Drug Addiction


I Have a Son / Daughter / Mother / Father / Girlfriend / Boyfriend Who is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol – What Can I do to Help Them?

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[note: download the printable pdf version of this article right here]

“I have a son who is addicted to heroin.”

“I have a wife that is addicted to anxiety medication.”

“I have a husband who is addicted to alcohol.”

“I have a girlfriend who is addicted to painkillers.”

I get emails that start like this almost every day from Spiritual River readers.

I have a [blank] who is addicted to [blank]. What can I do to help them?

So this article is for anyone who is trying to help an addict or alcoholic. There is a ton of good information here, so you might want to bookmark it or print it out.

Here is what is covered in detail:

* Helping the addict by helping yourself
* Can you force another person to change?
* Determine their level of denial
* Enabling: hurting when we think we are helping
* Detachment
* Setting limits and boundaries with the addict
* Reacting to their addiction only fuels the fire
* Interventions and convincing them to go to rehab
* Supporting them in their treatment effort
* Complicating issues: health and mental illness
* What can I try if I am desperate and they are really out of control?
* What if I make an ultimatum with the addict and it does not work?
* What if the addicts claims that they want help, but they put conditions on it?
* What if the addict refuses certain types of treatment or help, such as long term rehab or 12 step meetings?
* What if the addict in my life just keeps relapsing, over and over again, and never seems to “get it?”
* What if the addict/alcoholic refuses to get help?
* What if my spouse tells me that they will quit once the baby is born (or some other event occurs)?
* When should I give up on an addict or alcoholic and move on with my life? When should I continue to hold out hope for change?
* What is the single most important thing that I can do to help the addict in my life?

Helping the addict by helping yourself

Most people who have a struggling drug addict or alcoholic in their life are not really ready to hear this as a solution.

“Get help myself? Why should I do that? I’m not the one who has the problem. It’s this [blank] of mine that needs to quit drinking!”

Such responses are typical, and should come as no surprise. But that does not mean that the response is correct.

The bottom line is that if you found this webpage (or were sent to it), then you could probably benefit from seeking some help for your situation.

As a friend or a family member of a struggling addict, there are basically 2 things that can help you:

1) Support, and
2) Knowledge.

Let’s take a look at each.

You need support in order to get through the trials of having to deal with someone who is addicted. A huge part of this support comes from finding out that your situation is not unique, and that you are not alone in your struggle. There are other people out there who are going through much the same things that you are. Finding and connecting with this type of support can be done in several different ways, but the quickest and most effective route is to go to an Al-Anon meeting.

The second thing you might need is more knowledge of how to deal with the addict in your life. What can you actually do to help the addict or alcoholic? Can you force them into rehab? Can you threaten them into being clean and sober? What works and what does not? How can you help them without enabling them? And so on.

So this is the education part of it. Again, many people in your position do not want to learn about addiction. They just want it to go away. It is not fair that this other person in their life started abusing drugs or alcohol. But the situation “is what it is,” and now you have to deal with it.

Part of dealing with it is learning more about it, and learning how to help the addict in a healthy way.

So if you have come to this point and you are having a hard time dealing with a struggling addict or alcoholic in your life, then you need 2 things: support, and knowledge.

You can gain a lot of knowledge by finding others who have been through what you are going through. The easiest way to do that is to get to an Al-Anon meeting. People who refuse to do that are probably blocking themselves from a solution for some other reason, one they might not even be aware of.

Throughout the rest of this article this suggestion will probably occur again: go to Al-Anon. That is because it is a shortcut to so many things that can help you. Identification is important. You need to talk with others who have been where you are at. If you don’t find this identification at Al-Anon, where are you going to find it? There are other ways to get support like this but none of them are as well targeted as Al-Anon is.

So if you refuse to go to Al-Anon, for any reason, then ask yourself: “What is the nature of my resistance? Why am I cutting myself off from this type of support?”

Al-Anon does not have to be everyone’s ultimate solution. But, it should be a natural starting point. The help and support that you get there is very, very targeted. So use it.

Can you force another person to change?

You really can not force anyone to change against their will. At times it may seem like we can do this in certain situations, but drug addiction and alcoholism make it painfully clear that we cannot really force a change on anyone who is not ready.

Rational people could probably be forced to stop abusing drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, those who are addicted are not necessarily being rational. They are operating from a standpoint of fear and trying to medicate their emotions. The nature of denial is that we hang on to the good times with drugs rather than to see all the destruction and misery that they cause in our lives. So even though the balance may have tipped long ago and created a life of misery for the addict, they may not see this situation rationally and decide that they might be happier if they could get clean and sober. Their fear blocks them from exploring this idea. They are trapped in a cycle in which they believe that they are truly unique, and that they can only be happy when they are drunk or high. It can be impossible to convince the person otherwise.

Many people who are in the later stages of drug or alcohol addiction know that they are on a destructive path, and they no longer care. They may be depressed and they may also be on the border of being suicidal in some ways. Such a state of mind is not easy to manipulate. How can you force someone to change if they do not value their own life? How can you force someone to change who has accepted a path of self destruction? These are not easy things to do.

So understand that we cannot really change anyone, in the end. We can try, and make efforts, but ultimately we have to accept our powerlessness over other people. Part of reclaiming your own sanity is to accept this powerlessness over others, and the other half of the equation is going to be knowing when you can help the addict, and how to do that in a healthy way. So you will learn acceptance, and you will also learn how to help the addict without enabling them. And, perhaps most importantly, you will need support, so that you can decipher the fine line that can sometimes come between these two ideas (like when to back off and let the addict fall on their face, versus when to step in and try to help them, with the idea that you might direct them towards professional treatment services). Finding this balance can be tricky without the support of others.

Determine their level of denial

There are a few different levels of denial.

The first level of denial is where we outright deny that we are addicted, period. If a person is at this stage then you definitely cannot help them yet. They need to experience more pain and consequences due to their disease first.

The second level of denial is where the addict or alcoholic has some consequences going on in their life, and they can no longer really deny that drugs or alcohol are a factor. But, they may still be clinging to the idea that they are not a true alcoholic or an addict, and that they are just getting unlucky, etc.

The next level of denial is where the addict or alcoholic has really started to screw up their life, and they may even admit to their addiction. However, they may not yet be willing to seek help for it. They admit it, but they do not accept it deep down. They admit to their disease but they do not see a way out. They do not accept the idea of getting help. They may admit to their addiction but they remain in denial, frozen and unwilling to take action.

And finally, once they admit to their disease and also accept it on a deep level, they may become willing to seek help. This is the point that they break through their denial and start to heal.

Now if you look at the friend or loved on in your life and they are still stuck in those first few stages of denial, then there is precious little you can do for them. Really your best bet is to learn about how not to enable them, and allow them to screw up their life until they are willing to seek help.

If they are closer to the later stages of denial then you might be able to intervene and convince them to seek help or take action.

Enabling: hurting when we think we are helping

Sometimes when we think we are helping an addict or an alcoholic, we are actually making things worse by prolonging their addiction and keeping them from getting closer to surrender. How do we know when we are crossing this line, and when we need to back off and let someone find their own way?

My favorite way to determine this that really seems to cut right through all of the “what-ifs” is if you simply look at whose terms they are. If you help an addict or an alcoholic, do it on your terms. In other words, you set the terms. You are the one who is helping, so you set the terms. That’s how it has to be.

Now normally what happens is that the addicts and the alcoholics in our lives tend to try and manipulate things. They may do this without even realizing it, as it can be a deep part of their addiction. So they may come to you and say that they want your help, but in reality they are just trying to keep their charade of a life going a little bit longer. When you help an addict on their own terms what you normally end up doing is simply allow them to stay stuck in the same pattern. Maybe they need money to feed their children, but ultimately you are putting more dope in their pocket if you cave in to their desires.

So what is the answer? The answer is to set your own terms when you help an addict. Instead of feeding their children (which will still enable them to use drugs in the end), set your own terms and tell them you will only help them if they want professional help for their problem. If they say “Yeah but what I really need is….” then they are not ready to get help yet. It is merely more manipulation. Set your own terms, and do not give in and enable them.

Understand this: the struggling addict is orchestrating their own misery. They are miserable and they have screwed up their life based on their own decisions. If they want your help, then they are not going to be calling the shots. That would be stupid. They can go help themselves if that is the case. If an addict really wants your help, then they have to do so on your terms, or they are trying to manipulate you.


The idea behind detachment is that we need to unwrap ourselves emotionally from our involvement with the addict or the alcoholic in our life.

For example, if your son or your spouse or your parent comes home after a long night of drinking, and starts verbally abusing you before they pass out, then this can obviously cause someone to get upset and possibly have a very powerful emotional response. There is nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that it makes everyone’s life worse. Practicing detachment would be the mindset of “OK, they have come home drunk and they are verbally abusive. I am not going to get swept away emotionally by this. I will remove myself from the situation and focus on improving my own life, etc.”

So detachment is something you practice. You will never do it perfectly if the addict in your life is still abusing drugs. But you start to envision what the ideal response (or lack of response) is to their episodes, and how you can make healthy decisions without being a slave to your emotions.

Understand this: It is not wrong to have emotions. It is not wrong to be upset at the addict in your life. But it can be detrimental to you, if you allow yourself to be swept away emotionally by the addict in your life. So detachment is a mindset that says “I am going to reclaim my own life, and my own healthy emotions, and I’m not going to be dragged down by their addiction.”

Part of detachment might involve setting healthy limits and boundaries, so that you are not swept up into their chaos. A healthy boundary is usually taking a stand against the chaos of addiction.

Detachment is not about being mean to the addict. Instead, you are putting your emotional health first, and not sacrificing your own emotional stability for the sake of the addict. It is not selfish or mean to do so. You deserve sanity in spite of their addiction. Detachment is the way that you claim that sanity.

Setting limits and boundaries with the addict

Setting limits and boundaries are things that you do for the sake of your own sanity. They are not so much for the addict in your life. It is not about them. It is about keeping yourself emotionally healthy.

Limits and boundaries help to define who you are, and what you are about. They help you to keep your relationship with the addict in your life a little bit healthier.

For example, if your spouse is an alcoholic, you might set the following boundaries:

* I will not drink with or around my spouse.

* If my spouse comes home drunk I will go stay over a friend or a relative’s house for the night.

* I will not bail my spouse out of jail if they get arrested again.

Now setting these boundaries is one thing, but communicating them is another matter. It is usually good to do so in a calm, cool, and non-threatening manner. You are not making threats when you communicate your limits, but instead you are stating the facts. Instead of reacting to drunken episodes, you will have calculated behavior that is not emotionally driven. If this happens, I will do this. If that happens, I will do that. This is a healthy way to set limits and boundaries, because you are not caught up in the heat of the moment. You can decide rationally beforehand what is appropriate behavior.

Remember too that those in your support system can help you to determine what healthy limits are for your unique situation. Just another reason why getting personalized help from Al-Anon meetings is so important.

Reacting to their addiction only fuels the fire

One of the more difficult things to do is to continue to live with an addict or an alcoholic who continues to abuse drugs, and to not blow up at them from time to time when they get out of control and do stupid things. Yet this is the best path you can take in order to get them closer to surrender. This approach can be a bit counter-intuitive so let us take a closer look.

You would think that anyone who has to put up with a practicing alcoholic should give them the full piece of their mind when the alcoholic goes off on a bender. If the person is drunk and out of control, then you should obviously lay into them in anger and outrage, right?

Not necessarily. If you are close to the addict or alcoholic in your life, then you probably fight about their addiction all the time.

You are not wrong to be angry and upset when they get out of control. However, consider this: when you react to their addiction, you give them an out. Now it is a fight. Now it is all about your anger. Now it is all about how you are jumping down their throat, in spite of their best efforts (even though they may still be using or drinking).

When you react and blow up at the addict, you take the focus off of them, and put it onto you.

Now, is this really fair? Should you be allowed to show your anger when you get upset with the addict? Maybe so. But it does not matter what is fair….we want to get real results at this point. We want to help the addict or alcoholic in our life to see through their denial and get help.

In order to do that, we have to stop ourselves from reacting, and blowing up at their addiction. When we restrain ourselves from reacting to their addiction, it forces them to confront their demons head on.

For example, say that they get yet another drunk driving and we bail them out of jail or something. They are expecting a fight, or at least a yelling match. Don’t give it to them. Just continue on as if there were no problems. This will force them to look at their drinking or drug use.

Now you might argue: “Yes, but if I don’t yell at them, then they will just continue to drink or do drugs, and not care.” This may be partially correct….but understand that you have to be consistent, and not react to them, and eventually they will be left to face their addiction, with no one to blame. It may not work out that way every time, but eventually they will face a situation where they are forced to examine their own life. Where they are forced to confront their own misery, and realize that you (or anybody else) is not to blame. They have brought on their own misery and they cannot shift the blame onto anyone.

Maintain your cool and do not react to their addiction. Eventually, this will help force them to examine their denial. Your silence will help to expose their addiction for what it really is.

Interventions and convincing them to go to rehab

My theory is that formal interventions are probably not worth the time, money, and effort that they take to organize. I could be wrong on this, but overall I feel the balance tips a bit towards not pursuing formal interventions as a strategy for helping struggling addicts and alcoholics.

Why is this?

Simply because a formal intervention is an attempt to manipulate the addict’s level of surrender. In my opinion, this does not work, unless you get really, really lucky with the timing (in which case, I would argue, you did not need a formal intervention. Simply offering to drive them to rehab would have worked at that point).

In other words, if an intervention succeeds, it is because the person was ready to stop using drugs and alcohol anyway.

When an intervention fails (which they most often do), it is simply more proof that the addict was not ready to stop using yet. They had not yet reached a point of total surrender.

In spite of this, I still think that formal interventions can have some value, even though they don’t really “work.” Part of the process may be seeing that family and friends really care about the addict. An intervention makes this apparent. But I still do not think it has the power to make a person surrender to their addiction.

Again, this is just my opinion, based on my own experiences.

Supporting them in their treatment effort

So let us say that the addict or alcoholic in your life has decided to go to treatment, and they are now checked in to a rehab facility. What can you do to support them in this effort?

Here are my main suggestions:

1) Participate in any family sessions that are offered, and attend any “friends and family” meetings that they provide.

2) Support the addict by giving them the space to recover. Don’t kick them while they are down (and most will feel down if they are in an inpatient rehab).

3) Do not give in to manipulation at this point (and do not be surprised to see it). Stick to your guns and make them see it through to get professional help. For example, many people in rehab decide to leave early, saying that they feel strong, confident, etc. This is ALWAYS a mistake. Always. No one ever regrets staying through to the end of their rehab stay. But many, many people regret leaving rehab early.

As friends and family members of addicts and alcoholics, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that one trip to rehab should cure someone for a lifetime. Certainly if we paid enough money for it, they can cure anything, right? Of course it does not work that way, and we have to maintain faith that, sometimes, a trip to rehab is just a part of the process.

Understand this: Some treatment is better than none at all. Long term treatment is better than short term treatment. People who see it through and complete the full process do better than those who leave early. These are general rules, but they are pretty good bets. As a concerned friend or family member, your basic stance should always be to encourage more professional help and more treatment, rather than less.

Complicating issues: health and mental illness

Some people who work with recovering addicts and alcoholics do not even realize that people can have other problems other than addictions. Sometimes, people in 12 step programs believe and act as if the program of recovery can fix any problem, including mental health issues.

I have found over the years that this is definitely not the case. Many addicts and alcoholics have issues in their lives other than addiction. In fact, some of them have problems that are actually worse than their addiction is. For example, people who are suicidal due to mental illness, or people who have serious physical problems that end up killing them. These problems are actually more serious than a drug or alcohol addiction, yet many people do not see that in light of their recovery.

I have also found a tendency for illnesses and health problems to be the downfall of many people in recovery. Getting sick has caused many people to relapse in a somewhat indirect way. This is what makes the holistic approach to recovery so powerful. When your overall health is doing good, it gives a boost to your ability to recover. By not being sick and needing as many medications, you distance yourself from a huge potential for relapse.

I am a firm believer that some people with mental illness have bigger problems than their addiction. In cases like this, it is actually more important for them to get help for their mental illness while they are trying to treat their substance abuse. Obviously they are going to need to treat them both in order to fully recover. My main caution here is that a large part of the substance abuse community has a tendency to dismiss the mental health problems, oftentimes generalizing that they were “caused by the addiction anyway.” This is a mistake in my opinion, and I believe such a person should seek professional help in both areas.

What can I try if I am desperate and they are really out of control?

Well there are a couple of desperate strategies you might employ:

1) Set a new boundary, one that is enforceable and severe (this would be like an ultimatum). For example, telling a teenage son who is living in the home that if you catch them with illegal drugs again, you are going to call the police. Or, telling an alcoholic spouse that if they do not get professional help, that you are going to leave the relationship permanently.

2) Organize a full scale intervention. Remember, not a magic bullet. But, a possible strategy for the truly desperate.

3) In some states you can commit a person due to substance abuse. It might not end well due to resentment, but if they are truly a danger to themselves then it might be an option. If you are not sure then call up a local drug rehab and ask them what the state laws are regarding having some committed for substance abuse.

4) If they are breaking the law (such as drunk driving) then you might call the police on them. This is a gamble at best, and can create bad complications that actually make things worse. But if they are truly dangerous then it might be better than nothing in some cases, and it also might save lives. But do exercise good judgment and some restraint with this idea, because taking action really could make things worse and not better in the majority of situations.

What if I make an ultimatum with the addict and it does not work?

If you make an ultimatum and it does not work out, then you did not make an ultimatum. What you did was to make a hollow threat that you never had any intention of following through on.

Ultimatums always work. They always remove the problem completely. But most people will not make a true ultimatum, because they are holding out hope for things to change in another way, while trying to bully someone into change.

For example, if you say “If I ever see you take a single drink again I am leaving you forever,” then that is an ultimatum. If it fails, then it is your fault, not the alcoholic’s.

When you set a boundary, you have to be 100 percent prepared to enforce that boundary. If you’re not prepared to do that, then do NOT say it. Don’t make idle threats. You must follow through on your word if you are going to make progress in a relationship like this.

It is easy to get sucked into making these types of inflated threats, especially when arguing with an addict or alcoholic. The reason for this is because they tend to make false promises as part of their addiction. So you must never stoop to this level, and always maintain your word. Only set boundaries that you fully intend to keep. Don’t make an ultimatum unless you are really prepared to follow through, regardless of which path the addict chooses.

If you make hollow threats and then fail to follow through, it only makes things worse.

What if the addict claims that they want help, but they put conditions on it?

If an addict or alcoholic is saying that they want help, but they refuse to do certain things, or they won’t go to a certain type of treatment, then they are probably not ready for recovery. They are stuck in denial and they probably will not be able to see their denial at this point.

They may even genuinely wish that things were different, and that they were not addicted. But if they are putting conditions on how they will receive help, then they are usually not ready to change.

They call it surrender for a reason. The addict has to throw up their hands and say “show me how to live. I am a complete mess. I have failed at drinking, at taking drugs, and at living life.” If they are not near that point of surrender then they are not going to “make it” in recovery.

If they are trying to manipulate the situation then they are not ready to get clean and sober. They have to be fully beaten, completely broke down in spirit, and generally desperate for a solution. Anything else and they are not ready yet.

That is why they say you have to “hit bottom” before you can recover. If you are not desperate then you will not have the motivation to really change your whole life.

What if the addict refuses certain types of treatment or help, such as long term rehab or 12 step meetings?

Placing conditions on their treatment is a warning sign that they are not ready, but it does not make sense to give up hope at this point.

Treatment is a process. Unfortunately, it takes most addicts and alcoholics a couple of trips to rehab before they manage to stay clean and sober for the long haul.

We would all expect, and hope, that a person can check into rehab once, and emerge a few weeks later a cured individual. And failing that, we would imagine that the most elite treatment center in the world could produce sure-fire results somehow.

It doesn’t work that way. There is no magic bullet, even if you are at the best drug rehab in the world. There is no real advantage at an expensive rehab. It is all about the level of surrender in the individual addict. If they are ready, then they are ready, and almost anything would work. If they are not ready to get sober, then nothing will work.

Even so, it makes sense to encourage any addict or alcoholic to get whatever professional help they are willing to get. If they say “no” to long term rehab, but agree to do a week in detox, then push them to do a week in detox. Remember, treatment is a process, and most will have to go more than once before they get it.

This is why some treatment is better than none at all. Because it is a process.

And, if they have gone to rehab before and failed….try and try again. It is a process. It takes time. We expect it to be an instant cure, and it is not. But some day they may get it, and that will be more likely if they continue to attend treatment.

What if the addict in my life just keeps relapsing, over and over again, and never seems to “get it?”

Practice the principles taught here in this article and at Al-anon meetings everywhere. Detach. Set healthy boundaries. Work on your own life and set an awesome example. Some people may eventually have to make a decision to leave a relationship over an addiction. Always seek guidance from friends and others in recovery when it comes to these types of life-changing decisions.

Setting healthy limits takes practice, and some experimentation might be necessary. Give yourself time to learn how to find the right balance in your life. You may have to push the addict in your life away in order to maintain your own sanity. You may have to develop some level of independence in order to be strong enough to reclaim your own life in face of an addiction. You may have to grow a great deal in order to face some of the tougher decisions.

What if the addict/alcoholic refuses to get help?

If the addict in your life refuses to get help then you have a decision to make. Are you going to keep participating in the relationship, or are you going to move on? In some cases it may be a child or a parent who is addicted, and it will make it much more difficult to really “walk away” from the relationship. But to an extent you can put your foot down and say that your interaction is pretty much over or severely limited if they are going to continue to use.

Getting support for yourself is critical. This becomes especially true if the addict in your life is refusing any help, because you know for certain that things will only continue to get progressively worse. Drop the illusion that they may snap out of it and just stop all of a sudden. You may have to face the possibility that they will never stop using drugs or alcohol, and your only choice may be to endure it, or to avoid it.

Remember to allow time, because treatment is a process. And, surrendering is a process. But you have to put your own sanity first, so that you do not sacrifice your own life for the sake of the addiction. At some point you may have to make a tough decision, and figure out if you want to continue to live in chaos.

It is possible to reclaim your own sanity. Unfortunately, doing so can have a very high cost, especially if the addict in your life refuses to get help.

Set progressively stricter limits and boundaries. Put your own sanity first and get support from Al-anon. Seek guidance for decisions about how much and how long you should endure chaos for.

Sometimes we have to walk away from someone before they realize how badly they need to change their life. Sometimes the best wake up call for an addict is complete isolation.

What if my spouse tells me that they will quit once the baby is born (or some other event occurs)?

They are lying to themselves. This is the nature of addiction, because the addict will genuinely believe their own lie about this, and then when the event comes to pass, they will still be hopelessly hooked on the drugs or the alcohol.

When an addict says that they will quit at some point in the future, or after a certain event, it is almost always manipulation on their part, because they are powerless to keep their own promise. And they will probably be very convincing when they make these claims, because they will honestly believe that the special future event will hold the power to motivate them differently. But of course it will not give them special motivation, and quitting in the future will be just as hard as it is for them right now.

Don’t fall for it. The promise of future change is utterly meaningless. The only time anyone can possibly make a decision to surrender is right now. They can not decide that they will quit in the future. They are kidding themselves.

When should I give up on an addict or alcoholic and move on with my life? When should I continue to hold out hope for change?

This is going to be a judgment call on your part. But in some cases, you never really give up. You never stop hoping for change. When it is your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife, and so on…..you never really completely give up hope.

And so we learn how to detach and we learn how to get support from others. Sometimes we may have to face a tough decision and walk away from something.

The bottom line is that you continue to hold out hope for the relationship as long as you have the energy to do so in a healthy fashion, without sacrificing yourself. You cannot do this alone and you need support in order to know if you have healthy boundaries in place. You need the support and wisdom of others in order to know if you are sane to hold out hope or sane to walk away from it all.

Notice that this is really all about the support, and not so much about the life altering decision. If you have the proper support in place, and you participate heavily in Al-anon and really practice the principles that they teach, then you will be in a better position to rest easy with your decisions. They may not be easy decisions to make, but at least you will have some support and some peace of mind that you have done everything in your power to stop enabling the addict in your life and to genuinely help them.

Without this support, how will you know if you have really done all that you can, or if you are sacrificing too much of yourself to a losing battle? You need others who have been through the struggle who can help to give you this guidance and this reassurance.

What is the single most important thing that I can do to help the addict in my life?

If you have not heard it by now I will say it one last time: go to Al-anon and seek help and support for yourself.

We cannot directly change another person. You know this, deep down, because no one can wave a magic wand and change YOU. We all have to find our own path.

So the suggestions here are all just that….suggestions. Some of them may help a bit, but ultimately, you have to get some support so that you are reclaiming your own sanity. That is the priority. You have to put YOU first.

Once you are emotionally healthy and strong, then you can behave in the best way possible to move the addict closer to surrender. It is only when you are practicing the right principles in your life that you can have the emotional strength and resolve to make a strong impact in the life of the addict. It is not about being mean or making threats. Instead, you have to have the courage to really decide on what is truly acceptable to you in your life, and then stand by it–regardless of what the addict chooses to do.

Once you find this path of courage and start following it–hopefully with a support system in place–you may be amazed at how quickly you start seeing positive changes. Even if the addict does not change instantly, YOU will. And things will slowly get better from there.

If you found any of this helpful, please share it with others who may be struggling. Download this guide right here. You can always learn more at www.spiritualriver.com

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  • http://blog.kimewilliams.com Kim E. Williams

    good and thorough advice. the reality that many of us don’t get about our addicted loved ones is that no matter what we do – it isn’t a choice we can make for them and some addicts will not recover – no matter what.

  • Barb Meninga

    What a great post–should be read at every Al-Anon meeting in the country!!!!! How ironic that this is the advice I needed when you were actively using–and now you are writing it! Keep up the good work. Mom

  • noreen carbino

    Inspirational! Yes, we need to go to Al-Anon group for sure. I have a daughter who is an addict and at her all time low. I have asked her about her funeral arrangements.What would she like me to do? She thought I was joking. By the way, she is 25. I told her “No, I am serious” I am just sick with worry, but I have hardened up over the years to it.
    When I get like this I go on line and look for sites like this one to remind me , I am not alone.
    I am very familiar with all that has been written.
    A worried Mom

  • Theresa Brown

    I have been to Al- anon and love it tho I resisted at first. Think it should be a class in all schools as it teaches us how to solve our own problems and not get dragged into the behavior of others. Simple life stratigies that really work and how to do things in a firm loving way….one you can’t regret. How I wish I had known all the tecniques as a child.

  • http://www.scrapbookinglighthouse.com worried mom

    Awesome article and while I agree with the Al-anon advice, what would you suggest for my son. He lives and works in and isolated community with the nearest Al-anon about 2 hours away. He works exceedingly long hours and returns to care for a 7 month old baby as by the time he gets home his wife is on her way to getting drunk and verbally abusive. He is reaching the end of his rope and a fear is going to file for custody and leave her. Do you have any help or suggestions for him?

  • Patrick

    Your son might be right to follow that path, especially if he believes that things will not change if he just “sticks and stays with her.”

    Him leaving might be what she needs to realize how serious her problem is. Sometimes that is what it takes.

    The nice thing about Al-anon is that he can get specific, pinpoint advice regarding this sort of thing.

  • sneed

    My live in girlfriend has started drinking and lying again. I need to know more about detachment cause i feel as tho im going crazy. Im co-dependent but cant seem to shake these feelings. we havent had sex for the past 4 yrs. I feel dirty when she touches me. Is this natural?

  • Patrick

    @ Sneed – I am not sure if that is natural or not but I would suggest that you start to seeking out some help for yourself first, probably at Al-anon meetings. They are really good at helping people who are codependent.

  • Ronie

    Thank you so much for this article! This is exactly the advise I needed right now!

    My ex-boyfriend… Ok I had the whole story and progression of our relationship typed out here and then decided against it…. I didn’t want to bore anyone lol So to make a long story short we started dating in February of this year. I quickly realized he is a functioning alcoholic. Tried to make compromises and this and that about his drinking that didn’t work. I broke up with him. I have an 8 year old daughter and I have a lot of problems myself. I’m on SSD for being bipolar. So I realized that I couldn’t help him if he didn’t want help and he didn’t. But we still talked and hung out and this and that. He knows the drinking is a deal breaker for me and I will not be with him while he is still drinking. But I guess since we were still in contact with each other and sort of friends it didn’t really phase him. So Thursday I told him we should not even talk anymore cause it is confusing things and not helping the situation at all. That while he was still drinking I would never be with him. So that was it. We didn’t talk until tonight. He called me saying that he is thinking about getting sober. That he wanted to try and get sober. After talking with him, I’m not so sure… He said he refuses to go to AA. He works in the mental health field and knows what AA is all about and blah, blah, blah. Now not going to AA is fine with me. My father has been sober for 15 years and the only time he participated in AA was when he was in rehab and very, very shortly after. It wasn’t for him and he stayed sober. So I’m fine with that, I guess. So I asked him if he’s be willing to talk with a D&A counselor. He said no. He’s not going to talk with anybody and he’s going to do it on his own. He used to do cocaine and smoke marijuana all the time and stopped both on his own without the help of treatment. I tried talking with him saying he was probably able to stop both of them because he was still drinking. That when he gave those two things up he compensated for that with alcohol. But after talking more and more I think he still thinks he doesn’t have a real problem. Now I’m at a loss as to what to do. What if he is serious about getting sober? He said, “If I do this, I’m going to need your help. Your support.” I want to be there for him. I know above it says “Placing conditions on their treatment is a warning sign that they are not ready, but it does not make sense to give up hope at this point.” So what am I supposed to do? He also said during the conversation, which was a complete slip on his part and he tried to redirect the conversation but I wouldn’t let him, that realistically he’s probably going to slip up at some point. That weren’t his exact wording but that pretty much sums up what he said. Now that throws up red flags for me. Especially after reading this. I think it’s him trying to manipulate the situation to get he to stay in his life. I cut off ties, stuck to my guns (be it that it only lasted three days…), and I think it really freaked him out. As far as I can tell he’s never had any other negative consequences from drinking. Other than drinking himself broke all the time but he doesn’t really recognize that. Am I really out in left field for thinking this is a manipulation? He says he loves me, he wants to marry me and start a family with me. So now what? Should I wait to see if he drinks again? Tell him no he needs to talk to a D&A counselor and do what s/he tells him to do for his sobriety or I’m gone again? That’s what my gut is telling he to do. I wouldn’t have even talked with him tonight if he didn’t say he wanted to try and get sober…. But then I feel like I’m forcing him into sobriety with ultimatums and isn’t it true that if an addict or alcoholic isn’t doing it for themselves then it’s not going to work? I know you’re going to say to go to Al-Anon but I don’t feel like i should be there… I’m not even in a committed relationship with this man anymore. I just feel like I’ll be wasting everyone’s time there :( Yeah and this was the short version! Haha Sorry about how lengthy this is. To sum it all up what I’m asking is this: Should I tell him it’s seek out the help of a D&A counselor and do what they tell you to do or I can’t help you? If that’s the right thing to do, like my gut is telling me, I will. I just don’t see how I can remain in his life while he is without enabling him in some way shape or form. I think I just answered my own question but any and all input and/or advise is extremely welcome.

    Thanks for your time :)

  • Michelle

    I have lived with alcoholics all my life. first my father, then my husband now my son. This website has been the most helpful to me. More than all the info I have learned in 51 years. I love the idea of holistic healing. Getting healthy vs. overcoming addiction. Just the words are easier to swallow. I have followed the guidelines and believe my son is ready for help. What I need to know is how to go about finding that help. Detox is all well and good but unless you adress the underlying problem (what makes you drink in the first place) then the problem is not being solved. We need a counseling program. We don’t have much money. So where do I start?

  • Patrick

    @ Michelle – just a word of caution, it is important to remember that alcoholism really is primary. That means that it exists even without an underlying problem. This may seem like a minor point but it can trip us up in our thinking if we are not careful about it.

    Just my opinion, of course. But simply addressing “underlying issues” will not actually treat the alcoholism……

    I would start by calling up local treatment centers. I went to one, not knowing what to expect, and ended up going from there to a long term rehab, which I credit with much of my success.

    But start with treatment centers, drug rehabs, etc. That is my suggestion….Good luck

  • http://www.flybenji.org flybenji

    Having had two alcoholic addict sons, four alcoholic fathers & an alcoholic spouse for over twenty years I sort of know what this stuff is like or about.Especially so since I am an addict myself.My best friend growing up was also an alcoholic addict & lifetime convict or what they call lifers.
    What I discovered is the family members of alcoholics or addicts are often times troubled souls themselves even to the extent they have addictions of their own & do not know that ( denial ). Think of this. The mother is an addict, the father & both the sons are addict alcoholics. One big happy family. For some reason I am the only one that ever made it out.
    My sponsor told me that was because I was sicker than all the rest of them put together.Codependents just have to figure everything out. Life is a problem to be solved & not a mystery to be lived.This family member recovery thing is not really as easy as all the experts try to make it sound.

  • Patrick

    @ Maryann – suggestion for you: go to an Al-anon meeting. Couldn’t hurt….

  • kathy

    May daughter 35 yrs old, is coming to Michigan by train from Texas this sunday. My husband (not her Bio father, her father died @ 39yr old in 1994) & I need to know how to live with all her addictions, prescriptions & drinking. We are not sure what exactly her drug of choice, but family members in Texas say it is drinking. Family & friends in Tx are done helping her, we are her last resort. She has lost everything, car burned last thur. with all her belongings, she hit a cement wall on the expressway. We are occas. drinkers, beer & wine, we don’t have alot of it but we want to know if we should rid our house. My daughter does not have medical ins & I think her unemployment has run out. I have read some of your info. But my husband & I feel we need a jump start before she gets here. In advance thank you for your help. Kathy

  • Patrick

    @ Kathy – sounds like she is spinning out of control. You might inquire at local rehabs to see what they might be able to do to get her funding, if she is willing to seek professional help.

    Getting all of the booze out of the house might be a good precaution. I mean, it couldn’t hurt…..

    If she is not even willing to get help, then you might lay down some boundaries, such as “if you get drunk, you’re out…or you’re going to rehab.” That kind of thing.

    Good luck…

  • noreen

    Your daughter is going to turn your world up side down. You need to get help for yourself before this happens. She cares for nothing else except herself and her drug. And when I say help for yourself , I mean support. It is very hard for me with my daughter. I used to think I could fix this…..NO…….She is like a caterpillar which climbs up a wall, falls back down, climbs again,falls again. They need to WANT TO HELP THEMSELVES.
    They will tell you everything you want to hear, but it is their actions that speak the truth.
    My heart goes out to you!

  • Crystal

    Wow…I really needed this article. My husband is a Veteran with severe PTSD and has used alochol and medication as a way to cope for so long that they have now became major addiction. After a very dangerous situation he has been placed in the VA hospital where I hope he can recieve help but being home with a 7, 6 and 1-year-old I am at a complete loss when it comes to what I need to do. He knows that when I said he will not be allowed back until he has recieved help that I am going to stick to my decision but it doesnt make it any easier. I am still not convinced that he is commited 100% to treatment but he cannot leave the facility until he has completed the program so I pray he doesnt just go through the motions and he will actually get help.

  • http://treatmenttalk.org Cathy

    Very thorough article. I appreciate your constant mention of Al-Anon. That has been my greatest resource. When you finally realize that you are going for yourself, not for your qualifier, the power of the group becomes clear.

  • Hope

    im thankful to have come across this website. it is indeed a huge help for me in identifying what are the things that i need to address with my addicted spouse. He has basically done most of the things mentioned in all your articles and im feeling a bit relief to know that my situation is definitely not unique. alanon meeting would be great but there is’nt any near to the place where i live. I couldnt help crying while reading this as i feel like giving up this four years of marriage but i have an infant’s future to consider. I would not want him to not have a daddy neither do i want him to eventually find out that his dad is a drug addict. He admitted his addiction, did some treatments and relapsed every time. Now, he says that he can quit on his own without any help because he really wants to change. but then again he have said that many times before and still relapsed. What should I do? Should I trust him and give him yet another chance? ive fallen into giving him many hollow threats of leaving him due my uncontrollable anger whenever i caught him and now he doesnt really care when i get angry. Should we seperate for a lil while and only meet if he has been sober for a longer period if time? is that a good form of detachment? im really clueless…

  • Patrick

    @ Hope – I think you may have a good idea with some separation trials. Doing so may be the wake up call that he needs to realize that he is about to lose you for real.

    If leaving him (temporarily) does not get him to change, what would? I think it is worth a try, if you have the resources to make it happen.

    Good luck…

  • http://spiritualriver Mr.Jones

    I have a nefew that is an alchaholic, he is homeless, in the Houston TX,area. Does anyone have any advice on how to get him commited? He has had two tears in his throat in the past year, Liver problems are arising, he has also been diagnosed with Hep C. He refuse’s to get help for the alchol or medical, he was just in the hospital with the torn esophagas and decided to rip out his i.v. and leave because he needed a cig. and a drink. The doctor says if he does not get a liver transplant in the next few years he won’t last another 5 years. He is only 27. If you have any info. please let us know. thank you so much for your time.

  • karen

    my daughter has been abusing pain killers since she was 18 (not living in my home) she moved back home when she was 21 after a 4 yr long relationship that went bad and after a few months she went back to the relationship and started using heroin/crack…this went on for over a year (also not living with me at the time during the heroin/crack) 2 yrs ago she started methadone and has been addicted to it till now, a week before xmas 2010 she had nowhere to go so we let her move back home after 3 yrs of living in the streets, hotels, friends houses..sadly to say she left my home 2 days ago bcz she was told by me and my husband that she had a choice to make, the choice was that we would get her help to get off the methadone and also give her psychiatric help and if she declined on taking it then shed have to live elsewhere bcz the last 6 weeks of her living with us were unbearable bcz of her behavior (also we have 2 other children in our home aged 17, 11)she called me all kinds of names (especially the crazy person)and said shed leave bcz she wants to stay on methadone basically forever, she said she dosnt care if it harms her and that its her body and if she dies then it was her choice, she thanked us for our offer but packed and left…ive done naranon online for 2 yrs, i stopped a yr ago bcz i wanted to try and do things myself with just god, im not saying i feel that doing things just through god that i was wrong for walking awat from naranon, all im trying to say is that everything that was discussed in this article is the truth…the addict will not change unless they want to..the only time i enabled my daughter in all her yrs of addiction was when i let her come home 6 weeks ago..im ver sad right now that she left and chose to keeo living like this but i accept that theres nothing i can do…even tho it hurts like hell, my advice to any parent out there is to walk away especially if you have other children in your house..ill never know now the damage that it caused my 11 yr old too see what he had seen in only a short 6 week period…addiction sucks..good luck to you all.

  • Joma

    my partner is an alcoholic and we’ve been living together for a year. your website has been such a help to me over the past months. i’ve learning a lot from this website, and one of your suggestions has helped me to set boundaries with my partner. which has helped me immensely, restoring me to “sanity.” since i set a major boundary (it wasn’t quite an ultimatum), he started seeing a therapist.

    tonight, i really appreciated hearing two things: to set new boundaries, with progressively stricter limits (i’m going to do this, as he’s now balking at going to the therapist a second time); reminders about my own powerlessness over my partner, and how important it is to detach and not react emotionally, so he can truly deal (eventually, hopefully) with his own addiction. i’m seeing a therapist too.

    i’m not too optimistic, but still have some hope.

  • Lolly

    My son is in denial. He justifies, rationalises and says he can control it. His plan is to always smoke dope but only at weekends. He will take Kets at raves. LSD as music festivals. He likes drugs. He speaks with pride about his knowledge of them. Having said all that though, he has finally admitted he has a problem. Smoking dope every day is boring, expensive and he understands it has prevented him from achieving stuff. This is a glimmer of hope. He’s not yet ready to surrender yet. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say to him. Allowing him to live at home while he seeks this lifestyle is enabling him. It’s more than likely he’ll fail at his recent surge to clean up his act but shouldn’t I give him this chance? He seems so much brighter and clearer.

  • Jupiter

    Lolly, how is your son? My son is in denial too. He lives at home and has a part time job and smokes weed everyday. So what are we supposed to do? Make them leave home? And then what happens?

  • Amylynn

    My boyfriend of five years has always struggled with some sort of addiction. He was doing great for a while until he discovered legal ways to get high. The bath salts, k2, and anything else he can get his hands on to “get high” i dont know how to deal with this any more. He’s not snorting up or shooting up, but I think that’s only because he’s still on parole. He gets off in July and I think that he might return to the illegal drugs when that time comes….I don’t think I am overreacting to these legal ways he’s getting high, and I don’t know my next step

  • Anonymous

    What to do when the baby involved is your grandchild who is being hurt

  • Ted

    My wife has been through four rehabs in two years. This last time she stayed away from home and spent eight additional months in a sober living house. She recently moved back home. I thought she was doing well and trusted her to watch our two and three year old daughters. On her fourth day home, a Wednesday, I worked late and came home to find her drunk. I did not confront her as she stumbled to bed. I did find a bottle in a cupboard and two days later found an empty bottle in our bedroom closet. I spoke to her after the incident and let her know I considered this a slip and hoped she would get back on track. I also set a boundary of no more slips. Well tonight I went out after dinner for less than two hours and again discovered she has been drinking while watching our children. I have the safety and well being of our children to be concerned about as well as my own sanity. She continues to do the same thing each time she comes home. I think it’s over this time.

  • help

    I have a daughter who is addicted to pain pills. she has two little girls who are suffering the most. It kills me to seewhat they are going through. My daughter was recently arrested for R?x fraud. shewent to jail but got out the next day. I had her children she had left them at home with no food I had to take them back when she got out of jail. I begged her to let the girls stay with me she refused.
    Seh called law enforcement and theygave them back to her.
    I have done everything I can think of I am conderned about the kids I am making myself sick about this . I have to take care of myself I know that but its hard wondering what those girls are going through.

  • Tammy

    Wow, that was really good, now I know I am a enabler and just threaten him and all of the 10 times I threw him out and let him come back and things were just the same and this time has even got worse..My alcoholic works hard pays bills, but he never moves out from in front of the tv unless he is napping or sleeping…He only sleeps a few hours at a time and is back up drinking his beer…He has a huge heart and I know he loves me but he shows no affection what so ever..I have tried to change him for 9 years and had no luck, he is not abusive and never has been, he is just happy with working, drinking and sleeping period, but I am not happy at all!!!!! I tried Alanon twice but all I did was cry so I didn’t feel comfortable at all so I never went back…I love my alcoholic soooooo much and when I throw him out he won’t leave me alone and I miss him sooooo much, so I believe all of his promises but he never falls through with any of them ever…..I never go through with my threts so this is probally why…Thank you for all of the good advise :-)

  • Donna

    Dear Anonymous,
    I to have a grandson whose parents are heroin addicts. He lives with me with his mother (my daughter) after many relapses and dyfs being involved I had no problem getting tempory full custody of my grandson through the courts. My daughter went to rehab for the second time is home but has relapsed on opiates . I still have the custody which eases my mind that she can not just take him. I have control over his safety and know I can not control was she chooses to do regardless of the support she gets. It just breaks my heart knowing if she dont stop she will have to leave our home but her son will remain with me. Good Luck and you do have the right to protect your grandchild.

  • Jules

    i read everything i can about it and i read other emails… i lost my mom *at 62* this year tpo are you kidding

  • shueki

    My husband s a level 2 alcoholic i guess.. i ve threatned him… and also followed thro… but not working. the only solution would be rehab but he s not accepting. wonder how much longer i’ll have to wait before intervention….

  • Denise

    my partner is 42 has been an alcoholic most of his life, I came in 2 years ago decided I was going to save him. 2 years later, I am at my wits end. So much misery has happened and it has come to a point where I am trying to leave him. Not because I dont love him but because I am physically and emotionally drained. I cant save him…. he has to do it himself, it is very hard to watch someone you love suffer so much and not being able to rescue them. Manipulation is playing a big part these days, I am feeling alot of guilt for leaving. Its the ultimatum. Im praying it works. I need to do this for him and for me.

  • teres

    my daughter is a drug user she is in rehab now i just want to know how i can help her when she comes home and if there are meeting for the family of a drug user

  • http://gmail.com lucy desouza

    my father is an alcoholic since he was 18years and in this last year he has made it a daily habit which leads to a domestic violence everyday in our life i hav tried everything but he does not want to quit alcohol he is not ready for this and feels that it is correct but i really want to help him out of this and the reason he does is that he thinks that he is not strong enough to face sny stress in life either health issues in family financial problems or other

  • Mark

    My bf is addicted to crack. I was pretty ignorant about his manipulative ways until I started reading about the types of behaviours that addicts engage in. In fact, I wrongly determined his odd behaviour as meaning he was cheating on me when I didn’t hear from him after we had made plans to be together. I later would find out he had relapsed and not because he didn’t want to see me. Although he attributed everything that went wrong in the relationship to relapse, I was kept wondering if this was 100% true. That’s the challenge of dating a drug addict. It also didn’t help that one of his best friends in the 12-step program was extremely jealous of our close relationship, and so least supportive in terms of making me understand bf’s odd behaviour. I have attended those upbeat 12-step meetings, but found that they really offered no strategy for those addicts who relapsed, except to admit they are powerless (step 1). I think 12-step should offer relapse therapy services for those who want to stop using, to compliment starting over the 12-step. Just like loved ones need to exercise some discipline about not reacting and not enabling, the 12-step support group can also adopt disciplinary measure that is relapse therapy. It’s a real challenge to have a relationship with drug addicts cause when their using they are not emotionally available and when they are clean, the focus may be on their love affair with the drug. However, there are success stories of addict who have been clean for decades. I wish more of these people would tell their story too, so more addicts and loved ones could have hope.

  • crystal

    It is comforting to read this article and know that there are others dealing with the same situation I am. My husband is a crack addict. When we first met we smoked pot together, but we were teenagers then. Since we have married we have three kids, two teenagers and a 6 year old. I have nor used drugs in years and he continued to smoke pot and started using crack. He us in rehab now for the third time in ten years because he continues to relapse. Everytime before going to rehab he hit rock bottom by stealing, pawning mine and his kids belongings, and stealing from family. He even will tell people the kids did not have food to get money. He has stole my checkbook and forged my signature and even pawned my wedding ring several times. The pawn shops know him by name. I am tired of trying to make this marriage work. He has never hit me but his verbally abusive and is just crazy and aggressive when we catch onto him using. His own father will no longer allow him in his house bc of all he has done. This last time after realizing he had spent $800 invaluable week on his habit he I told him he had to leave aynd he went and stated with his grandmother. He has not been able to keep a job in the past ten years and I am at my wits end. He went to rehab the past week and thinks that when he gets back he is coming back to the home that the children and I live in, but I just don’t feel like I want him living with us again. My children and I live a Christian life and they are at a very influential age right now and u juat can’t let them think that his behavior is ok. That love him but also feel hatred towards him for what he has some to our family. I just want him to get clean for himself and the kids. I do not like the man he has become. I am juat at lost for what Gibson. I feel like he will never stop using.

  • Anonymous

    please send information to
    Michelle Barnes 956 Ryan Rd. Florence, Ma. 01062

  • Nicola

    My ex boyfriend of six years is an alcoholic and was addicted to heroin for a year before I met him, then stopped. Most of the time we were together, he wasn’t drunk, but whenever there was a drama he would vanish and not tell me where he was, then turn up wild and empty eyed. He was terrible with money, and almost caused me financial ruin, He would also get disgustingly drunk at weddings (I was ashamed). Oh actually, he got addicted to opium about two years into the relationship, then started taking subutex. He came off it too quickly and started fitting two years on. He was diagnosed with epilepsy. This was just after my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I returned home after a pretty emotional weekend with my parents and he was sick and drunk – he had burnt 20 or so holes in the living room carpet and was sprawled on the living room floor. Around this time he was saying pretty odd things (that he would skin the cat and burn the garden – things I loved). I filled in most of the holes in the carpet and shampooed it, that night he got out of bed, wretching, walked past the bathroom and vomited on the carpet. He told me he liked tennis, I bought a tennis racket, the first time we played he vanished, said he had to go to the loo, I waited 10 minutes or so, went to look for him, spotted him in the distance glugging wine from a bottle. The local tramps had given it to him, he knew them all. The second time we played he just stood stock still at the opposite side of the net, not moving to return the ball. A great lump, his tennis racket hanging, and he vomited on his t-shirt. There are so many more stories like this. But the thing was, when he was normal we had so much in common, music, film, art etc, and he was funny and kind and unjudgemental, and seemed to love me. Said that he loved me a lot. He has a beautiful, to me, expression, and after vowing never to see him again, I would, and the feelings I had for the undrunk him would return. He was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis a year or so ago. I phoned him about two weeks ago, he hadn’t eaten for two days, hadn’t had any work was crying etc. Such a terrible mess. I said he could stay with me while he looked for a job, it was nice having him around, I felt satisfied, a contendedness I hadn’t felt for such a long time. Then he was ill then really ill. He began vomiting blood. He is still in hospital, the doctors told him he is diabetic now and will have to inject insulin daily, they have found a lump in his stomach too. Anyway, I had some alcohol in the houses, six bottles of spirits from a cocktail evening I had had several months ago. After visiting him one evening this week, I thought I would have a vodka and tonic. I reached up for the bottle, empty, then the next, gin, empty, blue curacas, empty… He had drunk the lot. I was furious. He stole money from me when we broke up too, and this again is stealing. So should I have left him, starving, with no electricity, scrabbling about in the dark? Someone that is so sweet and gentle at times, and makes me feel content and happy and loved – when he’s sober (or not defending himself against some wrong he has committed). It is so hard to know what to do, and the thing was he was very ill and more than anything I wanted him to be healthy and see him smile again. But I also hate him for the hurt he has caused me, for lost friendships and being so completely and utterly useless. Perhaps I should go to a friends of alcoholics event. I’m not even going out with him now, but he is in hospital, and in a lot of pain, which makes me sad for him, and he stole that alcohol, which makes me angry. And the thing that makes me most angry is that he just says sorry, that’s it. He’s so liberal with his sorries. And yet he has done some shocking things, said sorry and done them again.

  • naila

    Comimg off drugs is very hard. Espesially when you asian the semstobe more facilities for addicts but nothing for people who are clean. Im in the process of openong an organisation that will dothat. The governmenthas enuff money but they dont care they happy.

  • Patrick

    @ Nicola – yeah I don’t think “sorry” really means much coming from an addict who is caught up in the cycle of addiction. I know this because I used to apologize myself to friends and family when I was using drugs.

    The truth is, I was not sorry. The truth is I was trapped. I in fact felt very bad for my actions, but I did not really care in the sense that I was “sorry” about them. I was desperate to keep self medicating. I was sorry for hurting others but I was not about to stop, lest I sacrifice my life for their happiness. In other words, I was not going to stop using drugs just so they would be happy. It was not about them. It never was about them. It was about me and my drugs, now please leave me alone and just let me self medicate.

    Does that make sense? That is how the addict thinks. That is how I thought.

  • muneebah

    I tried helping many drug users in my life. To understand everything that will help then is extremly complicated but I’ve learn to change my voice level in so many diff ways and act diffrently with diffrent addictions. I’ve realized over the years that many of what I call “my projects” family and friend push addics away because they scared or for some reason just dont trust them. Well they need alot the support and like above stated that we can not nag them to leave these thing unless they come to the point that they realize that they need help. Show them that there is more out there in the world then drugs and how much a person can enjoy life without these things. It takes alot of time but don’t give up on them and show them you are there.

    Please try to stand with people and do not give up hope. Make them understand that there is people that love and care for then.

  • http://spiritualriver Sophie

    Patrick, I would like to read about more people who are in long-term recovery. I need to know that it is really possible.

    I am the primary support person to a crack addict who is a dear friend. I do not enable, I cut him off all the time because of behavioral issues/refusal to help self etc. He is only permitted to be in my home or presence if he is clean and seeking help. I also attend NARANON and study the material consistantly. I am very consistant. And his using has decreased.

    I do have difficulty maintaining my hope. Hope for what? I believe harm reduction may be the best I will ever observe in my friend. I percieve a little hope when I read about addicts in long-term recovery. Maybe you know of other web-sites where I can read about success stories?

    Thank-you for creating this web-site and telling your own story!



  • Jeff

    I am an addict myself who is recovering right now. I am also dealing with an alcoholic addict in my girlfriend. I had been clean and sober for 8 years (I am 31 now) and I met her. We fell deeply in love and were happy. Then on her birthday we were both extremely drunk and used cocaine together, and that was it right back into it. Sorry is just another word to an addict it means absolutely nothing. I have been trying to stay clean and have been but she keeps using cocaine alot and getting fall down drunk. I am nearly at my whits end. She started AA last night and I am hoping this will work and she will stay with it and it isn’t just a rouse because I was going to leave her! Only time will tell though. Good luck to everyone trying to beat their demon all is possible with positive thinking and hard work!!!!

  • Anonymous


    I would like to remain anonymous. I have a friend that I met through a work function.I fell in love with him, if you believe in past lives or soul mates, then believe me that is what we are. I think I was put on his path to help him in some way. It is so hard because a part of me want’s to be so emotionally involved with him. The other logical sense in me knows that cannot be now because I believe he is a an addict both to alcohol and drugs. I want to help him, but the help he has asked me for contradicts the advice given in this forum. I am so glad to read this article and all the stories of other people who are struggling. I know my relationship with him hasn’t been long but it’s intense. This is my first love and I even know. He even admitted that he felt the same connection. I don’t know if that connection is strong enough to save him. I want to believe it can, but I am afraid he will hurt me. He has two sides one side he is amazing, smart, kind, gentle, and well all the traits you could ever look for in a man. The other is nasty,evil, sinister, and not pleasant at all. He has shown both sides to me. I just am so confused, I want to help and Ive told him that. He is in denial, he admits he has been depressed because no one has given him a chance to make a new collection, he is a designer. I told him that I would help him with his collection and that I believe in his dreams because I do. He ignores me a lot and then randomly contacts me. Right now we are talking a lot and he is very nice but I feel he may be manipulating me. He doesn’t have anybody here in Edmonton that really cares for him since his mother died. His father lives in New York and he really doesn’t care for him at all, since there parents are divorced. You said in your article that you had a break through conversation on the phone. I want to know what is was that triggered to want to get help? What would I have to say to him to want to change? Thank you for this beautiful article.


  • red

    I’ve read the article and copied most of the extracts (because when I write down i can read it again and again).i would like to say thank you !It has been like one of the first step to live today.
    My son had been on heroin for three years.I found it out when he was sixteen years old.Then two years’ internet game’line age’addiction.Later alcohol addiction.Doctors also diagnosed mental illness and for about 8 years he’s been on loads of tablets( 2 years ago started using lorafen as well-another addiction).I helped him…though I ,after I have read this,I am sure I did the opposite.I just used too much energy,emotions,time and ,of course,money.Always wanted to believe…and he was always good at manipulating.He keeps getting into trouble,loses his job,relapses …I continue reacting,losing sleep.He is twenty nine now and still has not learnt the lesson.I don’t know how to start living my life.
    Thank you once again for your article.

  • James

    Hi I am in my 30s and binge drinking so bad every week that I feel like I am dying, I used to be able for it, but now it’s taking me so long to recover and I can feel myself wasting away. After the last two times I went drinking I felt so sick after with serious problems that I thought I was going to drop dead. Not able to leave the houise for a week at a time due to exhaustion and pain. So I have made the choice to stop drinking this time before I do die. I just want to say that your articles, and one in particualr that says how our idea of what is fun will change as we quit these addictions has really hit a cord with me, I always had it in the back of my head that I would be miserable as a non drinker and not able to meet people or socialise, but I am starting to see things differently now. I want to say thank you for this web site, i will use it to get off the drink, and then the nicotene, hopefully at the same time. Starting today.

    Please pray for me, my name is not James, but I don’t want to give out my real name. I have no one to talk to about this, except God, and I do believe he is helping me to overcome my addictions, but I would like people who have been through this, to say a prayer for me, Thank you.

  • pat

    My b/f and I have been together a little over 4 years. He has used different drugs, mainly meth. He has become physically abusive, verbally abusive and has destroyed things at home, doors, walls, windows, in truth we both used. He was sent to a program by his probation officer, me, I stopped cold turkey. 4 months clean. H ewas in a 15 week program, 2 weeks before his release, he would make comments by phone to me that would hurt and upset me to where we would argue, I’d hang up on him and the next day one of us would call the other. 2 weeks before release, we argued, he told me not to start with him. I said I wont, just don’t bother with me either. That was the last time we spoke. I wrote him telling him I could not continue the arguing or his treatment of ignoring me, telling me he’d call at a certain time and not call. I would not call and wait to see if he would. A few days later he would, but he would be very distant. The last time we spoke he was very distant yet questioned who was visiting, when I told him, he suddenly had a hateful attitude. but did not wait for me to explain why this person was there and that he was with his mother. This person and his mother stopped by to offer help in paying my light bill. when I asked if he was upset he said no, I’m good. That was the opening for him to be mean, rude and hateful. Two weeks passed and no word. I text him a message for Father’s day. He called but only let the phone ring once. Nothing more after that. I was excited for his return home, He went to his father’s instead and still did not contact me. He did continue his meetings every night and on weekends. He graduated from the program. through all this heartbreaking experience, I have remained sober. I am proud of myself, others have relapsed for smaller issues, I refuse to relapse. He has been out of the program for almost 7 weeks, still no word from him. We did have many ugly arguments before he went into the program, but I know it was due to the drugs and the demons within use. He ran into a friend of mine and told her to tell me to move on with my life, he has and is not coming home. Said he wants to be happy. Does he think I don’t want to be happy ? Our plans were to have him finish the program, get off probation and we would move out of state. We had talked of moving for awhile and on his urging, I arranged for a place to live in another state, all we had to do was pack and leave. He has a few times called my phone, restricting his #, I know it’s him because the call comes not 2 minutes after I have left a message for his dad about mail here for another family member. He told her ( my friend) he had someone new, showed her a picture, but his father has told me there is no one. What is it that would cause someone to walkaway without a word to me or without even giving each other a chance to try as a sober couple. He made a decision that effected not only his life but my life too. And believe me, I hoped we would try as a sober couple. Every time he was locked up, he begged me to not leave him, to give him a chance, I never refused him. Now he wont give me or us a chance because…….?Should I move without him, not let him know where or should I tell him he has 2 weeks to decide if he is moving with me, or the day I’m to leave, if there is no word from him, I should blow him a kiss through the wind and leave and not look back ? I have never ever felt such pain in my heart, a hot burning pain in my stomach every time I think he might be with someone else, and cry every night, every day! prayers are all I have done for weeks, but the pain is still in my heart. I feel abandoned and cheated out of a good, happy and loving new life with him. Please help me to understand and give me advise. They never included g/f b/f or family members to their meetings. I’m worried if he begins to visit with his sister & brother-in-law he will relapse in a big way. They encourage him to use, they do not care about him and I have tried to get him to see that. I await your response. Thank you

  • Brandon

    My name is Brandon, my amazing girlfriend has an alcohol problem, she has gotten to a point where she feels like giving up, Im doing all i can to be supportive and help her over come this but feel like she isnt willing to try to take the step to stopping, what can i do to help her? She has three amazing kids and has always been there for them but it feels like she doesnt want to fight for them please help me.

  • Tina Baker

    I am speaking for no-one but myself. I am a drug addict and need help to get my life back. I realize I have a drug problem and I want to find some help spmewhere cause doing it on my own is not possible. I have tried and failed, My habit is only getting worse everyday that goes by. I have lost everything and the only thing I have left is my life. I do not want to loose it as well. I was hoping that someone anyone that can direct me in the right place to get some long-term treatment would be AwEsOmE.. I hope that someone can help me and the sooner the better. Thanks so much for anyone that can plz help me… Plzzzzzzz Tina…

  • Rebekah Wingo

    Hi my name is Rebekah I have been using drugs and alcohol most of my adult life to cope with things that have happened in my life. I know that this may sound like excuses,but we don’t wake up one day and choose to be drug addicts or alcoholics. My first husband was an alcoholic and now my second husband is a drug addict. Ireally want to stop using drugs. I have been searching out different places to try and get some help since I have no insurance. I also have been physically and mentally abused as well. I am trying to find somewhere that I can go that can help me with all my problems. I really need some kind of help for my own sanity and inner peace. If anyone out there can help I would truly appreciate it because the longer I wait the sooner it would be easier to get back out of reality with my addiction habits. If anyone can help plz do so.

  • amy Nauman

    I have been drinking for many years. I am now in my early 40’s. I have a 5 yr. old daughter that I love very dearly. My health is going to shit and I am in the state that I don’t want to say it is true, but it is. I am searching for someone to help me with this addiction and to come clean with this illness that has gotten ahold of me at an early age.

  • Master


  • Brandy

    Ive had a struggle with drugs since I was 17. Ive lived, had a successful career , gotmarried. Lived the American Dream. This year after haveing my 5th and final child I made up for lost self sabotage time & ended up in rehab. It was the best facility & Ifeel like a renewed person. The problem my 16yr old son will not talk to me look at me, answer my questions. He completely acts as I don’t exists. His dad hasn’t been an active parent & in fact its been 3yrs now since weve have communication with him. I feel like a complete failure as his mother. We don’t laugh. I haven’t hugged him in over 4months. I’ve wrote a letter to him. we live in the same house.Im hisonly parent. He just will not see a counselour. He isstruggling in school.I can only keep trying. my heartsjust breaking. any suggestions please share.

  • Frida

    This is the most fantastic guide I have read about enabling. It is so clear and comprehensive. I have a friend I love dearly. He recently told me he always wanted to date me and even spoke about marriage. Some years ago, though, the woman he lived with (back then) told me he is an alcoholic. I’d say we love each other a lot in a special affectionate way. He confirmed me that he has a “drinking problem”. He said he’s gone to rehab twice but feels very depressed once sober and has relapsed. He told me his company paid twice for the detox programme which was very expensive. Well, isn’t that enabling? Companies should know better. I wish he would pay it himself (it would do him good). This guide certainly warned me about several things. He said the typical thing you mention: “Will you marry me if I achieve sobriety for long?” I see myself acting in enabling ways sending him information that might help him. It is true that if he is not ready, what can an outsider do? I am concerned though because he is highly functional, alcohol doesn’t affect his job or son. He is a closet binge drinker who only drinks at home, one his own…. suffering to exhaustion (hitting bottom) sounds harder to reach that way. I definitely have a lot of thinking to do. And my own life challenges to work on. I feel someone sent me here. Thanks for the “heads up”!

  • Rebeccq

    I am Rebecca and very shelter