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Living With an Addict and Dealing With Their Addiction

I have learned a great deal about cognitive therapy techniques as a way to make changes in my own life.

As someone who has been in relationships with addicts, I made it one of my priorities to understand addictions and their cycles. This hub explains many of the things I have learned to keep myself emotionally and mentally healthy amongst addicts and their addictions.

The addictions we most often think about are drugs and alcohol. However, an addiction can be any kind of a physical or psychological dependence that a person turns to in order to avoid feelings, memories, or situations that have become too painful or overwhelming for them to face.

The consequences of an addiction may include damaged physical health, damaged relationships and profound emotional suffering. Having a relationship with an addict also becomes a relationship with their addiction. Loved ones might contribute to an addicts’ behavior by making excuses for the addict or by protecting the addict from the consequences that their addiction brings on. Sometimes, this seems necessary as a means to keep their own lives together. But, when friends, partners or family members take the consequences on themselves, it only serves to place them in the addicts' cycle of addiction.

An addict must be ready to save themselves.

Addicts will not stop their addiction from having someone love them enough to protect them from their fallouts. After all, why would they stop addictive behaviors if they don't have to see or deal with the consequences themselves?

Addicts will usually only stop addictions on their own terms and often when it reached a great cost to them (when they hit their personal bottom). They will only get help when they face the reality of their problem and no amount of saving them or attempts to rationalize with them will help them see things differently.

If you are in a relationship with an addict, gaining support through a therapist or support group may be quite beneficial. It helps to recognize the traits of an addict and how you can protect yourself from being pulled too deeply into their addictive cycle.

An addict is very "needy" of their addiction.

An addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on a substance or behavior. You may recognize someone who has an addiction as being fanatical, obsessive, or “needy” of an individual, belief, substance, behavior, or idea that creates an escape from their own life’s problems.

Understanding the dysfunctional relationships addicts have.

Addicts tend to have dysfunctional relationships internally, which result in also having dysfunctional relationships externally. If they are not able to respect or accept themselves, how can they possibly provide love, acceptance or respect for others?

Understanding this can be beneficial in how we interact with an addict. Instead of taking their interactions personally, we can realize that they are really portraying how their internal pain upon others around them.

Addicts feel like the victim.

When you hear an addict portray the role of "the victim," it is best not to argue with them. It appears that no matter what the situation is they will see themselves as the victim; they have been the one hurt or wronged, even amongst the chaos and damage they created.

At some point in their life, they may have actually been the victim. But they haven't dealt with or healed what they needed to in order to move on in a more healthy manner. But, their addiction also serves to keep them from dealing with their victim issue now. Playing a victim may also be a way of manipulating others to get them to do for them what they should be doing themselves.

If we learn to let them be responsible for themselves it may help them to create a different response to their situations.

Denials of an addict

If you deal with an addict, you may frequently hear them denying their behaviors or the results. Understand that this is an automatic and unconscious component of an addict. Addicts are often the last to recognize their disease. Sadly, many addicts continue to act out with their addictions while placing blame elsewhere. People in relationships with addicts should save themselves the frustration of arguing a point that you just won’t win; remember that an addicts perception of reality is deeply skewed. However, there is a chance that an intervention may be helpful since the addict will hear the concerns, experiences, and perspectives from many loved ones in one sitting. But that doesn't mean that they will be open to accepting them.

Denial is one of the reasons why forcing an addict to rehab treatment is seldom effective. An addict won't seriously work on a problem unless they personally come to terms with its existence and their contribution to it.

Put your boundaries in place.

Find your boundaries when dealing with the addicts’ behavior and then be consistent with these boundaries. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make them take personal responsibility for their actions and the consequences that come with it. Decide what behaviors you will not accept from the addict and what consequences will result if they cross those boundaries.

Release yourself from being personally responsible for them and allow them the opportunity to be personally responsible for themselves. It is very important to take care of yourself and your well-being when dealing with an addict.

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Choosing to stay with an addict.

If you choose to continue close interactions with an addict, get a support system for yourself. Whether the addict is addicted to substances or activities such as drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling/gaming, food, anger, physical or emotional abuse, excessive spending, porn, etc, there are counselors and support groups that can be quite helpful for those who have relationships with addicts.

There are also books and information online that can help you to understand more about addictions. Information can also be helpful for how to develop healthy boundaries while interacting with an addict. Be sure to also look into resources of codependency, which is described as a need to take care of others in ways that may feed the addictive cycles.

Above all, do not allow yourself to be alone in dealing with an addict. Isolation can lead to more damage than good. Never let go of supportive friends or family members. Those who can provide healthy support to you is essential so that you can take care of yourself in the situation.

Is it an addiction or obsessive-compulsive behavior?

An addict’s behavior may be similar to obsessive-compulsive traits. In order to know how to handle a compulsive/ addictive type behavior, be sure you know whether the behavior is OCD or an addiction. These two different behaviors require different types of interactions in dealing with their conditions.

Additional Resources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Mary Roark


John on June 25, 2017:

Brilliant, thank you, answered a lot of questions and gave me hope for our son.

Kim on March 02, 2013:

This is so unbelievably good. It seems I looked for months for something written so well and so informative. This hits the nail on the head

Multiman on August 05, 2011:

Great article a helpful to me since one of my family is an addict. Voted up.

Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on June 01, 2011:

Thank you for sharing your own experience Niki. I would say the "shaking things up" is where putting new boundaries in place can be beneficial. From my experience, getting firm with your own direction and boundaries will either strengthen the relationship as the addictions get off their routine cycle, or the addict will choose to leave. In my mind, either way is better than where we were!

You're right about my articles sounding textbook. For some reason it's the way I tend to write. For me it seems easier to explain sensitive issues like this one in that manner rather than getting too personal.


Niki Hampton from Oregon on June 01, 2011:

This is a good, informative article, though feels a little textbook. I am married to a recovering addict/alcohol who was a practicing addict when we met and I was using to "control" my bi-polar. While he did steal from family to buy drugs, he was never violent and within a week we were inseparable, though he has never really been in a relationship. I have previously been married and in many relationships in fact coming from an extremely violent one just before I met my now husband.

Without getting in to all the details, my husband and I have been clean for almost 6 years (in Sept.) and have been married for 5 years and have 4 children. It's been a rough 6 years together, but I believe the way our relationship started actually bonded us together tighter than a regular relationship may have. A relationship can be tough and though I was only a part of his life for a short time in his battle, I knew it we would come out of it strong. Staying with an addict depends on the situation. If he had been aggressive toward me it would have been a deal breaker. We've also talked about how we would handle if one of us relapsed now that we have children.

Thanks for your hub. Navigating your love and resentment (often at the same time) of the addict you love can be tough. I hope those out there can find support and clarity in their decisions about this. I hope my sharing showed people there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Not all addicts are a lost cause- his parents and friends couldn't help him. He had never had the love of a women in his life. It took a strong (and bossy) women to shake his ass up! lol And it worked. I wouldn't change our life (including how we met) for anything.

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