Monday, June 11, 2012
How Not to Help Addicts
Tell an addict what he wants to hear and you might as well sign his death warrant. In other words, the people who told me what I wanted to hear helped me the least. Conversely, the people who told me what I didn't want to hear helped me the most. If you care about someone and want them to get better, do not let them steal from you anymore, whether it's your time, energy, love, home or money. The trick is to treat them for what they are. Treat them like an alcoholic, a drug addict, a criminal, a child, or a selfish jerk who causes you nothing but pain. Addicts, of course, cannot be stopped. But spouses, families and friends can help their cause by putting their feet down as much as possible. You may not agree, but at least it gives you a hand to play.
Do not shower addicts with love, affection, money, or any other "helpful" thing. Only by removing privileges will you have a chance to stop us. You must remove everything you possibly can, even your presence. Addicts will ride the train as long as they can. The only thing that might get them to stop, take a look at themselves, and perhaps even get some help is by taking things away from them. Take away all avenues to comfort. Take away all forms of monetary assistance. Call the cops on them if they are taking your jewelry to pawn for crack or heroin or pills or booze or weed (yup, weed too.) Take away their home and their food. Kick them out of your house and tell them you don't want to see them until they are ready to get better.
Addicts need to be humbled.
It's tough, especially for parents, to act counter-instinctually, but the sad truth is that by giving addicts love and support, you are killing them. Because, remember, all they want to do is use. All they want is to continue using the way they want and they will trick you to get what they want. They will act like your loving son or daughter and have dinner with you if it means you might throw them a 20. They will go hang out with you while you shop or even rake your lawn if it means you might throw them a 20 for some lie they have peddled... like they just need it to go buy groceries or rent Disney's Bambi for a night in. Don't fall for it. Addicts are actors and frauds and phonies. Comfort is all we care about in this world. Nothing else.
So unfortunately, the people who love us the most usually help us the least. If you're a parent or a spouse or a sibling or a friend, fight your instincts to enable us with everything you have and try to treat the addict in your life as you would treat some dirty addict on the street who you've never met.
God, please give strength to those who love us, and give them the power to treat us for what we are...