When There’s an Addict in the Family…

by: Bob Garon
Manila Times | August 8, 2001

While the family of the addict struggles with what to do with him, here are some points to consider:

  1. You are not to blame for the addict’s disease. You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.
  2. While you are not to blame for the addiction of your loved one, you are responsible for either being part of the solution or making matters worse.
  3. Your loved one’s addiction is not a sign of family weakness or disgrace. Addiction can and does happen in the best of families.
  4. Don’t nag, preach, moralize, threaten or blame the addict for past and present mistakes. It does no good because he’s not listening. Understand that what’s needed is action, not words.
  5. Don’t cover up, make excuses or otherwise try to protect the addict for the natural consequences of his/her behavior. In doing so, you become an accomplice, an enabler in perpetuating the addict’s drug use and irresponsible behavior. Addicts are more likely to seek help when the pain of using drugs becomes worse to bear than the pain of not using. Your attempts to cover up will only deepen his addiction and delay the necessary actions you must take if you are to help him.
  6. Don’t try to play psychiatrist or make psychological excuses for the addict’s behavior. His addiction should not be blamed on childhood traumas, stress, marital problems or the lack of love of a parent. Putting emphasis on such things can only give the addict additional excuses to go on using his drugs. Besides, there are a host of people with worse problems who never took drugs.
  7. Sending the addict away to the province in order to keep him away from his friends has been tried countless times but it rarely works. Such a strategy only serves to relocate the problem. He can find drug users anywhere he goes.
  8. Don’t lay guilt trips on the addict in an attempt to get him to stop using. Saying things like “if you really loved me, you would stop using drugs” only creates negative feelings and gives the addict more excuses to use more drugs. Besides, he isn’t listening.
  9. Don’t threaten an action unless you are willing to carry it out. If you think you can bluff him, you’re wrong. Addicts are liars and are themselves expert bluffers. If yours is an idle threat, you will be seen as weak by the addict. This will only strengthen his belief that you won’t move on him and embolden him even more.
  10. Don’t be forced by the addict’s promises to stop using drugs and reform himself. Look at what he does, not what he says. Addicts are expert manipulators and rarely keep their promises. Besides, if a stranger with a similar history and background were to make similar promises, you would never believe him.
  11. Don’t allow yourself to be exploited financially or otherwise. Addicts are infamous for their ingenious scams. Don’t be a victim. Remember that the money you give or lend him will likely be used to purchase drugs and you in effect will be financing his addiction.


More points to ponder on tomorrow.