"Never trust an addict". This is a harsh statement, but anybody who has attempted to maintain a relationship with an addicted person knows that truth and honesty are casualties of this disease of addiction. Even people who are normally honest and forthright become manipulative to the point of being nearly unrecognizable.
"Addicts" become very good at hiding the truth. In the beginning, this tactic serves to protect relationships and jobs threatened by substance abuse. They are in denial and they aren’t ready or willing to face the truth about their illness. Although they lie to other people, they are also lying to themselves. Acknowledging the truth is an admission that a problem exists and that change needs to happen. The "truth" is often ugly and thus difficult to accept.
Even though they may say otherwise, most addicts don’t want to change and they will go to great lengths to protect the addiction - the illness that may slowly be destroying them. They promise to stop using, but they will do nearly anything to avoid facing reality. People who are addicted to drugs may lie, cheat and steal to gain access to the substances they crave.
As time goes by, addicts become practiced at dishonesty and they become experts at hiding the truth, even to close friends and family. Defense mechanisms grow more complicated and lying becomes second nature. As the disease progresses and thinking becomes more and more distorted, addicts become highly skilled at spinning the truth or shifting the blame on to other people.
Your addicted loved-one may walk away or tune you out, which is easier for them than facing the truth. Or, the addicted person may minimize the extent of the problem or say exactly what you want to hear in order to avoid confrontation.
If someone you care about is in the grip of addiction, you may be experiencing confusion, fear, guilt, and a great deal of sorrow. If your loved one isn’t ready to accept the truth and enter treatment, you may need to seek out the services of an interventionist, who can help break through the wall of denial.
In the meantime, it’s critical to take steps to protect your own wellbeing. Consider the following suggestions:
- Maintain control and don’t be baited into senseless arguments, which are an exercise in futility and only contribute to anger and shame.
- Set boundaries. Determine what you are willing to tolerate, then stand firm. Don’t allow yourself to be used or manipulated.
- Show support for the person, but not the addiction. Remember that addicts are usually struggling with a great deal with self-hate, guilt and shame. Often, they are coping unsuccessfully with underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, anger or trauma.
- Don’t sacrifice your own needs for the needs of your addicted loved-one. It is critical to focus on your own wellbeing during this difficult time. Get enough rest. Eat healthy foods that will keep your body strong. Spend time with friends. Exercise. Consider mindfulness meditation or other ways to de-stress.
- Develop a “thick skin”. Although this is easier said than done, it’s important to realize that your loved-one may act in ways they wouldn’t if they weren’t under the influence. Learn not to take things personally.
- Be hopeful. Show understanding and unconditional love, but don’t be drawn into the illness.
- Don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or seek professional counseling, attend self-help groups such as AlAnon. Consider family counseling, even if your loved-one isn’t ready to participate.
- Learn about the disease of addiction and how enabling it contributes to the disease. Even though you love the person and want to help, you may be enabling the addiction and unwittingly allow it to continue.
- Sadly, some relationships may be damaged beyond repair and may not be salvageable. Sometimes, ending a relationship is unavoidable.
- Stage an intervention with an experienced rehab facility who understands the problem and can advise you on how to intervene successfully, managing to get your loved-one into successful treatment.