How to tell an Addict

Is there someone in your life who is an addict? There’s more to addiction than just alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. Here’s some sage advice from my friend Marilyn Bradford, a social worker with 30 years’ experience dealing with addictions. She’s in the last 5 years integrated the methods of Access Consciousness into her practice with miraculous results.

By Marilyn Bradford, MSSW, MEd., CFMW

  1. Remember – addiction shows up in many different forms. It’s really about a place where people go that they don’t have to be present in their own lives and they don’t have to include others. Addiction can be to alcohol and drugs, food, cigarettes, and other commonly accepted addictions, but it can also be to being “right”, to fixing other people’s problems, to disease, to being a victim – just to name a few other possibilities. If you find yourself feeling crazy around someone – just ask: Is this person operating from the place of addiction?
  2. People CHOOSE addiction. It is not something that “happens” to them. Addiction is generally the culmination of choices that began in childhood, often the result of misinformation and misinterpretation of events, that culminates in a place of seemingly no choice. Because addiction is the result of an individual’s choices, THEY must choose to begin the process to let it go. THEY must be the ones to choose to take action. It is possible to let go of or end any addiction. Despite what you may have heard, addiction is not a permanent state.
  3. Never try to fix or rescue or change or cure someone who is choosing addiction. It is their choice, it is their life, and you will lose you if you attempt to get them to change. Not only that, but you will fail miserably and then probably blame yourself. Sound familiar?
  4. Addicts live in their own encapsulated universes. They have their own rules, their own reality and you are not actually included. The only relationship that is real to an addict is the one they have with their drug of choice. No one and nothing else actually matters. You only exist to an addict as an object in their fantasy world. This is one of the hardest concepts for people to grasp. Addicts can seem like caring people, and they may be if and when they let go of their addiction, but until then, it is them and their drug of choice against the world.
  5. Never try to use logic with someone who is choosing addiction. They aren’t interested, they won’t hear you, and you will end up feeling crazy. Yes – they may have had 8 DUIs, or may have lost their job, or have been neglectful and/or abusive to friends and family and…..they will always have a reason and justification for it. “Being Reasonable and realistic” is not something an addict can even comprehend. Not only that, but the more you point things out to them, they more they will resent you.
  6. Addicts do not know how to receive, except from their drug of choice. I’ve had clients tell me that the only thing that gives them comfort is when they are feeling “wrong”, when they have a cigarette, or when they are spending money. When you try to give to an addict, it is either rejected with anger or it is taken in, more is asked for, and no matter what you give it is never enough.
  7. When you start to feel crazy around an addict, ask: My universe or their universe? It’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole!
  8. Go with the energy of what someone is saying – not the words. If they are telling you how sorry they are or how they are going to change, etc., see if the energy matches the words. It’s also helpful to look at what someone actually does, as opposed to what they say.
  9. Let go of all expectations and judgments of the person. If you can do that, you can begin to be aware of what is actually going on. Our expectations and judgments prevent us from seeing clearly, because once we have them in place, we can only be aware of the things that match them.
  10.  Always remember to take care of you and to ask the question: What works for me in this situation? You are not doing the addict or yourself any favors by trying to change a part of their life that you have decided should change, or by going against what you know is true for you.

A final note: Addicts are not bad people, they are people who have chosen a coping skill that is destructive and keeps them separate from others. The absolute best thing you can do if you have an addict in you life, is to be the best you you can possibly be! Don’t change you for them, don’t allow them to manipulate you, and don’t judge. By being all you can be, you become an example of what else is possible. That may be just the thing the addict needs to begin to question what he/she is doing and to begin to make different choices.

You can find out more about her work at

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