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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