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This is one of a series of brief articles on how
to respond effectively to annoying social
behavior. An effective response occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
brief YouTube video provides perspective on what
you'll read on this article:
This article offers useful responses to
the behavior of someone you believe is addicted
to something.It assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web site and the
If you know someone who you believe is - or may
be - addicted to something or someone, keep them
in mind as you read this.
An addiction is a type of compulsion -
excessive or repetitive behavior that can't be
willfully controlled. When the behavior
interferes with personal and family wholistic
health, it can be called "toxic."
addicts use chemicals, activities,
relationships, and mood-states to self-medicate
inner pain. True addictions
follow a predictable
multi-year course, and are
now recognized as a symptomof
family-dysfunction, not an individual
"disease," "character flaw," or "weak
Typical addicts are survivors of significant
early-childhood trauma, and can be called
''Grown Wounded Children''
(GWCs). All addicts are GWCs, but not all GWCs
are addicted. GWCs are often controlled by
which often behave in irritating ways -
like dishonesty, denial, defensiveness, unreliability,
self pity, chronic lateness, "forgetting" commitments,
insincerity, self-neglect, rages, and justifying
these and/or claiming "I can't help it."
choose to respond to these individual behaviors,
or to the underlying cause of them all: the
wounded person's psychological pain,
Before looking at
useful response-options, review these
How Not toRespond to an Addict
The most harmful responses to an addict
anger, criticism, pity, lecturing, and/or blame. The best response is to see
addiction compassionately as evidence of major
inherited family dysfunction and unbearable
personal agony Common mistakes that unaware people make with
addicts are to...
responsibility for ''saving'' the addict or
their dependents. This often includes
losing healthy personal
and ignoring self-care
assume they know
what causes a true (vs. pseudo) addiction.
compulsive eating of sugar, fats, and some
carbohydrates ("comfort foods") is a
dangerous addiction and sign of significant inner pain;
or justify the wounded person's harmful
attitudes and behaviors.
criticize him or her for "choosing" to be an
is not a willful choice.
preach and moralize about addicts and
addiction. This is inherently
disrespectful, and breeds resentment,
anxiety, guilt, shame, and anger (more pain).
assume addiction is a personal problem,
is a reliable symptom of family
More unhelpful responses. Don't...
addiction is a "character defect,"
"disease," and/or a "lack of personal will
power." It is an uncontrollable,
unconscious pain-avoidance compulsion.
addiction is a genetic inheritance. It is
for some (not all) male alcoholics.
Otherwise the non-genetic ancestral
is [psychological wounds + unawareness].
addiction is a stable condition. It is
usually progressive, and often
or ignore an addict's self-destructive
- i.e. don't
focus only on
the addict's troublesome behaviors, vs. the
ancestral family pain causing them; and...
avoid trying to uselogic, reasoning, and
examples to convince the person to change
their attitudes and behaviors.
These inevitably increase anaddict's guilt, shame, anxiety, and
This YouTube clip provides perspective
on effective confrontations:
Responding effectively to the vexing attitudes and behaviors of
a true addict (a GWC) starts with (a)
assessing yourselffor psychological wounds. Then
basics and options.
false-self controls you, these options won't work well
or at all.
__ 1) As a foundation,
select from these response-options to
wounded adults and
assess your attitude about addicts.
If you see them as sick, weak-willed, pathetic,
pitiful, irresponsible, bad, or "losers,"
that puts them 1-down and you 1-up. That
disrespectful attitude guarantees they will
resent, ignore, or discount you no matter how
good your intentions. A more helpful attitude is
to view addicts as psychologically-wounded, unaware
survivors of childhood trauma,
unconsciously trying to
cope with relentless inner pain by toxic
__ 3) Be careful
about mis-labeling a person as "an addict" or
having "an addictive personality." These
socially-shaming labels increase a wounded
person's low self esteem and embarrassment
(pain)!. It's more accurate and
compassionate to say "S/He is "wounded and
unaware," or "a Grown Wounded Child" (GWC).
__ 4)Learn the common
symptoms of a true addiction, and
for symptoms of any of the four types of
true addiction - chemicals (including
food); activities; relationships; and moods.
Addicted or not,
assess yourself for
psychological wounds and focus on
achieving sobriety as needed.
an addicted person behaves in a way that hurts
or frustrates you, use respectful
to inform them factually how their behavior
affects you. That might sound like...
"(Name), when you promise to _________
and then (don't), I feel hurt, frustrated, and disrespected,
and I lose trust in you. I need you to
do what you say you'll do so I can
regain my trust and respect in you."
__ 6)If you
observe other people responding to an addict
ineffectively (see above),
decide whether to suggest that their
behavior is harmful, and offer better
responses. Note that
friends and relatives of GWCs are themselves
More effective response-options to an addicted
__ 7)Learn what "
''hitting true bottom'' means
and what causes it. If you agree that
the best chance a GWC has to admit and
control an addiction is to hit bottom, then
help them do so without taking
responsibility for that. Generally,
that means (a)
confronting them factually on the social impacts of
their attitudes and behaviors, and (b)
encouraging others to do the same.
__ 8)Learn the
12 steps for recovering addicts. Use them to
guide your responses to addicted people and
their family members. Become familiar with
how 12-step meetings work, and watch for
chances to weave that into your
interactions. Option - attend several "open"
Anonymous meetings in your community
as an observe and student.
Search the Web for addiction-management
resources. There are many! Avoid "selling" or preaching about any you
creative about ways to "plant seeds" of
relevant information about wounds,
addiction, and "recovery" (addiction
management). For example, watch for chances
to weave "inner pain" into your
conversations, and to suggest that
are unconscious ways to self medicate it.
Make "inner pain" more concrete by
describing it as a mix of normal (vs.
"negative") emotions like
shame + guilts +
anxieties + regrets + hurt + despair.
for ways to apply
ideas in your situation. Include
the possibility of convening an
intervention. If the addict is a child, also
see this for
Pause and notice your thoughts and feelings now.
If you choose some of these responses with any
addicts you care about, what will you change?
Avoid expecting significant changes in the other
person, unless you commit to a formal
This is one of a series
of brief Lesson-2 articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to annoying social behaviors. This article offers ways to
respond effectively to an addicted
(psychologically-wounded) person. The ways are