Living with other people always causes some form of stress. Whether it’s coordinating laundry time or dealing with a messy roommate, living with others can be difficult. However, living with an addict is known to be significantly more challenging. Creating a space of harmony and balance may seem nearly impossible when sharing a household with an addict.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the challenges associated with living with an addict. The first goal is to become educated and knowledgable on the disease of addiction. Once you understand addiction, you can begin to understand the way addicts behave.
Understanding the Disease of Addiction
When attempting to live with an addicted loved one, it is important to first understand what they are going through. To begin with, addiction is a disease that causes chemical changes in the brain. During addiction, an individual’s dopamine receptors will begin to activate and signal to the brain that the drugs equal reward. As a result of this, the brain begins to adapt over time, becoming used to having the substance present in the body.
Because of the significant changes in the brain, addiction is classified as a chronic disease. Unfortunately, addiction may become so powerful that the individual cannot control their use of substances. For example, it is common for addicts to continue using despite facing legal, financial, social, mental, or health repercussions. With all that being said, addiction is a terrible, but treatable disease.
Most individuals recovering from addiction begin with a medical drug and alcohol detox. Next, they will decide to attend either inpatient or outpatient rehab depending on the severity of their addiction. During addiction treatment, patients will receive help for their substance abuse and any co-occurring mental health conditions they suffer from. Additionally, family therapy is typically offered.
While recovering addicts must attend professional treatment, they also need the support of their loved ones. That is important not to take anything too personally when living with an addict. Dealing with addiction, whether firsthand or through a loved one, is extremely difficult and mentally exhausting. However, with the support of friends and loved ones, every family member will make a full recovery.
How Does Addiction Affect a Household?
Drug or alcohol addiction will affect all members of the household. Because every individual is unique, each person will be affected differently. The common effects of living with an addict include:
- Anxiety, stress, or panic attacks
- Guilt or shame
- Anger or embarrassment
- Financial issues (unpaid bills, damage to the house, etc.)
- Inconsistencies in schedule or routines
- Enabling behaviors
- Worrying about or being in physical danger, feeling like you are not secure in your own home (risk is higher if the person with the addiction is currently intoxicated or seeking drugs)
There are many risks associated with sharing a household with an addict. One of the most concerning aspects of living with an addict is the fear of dealing with an overdose. If you think your roommate or loved one is experiencing an overdose, contact emergency services immediately.
5 Tips for Living With an Addict
First and foremost, it is important to remember that you did not cause the addiction. With that being said, you also cannot fix it. Fortunately, there are steps you should take to ensure your safety and protect your own mental well-being.
If you are living with a friend or loved one who struggles with addiction, here are some steps you can take to keep peace in the home.
#1. Keep yourself & any other housemates safe
If you are living with an addict as well as other friends or loved ones, you must prioritize your safety. This is especially important for homes containing more vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, or pets. If safety ever becomes an issue, you must ask your addicted friend or loved one to temporarily leave.
#2. Have a plan ready in case something goes wrong
While not every addict becomes dangerous when they use substances, it is a possibility to be aware of. Sometimes, the most genuine people become addicted to drugs and act completely out of character while under the influence. In case matters escalate, consider creating a plan. This may include having backup from friends, family, therapists, or, in extreme cases, the police.
#3. Restrict access to valuable items or finances
Unfortunately, addiction can cause people to hurt the people they are close to. It is extremely common for addicts to do whatever it takes to obtain their substance of choice. In other words, while living with an addict you should make sure to keep track of any valuable items in the house. Additionally, if your addicted loved one has access to your bank account, you may want to consider opening up a new bank as a precaution.
#4. Encourage them to attend addiction treatment
You should always encourage your friend or loved one to attend an addiction treatment program. However, you must remember not to push them, put them down, or get angry with them if they decide not to go right away. Instead, remain open and supportive while keeping them accountable. This will strengthen the trust between you both, while still firmly suggesting they need help.
#5. Prioritize self-care
Since dealing with addiction is exhausting, it is most likely a difficult time for your entire family or household. Thinking and worrying about your addicted friend or loved one will begin to take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional help. As a result, it is extremely important to put an emphasis on your self-care routines. Always remember it is okay for you to take time for yourself.
Finding Your Loved One an Addiction Treatment Program
If you are living with an addict who is in need of professional treatment, New Jersey Addiction Interventions can help. Oftentimes, finding the right rehab program for you or a loved one becomes confusing and exhausting. That’s why our addiction specialists are here to consult and work with you until we find the perfect fit. Contact us today for more information on how to find addiction treatment.
Medically Reviewed: September 16, 2020
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.