Loving an addict is hard. It is frustrating, confusing, and can often feel like a whole bunch of dead-end roads in your life. Possibly even more frustrating is being manipulated by an addict, despite how much love you send them. Are you being manipulated by an addict?
If you have an addict in your life, the answer is probably yes. However, there are many different forms of manipulation that addicts can use to fuel their behavior, here are some of the more common examples to look for.
This may have just been me as an addict, but I was a master of pity money or “I’ll pay you back tomorrow” tactics. Whether it was my parents, my friends, my drug dealers, or strangers at gas stations, anyone that would open the door just a little bit, I manipulated.
A lot of the times, many of us can spot a beggar that looks like they are extremely strung out or already high as a kite already, and we can just keep driving by. However, when the person you are being manipulated by is your loved one, it can get a little more difficult to deal with. So here are some tips on how to set some boundaries around being manipulated financially:
- If you have shared bank accounts, separate them
- Hide your money in the house, whether it be your wallet, your whole purse, credit cards, etc. Keep them on your person if this is a real issue.
- This might sound crazy, but depending on the severity of the addiction, it could be wise to hide your valuable items. An addict in desperation is very capable of pawning nice things.
- Don’t believe, “I’ll pay you back when I get my next paycheck”, this is highly likely to not happen, and you will end up just enabling them.
- If your loved one is your child, bribing them to stop their behavior will not work. None of the nicest clothes, gifts, trips, etc., will get them to stop until they are ready.
The list can go on and on of different scenarios. Long story short, if you have an addict in your life, who has already manipulated you for money in the past, chances are, when you take the action of cutting them off, it will help bring about their bottom faster. It could still take some time and self-destruction on their end, but feeding into the manipulation will only prolong the process.
Now, this is a whole other side, and can easily be utilized during financial manipulation. It can also take all sorts of different faces, tempers, and tones. When I was using, depending on the day, I would come up with all sorts of lies, usually while I was financially manipulating, for example, at gas stations I had a whole sob story that I was coming to town and my car ran out of gas, and just needed a few dollars to get the extra 30 minutes.
Some people believed me (to this day I am still making living amends about this) and some people saw right through my BS. With my loved ones, I would usually flip flop between anger or a different sob story… examples as follows:
- The Sob Story: anything that the addict will say to make you feel sorry for them, pity them, and give them money. This can range from they are very sick, so they don’t have any money for food, etc.
- The Guilt Trip: This can often look like anything from a blackmail sort of situation, to an eye for an eye scenario (I did this for you this time, you should do this for me now).
- The Angry Bird: This person can use fear or anger tactics to bend others to their will. Whether it be through physical force, screaming, fighting, etc etc.
- The Buddy-Buddy: this is when someone will reel a person in, makes them feel like a friend, to get things out of them. For example, the friend that calls you to hang out, and then asks you for rides all over town, or a few bucks, or all your cigarettes, etc.
- The Disappearing Act: Similar to the Buddy Buddy, this person will show up, I’m thinking a family member, to an event or to the house, just long enough to get something that they want, and then they are gone with the wind.
This is one the usual starting point for most addicts. For the most part, many people who struggle with addiction feel a lot of guilt and shame about the things that they are doing, so they will go to great lengths to keep their behavior a secret.
Behaviors such as lying about their use, hiding it from others, denying the severity of their addiction, and even projecting their problems and the cause of their addiction onto others. This is the form of manipulation that often leads to the most family problems afterward. These are the issues that usually get discusses while the addict does their 12 steps, to realize how powerless they were, and how they were actually being manipulated by their addiction to behave the way they did. The brain of an addict is a tricky place. On one side, they don’t want to hurt their loved ones, but on the other side, they need to fuel their addiction, so the consequences of their actions don’t matter in the moment.
How to Stop Being Manipulated
The first thing you need to do is face the truth. If you have seen any or all of this behavior in your loved one, it might be time for you to do the hardest thing of all, step back completely.
The fact of the matter is, no real addict is ever going to stop because someone else wants them to. The only way they are ever going to admit defeat is by hitting bottom. The fastest way to encourage that? Cut them off. And I don’t mean speak to them again, but let the person know that:
- You mean business, you may have said it before, so you need to stick to this
- That you are worried and can’t stand to be around it anymore
- That you will help them find help when they are ready
- They can’t come around until then
Granted, not all situations are this severe, but if you know in your heart that your loved one is no longer who they were, chances are, you won’t be able to beg or scream or force them to stop using.
So keep yourself and your loved ones protected in the meantime. Set boundaries, send them love, and put yourself first until the addict learns to do the same. It is hard, but I guarantee, when the addict gets sober, they will thank you for what you did.