It’s difficult having someone in your life who is an addict. When a person is an addict, they are controlled by an addictive substance even when they are not high or drunk. This can make it difficult for you to judge their motives and forgive them every time they hurt your feelings or flake on plans. But often, you are certain the addict is still a good person – many addicts are good people. This issue becomes murkier when your loved one, who you know to be a good person, does bad things when he or she is using. How do you have compassion for someone who changes when under the influence and acts like a far worse person than they truly are? How do you separate these two identities and continue to offer your love and support to an addicted friend or family member?
This is a tricky line for anyone to toe and there are many questions to contemplate when deciding how you should direct your compassion. Consider some of the following questions:
- What makes you sure the person is a fundamentally good person rather than a person with malicious intents who is using drugs or alcohol as his or her gateway toward naturally bad behavior?
- Does your loved one seem truly remorseful when he or she learns of bad alcohol or drug fueled behavior? Does he or she do whatever possible to make amends?
- How many times has your loved one lost control while using in a way that negatively impacted their life or someone else’s? How many times has this loss of control resulted in trouble with authority figures, like police officers?
- If this type of bad behavior has been occurring for a while, has your loved one made real attempts at getting clean or sober?
- Have you tried talking to your loved one when they are sober or clean about this problem? If so, how does he or she respond to these types of efforts?
Consider all of these questions. You should know that there is a difference between an addict who dissociates when acting out of character and an addict who uses as a way to feel more like him or herself, even if that is negative. One key difference you’ll find is that a person who truly acts out of character in a bad way will recoil at the stories of what was said or done once the effects of the alcohol or drug have worn off. A good person will be interested in making efforts to get clean in light of this kind of behavior.
If you have a person like this in your life, be patient. Remember that getting clean is never easy, not even for the most committed or those who find that they can get clean cold-turkey. When the person is acting out while under the influence, do what you can to protect him or her from themselves. Get them home and keep them away from anything that could endanger themselves or you. If you are in any type of danger, remove yourself from the situation and check in with the person once they are clean again. Having compassion for another person, especially under these circumstances, isn’t always easy. It is important, however, to remember to also have compassion for yourself and to know when a person like this needs professional help rather than your involvement.