A Disease of Manipulation.
We often talk about addiction as a disease: Although someone usually makes the choice to have their first sip of beer or liquor, and makes the choice to try their first line of cocaine – no one actually chooses to surrender their life to their drug of choice and lose everything because of it. No one decides that a pill or a drink is more important than their family, friends, marriage, job, children, food, shelter, or life — until they are too far into the disease of addiction to stop it. While addiction is a disease, a key component of addiction that makes it different from other chronic and debilitating diseases is a change in or enhancement of negative behavioral patterns. These behaviors include lying, cheating, denying and manipulating. These aren’t qualities of the person who is addicted, but rather their symptoms of their addiction. People with drug or alcohol addictions aren’t immoral because they behave this way, it’s simply part of the disease of addiction. But the disease of addiction doesn’t stop with the person who is using the substance – it spreads to the entire family. So while your addicted loved one may be lying, cheating, or in denial, there is a high chance that the family or close friends may be manipulated. Just like the person who is addicted doesn’t initially set out to become addicted, and a liar and cheater – the family never intends to become manipulated.
Letting Lies Fly.
Everyone has what I like to call a “Hot Button”: A word or phrase or action from another person that bothers them more than anything. Think cursing, or bullying or an eye-roll. For me, it’s being lied to. Most people would probably agree that being lied to is absolutely insulting. It can make you feel that the lying person believes you’re dumb enough to believe the fib. The especially unfortunate part about being lied to, is that you’re not always able to separate fact from fiction, and falsely accusing someone of lying to you can be detrimental to the relationship. Sometimes, it’s just easier to let the story slide and keep things on good terms. Other times, we tell the lie to ourselves enough to believe it – because the truth is too painful to accept. When a loved one reaches far into the depths of addiction, we’re often unable to recognize our own part in the manipulative relationship to see how we’re affected by it. It’s not because we want to be lied to, or because we’re weak. It’s because we’re so emotionally immersed in our loved one’s well-being, that we give into addiction and its manipulative power.
Stopping the Manipulation.
Just like any change in behavior or relationship, shutting down manipulation won’t be easy – and it won’t happen overnight. As a person who loves someone in active drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important that you take the steps to stop the manipulation in your relationship. Doing so won’t just benefit you and your well-being, it can also help your loved one seek treatment for their addiction.
- Take a hard look at reality. You never envisioned that your life – or your loved one’s life – would end up this way. It’s terrifying, it’s angering, it’s completely heartbreaking. Carrying this pain day in and day out has taken a toll on you, and it’s been easier to sweep it aside in order to assuage the hurt. Maybe you’ve created a false reality of the situation, maybe you’re in denial, or maybe you choose to ignore the chaos all around. Whatever the reason, you must truly assess the reality of your situation before you can make a change.
- Set boundaries. Boundaries are key to creating healthy relationships; even when your loved one isn’t healthy. You are not the same person as your loved one, regardless of your relationship. Without boundaries to distinguish you from your loved one, you compromise what makes you, you. Weak boundaries allow you to lose yourself, your freedom, and your personal space. Weak boundaries when a loved one is addicted, mean you will likely be lied to, cheated on, stolen from – and ultimately, manipulated. Check out our 7 key boundaries to set in addicted relationships.
- Love yourself. Just because your loved one is sick with the debilitating disease of addiction doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to focus on yourself. You’ve spent so much of your life taking care of your addicted loved one, worrying about your addicted loved one, and donating all of your time to his well-being – your own self-worth has suffered. In caring for your loved one, you’ve become a huge target for manipulation. Take the focus off the addiction and try to find joy in yourself – the things that make you happy and take your mind off of the other person.
- Say “no.” The disease of addiction hates the word “no” – and saying it won’t always go over well with the person who is addicted. Unfortunately, even when we try to do the right thing and provide money or a free place to stay when our loved one is out – we empower the manipulative behaviors.
- Find a local support program. Right now, you are going through some of the worst that life can throw at a person. You might feel like you’re at wits end. Even though you may want to curl into a corner and hide from it, doing so won’t help. Take the opportunity to share with others who are going through the same thing in a local support program like Al-Anon. There is power and comfort in knowing that you’re not alone – and you’ll meet others who are fighting back against the manipulation caused by addiction.