There are a number of different ways friends and family members can enable an addict to continue what he or she is doing. One of those ways is to collude with the individual. Colluding with an addict only encourages him or her to continue their behaviour rather than getting the help they need to overcome.

What does it mean to collude with an addict? The Oxford dictionaries define the word ‘collusion’ as a ‘secret or illegal cooperation… to deceive others’. In the simplest terms possible, colluding with an addict means to purposely hide his or her addiction under the mistaken belief that things will get better on their own.

Collusion can take on a number of different manifestations:

  • Lying – Sometimes those guilty of collusion are referred to as ‘co-conspirators’ in the sense that they are intentionally lying to cover up the behaviour of their addicted family member or friend. Lies can be used to explain absences, decline invitations to family events, or explain why the individual has missed work.
  • Blame – Sometimes colluders will cover up addictive behaviour by blaming others when unpleasant things occur. For example, an alcoholic might find him or herself in police custody after engaging in some questionable behaviour. Their spouse may collude with them by blaming the alcoholic’s friends for their behaviour.
  • Hiding Evidence – It is very common for those in collusion with drug addicts to make every attempt to hide the evidence. The husband of an alcoholic might hide alcoholic drink bottles; the wife of a heroin addict will find a place to stash needles; the parents of a marijuana addict will hide ashtrays and pipes.

There are other ways to be guilty of collusion. The point is that any activity or attitude specifically engaged in for the purpose of covering up a drug or alcohol addiction is collusion. Yes, it is still collusion even if you are not aware you are doing it. What’s more, it does not help the addict change his or her life.

Collusion among Partners

The most common form of collusion occurs among spouses or domestic partners. This seems reasonable, given the fact that these people are closest to the addict. However, why would those so close to the addict not want to force him or her to get help?

More often than not, it is not a case of not wanting to help the addict get treatment. Rather, it is a case of fear. Spouses and domestic partners are afraid that if they interfere in the life of the addict it will bring about an end to the relationship. As misguided as this sounds, it is real nonetheless.

The fear of losing the relationship clouds a person’s thinking to the point that they believe covering up an addiction will eventually result in the addict getting his or her life together. Nevertheless, it rarely works out that way. Without treatment, the spouse or domestic partner will eventually lose the relationship anyway, so there is no point in covering it up.

Other times collusion on the part of a spouse or domestic partner is based on similar addictive behaviour. In other words, the spouse of a cocaine addict might be hooked on alcohol him or herself. Both partners will collude to cover each other’s addictions in order to keep them quiet.

Collusion among Parents

The next most common form of collusion comes by way of parents and their children. This type of collusion says as much about addiction as it does about what it means to be a parent. After all, no parent wants to be regarded as a failure by his or her community.

There are times when the shame of addiction is so great that parents would rather keep it covered than actually try to deal with it. In such cases, parents will go to incredible lengths to cover up addictive behaviour being practiced by a child. It happens all the time in UK schools and universities.

A parent may make an excuse as to why the child did not complete an important assignment rather than admit to the instructor the presence of addiction. Another parent might lie to a police investigator to cover up a child’s whereabouts the night before. There are so many ways parents can collude with children that it would be impossible to list them all here.

Again, practicing collusion does not help the addict get well. It only serves to:

  • encourage him or her to continue what they are doing
  • reinforce the idea that there are no consequences to actions
  • cause additional stress within the family structure
  • further risk to the health of the addicted child
  • increase the chances the child will die or suffer severe injury from overdose.

When parents collude with their children to cover up an addiction, they often believe they are helping the situation. In reality, they are only making it worse. If there is one thing Addiction Helper wants parents to know it is this: the single greatest act of love you can perform for your addicted child is to intervene and get him or her the help and treatment they need.

How to Know You’re Colluding

Please understand the point of this page is to make you aware of possible collusion with an addict. Our purpose is not to degrade you or accuse you of anything. Our main goal at Addiction Helper is to do whatever we can to assist addicts and their families in overcoming.

That said, consider the following seven questions if you are wondering whether you are colluding with an addict or not:

  1. Have you ever called in to cover for someone who was unable to go to work or school because of an addiction?
  2. Do you find yourself making excuses to explain away the behaviour of a friend or loved one?
  3. Have you ever purposely lied regarding the addictive behaviour of a friend or loved one?
  4. Have you ever taken the blame for something your addicted friend or relative has done?
  5. Do you provide financial support (including paying bills) to the addict?
  6. Have you ever engaged in drinking or using drugs in order to make the addict more comfortable?
  7. Do you complete tasks on behalf of the addict – tasks that would have otherwise remained incomplete?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have colluded with an addict in the past. If any of your answers apply to activity you are still engaged in today, you may be colluding with an addict right now. You need to be honest about these questions and their answers, if you are to help the addict in your life overcome.

Psyche of the Addict

To understand why collusion is not an acceptable practice, you need to understand the psyche of the addict. How does he or she think? How do they view the world? How is your behaviour affecting him or her? All of these things combine to paint a very clear picture of why colluding with the addict is such a bad idea.

In terms of how the addict thinks, the first thing to understand is that he or she does not think clearly. The effect of the drugs or alcohol on their mind prevents them from rational thought and clear, unbiased thinking. In fact, many addicts live in a fantasy world consisting of blaming others for their troubles while holding out hope that drugs or alcohol will eventually solve all the problems. When you collude with a person like this, you are helping him or her to justify their irrational thought patterns.

These irrational thought patterns play right into the second question of how the addict views the world. In most cases, he or she views it as a scenario in which everyone owes them something. This causes the addict to become very selfish, while at the same time allowing them to ignore the misery they are causing others. Furthermore, the addict’s entire world revolves around him or herself and the substances they are abusing. Nothing else matters.

Lastly, when you collude with an addict you are essentially reinforcing his or her behaviour by your own. In other words, you must think his or her addiction is acceptable or you would do something about it. When you collude, you are giving tacit approval – even if you do not intend to do so.

Get the Help You Need

If there is a family member or friend in your life who is suffering from addiction, you need to know whether you are guilty of collusion or not. That starts when you seek the help you need. Please understand that addiction is a family problem that affects the addict and all of his or her loved ones. If you are in collusion, it is the result of the family nature of addiction. However, it is no reason to beat yourself up over.

Instead, seek out counselling and other support services from appropriate channels. Ask a counsellor if you are indeed guilty of collusion. If so, the counsellor will be able to give you suggestions and some concrete steps to avoid doing so. Once you can identify it, you can put a stop to it. Moreover, once you put a stop to it, you will be well on the way toward helping a loved one get better.

Help for family, friends, and close ones is just as important as the help people suffering with addiction need. Seek support to find the right path.