Addiction, Boundaries, Love:

Where Do You Draw The Line?

18 May 2013 by Recovering You, 2 Comments »

loving an addictThere’s a common question, or doubt more accurately, that I hear a lot when receiving emails from readers, or when talking to clients, “how do I know if it’s really addiction?”?/strong>

There’s always hesitation in asking the question. A hesitation that suggests that the person asking knows the answer, but they’re also hanging onto the small moment of hope that they’ve got it wrong, that they’ve been too quick to judge, to hasty to label, and that what they see, hear and feel has been misread.

Because realizing someone you love is an addict seems unreal. It seems like the stuff of reality shows and the problems of other people’s lives.

‘Those kind of people’ have addiction in their life. Not you.

Acknowledging that someone you love is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, just feels too big.

It did for me.

Simply even wondering if my, then, partner was an addict felt like I was over reacting.

Perhaps I was just to sensitive to all this stuff? Maybe Miss Goody-Goody just wasn’t used to being around someone a little less conservative?

He liked a drink, or two, or more, he was more than open to getting high at a party, or even on his own to relax and he liked to put money on the sports matches that he followed, as well as the horses.

Sure, he usually got too drunk, and too high, and he never seemed to be able to pay his bills or afford to go do anything else but drink, get high and gamble, but perhaps it was more about maturity than a genuine problem?

He would grow up one day, surely?

I spent hours trying to explain away my doubts and concerns and all the fleeting moments of intuition and suspect.

It just felt like stepping into danger to fully open my eyes and admit that the man I loved was an addict.

I didn’t know where to draw the line, until I realized we had stepped right over it and we were on a path that was much more dangerous than I ever imagined.

Are You Denying Addiction?

Perhaps you’ve doubted yourself too? Maybe you just keep telling yourself it’s not as bad as it seems to be?

You’re over reacting, right? How many times has have you been told you that?

While the addict you love has to keep moving the line, has to keep blurring it for his or her own purpose, you don’t have to.

The line between suitable behaviour and addiction is relatively straight, though not always clear.

So what determines suitable behaviour compared to addiction?

Suitable behaviours around drinking, drugs and gambling can be deemed as follows:

  • Drinking is a social behaviour, and in the vast majority of occasions does not lead to excess or binge drinking.
  • Family and friends are happy to be around when a person they love drinks and are not concerned about any possible over use or poor behaviour as a result, including violence.
  • Alcohol is used responsibly, not as a means of escape of numbing.
  • Family finances, time or comfort are not compromised for the sake of alcohol, drugs or gambling.
  • Days, weeks or months go by without engagement in drinking, drugs or gambling.
  • Moods and emotions are expressed as part of a normal human experience, not in reaction to any substance or the discussion of such.
  • No attempt is made to hide or diminish the levels of engagement in drinking, drugs or alcohol.
  • Gambling may be taken part in for certain events, or as part of a weekly draw, but is not a daily occurrence that must happen to maintain a level of comfort.
  • There is no theft, fraud, lying or coercing to gain access to drink, drugs or gambling funds.
  • Drug taking may occur on an experimental level, or as part of a lifestyle choice, but not become a regular or excessive behaviour (i.e. overdoses or regular instances of over use).

These are just some of the many lines that can help to distinguish suitable behaviour, where as addiction opposes these and may include:

  • Drinking on a daily basis, or to excess on every occasion when partaking.
  • Taking drugs daily, or excessively on most occasions when partaking.
  • Lying, stealing, bribing, coercing, defrauding, begging and borrowing for alcohol, drugs or gambling funds.
  • Family finances, lifestyle or time together is sacrificed for drinking, drugs or alcohol.
  • Drinking, drugs or gambling, or discussion of these, incite extreme moods, violence, defensiveness or rebellion.
  • Family and friends are embarrassed, fearful or hurt by the behaviour of a person they love, when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Alcohol, drugs or gambling are employed as a means of escaping life’s realities.
  • Alcohol, drugs or gambling receipts are hidden, and much effort is taken to avoid any unveiling of the behaviour.

It’s important to note that any of the points above may not indicate addiction if they occur in isolation. There may be the odd occasion when a partner gets too drunk and embarrasses you at a party, but if there are more than one of these points present, or if the impact of the behaviour is beyond what is acceptable for you, then there is cause for concern.

Don’t be afraid to listen to your intuition, to trust what you see, hear and feel.

It is much wiser to be aware and alert than to try to avoid what might be uncomfortable to acknowledge.

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Lynne says:

    I’ve just discovered this site and it has been the most informative, welcome, and helpful information I could hope for in dealing with my addictive son, which has divided my family, ripped my finances to shreds, completely shattered any social life I may have enjoyed, taken away my own self-esteem, and labeled me with a self-blame that has consumed me. I still don’t know if I can say “no” to him – but this is arming me with some information I didn’t realize existed. Thank you so much – and I have recognized so many faults about myself in being the professional enabler. Maybe if I can stop – he can stop. I pray so.

    • Recovering You says:

      Hi Lynne

      I am so sorry to hear about your son, but glad that you have found information, and some comfort, in this site.

      As I am about to become a mother for the first time, I can only imagine the self blame that arises from your child being caught in the trap of addiction, but please know that nothing you did led your son to his addiction.

      You are right to take the step of ceasing enablement, and it is the first step of many in not only your recovery, but hopefully for your son’s.

      Sending you best wishes for healing for you and your son.

Leave a Reply