Addiction lives everywhere, out in the open, behind closed doors, within families, between friends and between co-dependent partners. Some addictions are not immediately life threatening. Many people still smoke every day and drink every weekend. In society these are the lesser evils because they do not immediately ruin lives. They may kill you in the end but the impact on those surrounding you are, for the most part, minimal. Unless of course you’re a raging alcoholic. Most addicts are addicts in secret. They are used to operating in secret by covering up their ‘signs’ and they usually have ‘enablers’, who can be just as detrimental as the addiction itself.
Sadly, as a society we are quick to judge addicts, particularly those whose problems involve Class A drugs such as heroin and crack. ‘Bag head’, ‘tramp’, ‘druggy’, ‘user’, ‘addict’, ‘you should be ashamed of yourself’ etc. Unfortunately, addiction isn’t easy to break, hence why some people remain addicts all their life. Breaking addictions takes enormous, willpower, bags of love and in some cases absolute force. The difficulty of this is that families usually fall apart one way or another and the support isn’t there. This could be due to the addict relying on thieving, lying, scheming and manipulating, to gain whatever substance or elation they are seeking.
The only way to start removing addiction from someone’s life is to first stop their enabler. Enablers are the people who provide the means for addictions to continue. These people are always prevalent where addiction lives, particularly gambling addiction. The addict can spend their entire months wage on bets in a single day and the enabler will replace that for them, usually because they are terrified at what will happen if they let them sink. It is imperative though that you LET THEM SINK. Don’t be fooled by love or obligation. You are literally helping this person destroy themselves and the life they have built. In the moment you refuse to ‘enable them’ they will say absolutely anything to change your mind, ‘I will kill myself’, ‘I will tell people your secrets’, ‘I have no money for food’. This can be alarming and it takes a morally strong person to see through the deceit and say ‘HELL NO’. Nine times out of ten the addict won’t do anything, they have just hit rock bottom and will resort to any means to manipulate you. Even if they did take drastic action at your refusal, that responsibility lies with them not your conscience. The more you enable addictions to continue, the less likely they will ever end, meaning you are also now in the vicious cycle. When you have nothing more to give, the addict will push for you to bring in another enabler to fund the addiction. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that the wheels will eventually drop off because there isn’t an endless supply of money. The addict will either end up homeless or facing the music of the person they were hiding their addiction from. The only way out is ultimate acknowledgement and acceptance. An addict must really feel what they have done to others and themselves and let it consume them, so they can resolve to do better and start to rebuild their own self-worth.
Self-esteem plays a major part in addiction. For instance, gambling may not be the root issue, it could just be symptom of something deeper like anxiety, depression or trying to fund substance abuse. Substance abuse can stem from manipulation, control or physical abuse at the hands of someone else, whether in childhood, adolescence or in a very present situation. Whatever the facts of the case, don’t be too quick to dismiss an addict. Of course there are those that have completely fallen off and can’t be brought back but many are crying on the inside to be saved.
Dealing with an addict is a balancing act. You don’t want to be a hero and risk your own life being stolen to fund the vices of an addict and you don’t want to completely ignore their plight. If you are personally suffering in such a situation then you need to create and implement your own strict rules. This could be never having the addict your house, however, you will arrange to meet them elsewhere such as a café. Stop giving them money but offer emotional support and be their voice of reason. Prevent yourself being emotionally entangled by their pleas of desperation by being brutally honest. ‘I can’t eat today’ they say and you respond ‘but you could’ve if you hadn’t wasted the money you had yesterday on your addiction’. This may sound cruel, although it does put the addict in a place where they have to consider and be accountable for their actions and the circumstances they have created for themselves. Remind them of their potential and how much you love them, even if it falls on deaf ears. If you have the strength to continue this mantra then it may progress to you convincing them to seek professional help once and for all. Leaving addiction behind takes baby steps so don’t get frustrated if the addict takes five steps forward and ten steps back. As long as you are protecting your own interests and wellbeing that’s all that matters. If they never change, at least you know you did everything in your power to help them in the correct way.
If the addict does not get to a point where they want to change their life for the better then it may be wise to accept this and exit their life for good.