How Addicts Manipulate
Addiction often forces people to become adept manipulators. The important thing for friends and family to understand is that addiction changes a person’s priorities. The gratification an addict gets from an addictive behavior is so great that their brain reclassifies the addiction as a basic need like food or shelter. It’s almost impossible for a non-addict to understand stealing money to buy drugs, but it’s perfectly understandable to steal money to buy food. It’s not that your loved one values drugs more than your love and trust; it’s more that feeding the addiction feels like a matter of survival.
Therefore, when it comes to satisfying a craving, people can be clever. This is deceptive, because many drugs dull one’s thinking, concentration, and memory. Someone in the grip of addiction may not appear very sharp, but when it comes to getting drugs, he finds a way. Most people, upon arriving in a strange city, would have no idea where to get drugs, but addicts often know exactly who to ask. Their cognitive efforts become optimized in pursuit of that one goal. That’s why addicts can be so good at manipulating you.
One common tactic is to make you feel like their problems are your responsibility. They often blame others for problems caused by their addiction or blame them for causing the addiction in the first place. Given that everyone has made mistakes, sometimes serious ones, there is often a grain of truth to these accusations. It’s easy to use guilt as leverage. “If you would have paid attention, you would have seen I was in trouble,” or “If you hadn’t cheated on me, I never would have started drinking.” It’s an easy way to shut down criticism and get sympathy.
Another common tactic is to appeal to the lesser evil, typically health and safety. Families often say they would rather have a loved one shooting up at home where it’s safe than out on the street. Who knows where they might end up? This often leads to an appeal for money, otherwise, who knows what they might do? This tactic leverages their loved ones’ desire to protect them at all costs.
When all else fails, an addict may use hope as a means of manipulation. This requires them to be at a point where they know their family believes there is a problem, and usually after the family has asked them to get help. The addict knows that if the family sees an end in sight, they will be more accommodating. This is mainly a way of buying time to continue the addictive behavior. If you really believe someone is willing to get treatment, you are less likely to throw him out of the house or call the cops.
The important thing for families is to be aware of when they are being manipulated. This is often difficult to accept because it may be so at odds with the person’s normal behavior. In the long run, it does no good to allow yourself to be deceived. A therapist or addiction counselor can help you get through to your loved one and possibly get him into treatment.