We have previously discussed the fact that addiction is a disease. One of the unique features of this disorder is an increase in negative behavioral patterns, such as lying, denying, cheating, and manipulating. These are not qualities of the addict themselves; rather, they may be completely against that person’s typical character. The disease of addiction compels them to behave badly in order to protect and continue their substance use. Today, we would like to expand on one of these symptoms: manipulation.
Why Are Addicts Manipulative?
Anyone who knows an addict knows that their negative behaviors are confusing, upsetting, and frightening. A loving parent may become hostile; a quiet daughter may suddenly begin lying about her whereabouts. It is difficult to predict how someone will act while under the powerful influence of psychoactive substances.
It is generally accepted that there are five main reasons why addicts exhibit manipulative behavior.
- They need to be the one in control. Because addicts are powerless against their drug or alcohol use, they may attempt to compensate by controlling those around them.
- Desperation trumps morality. Even the most principled people may abandon their morals in order to feed their all-consuming cravings. When cravings are at their peak, the feelings of loved ones and nuances of relationships fall by the wayside.
- The cycle of guilt and shame. An addict may realize what they have put their loved ones through, and in this case, may also be overcome by shame and guilt. This is paralyzing and compels them to use more to alleviate these feelings.
- They believe their cravings justify their behaviors. Addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to use drugs and alcohol. Because these cravings can be incredibly strong, they will say or do almost anything to get their next fix.
- Their thinking has been compromised. Addiction is a disease of the brain; it fundamentally changes how reward pathways and the frontal lobe function. This severely impacts a person’s decision-making abilities.
How to Recognize an Addict’s Manipulation
Unfortunately, when you are in the throes of a manipulative relationship, it can be difficult to gain perspective and identify whether someone you love is attempting to control you. One reliable approach is to reflect on how you feel after interacting with that individual – are you happy? Ashamed? Guilty? Sad? Bullied?
One tool of manipulation is black and white thinking. The addict may frame every incident as all or nothing, exaggerating situations and using words like “always” or “never” to describe others’ behaviors. They may also use their knowledge of your fears and past trauma to terrorize you, whether by making threats or unkind remarks to elicit a reaction. It may be rare for you to feel able to respond in these “discussions” because the manipulator will not give you the time to make a case – instead, they will usually be absorbed with asserting their own importance. Finally, they may not be nice to you unless they want something in return.
In addition to these general signs, here are a few specific manipulative tactics that you should be on guard against. They include…
- Asking for money (or other favors) from multiple friends and family members.
- Demanding that you do what they want.
- Making threats if you do not follow directives.
- Causing arguments.
- Acting out in dramatic fashion: throwing fits, slamming doors, and yelling.
- Doing nice things to make you believe that they have truly changed.
- Isolating themselves to avoid difficult conversations or confrontations.
- Threatening to harm or kill themselves in order to spur a reaction.
- Blaming everything (and everyone) but themselves for their circumstances.
- Refusing to admit that they are responsible for their actions.
- Making you feel guilty for your perceived role in their addiction or misfortune.
Tips to Avoid or Stop Manipulation
When you recognize that someone you love is manipulating you, it’s vital to remember that you need to protect yourself. Every person deserves to be treated with respect, and even though your loved one is not themselves right now, you are still entitled to safety and peace.
Begin by saying, “no.” Stay calm, clear, and firm. Then you may proceed to the most important step: setting fixed boundaries. You can still love and support your addicted loved one without allowing them to treat you this way. By standing up for yourself, you may help them to understand that their current approach is not working, and that they need to seek professional addiction treatment. Commit to honest communication with the other person. If they are treating you poorly, reinforce the boundary and explain how their manipulation is making you feel.
Prioritize Your Health and Well-Being
Finally, do not forget to care for yourself throughout this process. While it is admirable that you intend to help your loved one find help, it is critical to set aside time for self-care. If you are not emotionally, spiritually, and physically ready to cope with manipulative behaviors, it will be difficult to advocate for yourself.
Consider joining an Al-Anon group or participating in family programming in order to build a support network of others who have experienced this behavior pattern. Therapy can also be an excellent outlet. Lakeside-Milam provides access to Licensed Mental Health Counselors and outpatient mental health services for everyone – not just for those in treatment with us. These solution-focused therapy sessions include comprehensive mental health care, individual and group sessions, and relationship counseling. Therapeutic modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy and rational emotive therapy allow those supporting an addicted loved one to work through the complex emotions surrounding this process. By utilizing these resources, you can be a good steward of your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Withdrawal Management, Residential & Long-Term Recovery Services
Lakeside-Milam offers effective, affordable, convenient, and discreet addiction treatment services. We understand the behavioral complexities created by this disease, and over the past 30+ years, we have helped thousands of people to become themselves again. Reach out to our recovery experts 24/7 for more information about our approach and services.