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How to Deal With a Person Who Has a Drugs or Drinking Problem

Updated on December 13, 2012

Dealing with a person who has a drug or alcohol problem can be both exhausting and challenging. Although the affected person may promise to stop feeding their addiction, they may disappoint you over and over, making it difficult for you to trust or believe them. Unfortunately, people with addictions are consumed by them and their brain is altered by the use of the substance. Making good decisions while in the midst of an addiction is nearly impossible. Only when the person abstains from the drug or alcohol can they begin to think clearly and rationally.

You can't Reason with a Person Under the Influence

When you find your loved one is inebriated, your first instinct maybe to tell them how much they've let you down, explain how angry you are at their actions, or threaten to leave them or ask them to move out. It is very important for you to remember that you cannot expect a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol to respond rationally in a conversation. Wait until your loved one or friend is sober before discussing the incident and how it has affected you. It is also necessary for you to remain safe, and if you anger a person who is drunk or high, they just might retaliate with violence. Stay safe, stay calm, and stay healthy.

Don't Enable the Addicted Person in Your Life

An enabler is a person that helps the addict stay sick. The enabler makes excuses to friends and families, calls in sick for the addict, cleans them up when they get sick, or bails them out when they get into legal troubles. The enabler keeps the addicts secrets, and is usually a co-dependent that must keep the relationship between the addict and themselves alive at all costs. An enabler believes that the relationship is more important than they are, and if the relationship ends, they will be abandoned and alone. Parents may cover for a child's behavior, because they may believe the child's reputation, and how it reflects socially on the family, may be more important than helping the child with a successful recovery.

How to have an Intervention

When you have exhausted all avenues to help the person you love find sobriety, a well thought out and planned intervention can help turn people around and propel them to get help. Always plan who will be there, and encourage friends and family in attendance to write about how they have been negatively affected or hurt by the loved one's substance abuse behaviors. Show them you love them, but tell them you can't witness their destruction any longer.

  • Manage emotions and keep the tone of the intervention serious and honest
  • Incorporate the help of the mental health community, physician, clergy member, or therapist for the best strategies
  • Have at least two friends or family members, besides yourself, present at the intervention
  • The intervention should always be a surprise, so never tell the addict what you are planning
  • The plan is to bombard the addict with examples of how they have hurt their family and loved ones
  • The ultimatum should include the severing of all ties to the addicted family member unless they go into therapy, rehabilitation, or enter a 12 step program of some kind to get help

If the person with substance abuse issues refuses to comply with your ultimatum for getting help, they must:

  • Place their keys on the table and leave and not return
  • Are outcasted by the family due to the pain and suffering they have caused
  • Family members can no longer bear to watch their loved one destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol
  • Custody of their children may be taken away by other family members or the state
  • They can only return to visit if they are clean and sober, perhaps for a specified period of time

Tough Love is Tough on All Concerned

If you have come to the end of your rope, and your loved one has not taken steps to end their addiction and resolve their behavior, you may have to face the prospect of demanding a change of behavior. The hardest part of an addict's journey is the acceptance of a problem and asking for help. If your spouse, child, or parent has not accepted the help available for them to restore their health and trust in the family, you may have to separate from them.

  • You have pleaded and made threats
  • Your other family members or children are suffering from the addict's behavior
  • You have tried everything you know and your loved one continues to destroy their life
  • You have spent considerable time, resources, and money on your loved one with no improvement or results

Known as "Tough Love," the family member must give an ultimatum to their addicted loved one and stand by their decision firmly, and without giving in. The affected person may "push buttons" and cause guilt trips but you must hold on to your resolve. The addict must know that you mean what you say, and you say what you mean. If they refuse to leave their addiction, they must not come to your home. Some conditions you may require may be:

  • Enrollment in an Addiction Rehab Facility
  • Attending AA or NA meetings for addictions
  • Taking away their car keys until they are clean and sober
  • Staying away from people who are bad influences and are in the drug/drinking culture
  • Attending school on a daily basis
  • Removing a child from the parents' custody and given a legal guardian by the court
  • Locking out an adult child that breaks curfew or comes home under the influence

Support Groups Provide Help and Information

Support Group
Those Who Benefit
Family Groups that Deal with a Family Members Substance Abuse
A Teen support group that helps them deal with family members who are addicted
Alcoholics Anonymous
People who want to stop abusing alcohol
Narcotics Anonymous
People who want to stop drug addiction and abuse
Co-Dependents Anonymous
People who want to have a healthy relationship

Meetings can be found on websites near you. Remember, you are not alone.

Accept the Things You Cannot Change

You cannot make anyone go into therapy, stay in therapy, or hold their hand through the entire process of recovery. It is not fair for you to have to watch the destruction of your loved one, or endure the pain and suffering of worrying about a person who is addicted. All family members suffer from the horrible effects of addiction, and if a person refuses help and support, it is not fair to enable them to destroy the lives of others. It is a heart wrenching site to see your loved one slowy killing their health, future, and mental health. But, you must stand your ground. You cannot allow them to return to your home if they do not comply with the your rules or the requests formed in an intervention. The only true influence you have on your loved one's substance abuse is to deny them access to your shelter, money, and acceptance.


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    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you my friend Epi, my husband loves your poetry and shares them with his friends, he is a real fan of yours, as am I! Thank you so much for your warm wishes, I am so glad you find my work worthy, your opinion means so much to me.


    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      ....Hello Deborah - I've been meaning to tell you that I am an addict.

      I may as well come forward and admit to my addiction.

      I am addicted to your world class hub presentations - they always inspire me and teach me and in turn serve so many other people as well in a most life affirming and life saving way - and please say hello to your husband for me and thank him for his support of my writing as well - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 5:23pm I will share this awesome and informative hub on Hubpages FB group

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Laurinzo, so nice to see you! I am sorry that your family has had to endure the awful pain of addiction. I am so glad you find this article true to form, your opinion means a lot to me!

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      8 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Wow eHealer... another very well thought out and well written article.

      This is one that comes very close to home for me... as many of my family has suffered from the disease of addiction

      God bless you for writing this one


    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Cam for your wonderful support and for sharing your personal journey. People go through such heartache and pain with the fear of losing their loved one to addiction. It is hard, bu compassionate, to stop rescuing and start assigning responsibility. Thank you so much for your comments.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      8 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      eHealer, well done.....again. I hope that non addicts who read your article understand one very hard truth. It runs throughout your hub. As a recovering alcoholic I can say it with all the boldness the statement demands. We listen to pain and only pain. Consequences, such as the ones you have mentioned, create more pain for us. We can't come home. We can't drive a car. We lose our children. We lose our jobs. If someone rescues us, that is the worst thing that could ever have been done. Let the pain do its work. Then the addict will seek help and get better. But it is good for the family to not have to see how low the person may have to sink before surrendering. Thank you for taking on the task of writing this hub.

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 

      8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi eHealer... great hard hitting article that speaks directly to the problem and that is attempting to deal with an addict. There is no help that can work until they are willing to receive it. All talking about it does is irritate an already volatile situation. You can love from a distance and once help is accepted then it makes such a huge difference.

      Hugs from Canada

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      Up, useful and shared. I am very fortunate in my life that I have never had to deal with this directly. Your insight and suggestions are great!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I think you covered this topic very well and it is so important. Addiction is such a huge problem and your steps sound exactly right. Alanon is a great 12 step program for people living with an addicted person as it helps to have the support of people dealing with the same problem. Voted up, useful and shared!

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Alcohol addiction is a huge problem here in Ireland, drinking is just so ingrained into our culture that I would say enabling is very widespread too. Good article with helpful advice especially now before Christmas as that can really be when drinking causes a lot of damage. Voted up.

    • tipstoretireearly profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      One thing that stands out from this excellent article is the need for anyone impacted by an addict's behavior to enlist the aid of others to help solve the problem. Trying to solve this problem alone just won't work.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. Sound background and advise.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi RTalloni, thanks for your supportive comments. Yes, the boomers experimented with drugs for many of their formative years and have struggled with addiction and depression because of it. So, a lot of elderly people suffer with addiction. Prescription drugs have taken over as far as drug addiction, it is the single highest addiction in the USA and Canada. See you soon at the hubs!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Some really good information here. An addict's habitual behavior is heartbreaking.

      An interesting phenomenon that I've been thinking about is the number of people who are addicted to prescription drugs. I am stunned by the number of elderly people who are true addicts, as well as the number of women in their late 40s/50s addicted to prescriptions.

      Trying to help them is not for the faint-hearted because the problem is complicated by many factors.


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