Are You Making It Easier for Your Loved One to Abuse Drugs?
If you have been dealing with a loved one who is abusing alcohol or drugs, you have probably asked them to slow down. Maybe you have even gone so far as to ask them to get treatment. They might have listened for a few months – or maybe only a few days – and tried to curb their substance abuse. Possibly they just practiced hiding their abuse a little more effectively. It isn’t long before you start asking them once again to deal with their addiction problem.
The problem is, many times people inadvertently make it easier to continue abusing drugs. The choices you make when dealing with an alcoholic or drug addict determine just how much pressure they feel to get any type of treatment.
No need to feel guilty about this. Addicts develop extremely effective methods of manipulating those around them so they can continue to abuse substances without too many consequences. If you are aware of the signs you are being manipulated, you are less likely to fall into the trap of enabling your loved one to continue to use and abuse substances.
Here are some of the classic methods of manipulation:
1. Divide and Conquer: Addicts are expert at compartmentalizing their lives. They quickly learn how much each person in the family will tolerate, and they are careful not to manipulate too much any family member who might catch on. They are selective in what they let different family members know. They know which one won’t lend money and which one will. They know which one will give them a bed to sleep in when the spouse kicks them out. They know who will intervene with the parents if they need to get bailed out of trouble once again. They also know who will keep their secrets.
2. Weakest Link: The addict will look for the weakest link in the family as their ally in addiction. They might do this by making the person feel sorry for them or by acting differently around them so that they protest when the rest of the family insists the person is in real trouble. Make sure you are not the weakest link.
3. Rage and Anger: If you feel afraid to confront your loved once because he might react with rage and anger, you just identified another classic manipulation method. The addict has figured out just how much anger will scare you off. If you are someone who doesn’t like confrontation, they will certainly figure this out and make sure any attempt to talk to them is met with the most unpleasant reaction. Their goal? Make sure you never attempt it again.
4. Empty Threats: Threats do not have to be in the form of violence – they might be threats of leaving and never coming back. They are usually dramatic statements, and most addicts are not in a position to follow through. “OK, I’ll move out and you won’t have to deal with my drinking anymore.” Good response? “I’d rather you choose to get help, but if you feel going out on your own is a better choice than getting help, let me know if you need any help packing.” Once you have called the addict on a threat (and you will often find it to have nothing backing it) they will not be as likely to try it again.
Refuse to Participate in the Addict’s Destruction
If you accommodate the addict, you are participating in their destruction. While it might seem like the right thing to do because they are sick, remember that the mind of the addict is totally focused on getting more drugs. If you make that possible, aren’t you ultimately contributing to their inevitable decline?
By not enabling destructive behavior, you are doing the most loving and supportive thing possible. This does not mean you abandon the person, just that you set new rules of engagement.
Seeking Professional Intervention Help
These new rules of engagement are best set with the help of a professional addiction intervention. Experts strong advise you NOT to try to do an intervention on your own – you are too entwined with the addict and have been manipulated for too long to be effective, and you might just make it worse. An addiction intervention means a neutral third-party works with the family, figures out if there are any weak links, and helps the family members reveal to each other the whole story. Remember, the addict has only given bits and pieces to you as this is part of divide and conquer.
According to Earl Hightower, an addiction intervention specialist who has done over 1,000 interventions over the past two decades, “Alcoholics and addicts have a great ability of reading people, and getting a great sense of what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not, what will manipulate you and what won’t. They get to know how to influence you so they can continue to drink or use with impunity without consequence. ‘You’ll know these things because that’s palatable for you, or creates empathy or compassion in you to allow me to do what I want, but this one over here I can charm; I gotta seduce this one; I’ve got to be more aggressive or assertive with this individual to get them to do what I want.’ The relationship an alcoholic or addict has with other people is all influenced dramatically by the illness that they suffer from; there’s absolutely no way it can be otherwise.”
It is critical that if you decide to do an intervention that you get all family members on the same page: no longer supporting the addiction; instead, supporting getting help for the addiction.
Jane Mintz, who specializes in crisis intervention, says, “There’s a very systematized way for me to get families to start to align. It’s all about alignment. These are fragmented people. Each person has a different experience with the affected individual. They have different opinions. Some may also be using. You’re taking a group of people that are fractured and then bringing them all together, maybe for the first time ever in a different way, so they can deliver the message of hope and help in one voice, effectively, using one voice.”
The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. To be part of the solution, you will need to step back and honestly examine your behavior in relation to the addicted person. That honest look will give you the ability to effectively approach the problem and become the support system for recovery rather than the support system for drug abuse.