Dealing with a loved one or family member who is in active addiction can be a very testing time. Their behaviour can be controlling, cold, manipulative, selfish, intimidating, aggressive, erratic and unpredictable. They will resemble little of themselves when they are clean and sober. Their need to feed their addiction will cause them to break all sorts of moral codes. As a family member, this can bring up anger and frustration, despair and heartbreak. You will feel unable to be of any real assistance to them, as anything you say or do will have little or no impact. Trying to find help for family members or loved ones is hard and sometimes may seem impossible, but there are ways.

However your loved one is behaving, you can still take control of how you react. This may make all the difference in them reaching a point where they are willing to accept help for their problem.  It is important not to react to your loved ones demands and behaviours in the following ways

Trying to Control

This is where you will feel the need to take charge of the situation or feel responsible for saving them. You may find yourself constantly checking up on them, making appointments for them that they fail to attend, spying and snooping on them, removing their access to drugs and alcohol.  Some family members, through desperation, even resort to locking their loved ones up and blocking their sources to money.

This controlling behaviour will only create resentment in your family member. They will see it as you being obstructive rather than trying to help.  If they want to carry on using drugs or drinking, they will find away.  You cannot police them 24/7 or provide them with the vital willingness that they need to change themselves for the better. Controlling behaviour will only lead to you questioning your own sanity and resorting to behaviours that are not dissimilar from someone in active addiction.

Enabling the Addiction

Enabling can be very damaging to both the addict and the person who is enabling. Enabling may be carried out in a number of ways, your intention may be to help and prevent harmful consequences. However, this will only have a temporary effect and is unlikely to make them want to stop. You may enable your family member or loved one by:

  • Giving them money
  • Paying off debts or dealers
  • Calling associations that are meant to be contacted by them
  • Providing them with shelter
  • Cleaning up drug paraphernalia and empty bottles from their home
  • Intervening in consequences, such as criminal matters
  • Lying for them and covering up for them
  • Making excuses for their behaviour to others
  • Enabling gives the addict a degree of comfort in their using or drinking, it provides a safety net. For an addict to reach a point where they want to stop, they have to face their own consequences of their addiction. Enabling an addict can backfire and cause further harm to all concerned.


You may not want to face up to the fact that your family member or loved one is an addict or an alcoholic, or you may be afraid to confront them and bring the truth out into the open. For some it is easier to pretend the problem does not exist and not challenge their destructive and hurtful behaviour. This is a mistake, the addict needs to be challenged and to feel consequences. If you are ignoring the problem and just wishing it away, you are essentially enabling them and giving them permission to carry on behaving in unacceptable ways.

Dealing with Unacceptable Behaviour

Addiction often goes hand in hand with unacceptable behaviours. It is important to put in boundaries in order to protect yourself. Do not engage with aggressive or violent behaviour, remove yourself from the situation or have the individual removed before it escalates. You may need to involve the police if you feel under threat of physical harm. You cannot reason with someone who is intoxicated.

If your loved one has stolen from you or committed a crime, you may find yourself in a position of wondering whether to report them or not to the police; the same dilemma may present its self if you feel your loved one is neglecting children in their care. In a situation like this, we urge you to set aside your loyalties and do the right thing. As difficult as it is, you will have to live with the consequences if you take no positive action.

Ask any recovering addict or alcoholic why they have stopped, and they will real off a list of consequences that brought them to a place of surrendering to the fact that they needed help. It is only through experiencing emotional pain and consequences that they will want to change and put in the necessary work to achieve that. Do not feel guilty about reporting such harmful behaviours, turning a blind eye, is again a form of enabling.

Addiction Helper can help your loved one in changing their behaviours. We provide specialized professional treatment programs designed to tackle and change the thinking and consequent actions that go hand in hand with addiction.  It is important that your loved one changes their thinking and the way they behave if they are to stay clean and sober. Recovery is all about change, and we can help them in making those necessary and lifesaving changes required.

Please call our Helpline and speak to one of trained Addiction Specialists who will be happy to help and advise you on: 0800 024 1480 /or/ 0203 131 8340.

There is also some helpful information on organisations that can help to advise you on how to deal with difficult behaviours.