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9 Things To Remember When Dealing With An Addicted Loved One

9 Things To Remember When Dealing With An Addicted Loved One

The World Health Organization estimates that 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders which contributed to 3.3 million deaths per year worldwide. In 2008, it was reported that 155-250 million people abuse substances other than alcohol. In 2009, there were over 37,000 deaths in the US alone where drug abuse was the primary cause of death.

Sadly, addiction affects millions around the world and not just the ones that struggle with addiction, but the family members that are desperately hoping for their addicted loved one to one day find sobriety. I have experience in this area and am sharing what worked for me so that I could keep my life manageable while dealing with an addicted loved one.

Since we do not live in a perfect world, nor do we have a cure for addiction, here are 9 things to remember when dealing with an addicted loved one. We wish this list had the secret ingredient that would lead the loved one to permanent and positive change. This list focuses on healthy ways the family member can choose to deal with their addicted loved one.

1. We Can’t Control It

I have learned this from experience – we cannot make others do anything in life. We are only responsible for ourselves and our own actions or reactions to any given situation. I tried everything – hiding keys so the loved one wouldn’t leave, withholding money so they couldn’t spend it on drugs and alcohol. I even tried verbal threats, ultimatums and shaming them for their choices and actions yet none of those things prevented them from heading right back into their addiction.

My addicted loved one still found a way to relapse or use again regardless of my actions. Once we realize we have no power over anyone else it is easier to accept the situation and evaluate what changes we need to make for ourselves.

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2. We Didn’t Cause It

I spent many nights believing I had some part in their decision to go out and abuse drugs or alcohol that day or that night. Was is something I did or said?  I believed that it was my fault for their actions or decisions. I put unnecessary guilt and blame on myself for believing that it was because of me that they gave into their addiction again.

It is important to remember that we are not to blame and that we did not cause our loved one’s problem with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the addicted loved one will attempt to blame us for their actions and decisions but please remember it is not our fault. We didn’t cause it, nor can we cure it.

3. We Can’t Fix It

If we could somehow say or do something to fix our loved one’s problem with addiction, then addiction wouldn’t be so widespread. I tried everything under the sun to get the outcome that I wanted (my loved one in sobriety/recovery), but I realized that I was not going to be the one to fix them or change them.

There is a fine line between helping your loved one out of a sticky situation because of the consequences of their addiction and continuing to enable their addictive behavior. I used to be the fixer by bailing them out of jail, trying to cover up for their mistakes due to their addiction. When we finally realize that our part in trying to ‘fix’ the situation is actually doing more harm than good, we are able to make the necessary changes in our lives and focus on ourselves instead of our addicted loved one. Instead of trying to ‘fix them’, we need find out what our responsibility is going to be in terms of their addiction.

4. We Don’t Have To Take Part In It

It is common for loved ones to believe they have nothing to do with their family member’s addiction because they aren’t the ones providing the drink or the drug, but they are allowing the behavior to continue (especially if their loved one lives with them). If you have no consequences for a loved one that is living with you that struggles with addiction, you are essentially condoning their behavior and enabling their addiction to continue.

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If your addicted loved one believes that their choices towards addiction is not really affecting others, why would they ever change? Once we decide to no longer contribute or enable our loved one’s addictive behaviors, we are able to create a more peaceful environment for ourselves.

What we allow in our relationships is what will continue. It is up to us to decide what we will and will not accept in any given situation or relationship regardless if that person is our spouse, boyfriend, mother, father, sister brother, son or daughter.

5. We Can Avoid Insanity

Insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. If you have tried the same threats, fights, shaming and guilt over and over again yet expecting something to change – you are essentially living in insanity.

I lived in my own insanity for a long while until I realized I have the power to either stay on the roller coaster that was my loved one’s addiction or choose to remove myself from the chaos that addiction brings.

Many times that means leaving the relationship. Some may call it tough love but it can also be called getting out of insanity. Finally we can be at peace knowing we gave our loved one numerous opportunities toward positive change and their decision to seek out or reject sobriety is completely their own.

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6. We Can Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting a healthy boundary is about protecting yourself from further chaos or emotional harm. Many times your loved one is so wrapped up in their addictive behaviors they will see a boundary as being “told what to do.”  But a boundary is really nothing more than you stating what you will and will not accept. Once consequences are set up, if your boundaries are not respected, you must be ready to plan for different outcomes.

Setting a boundary is easy, but following through with the consequence is more challenging. When setting a boundary, keep it factual and to the point. Use When You choose to leave and stay out all night drinking and not answering your phone, I Feel disrespected, ignored, abandoned and once again lied to as you said this wouldn’t happen again. I Want you to explore getting into a recovery program and seeing a counselor or I will consider all of my options including leaving the relationship or asking you to leave (if your loved one lives with you).

Be firm, set a time frame and let go of the outcome. A boundary is not a “hope” that this will make your addicted loved one change, it is about protecting your own emotional health and leaving the decision up to them.

7. We Can Be A Part Of The Solution

We need to love our addicted loved one no matter what. We can still set firm boundaries and reinforce that we care about them. We can be encouraging and forgiving – addiction is a disease. We need to verbalize that they do have the power to overcome and that it’s never too late, they might just need help from a 12-step recovery program or a counselor to get there.

Many addicted loved ones feel hopeless and helpless in the middle of their addiction and by continuing to direct our anger or negativity at them because of their decisions does not help the situation. We can reinforce that we will always be a part of the solution to end their addictive behaviors. But we will not be a part of the problem any longer by enabling or accepting their choice to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. We will always support them and remember to let them know they are still loved. We, however, do not love the choices they are making.

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8. We Know It Won’t Always Be This Way

This statement comes with a preface. It might actually always be this way if you continue to allow the addictive behavior to continue if you are involved with your loved one on a daily basis. If hard decisions are made and relationships are altered in the hopes of your loved one seeking out help, it is worth it.

Many in recovery had to reach their true “bottom” where they had nothing else to focus on but themselves and their addiction. When we allow the behavior to continue by minimizing the situation or making excuses for why our addicted loved one continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, we lose.

The real truth is being a part of the continued addiction is only causing more harm than good for the addicted loved one. They could either end up in jail due to drinking and driving or worse, dead because of an alcohol related car accident or a drug overdose. Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious issue and everyone involved with an addicted loved one should take the necessary steps to encourage recovery and positive change.

9. We Can’t Lose Hope

No matter how hopeless the situation may seem it can always improve. If you feel emotionally affected by your addicted loved one’s actions, seek out help. If you feel consumed by their addiction, there are many 12 step support groups that just focus on helping the family members who are affected by an addicted loved one. When you know you are not alone and others have the same concerns and issues as you do, it helps. Once you accept that you can do nothing to make your addicted loved one sober and focus on yourself first and foremost, healing begins.

There are ways to make your life more manageable because of your addicted loved one. The key lies with focusing on yourself. Things can get better once you let go of the situation and allow your addicted loved one to find their path to recovery on their own – for themselves and no one else.

Featured photo credit: Charles Bernelas via flickr.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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