My loved one is an addict: What do I do?

What to do when you find that first needle, crack pipe, bag of cocaine or stash of pills? The WAY in which you help can change everything. Learn how to cope with the situation by making an assessment. Guidelines here.

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Have you just discovered that your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse has been using illicit or prescription drugs? You are not alone. There, we discuss how to cope with the situation by making an assessment. Guidelines here. Then, we invite your questions or comments or experiences in the comments section at the end. We try to respond to all legitimate concerns with a personal and prompt reply.

I didn’t know my loved one was an addict!

Is your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse an addict and you had no idea? A quick internet search will show you that you are not alone. There are mistakes that everyone makes when they first come to this realization. This can stem from a lack of education on addiction, insecurity, and fear of losing the person you love.

An emotionally healthy individual, who is confident, independent, secure with themselves, and happy would get up and walk away from a relationship with an addict. Upon discovering your loved one is abusing substances, your first instinct is to leave, but most people stay. “Why do I stay with an addict?” you may ask.  Mainly, out of concern. Instead of taking care of yourself, what you do is try to help, in any way you can. You try to help your loved one get to a place of recovery. However, the WAY in which you help can be the very nature of the problem.

Discovering addiction: What to do when you find out

When you find that first needle, crack pipe, bag of cocaine or stash of pills, you may feel a wave of emotions. You might have feelings of justification, that all of your suspicions were not wrong. Until this point, you had an uncomfortable feeling about your partner that would not go away. You may still be wondering if your partner is a real addict or not. So, what do you do next?

Common Mistakes

This next part may sound familiar. You feel that you love your partner so much that it is your job to help fix them. Perhaps you do not want your relationship or marriage with an addict to “fail”. So, you confront the addict, they tell you they either do not have a problem, have everything under control or that they know they need help. You feel a bit of relief and hope the problem will just go away, trusting he or she will get help. As time goes on, you try believing the lies but you see that things are not changing and – in most cases – getting worse. You may:

  •  justify their addiction
  •  fight with them
  •  try to force them into a rehab or a 12 step program
  •  go to counseling with them
  •  try every idea you have read about

In the end, an addict always goes back to using and you can be left feeling frustrated, scared, and defeated. Your life may start to feel like it is going around in circles.

What You Could Do Instead

If you could press rewind and start from the beginning, you could save years of your life. Instead of hoping and believing things will change, you can insist that they do, or else. The following is a list of things you could do after you discover your loved one’s addiction:

  1.  Gain your composure and take a step back before confronting the addict
  2.  Come up with an action plan that includes sobriety as the only option
  3.  Give your loved one an ultimatum, “it’s the drugs or me”
  4.  If they are serious about getting help, set the boundaries of what you expect from them
  5.  Set a time frame; an amount of time you will give them to get help
  6.  Do not believe what they say, only deal in facts. If you think they are using, THEY ARE
  7.  Get help for yourself, a support group, therapist and get educated on the truth of addiction, not what the addict is trying to make you believe
  8.  If your agreement with the addict is broken, LEAVE

Go with your instincts!

If your boyfriend or loved one is an addict, go with your first instincts. Usually things are a lot worse than the addict will portray. They are going to try and make you believe that they are not like other addicts or they have a valid excuse for the drug abuse. Your gut will be more reliable than the words coming out of his or her mouth.

With the right information, education, and the ability to review all of the facts about addiction, smarter choices could be made. You may also have the opportunity to get the help you need and make the best choices for you.

About the author
Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.


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  1. Bev,
    I don’t think it is ever the same for a parent and child. This is your child and you will never stop loving them or give up. The pain is going to remain but the more you don’t allow her to manipulate and use you, the less it will become. You did the right thing and what I would do every single time I spoke to her is say this, “I know you are an addict, I am not going to enable you or try to make you get sober but I love you more than you will every know and I am here 100% to help support you if you every seriously decide to get sober.” Just tell her how much you wish you could do this for her but you can’t but that you are behind her recovery. Just remind her how much she is loved and deserves to get help. My heart cries out to you because when it comes to your child, there are no easy ways to let go but there are ways to make it easier on you and harder for them to continue to use by not enabling them.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  2. I constantly reread your blog and learn new things each time.My addict/alcolholic daughter recently walked out of rehab to move in with a heroin addict boyfriend. I moved to another state to remove myself from her emotional and physical abuse. I was to fly back to see her for Christmas, but had to cancel the trip due to her using. She has no place to live, no money, no friends, and no where to go for the holidays except perhaps with addicts. I cannot talk to her because she never calls and is never sober. She refuses to get help. Did I do the right thing? I want to totally let go because she never listens when I make suggestions. Her life is a mess, and I am working on myself in the meantime. I just feel so sad? How do we get past that feeling?

  3. Jasmine, I understand you are not ready to leave But as time goes on it only gets harder to do especially when there’s a child involved. If you decide to stay I suggest creating some pretty big boundaries especially around your child. It’s never a good situation to stay with someone who is actively using and I would recommend possibly going to stay with family until you can get yourself on your feet again.

    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  4. When I met my fiance 2 years ago, he told me that at his young ages (18-20) he was a coke addict, but that he is clean since then. I was naiv and believed him, but after being a few months together he started to take drugs again. Since then he is using continuously, when I said I will leave him he stopped using and the relationship was good. We decided to have children, so I got pregnant and then when I was 3 months pregnant he started to take coke again. I know I should have left him, but being pregnant and not working I just didnt have the circumstances to leave. I’m originally from an other country, with no family here where we live. Now 8 months pregnant, he is still using.
    I am devastated and told him that when the baby is big enough and I can work again I’m gonna leave him. It does not stop him from taking drugs and he keeps promising that he is gonna change, but I know he wont. He had enough time. If I could I have already left him but this is just not right time… besides he never abused me, he takes good care of me, but I just can’t see someone I live with getting high every few days and not having any interests or hobbies or anything.. we are too different

  5. Debbie,
    He loved you in the only way he could. You have to understand with addiction comes dishonesty, manipulation, sometimes cheating and all other things that keep you apart from the people you love not bring them closer. This is not going to be easy to go back and realize how you have been wronged but I don’t think it will serve you to focus on those things at this point. You will go through phases of loss but ultimately you have to accept what was and hopefully be a stronger and wiser person for all of it.
    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC, AADP

  6. I didn’t know when I met him.. as we were getting to know each other he told me his life with meth and made me believe it was over years ago as his family did.. he would say to me over an over his changed completely when he met me and noine would explain to me what that meant they would only say his temper. I was only with him 3 yrs married 2 yrs this Xmas Eve I still love him so deeply. Miss him so much. He chose meth and overdosed.. never came back now I’m left with so many feelings emotions and loss and discovering his double life with the drug since February. All the cheating .. I’m beyond hurt.. m completely sober no addictions live a normal life.. now I question if he ever honestly loved me.

  7. Ayen,
    I do not know the specifics and do not know if he has a history of drug use or if this is something that is a problem. However, if you suspect something, then usually your gut is right. Something sounds off and I would get to the bottom of it. However, when you are upfront with an addict, you will get not get the same reaction. Addicts lie about everything, especially their addiction, so if you want to know the truth, then you should either go with your gut and do some digging or if you do not like his behavior, insist you seek counseling together, or move on. You need to understand that if it is drug addiction, that you need to start helping yourself. I hope you can find the answers so that you are able to move on.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the Video BOOK Trailer:

  8. Hi, just want to have advice from you, I have a husband 28 y.o. I always noticed that there were some changes in the way he moves & the way he speaks w/c is very unusual to him. I ask him directly if he is using drugs and answered me “NO, I’m not a user.”. He seldom drinks & smoked. I dont undestand why he is like that. the always answered me with a question. He often have sleepless nights. There are many symptoms of being a drug addict I found to him but he always denied it. What will I do with it? Will I leave him & send him to the psychiatrist?
    Hoping to have advise from you.
    Many thanks!

  9. Nina,
    I was unaware you were in another country or specifics of your situation. It seems like you have done all that you can and can no longer help your father. Please read the other articles I have written here, especially the ones regarding families and what to do. Zero Tolerance for Addiction: Help for Families is a good article and there are a host of articles I have written to give you steps and guidance on how to let go with love. Nina, losing a parent to addiction is extremely difficult, you have to be the adult and the parent and that is not fair. However, if you can understand that he is sick and that you unfortunately cannot help him recover, but you can let him know that you love him dearly and you are worried about him and that if he ever feels he wants to get help, you will be there to help, that is the most you can do. Other than that, you have to try to detach and let him play out his addiction and move on with your life. Know that you have done your best, you will be there for him when or if he is ready to change and that is the most a person can do. But keep educating yourself on addiction and co-addiction because your father has set you up in a pattern of enabling and you do not want that to continue throughout your life. You sound like a compassionate and very caring young woman and these are good qualities but you have to be careful that you don’t stop taking care of yourself. Addicts have the tendency to be very consuming and you may end up not worrying about you and dealing with your emotions. Take care of yourself and let go of the rest because you cannot change another person. I hope this helps.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from a co-addict

  10. Hi, Amanda. Thanks for answering my question.
    As to what you said about child services or going to the police, things are different in my country. Our police force isn’t very reliable, and even if they were, I don’t think they’d actually remove my brother, or my father.
    I didn’t say this in my previous comment, but my brother is only two years younger than me, and he’s chosen to stay with my father, even though I’m now living with my mother.
    I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I can’t help my father, but I’m having a hard time letting go of him, because even when I’m trying not to, I think about him all the time, and I want to help him, but I can’t.
    At this point, I feel like being committed is the only way to help him, but I can’t do it because I don’t have money to pay for it, and can’t do it without the approval of his parents.
    He’s been unemployed for over six months, and his money is running out, and he’s currently supporting my brother…
    I’m sorry for the long message. I’m rambling. If you have any advice on how to let go of an alcoholic – or stop thinking about them all the time – that’d be nice. 🙂

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Lacy,
    I am glad you are ready to make some changes and that this site has been helpful. Keep in mind when you tell an addict that you want him to get clean, they may make promises and lie, but only deal in facts. Go with your gut, you will know the truth by their actions and how you feel. Keep me posted, I am here to help.
    Best, Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from a co-addict

  12. Thank you for your insight Amanda. This article has helped me tremendously. I will be talking to him tonight about more clear boundaries, and if he does not follow through I will be leaving.

    I will keep in touch, And I plan to purchase your book. The short sample of it I read on Amazon gave me a lot of insight already and I know it will be something that will help me.

    Thank you again.

  13. Nina,
    This is a complicated situation because this is your father and an underage child is involved. However, you have to do what you have to do to help save yourself and your sibling. I do not know the specifics of your situation and so when you say your father is living with you, does that mean you are living on your own? Are you financially independent and is your mother involved at all?
    My advice would be to ask him to leave, ask to move in with another family member and find a person who can help take care of you and your brother. Child protective services in your area might be a good resource for your brother because they would step in and asses the situation and if everything is what you say, they would take you both out of that situation. But yes, you need to do something if your grandmother will not. You need to stop this and get help for you and your brother.
    It is not your fault that your father is an addict and it is not your responsobility to get him better. You need to worry about you and your brother and get out of this situation. You can go to your local police office, tell them your situation and they will direct you to whom can handle this. This is a situation you should not have to be dealing with and I am so sorry for you both but please stay strong and positive.
    This is not your life and you will be forced to learn at a very young age that sometimes you have to let people go even if that person is a parent.
    There is alateen and thoseeetimgs may really help you both, I suggest going to a meeting in your area.
    Please keep me posted, I am here to help.
    Amanda Andruzzi

  14. My father is an alcoholic, and he drinks vodka and cleaning products and cosmetics and my grandparents won’t commit him.
    I’m nineteen, and my grandmother is in town to help, but she is leaving him alone with me and my fifteen year old brother, even though my dad’s psychiatrist told her to stay.
    She won’t because she can’t handle the pressure, she’s pitying herself, and my grandfather just doesn’t want to get involved.
    I told them they should commit him if they don’t want to handle it, because I’m afraid it’ll be too late soon, since he already has both high cholesterol and damage to the liver, which he’s had a couple years ago too, before he stopped.
    I’m afraid he’s going to die, and I want to cut him out of my life. Not because of the drinking, but because of other things. Only now, he’s living with me, and I don’t know what to do.

  15. S.,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It is a blessing that your grandson has you in his life. Itight be best to confront your daughter when he is not around and tell her your concerns for her and her child. If you are capable, let her know you can help her to get herself clean and that you can help out with your grandson. If there is neglect of the child, which seems inevitable, I would recommend trying to get your grandson out of that situation.
    If there is a serious reason to be concerned for his safety, you will have to go to family court if she does not let him live with you and or go for help.
    Read the article Zero Tolerance for Drug Abuse by clicking on my name here and scroll through my articles. It may help you takes steps to confront your daughter and let her know you are serious. She needs to get help on her own and you have to let her go but there is a child’s welfare at stake. There are community programs that can help children living with addicts. Please try to have him talk to someone to help him deal with this and you should do the same. Please keeps posted.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author
    Hope Street memoir

  16. My suggestion to drug abuse is to fight fire with fire. LSD and Marijuana have been used with great success in helping the individual to personally reassess their situation.

  17. My 39 year old daughter is an Alcoholic. She has a 5 year old son and the father, who is also an alcoholic, does not live with them. I had been living with them for 4 years but recently moved out as I was making the situation worse. She was actually clean and sober for 4 years – during her pregnancy and for 3 years after that, but started drinking again a year ago. She is still drinking, although she tries to deny it and of course, it is difficult for me to know the level because I am not living there anymore. My concern is for my Grandson. I have no idea what to do.

  18. Clair,
    You both have every right to worry. He needs help but unfortunately addicts do not go for help unless they are ready. Please click on my name Amanda Andruzzi in this blog and read the article; zero tolerance for drug addiction: help for families. Also as a veteran he may be self medicating for issues like PTSD, depression and so on. Google your local VA resources, he should have access to many programs for his issues.
    Let him know your concern and let him know he does not have to live this way and you want him to get help. This is your son so it is different than if you were dealing with a spouse, you can never stop caring or loving a child. But you can get help for yourself and tell him you will only support him if he is getting help.
    A 15 year old should not be involved in adult conversations so it is your job to shield him as much as you can and let him know you will handle things. He does not need to watch someone’s addiction firsthand.
    Keep me posted. I am here to help!
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author
    Hope Street Memoir on co-addiction

  19. My 28 year old son is now drinking two fifths of Vodka a day. He lives in the same town and his 15 year old brother is so worried about him that he wants to spend weekends there to basically babysit his brother. He says he is an addict and therefore cannot control himself and we need to accept that this is just the way it is. I think he is commiting passive suicide and (because he is a veteran) would like to contact the VA to see if he would qualify for inpatient treatment at the VA Hospital.

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