If you know drug abuse or alcoholism well, it can be frightening to watch a family member or friend begin the process of addiction. You know what lies ahead, you know how bad it can be and you know just how strong they must be to in order to quit. To see it happening under your very nose can make you feel helpless and frustrated. You cannot stop them and you have no control over their decisions.
If someone you know is engaging in drug abuse or alcoholism, you are essentially sitting in the middle of a see-saw and are trying to prevent it from tipping in each direction. You must refrain from two actions: enabling and controlling. Enabling involves supporting the addiction by buying the substance for them, covering their tracks when they get caught, and allowing it to negatively affect your own life. Controlling involves stealing the substance from them, threatening or pleading for them to stop, hiding the substance from them, and trying to control their behavior even after they are not physically in your life. These two behaviors, enabling and controlling, are on opposite ends of the spectrum and both must avoided.
The center ground, which is your area, looks like this: You do not touch their stash, but you do not allow their abusive behavior to endanger your life or prevent you from regular social interactions. You do not seek to antagonize them, but you do recognize that their disease requires them to be somewhat separated from regular activities with you. In other words, you live your life, mind your own business, set boundaries over which they should not cross, and avoid crossing over them yourself.
Some people have “hero” personalities. They feel the need to help everyone but themselves. They know that they can do good in the world, but they do not understand that even this positive intention can be overdone. It is important to realize that personal choice, no matter which direction it might take, trumps all other action or influence. Personal choice, the decisions made entirely for your own reasons, is far more important than making sure that everyone is categorized and standing in their appropriate compartment. Drop the hero personality and save yourself. That will occupy so much of your time that you do not have any room left to control or influence others.
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Abadinsky, Howard. Drug use and abuse: a comprehensive introduction. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008. Print.
Allsop, Steven. Relapse prevention and management with severely dependent problem drinkers . Perth: Curtin University of Technology, School of Psychology, 1995. Print.