The Secret to Coping Successfully with an Addicted Loved One

In the United States, at any moment in time, there are more than twenty million households dealing with the addiction of a loved one. Actually, there’s far more than that, because for many of these individuals, there’s more than one household stressed out by a individual’s addiction. His parents are struggling with the effects of his drug use and trying to figure out how to help. If he’s married, his wife and children suffer from his preoccupation with drinking or drugs over caring for his family. His best friends are spending sleepless nights trying to figure out what’s happening to their friend.

Addiction is one of life’s most difficult situations to cope with.

Once they realize that the multitude of problems they see manifested by their loved one all adds up to drug or alcohol addiction, at least then they know the enemy. Families very often go for years without realizing that drug abuse is at the bottom of the unemployment, illness, arrests and other problems. But once they know this, what do they do then? How do they cope with this situation? How do they make it better? How can they get to a better point in life for the addicted person and for themselves as well?

Here’s a little insight to help families through this difficult time of life.

  • It’s really not about you so quit thinking that it is. This is a hard one because of course, your well-being is severely impaired when someone very close to you is addicted. But it really isn’t. This is why it doesn’t work when you plead with the person to please stop smoking pot, drinking or using heroin for you. You can beg all you want. That tactic will seldom if ever make any difference. The drug he (or she) is addicted to is calling the shots.
  • Screaming, blaming, yelling and complaining are largely fruitless. Of course you’re justified in being furious. She stole the rent money from you last night and it’s gone already. Or he took your car without asking and now it has a big dent in it. Or he is contributing no money at all to the household and all the bills are overdue. You’re 100% justified in being upset. But it won’t do much good. An addicted person is overwhelmed from all sides. He’s overwhelmed by his cravings, by his guilt, his desperation. When you scream and yell, you simply pile on more overwhelm.
Yelling is very unlikely to have a positive effect on an addicted person.
  • As soon as you know that addiction is at the core of the problem, stop being mystified by the continual problems or the devastation occurring in the person’s life. It’s going to continue. It will normally get worse. Just expect it and don’t allow yourself to be mystified.
  • Expect the person to lie and manipulate. This person may have been the most trustworthy, upstanding person in town until addiction took over. But now, you must expect there to be a constant stream of lies and attempts to manipulate your feelings and make you feel like the guilty one.

If you can possibly make these shifts in your own thinking, you’ll be ahead of the game. They will actually reduce your stress slightly because you will be better prepared to deal with what comes at you. You’ll stop being blindsided.

Sometimes you see a news report about a manager or accountant who, after twenty years of doing a good job in a company, is found guilty of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars that she spent to support an addiction. How could she simply change like that? Was she always dishonest? Probably not. Drug addiction and alcoholism sap a person’s sense of morals. Their thinking is swayed morning, noon and night by their need for drugs. They develop a convenient ability to justify theft, assault and neglect.

Families see the same thing when a loved one is addicted. This person they treasure, loved and trusted for a couple of decades is now a thief and liar. It’s a very hard adjustment to make. If you understand that drugs are at the heart of the problem and if they are removed, the person can recover, that might help.

So, What Should You Be Doing Instead?

You need to step away from your own emotions and take a good, hard look at the real situation that is occurring in this person’s life. He has lost control. He is not being himself. He’s still there at some deep level and with the right help, he can come back. He can be the way he was before the drugs took over.

But right now, you’re not dealing with the person himself, you’re only catching the brunt of his overwhelm, guilt and desperation.

If you are going to regain control of this situation, you’re going to need some help. And you’re going to need to get this person to an effective drug rehabilitation program. It’s a sad truth that most people aren’t able to climb out of this hole by themselves. They need support and plenty of it.

You need to bring other family members in on this problem. If you’ve been keeping it all a secret, now is the time to stop. Find family, ministers, close friends, siblings—whoever will help you while you find the right solution. When the addicted person is faced with a room of people who express their concern and insist on rehab, that approach has a chance to break through that overwhelm and convince him to decide to get help.

But when taking this approach, begging, blaming, pleading and crying are the wrong way to go about it. Be firm, decisive and as objective as possible. Line up your choice of rehab ahead of time.

A person can recover from addiction and be restored to his family.

This is truly one of life’s most challenging situations so when you feel overwhelmed yourself, realize you’re not alone. Be kind to yourself, find help and stay hopeful. With the right support and choice of rehab, that person can recover and once again live up to his full potential.

And when you’re in this situation, find out how Narconon has been helping those who are addicted recover their honesty and integrity and develop the life skills that keep that person on a sober path. For more than 50 years, Narconon has been the choice of tens of thousands of people around the world. Call us for more information on how we can help.



For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.