus on his recovery without daily challenges and triggers.

The Narconon program has helped the majority of those seeking recovery find the lasting sobriety they were hoping for. In dozens of locations on six continents, the Narconon program is long-term and residential. It focuses on detoxifying the body, bringing about mental and emotional recovery from the trauma of addiction and building the skills a person needs to avoid relapse.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.