Addiction takes many forms, manifesting in substance abuse, unhealthy sexual activity, and even seemingly trivial things like eating. While the way it reveals itself differs, all addicts share similar patterns of thought and behavior. One common characteristic of addiction is that sufferers have a predisposition to, whether they mean to or not, drain the life and joy from those closest to them.
If you are close to an addict, understanding how to live your life with and around them is not only critical to protecting your own mental health, but also the addicts. It is very easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that you’re helping, when in fact you are making things worse. Learn to help an addict you love by helping yourself with Capital Choice’s 10 rules for living with addicts.
Recognize The Power of ‘No’
When those we love fall into addiction, it’s basic human nature to want to help them. Our drive for compassion is noble and powerful, but exposes us to manipulation by those who would prey on our vulnerabilities.
Addiction is a master manipulator. It takes complete control of an addicts mind, putting their interests behind it’s own. It is so powerful that it’s even capable of exerting force on the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of those close to an addict. The closer you are to a person, the more powerfully it is capable of influencing your actions.
The only way to prevent an addict from draining the love from your life is to put up powerful boundaries. Regardless of how painful doing so might feel, it’s is fundamental to recognize that this is the only way to help the person you love, and not their addiction.
Even a relationship as sacred as that between a parent and child is not beyond the corrupting influence of addiction, in fact it is often the first target an addiction chooses to feed itself. Like a vampire, addiction will leech off the love a parent feels for it’s child, or vice-versa, until that love is completely spent. A parasite on the mind of an addict, and those close to addicts, the only way to defeat it is to deny it the ability to feed itself.
You cannot make your child, parent, friend, or family member stop being an addict. All you can do is choose is whether or not you will allow this addiction to feed off the love you feel for this person. Whether it’s a place to stay, food to eat, or money to get by; recognize that there is nothing sacred to an addiction, that there is no lie an addict will not to tell in order to continue chasing their high.
Saying ‘no’ when an addict you love asks for help is tremendously painful, but it is the only force in the universe that is capable of resisting addiction. ‘No’ starts with those in an addicts life denying the things they need to continue their addiction. With time and enough ‘No’ from those in an addicts life, a different ‘No’ grows within the addict themselves, the one they use to resist the power of their own addiction.
Separate the Person From the Addiction
Think of addiction like a separate presence within the mind of an addict. Like a cancer, addiction only wants to grow, but instead of residing within the body; addiction infects the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of it’s host.
When an addict you love comes to ask you for help in order to enable their addiction, consider that it is not the person you love who is attempting to manipulate you, but this mental cancer that only wants to feed and grow. It looks at you with the same eyes as the person you love, asks with the same voice, and even has access to the same memories and stories of your shared past, but it is not the same person.
When you say no to the person you love, recognize that it is their addiction you are denying, not them. Their addiction knows you will go to the ends of the earth to prevent them from feeling pain, and thus will subject the person you love to tremendous amounts of it in order to get what it wants.
What addiction doesn’t know is that by causing pain to an addict, it waters the seed of it’s own destruction. Pain is uncomfortable, but it is the only path to gaining strength, and only by becoming strong can an addict ever wrestle back control of their own mind and decisions. Suffering is the antidote to addiction, and only by accepting it can you hope to help an addict, or can an addict hope to help themselves.
The Antidote to Addiction
If we cannot expect ourselves to accept the pain of denying an addict their addiction, then how can we expect the addict themselves to do it?
Addicts become addicts because they are looking to avoid suffering. The high they chase offers them the opportunity to, albeit temporarily, numb themselves to the pain and suffering that characterizes much of life. Some people become addicts as a result of intensely traumatic experience, others due to painful pasts, and others still due to a simple sensitivity to the suffering of life.
When they are high, they are able to stop suffering temporarily, but afterwards feel it even more intensely.
Heroin provides bliss, a place where a person can escape from their life and feel only good feelings. Once the high is over, pain and suffering is felt even more intensely as everything in life is sacrificed in pursuit of the next high.
Orgasm frees the mind for a fleeting moment from stress and anxiety, and sex addicts dedicate their lives to chasing it. Once finished their high, sex addicts find themselves in a pit of shame and guilt, sacrificing more and more of their dignity in order to ease the pain of losing their dignity!
Enablers are enablers because they are looking to avoid suffering as well. They feel intense pain when those they love do, and do all that they can to protect them from it. They offer them all manner of resources to make their life more comfortable, because they feel discomfort when an addict does.
But what happens when we accept pain and suffering, despite how tremendously uncomfortable it makes us feel?
Because we’ve been holding it back for so long, feeling our suffering without seeking a way out can be intensely overwhelming to start. This is when the urge to escape will be strongest. If you resist the powerful urge to find a way out, to walk those familiar paths towards easing your pain but digging it deeper, you’ll find a peculiar thing happens.
You’ll grow stronger.
We Are Stronger Together
The corruption that exists within the mind of an addict isn’t limited to it. It is capable of travelling to the minds of those that love them as well, influencing thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in order to feed and grow.
Addicts and those that love them engage in different patterns of harmful thought and behavior, but they follow the same path to it. By constantly seeking to avoid the suffering they experience in life, they increase and enhance it in each other, unaware that the uncomfortable task of accepting suffering is the path to the freedom they’re seeking.
For addicts and those that love them, the path to peace of mind is an arduous one, but they do not have to walk it alone. Both groups are massively helped when they access support networks, groups of individuals that share their experience and demonstrate that walking the hard path away from the pain of addiction is not something they have to do alone.
If you are an addict, or love an addict, accessing these support networks can expose you to perspective that can prove critical to understanding the situation that you and those you love are in. The support of others who legitimately understand you, and to whom you can relate, is a tremendous asset to cultivating the strength necessary to defeat addiction.
If you live in Ottawa, consider these groups as an opportunity to help yourself, and the addicts you love:
For Narcotic Addicts
For Sexual Addiction: