Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

When Someone You Love has an Addiction

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When Someone You Love Has an Addiction

The fallout from an addiction, for addicts and the people who love them, is devastating – the manipulations, the guilt, the destruction of relationships and the breakage of people. When addicts know they are loved by someone who is invested in them, they immediately have fuel for their addiction. Your love and your need to bring them safely through their addiction might see you giving money you can’t afford, saying yes when that yes will destroy you, lying to protect them, and having your body turn cold with fear from the midnight ring of the phone. You dread seeing them and you need to see them, all at once. 

You might stop liking them, but you don’t stop loving them. If you’re waiting for the addict to stop the insanity – the guilt trips, the lying, the manipulation – it’s not going to happen. If you can’t say no to the manipulations of their addiction in your unaddicted state, know that they won’t say no from their addicted one. Not because they won’t, but because they can’t. 

If you love an addict, it will be a long and excruciating road before you realise that there is absolutely nothing you can do. It will come when you’re exhausted, heartbroken, and when you feel the pain of their self-destruction pressing relentlessly and permanently against you. The relationships and the world around you will start to break, and you’ll cut yourself on the jagged pieces.  That’s when you’ll know, from the deepest and purest part of you, that you just can’t live like this any more.  

I’ve worked with plenty of addicts, but the words in this post come from loving one. I have someone in my life who has been addicted to various substances. It’s been heartbreaking to watch. It’s been even more heartbreaking to watch the effect on the people I love who are closer to him than I am.

I would be lying if I said that my compassion has been undying. It hasn’t. It’s been exhausted and stripped back to bare. I feel regularly as though I have nothing left to give him. What I’ve learned, after many years, is that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change him. With all of our combined wisdom, strength, love and unfailing will to make things better for him, there is nothing we can do. 

I realised a while ago that I couldn’t ride in the passenger seat with someone at the wheel who was on such a relentless path to self-destruction. It’s taken many years, a lot of sadness, and a lot of collateral damage to people, relationships and lives outside of his.

What I do know is that when he is ready to change direction, I’ll be there, with love, compassion and a fierce commitment to stand beside him in whatever way he needs to support his recovery. He will have an army of people behind him and beside him when he makes the decision, but until then, I and others who love him are powerless. I know that.

Nobody intends for a behaviour to become an addiction, and if you are someone who loves an addict – whether it’s a parent, child, partner, friend, sibling – the guilt, the shame and the helplessness can be overwhelming. 

Addiction is not a disease of character, personality, spirit or circumstance. It can happen to anyone. It’s a human condition with human consequences, and being that we’re all human, we’re all vulnerable. Addicts can come from any life and from any family. It’s likely that in our lifetime, if we don’t love someone with an addiction, we’ll know someone who does, so this is an important conversation to have, for all of us. 

The problem with loving an addict is that sometimes the things that will help them are the things that would seem hurtful, cold and cruel if they were done in response to non-addicts. Often, the best ways to respond to an addict have the breathtaking capacity to drown those who love them with guilt, grief, self-doubt and of course, resistance.

Loving an addict in any capacity can be one of the loneliest places in the world. It’s easy to feel judged for withdrawing support for the addict, but eventually, this becomes the only possible response. Unless someone has been in battle armour beside you, fighting the fight, being brought to their knees, with their heart-broken and their will tested, it’s not for them to judge. 

The more we can talk about openly about addiction, the more we can lift the shame, guilt, grief and unyielding self-doubt that often stands in the way of being able to respond to an addict in a way that supports their healing, rather than their addiction. It’s by talking that we give each other permission to feel what we feel, love who we love, and be who we are, with the vulnerabilities, frayed edges, courage and wisdom that are all a part of being human.

When Someone You Love is an Addict.

  1. You’re dealing with someone different now. 

    When an addiction takes hold, the person you love disappears, at least until the addiction loosens its grip. The person you love is still in there somewhere, but that’s not who you’re dealing with. The person you remember may have been warm, funny, generous, wise, strong – so many wonderful things – but addiction changes people. It takes a while to adjust to this reality and it’s very normal to respond to the addicted person as though he or she is the person you remember. This is what makes it so easy to fall for the manipulations, the lies and the betrayal – over and over. You’re responding to the person you remember – but this is not that person. The sooner you’re able to accept this, the sooner you can start working for the person you love and remember, which will mean doing what sometimes feels cruel, and always heartbreaking, so the addiction is starved of the power to keep that person away. The person you love is in there – support that person, not the addict in front of you. The sooner you’re able to stop falling for the manipulations, lies, shame and guilt that feeds their addiction, the more likely it will be that the person you remember will be able to find the way back to you.

  2. Don’t expect them to be on your logic.

    When an addiction takes hold, the person’s reality becomes distorted by that addiction. Understand that you can’t reason with them or talk them into seeing things the way you do. For them, their lies don’t feel like lies. Their betrayal doesn’t feel like betrayal. Their self-destruction doesn’t always feel like self-destruction. It feels like survival. Change will come when there is absolutely no other option but to change, not when you’re able to find the switch by giving them enough information or logic.

  3. When you’re protecting them from their own pain, you’re standing in the way of their reason to stop.

    Addicts will do anything to feed their addiction because when the addiction isn’t there, the emotional pain that fills the space is greater. People will only change when what they are doing causes them enough pain, that changing is a better option than staying the same. That’s not just for addicts, that’s for all of us. We often avoid change – relationships, jobs, habits – until we’ve felt enough discomfort with the old situation, to open up to a different option.

    Change happens when the force for change is greater than the force to stay the same. Until the pain of the addiction outweighs the emotional pain that drives the addiction, there will be no change. 

    When you do something that makes their addictive behaviour easier, or protects them from the pain of their addiction – perhaps by loaning them money, lying for them, driving them around – you’re stopping them from reaching the point where they feel enough pain that letting go of the addiction is a better option. Don’t minimise the addiction, ignore it, make excuses for it or cover it up. Love them, but don’t stand in the way of their healing by protecting them from the pain of their addiction. 

  4. There’s a different way to love an addict.

    When you love them the way you loved them before the addiction, you can end up supporting the addiction, not the person. Strong boundaries are important for both of you. The boundaries you once had might find you innocently doing things that make it easier for the addiction to continue. It’s okay to say no to things you might have once agreed to – in fact, it’s vital – and is often one of the most loving things you can do. If it’s difficult, have an anchor – a phrase or an image to remind you of why your ‘no’ is so important. If you feel as though saying no puts you in danger, the addiction has firmly embedded itself into the life of the person you love. In these circumstances, be open to the possibility that you may need professional support to help you to stay safe, perhaps by stopping contact. Keeping a distance between you both is no reflection on how much love and commitment you feel to the person, and all about keeping you both safe.

  5. Your boundaries – they’re important for both of you.

    If you love an addict, your boundaries will often have to be stronger and higher than they are with other people in your life. It’s easy to feel shame and guilt around this, but know that your boundaries are important because they’ll be working hard for both of you. Setting boundaries will help you to see things more clearly from all angles because you won’t be as blinded by the mess or as willing to see things through the addict’s eyes – a view that often involves entitlement, hopelessness, and believing in the validity of his or her manipulative behaviour. Set your boundaries lovingly and as often as you need to. Be clear about the consequences of violating the boundaries and make sure you follow through, otherwise it’s confusing for the addict and unfair for everyone. Pretending that your boundaries aren’t important will see the addict’s behaviour get worse as your boundaries get thinner. In the end this will only hurt both of you.

  6. You can’t fix them, and it’s important for everyone that you stop trying.

    The addict and what they do are completely beyond your control. They always will be. An addiction is all-consuming and it distorts reality. Know the difference between what you can change (you, the way you think, the things you do) and what you can’t change (anyone else). There will be a strength that comes from this, but believing this will take time, and that’s okay. If you love someone who has an addiction, know that their stopping isn’t just a matter of wanting to. Let go of needing to fix them or change them and release them with love, for your sake and for theirs.

  7. See the reality.

    When fear becomes overwhelming, denial is a really normal way to protect yourself from a painful reality. It’s easier to pretend that everything is okay, but this will only allow the addictive behaviour to bury itself in deeper. Take notice if you are being asked to provide money, emotional resources, time, babysitting – anything more than feels comfortable. Take notice also of the  feeling, however faint, that something isn’t right. Feelings are powerful, and will generally try to alert us when something isn’t right, long before our minds are willing to listen. 

  8. Don’t do things that keep their addiction alive.

    When you love an addict all sorts of boundaries and conventions get blurred. Know the difference between helping and enabling. Helping takes into account the long-term effects, benefits and consequences. Enabling is about providing immediate relief, and overlooks the long-term damage that might come with that short-term relief. Providing money, accommodation, dropping healthy boundaries to accommodate the addict – these are all completely understandable when it comes to looking after someone you love, but with someone who has an addiction, it’s helping to keep the addiction alive. 

    Ordinarily, it’s normal to help out the people we love when they need it, but there’s a difference between helping and enabling. Helping supports the person. Enabling supports the addiction. 

    Be as honest as you can about the impact of your choices. This is so difficult – I know how difficult this is, but when you change what you do, the addict will also have to change what he or she does to accommodate those changes. This will most likely spin you into guilt, but let the addicted one know that when he or she decides to do things differently, you’ll be the first one there and your arms will be open, and that you love them as much as you ever have. You will likely hear that you’re not believed, but this is designed to refuel your enabling behaviour. Receive what they are saying, be saddened by it and feel guilty if you want to – but for their sake, don’t change your decision.

  9. Don’t buy into their view of themselves.

    Addicts will believe with every part of their being that they can’t exist without their addiction. Don’t buy into it. They can be whole without their addiction but they won’t believe it, so you’ll have to believe it enough for both of you. You might have to accept that they aren’t ready to move towards that yet, and that’s okay, but in the meantime don’t actively support their view of themselves as having no option but to surrender fully to their addiction. Every time you do something that supports their addiction, you’re communicating your lack of faith in their capacity to live without it. Let that be an anchor that keeps your boundaries strong. 

  10. When you stand your ground, things might get worse before they get better.

    The more you allow yourself to be manipulated, the more you will be manipulated. When you stand your ground and stop giving in to the manipulation, the maniplulation may get worse before it stops. When something that has always worked stops working, it’s human nature to do it more. Don’t give into to the lying, blaming or guilt-tripping. They may withdraw, rage, become deeply sad or develop pain or illness. They’ll stop when they realise your resolve, but you’ll need to be the first one to decide that what they’re doing won’t work any more.

  11. You and self-love. It’s a necessity. 

    In the same way that it’s the addict’s responsibility to identify their needs and meet them in safe and fulfilling ways, it’s also your responsibility to identify and meet your own. Otherwise you will be drained and damaged – emotionally, physically and spiritually, and that’s not good for anyone.

  12. What are you getting out of it?

    This is such a hard question, and will take an open, brave heart to explore it. Addicts use addictive behaviours to stop from feeling pain. Understandably, the people who love them often use enabling behaviours to also stop from feeling pain. Loving an addict is heartbreaking. Helping the person can be a way to ease your own pain and can feel like a way to extend love to someone you’re desperate to reach. It can also be a way to compensate for the bad feelings you might feel towards the person for the pain they cause you. This is all really normal, but it’s important to explore how you might be unwittingly contributing to the problem. Be honest, and be ready for difficult things to come up. Do it with a trusted person or a counsellor if you need the support. It might be one of the most important things you can do for the addict. Think about what you imagine will happen if you stop doing what you’re doing for them. Then think about what will happen if you don’t. What you’re doing might save the person in the short-term, but the more intense the addictive behaviour, the more destructive the ultimate consequences of that behaviour if it’s allowed to continue. You can’t stop it continuing, but you can stop contributing to it. Be willing to look at what you’re doing with an open heart, and be brave enough to challenge yourself on whatever you might be doing that’s keeping the addiction alive. The easier you make it for them to maintain their addiction, the easier it is for them to maintain their addiction. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

  13. What changes do you need to make in your own life?

    Focusing on an addict is likely to mean that the focus on your own life has been turned down – a lot. Sometimes, focusing on the addict is a way to avoid the pain of dealing with other issues that have the capacity to hurt you. When you explore this, be kind to yourself, otherwise the temptation will be to continue to blunt the reality. Be brave, and be gentle and rebuild your sense of self, your boundaries and your life. You can’t expect the addict in your life to deal with their issues, heal, and make the immensely brave move towards building a healthy life if you are unwilling to do that for yourself.

  14. Don’t blame the addict.

    The addict might deserve a lot of the blame, but blame will keep you angry, hurt and powerless. Addiction is already heavily steeped in shame. It’s the fuel that started it and it’s the fuel that will keep it going. Be careful you’re not contributing to keeping the shame fire lit.

  15. Be patient.

    Go for progress, not perfection. There will be forward steps and plenty of backward ones too.  Don’t see a backward step as failure. It’s not. Recovery never happens in a neat forward line and backward steps are all part of the process.

  16. Sometimes the only choice is to let go.

    Sometimes all the love in the world isn’t enough. Loving someone with an addiction can tear at the seams of your soul. It can feel that painful. If you’ve never been through it, letting go of someone you love deeply, might seem unfathomable but if you’re nearing that point, you’ll know the desperation and the depth of raw pain that can drive such an impossible decision. If you need to let go, know that this is okay. Sometimes it’s the only option. Letting go of someone doesn’t mean you stop loving them – it never means that. You can still leave the way open if you want to. Even at their most desperate, most ruined, most pitiful point, let them know that you believe in them and that you’ll be there when they’re ready to do something different. This will leave the way open, but will put the responsibility for their healing in their hands, which is the only place for it to be.

And finally …

Let them know that you love them and have always loved them – whether they believe it or not. Saying it is as much for you as it is for them. 

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118 Comments

Matilda Emberson

This is one of the most helpful articles I have read as a parent of someone battling addiction. The distinction between helping and enabling was especially useful.

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Hey Sigmund

I imagine there are so many conflicting emotions when you are the parent of someone who has an addiction – it’s such a complex situation. I’m pleased this article was able to help you. My very best wishes to you and your family.

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Ellen

This was amazing. “The person you love is still there, they don’t see it as betrayal but survival.” I started out this process knowing full well, at least intellectually, how hard it would be, intuitively knowing to set compassionate boundaries, knowing it’s not me, it’s not even “them”, it’s the addiction, and resolving to help instead of enable. Over time though I have been worn down, to the point where I have started getting bitter and resentful. I have forgotten why I started caring in the first place, and you reminded me, and more importantly removed my shame for caring for an addicted person. Thank you for renewing my perspective. …As long as it takes. They deserve to be happy, just like we do, and all their wonderful qualities are still there, it’s no wonder we still love them. We just have to be effective to truly help them, rather than tired, hence self-love. Whew. Love and light to all of you fighting the same battle. <3 <3

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donna

Thank you so much. I beleive reading this has helped me. I am being so manipulated right now and it’s so hard.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Donna. It sounds as though you are in a really confusing and painful situation. I’m pleased this was helpful for you. I understand how difficult it is, and I also know that inside you will be the strength you need to move forward.

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Romayne Westwood

Thank you, this was very helpful, especially the section on helping and enabling.

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Sherry

Such a fabulous article!
You dealt with emotions that are hard for me to articulate and I am grateful.
It is clear that you understand the pain.
If actual progress is being made by the addict, how does the partner ever trust again? I am finding it very hard to even care anymore.

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Hey Sigmund

Thank you for your comment. I really do understand the pain that comes with having someone in your life who struggles with addiction. Trusting someone who has hurt you and let you down is hard. Your partner’s job now is to earn your trust and that will take time, but if it’s something you would like to see happen, it’s important that whenever you can, you notice his attempts and let him know that you’ve noticed. It sounds as though you’ve been really hurt and it’s completely understandable that you feel like you don’t care. This is your mind’s way of protecting yourself from future hurt and it’s important not to let go of that too quickly. Take it slowly, and see where your feelings end up. You will need to give it time though. Your trust didn’t disappoint in a couple of days, so it won’t return that quickly either. Be kind to yourself and pateinet. I hope you are able to through this in a way that strengthens you and brings you the love you deserve.

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Lois

As the adult child ,sister of and mother of an addicted person this is one of the best articals I have ever read that sums up everything I already know.but need to read on a regular basis as a support. Thank you so much ,!

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Vanessa Raymond

I am a Chemical Dependency Counselor in a very busy not-for-profit, outpatient clinic. I loved this article! It applies to us as counselor’s as well! Well said! Thanks

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Patrice

Thanks! My mother needs to stop sending $ to her granddaughter and I need to tell my daughter that I love her.

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Hey Sigmund

Yes and yes. One of the hardest things about loving someone with an addiction is that the things people would ordinarily do to be supportive, like gifting money, are actually more supportive of the addiction than the person.

Regardless of how it is received, saying ‘I love you’ leaves the door open for when your daughter is ready. It sounds as though you are in a difficult situation. Loving someone with an addiction always is. Wishing you and your family love and healing.

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sue

Addiction has become an epidemic bc people don’t know how to cope with the stressors of life so they drink…take a few pills… Hoping to forget… Self medicating the problem becomes the addiction… I have friends that have lived it… As a social worker I have patients who fight it every day… But as a mother I wasone who had to let go…I had to let my husband get sober on his own… There was nothing left I could do… But he always knew how much I loved him… It was his choice to allow his addiction to take his life… I will always remember the man he was

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Hey Sigmund

Addiction never hurts only one person does it. I’m sorry your husband was taken by his. You’re so right – even with any amount of love and commitment, nobody else can heal the addict but the addict themselves. I love the clarity and strength in you that lets you see through the addiction and remember the man he was.

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Nancy Cross

I know all these thing you wrote about. I am divorced because of addiction and now have a son with addiction . It’s so hard the divorce was bad .. But I can’t divorce my son.. Yes , I am a enabler. He is in treatment now. I have not seen him in 3 weeks. The last thing I told him was I love you and I can’t do this for you .. He has wrote me twice wanting money and cigarettes. ..His 30 days is about up I plan on seeing him before he gets out to tell him he can’t come back to my house he will need to go to the half way house .

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Hey Sigmund

Oh Nancy, I know what a heartbreaking situation this is, I really do. You’re doing the right thing though. Perhaps you are an enabler, but you’re also a mother, and getting to the point where you can withdraw the support that enables the addiction takes time and will often only come when everything else has been tried. It’s not for anyone else to judge when that time is. It sounds as though you’re there though, and that you’re acting with strength and with great love for your son. I wish love and strength to you and your son, and hope your son is able to find the courage and clarity he needs to find his way through.

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Sheliah Vinson

Enabling is confusing for me. I just can’t understand when its happening? Why is there so much anger from the addict toward the person that helps them the most?

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Hey Sigmund

Yes, enabling is a really confusing thing – you’re not alone there. Anything that makes it easier for a person to keep their addiction alive is enabling. So, giving money is enabling because it means that the addict will have more money to spend on their addiction. Giving them a place to live can be enabling because it makes it easier to live the life of an addict, without, say getting a job or using money on their own accommodation (which means more for the addiction). Some addicts can be highly functioning, so they might be working and earning a decent income independently. Enabling behaviour in this instance is anything that makes it easier for the addiction to continue. It might be making excuses for the addict, physically buying alcohol (if alcohol is the drug of choice), pretending that the gambling (or any addiction) isn’t a problem.

One of the things that makes letting go of enabling behaviour so difficult is because in most other instances outside of addiction, it might feel like normal support – it’s normal to give your children a place to stay, it’s normal to help them out with money, it’s normal to buy alcohol to have a drink with your partner. With an addict though, this behaviour is enabling because it supports the addiction, not the person.

Making the decision as to when to let go of enabling behaviours is such a difficult decision to make, because it often involves taking away the scaffold that is preventing the addict from falling further. The critical thing to remember though is that people don’t change until they feel enough pain – we’re all like that, not just addicts. We won’t change until it’s harder to stay the same than it is to change. That point is different for all of us, and one of the hardest things about loving someone who is an addict is watching them keep putting themselves through more and more pain, as we watch and wonder with an ache in our hearts how much further they have to fall so that the pain is enough for them to change. They are the only ones who can make that decision though. Sadly, ‘enough pain’ means enough for them, not enough for everyone else.

There are so many reason addicts are angry at the people who love them the most and often none of it has to do with how they really feel towards the person. Anger is the only emotion that never exists on its own. It exists to keep other, more difficult emotions under control. Addicts might feel guilt, shame, grief around what they’re doing, but it’s too hard to feel those emotions – they’re so overwhelming – so they feel angry instead. We all do that with anger. It’s easier to be angry at someone else, than to allow feelings of shame, guilt, fear or sadness. The reason you’re probably the target is because you’re the one who is there. I know how difficult it is, but try not to take it personally – it’s rarely meant that way. The problem is that anger toward the people they love just makes the guilt, shame and sadness worse, which makes the anger worse, which makes the need to avoid these feelings through the addictive behaviour worse. It’s so complicated, but it’s so often not personal, even though that’s how it feels. Of course, this is very broadly speaking because the reasons for anger will be different for everyone. I hope this helps to make sense of things, and is able to bring you some comfort.

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Clare Waismann

I have been in the field for two decades and the thin line between enabling and trying to protect your child ( a natural instinct ) has been the hardest issue to deal with.

It is such an incredibly painful and scary place to be.

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Hey Sigmund

Yes. It’s an impossible and deeply painful place to be – knowing that what you’re doing might be making things worse, but also knowing that if you pull the support away, they will be more vulnerable and more likely to fall.

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Fore, J.

You know my daughters mother has treated me worse than anyone in her life, but I am more than likely her biggest enabler. We have a long history and I blame myself for the road she went on because my immaturity in my younger days but today I love her the most out of anyone in my life besides my daughter. I always was curious for why she treated me the worse it didn’t become apparent that she was struggling from alcohol addiction until early this year. It has taken quite a toll on me because all I want is that person back that once treated me with love and respect. But until yesterday I continued to give in, I snapped I felt terrible. But at the end I told her the door was open when she was ready. We are in our mid 20s now and it just baffles me how we got to this point you know. This article helped me open my eyes so to say and I thank you. All we do is hope and pray that they will wake up from whatever their going through, patience does not come easy. She recently got out of rehab and she hasn’t drank but craves it and it’s hard because she’s constantly irritable and one thing could drive her to go pick up a drink. I chose to let her go not permanently but until she’s ready to change and god was it so difficult. It’s almost like that saying if you really love someone you have to set them free, and if they truly love you maybe one day they will come back. Thank you for this article.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m pleased the article has been helpful for you. Loving someone with an addiction is so difficult, but it sounds as though you are doing everything right, and being a wonderful support by not enabling her. I wish you and your partner all the very best moving forward. This is a tough time, but it sounds as though you have enormous strength in you.

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Carolyn

As the mother of an addict. I belong to naranon which has saved my sanity. This is one of the best articles I have ever read. Thank you. Just for today thank you again

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Carolyn. I’m pleased naranon are able to give you some comfort. Being with people who ‘get it’ makes such a difference doesn’t it.

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Teresa

Thank you for writing this article. I feel like we met and talked and then you wrote this for me.
What’s so difficult for me to understand is that as far as I know, my son is (only) addicted to Pot.
I use (only) because it seems it isn’t taken seriously as a drug that someone could be addicted to.
Everything that was discussed in this article applies strongly to my relationship with my son.
He has torn up and thrown money back in my face while calling me awful names at the same time because it wasn’t enough. He has yelled at me because after washing and ironing his shirts, I failed to put them on the hanger facing the right direction, on and on.
Could this same article apply to enabling a person with a mental illness?
He’s 33, blames everything on me,
Calls me terrible names and yes unfortunately I’m questioning myself.
Right now I have a protective order in place but my husband seems to have picked up where I left off or is the go between!
Thanks for listening and this article is the most enlightening that I have read.

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Hey Sigmund

This is such a tough situation for you and your family. One of the really hard things about loving someone with an addiction is that their behaviour can feel so cruel that protecting yourself becomes really important. For others who might not have been the direct target of this, it might be more difficult to understand. When you are co-parents, you don’t necessarily see things the same way at the same time because even though you’re going through it together with your son, you’re experiencing different things. This is why addiction is so difficult on the entire family.

In relation to enabling and mental illness, it really depends on the illness and whether the enabler is enabling things the person ‘can’t’ do or the things the person ‘won’t’ do. One example of enabling behaviour might be around enabling the person to avoid taking important medication for a more serious mental illness. It depends whether the behaviour you’re talking about is a something the person is capable of doing.

I understand how loving an addict can cause so much pain and put pressure on relationships. It’s a confusing and scary thing to have to deal with. I wish your family strength and love.

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debbie

as like everyone else, yes this is a great artical. What is the hardest though is when mother and child (Adult Child) are both addicts. But i am in recovery and (adult son) lives with me and is an addict. My councelor tells me that i need to kick my son out because he is not helping me in any way,If anything it is hurting my recovery. I did kick my son out and two days later he comes home telling me he is frezzing which of course i let him back in.It is so hard to tell your child to get out,especially when its in the 20s outside.I am pulling my hair out and dont know what to do anymore.The worst thing that you think about is that they will take there own life, by choice or accident. I am lost and dont know where else i can turn.But once again your artical is great. It opened my eyes alot.

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Hey Sigmund

Debbie, I completely understand how painful this must be for you. It’s so confusing and frightening – you want him to get better and you know that that is something he has to do on his own, but you love him and don’t want to see him in a vulnerable situation. I can hear how scared you are for him, but you can only do what you can do. I know you would do anything to make things different for him, but the healing is for your son to do on his own. Strength and love to you and your son.

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Vanessa Ayala

This article pretty much covers it all. Great reminder of how to continue living despite our addict’s behavior.

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Veronica

Much needed article. My 23 year old son is an addict and letting him go to suffer the consequences is so hard. 10 years of recovery has helped me, but it’s hard because my extended family has no recovery and keep enabling him. I posted this article hoping that they’ll read it and consider the possibility that what they believe is help, really isn’t. Thanks for the article and making it public.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Veronica. I completely understand how hard it is letting go of someone you love, even when it’s done with love and is the only way left to help them. I hope this article is able to bring some understanding to your family. It’s a difficult issue, but one that we need to keep talking about. Thank you for adding your voice.

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Jo

I love my husband with all my heart. I met him while we were both partying and having fun and always thought eventually it will change. It did, but it got worse. We got married, had a son… and he became addicted to cocaine, gambling, alcohol, you name it.
He stole from me, his family, lost his car… it didn’t scare him.

My ultimatums didn’t scare him. I realized I need help just as much as he does. With a small baby and no job, I was really scared to leave.
But this time, I kicked him out – after he decided to yell at me in front of out son. He was telling him: “you need to hear the truth about your mother, she is a whore, a prostitute, a cunt… You ruined my life and you are the devil…”

I might be a lot of things, but my 3-year old doesn’t deserve to hear that, and I too, didn’t deserve to hear that. I am scared, I have no money, no job… but I have a peaceful house now. A quite peaceful, abuse-free house, where my son and I can relax.

Thank you for your article… it is the most real, and soulful peace I read.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Jo. I understand that you are scared, but you have absolutely done the right thing. You have acted with amazing strength and courage and love for your son and now he is protected from the trauma and confusion that he would otherwise have to grow up with. He will grow into a different young man because of you.

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Catalina

I had to leave my addicted partner. He was a danger to himself, me, and my children. I feel like he, the person I feel in love with, died and I mourn him. Unfortunately I couldn’t help him, and contributed to his feelings of shame because I wouldn’t let him come around my family.

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Hey Sigmund

I completely understand why you would have to leave. It sounds as though it was such a difficult decision for you to make, but one that you made with great courage and strength.

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Melissa

Such a poignant piece, chock full of the realities of loving an addict and also loving someone who loves the addict…..my sister in law is the addict…..I love my sister in law but despise the heart break and angst my partner lives in as she tries to cope with her sister’s addiction! We know in our brains what we need to do the things your article describes but feel so overwhelmed by the guilt and shame caused by disengaging and setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Its so hard to navigate all the intricacies of loving and figuring out how to support an addict. Thank you for this article. It as exactly what I needed to hear right now.

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Hey Sigmund

Melissa I completely understand your feelings of guilt and shame and I can hear how much you sister in law means to you. Disengaging doesn’t mean you love her any less – it means that you have tried everything else and this is the only option left, for her and for you. I’m pleased the article has been able to give you the comfort and reassurance you needed to hear. Addiction is heartbreaking for everyone involved isn’t it.

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Diane

We became aware of our 26 year old daughter’s addiction 1 year ago, when she was arrested for purchasing heroin. She is an intelligent, beautiful girl with two college degrees. She hid this well but in the last year she had lost Everything, her job, her car, her money, she is on probation, she has Overdosed 3 times and it doesn’t seem to be bottom. She has been in rehab 2 (28) day stays, Detox 4 (3-5) days, she was in a sober living house for 90 days, she attends meetings goes to IOP, we go to family counseling but she continues to RELAPSE, she calls it a “Slip”. We have put her out on ocassions, but worried when we found out she was living out of a truck, and in a shed and we let her back in our home. That was not Bottom for her either.
We had a contract with her to live at home, she has broken 25 of the 30 issues on the contract. We told her she has to go,reading this article has made me realize, We can not Love her into recovery. Everything we have been doing we thought was from Love, and caring, we now realize we have been helping her feed her addiction. She has an offer to move into another sober home, she is telling us she is waiting to hear back from two recovery facilities, delaying moving out. I told her she needs to be out of our home tommorow, no matter where she goes. It hurts terribly, I feel terrible putting my daughter out knowing she needs HELP, I feel like I am turning my back on her, but this one year had taken the biggest toll on our family. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Every minute of every day my thoughts and actions are focused on her only, it’s time for me. And our family to let her go and start living again.

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Hey Sigmund

Diane I know how painful this is, I really do. You are absolutely right – you can’t love her into recovery. I know you would do anything to help her and to make her better and the most painful thing about loving someone with an addiction is the helplessness of watching them and knowing there’s nothing you can do. The things you normally do that do come from love often support the addiction, more than the person. People don’t change until they have felt enough pain. The problem with addiction is that the longer it goes on, the greater their tolerance to pain and the worse things have to get before the move towards healing. I know you feel as though you have turned your back on her but this is so NOT the case. You have tried everything and it hasn’t worked and it will only keep hurting you and your family more and more. The growth is hers to do, and she has to do this part on her own, or with the support of rehab. I wish you love and strength.

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tess chrisler

I spoke with my drug addicted son this morning and in the source of our conversation, he said “you must think something’s wrong with me” and I said ” A concern for your life style” and he said why does everything have to be about me and my life style. I’m getting pissed and have to hang up and I said softly, goodbye..but cried for an hour.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s so painful loving someone with an addiction. The helplessness is awful. Know that you are doing all you can, and you can’t do any more than that. This is his growth and you can’t love an addiction out of someone. If only you could, I know you would, but you can’t. Love and strength to you and your son.

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Amy

Thank you for this article and the comments. I’m in a long distance relationship with a wonderful man. I’ve realized he is an alcoholic. We’re in this cycle of addict/enabler and I just realized that after reading this article.

I have experienced his addict behavior recently and the words he used were so painful, cruel, and dramatic. It threw me to hear them, they signaled so much more than a disagreement. We’ve been together over a year and the subtleties of this are just hitting me, probably because of the long distance and his ability to lie and manipulate.

I’m scheduled to visit next week and now I’m struggling with what this all means. I’ve noticed I have preoccupation with this and I’m trying to make my priorities higher. It’s very hard recognizing the loss of love and feeling the pain of that and the confusion. I’m trying to take small steps today.

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