For Addicts’ Loved OnesDisgusted Wife

Addicts use drugs as medicine, while “normies” use them for fun. Because of deepening tolerance, addicts need drugs simply to feel normal.

How do you know if a loved one has crossed the line from fun to abuse? And if he or she has, what can you do about it?

In some cases, the question of whether a loved one is addicted is easier to resolve, as the mounting physical, emotional and legal consequences leave room for no other conclusion. This is particularly the case for born addicts” who go off the deep end as soon as they have their first drink or drug. Born addicts view drugs as their solution to life, their antidote to the “hole in their soul.” This solution quickly metastasizes into their biggest problem, though they will deny it. It’s easier to identify born addicts if you know what to look for (and if you can get them to be honest enough to admit that drugs were their solution right from the beginning).

But for most people, the slide into addiction is gradual, taking place over a period of years. There’s no easy way to identify the line between use and abuse or when someone crosses it.

There are, however, both behavioral and emotional clues. Behaviorally, daily escalating use, more frequent binges, worsening personal consequences like deteriortaing health,  arrests and incarceration are powerful clues. Look for lying, cheating, and stealing, for example. But plenty of non-addicts lie, cheat and steal. The underlying question is why: what motivates these behaviors?

Addicts do what they do because of how they feel. And they feel the way they do because their brains are structurally and functionally different than “normies.” (For more on how they’re different click on the Addiction Science Intro/Menu and, in particular,  Why Drugs Can Be Addicting).

So, one unifying aspect of addiction is how addicts feel. If you or someone you love uses drugs regularly and shares the feelings that addicts experience, there’s a good likelihood the line has been crossed. To better understand how addicts feel, click on The Addict Experience.

If you suspect a loved one is an addict, what can you do about it? For more on this subject click on the following:

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4 Responses to “ For Addicts’ Loved Ones ”

  1. I thank you for your articles. I just started going to al anon. I have a daughter who is in jail for aggravated dui. She got work furlough but after one week lost it because she took a xanax someone gave her. then she missed the bus(probably on purpose because her boyfriend was visiting her) to her job in the jail working with the animals. She is now in the “hole” for 30 days. My question is this. If this is a disease of her brain, then why are they punishing her in what I consider to be cruel, when it seems to me that she should be getting some kind of help with the addiction like drug rehab or meetings. Instead they have taken everything away from her and she is by herself in a cell with no visits or mail or commisary privileges at all. She is being punished instead of helped. Please help me to understand this. Will this force her to hit the bottom she needs to change her ways? thanks for your answer. Lynn, a Mom

  2. It takes courage to go to Al-Anon, so congratulations on taking that step. I hope and trust you’ll find help and support there.

    No one knows what causes addicts to hit bottom, so there’s no guarantee that anything, including jail time, will force a bottom on an addict. However, I have known people who hit bottom while incarcerated, so it’s possible your daughter may have a similar experinece (though I wouldn’t count on it). Until she becomes willing to accept that she’s addicted and adopt sobriety, I’d suggest you keep attending Al-Anon in order to learn what you can do, if anything, to deal with the strain of your situation and nudge her in the right direction.

    As for punishment, I couldn’t agree with you more. In my experience, what works best in dealing with addicts is a therapeutic community where one addict helps another. Jail is the exact opposite of a therapeutic community. Unfortunately, many people still don’t accept that addiction is a legitimate disease and this attitude still permeates the criminal justice system. It will take a lot of effort to turn this around, which was one of the purposes I had in creating this website. Hopefully, the more people understand the disease of addiction, the more they’ll support treatment.

    Some jails and prisons bring in AA meetings for inmates through AA’s Hospitals and Institutions programs. You might want to contact your local AA chapter to see if the jail your daughter is in affords this opportunity. If so, you might encourage your daughter to attend.

    None of this is easy. In fact, it’s heartbreaking, I know. But where there’s life, there’s hope. So don’t give up! Get the support you need from Al-Anon, do what you can, and pray for the best. If there’s any way I can help, please let me know.

  3. I appreciate your post and your website. I’ve also experienced loved ones continuing to deepen their use so as lessen the depression and negative feelings. They don’t seem to be able to be truly happy, but are constantly fighting the negative feelings.

    Most addicts hate their life. They may like the immediate high, but life becomes a constant struggle. The challenge is being supportive without enabling, and being detached without completely letting go. It is anguish for parents. I also agree that less prison time and more mandated treatment options should be available.

  4. Hello, my name is Martin Vivek. I came across [] andnoticed some great resources about alcoholism. I recently had the honor of becoming a part of a new non promotional project on

    We put together a brief guide about the dangers of alcoholism. The feedback we have received so far has been tremendous, and I wanted to see if you would mention us on the above mentioned page below Al-Anon. I know you get millions of ‘requests’ however, your readers will benefit from this one.

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