People with addiction often tend to weigh their instant relief and gratification from substances way more than their long term consequences. They tend to ignore the negative consequences of using substances and their effect on their personal and social life. To obtain the substance, hide and continue their use of substances, addicts sort to use a number of manipulative tactics on their loved ones. Since they lose their sense of telling wrong from right, they use these tactics to have their ways.
These manipulative tactics act as their shield to hide the dishonesty, shame and guilt that comes with addictive habits. Their convincing lies, guilt-tripping, shaming and withdrawing behaviours often coerce their families and close ones to give in to their lies. These forms of manipulation are often used when the addicts fear a threat to their habit or experience a withdrawal syndrome. A withdrawal syndrome refers to the physical and psychological effect of abrupt discontinuation of substances on which the person was heavily dependent.
Some of the most common ways in which addicts manipulate their loved ones are:
Gaslighting: it is a form of emotional manipulation wherein the person, in this case, the addict, will accuse the other person that their feelings of hurt or suspicion are exaggerated or invalid. They counter their loved one’s concerns by telling them that it’s all in their head and that they are going crazy. They may tell the other person something like “I’m sorry that you think I drank last night. That’s not true. You are acting unnecessarily suspicious towards me.” or “I just borrowed a little money from him. It’s not a big deal. You’re very sensitive.”
Guilt-Tripping: This is another form of psychological manipulation wherein the addict tries to inflict feelings of guilt on the loved ones. This tactic is especially used by addicts when asking for money or pleading for their apology. This guilt forces the loved ones into submission and surrender by making them think that it is their fault that the person got into addictive habits. A typical guilt-tripping scenario can be when a husband guilts his wife into thinking that he is helpless and jobless and hence needs to drink away his problems by saying “I’m sorry that I cause trouble to the family by drinking. I wish I were a better husband and father.”
“My friend asked me to have a drink or two with him. I can’t say no to him as I have already been a terrible friend to him in the past.”
Blame-Shifting: Here, the addict shifts the blame onto another person and accuses them of being the reason that they are now an addict. For example, a child blames his parents for his gambling habits by saying “Of course, I had to steal and borrow money from my friends. It’s because you never trusted me and loved me enough to give me money for monthly expenses. It is all your fault that I’m in debt now.”
“I would never think of doing drugs but my friend XYZ forced me to try it and I had to say yes. They are the bad influence, not me.
Inflicting Fear By Self-Harming Or Isolating Themselves: Addicts often use inflicting fear as self-defence and to manipulate people around them. Caregivers and loves ones, out of fear, comply with demands and requests of addicts and that in turn encourages this behaviour more. For example: “If you do not lend me money, I will do something to myself and then you will regret that your whole life.”
“If you do not let me smoke or have my way, I’m going to scream and turn this house upside down and that will ruin your reputation in the neighbourhood. Do you want me to do that?”
Pretending To Be Too Nice: This is another way of manipulation wherein the addicts act too nice and play the role of victim so as to seem sorry and regretful. This tactic convinces the loved one to believe that the addict is trying to change their behaviour. For example, an addict may say something like, “I do not deserve this kindness and love from you all and I wish I was a better person but this habit has ruined me. I’m trying to be better for you.” Here, the addict plays a victim with their sweet talk and tries to inflict guilt into the minds of his loved ones.
Anger Outbursts: Addicts may also become overtly aggressive when they do not get their way. This tactic is also used to draw attention towards themselves. They may lash out at their loved ones which leads to them surrendering and giving in to their wishes and habits.
How Can You Deal With Your Addicted Loved One's Manipulative Behaviours?
Know And Observe Their Ways: Try and learn about different ways in which an addict may try to manipulate you and know that they may not always use these techniques intentionally. Addiction to a substance and its withdrawal can hinder the ability of the person to make mindful decisions leading to dishonest ways.
Have Personal Boundaries: It is important to remind yourself to not get caught up in their lies and focus on their recovery. Let them know that you can help them only if they’re willing to get help.
Seek Professional Help: engaging with a support group or seeking professional mental-health help will help you find people who share the same struggles and experiences as you.
Let your loved one know that it will be beneficial for them to seek professional help for their de-addiction. Medications along with psychotherapy have proven to be effective in de-addiction treatment. Often, addicts do know know how to ask for help even if they do realise that they need one. Assure them that you will support them and that they are not alone in this journey.