How to get along with a coke addict?
December 20, 2010 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Looking for insights into dealing with a dear friend who's into a decades long cocaine addiction. We share a dwindling group of friends and many of us are broken hearted about how things have turned out. Is there a point where we move on? I know I can't fix him, but?

I've got a friend who's marriage dissolved about a year and half ago due to his coke habit. Although I never really put it all together until about a year or so ago, he's been struggling with addiction for many years.

He'd been in and out of rehab, fired from every job he's had for stealing or going MIA. He lived with his mom for a while in a horrible little trailer out in the country after his wife kicked him out the house.

My wife and I actually let him live with us for a few months while he tried to get back on his feet. That's when we learned first hand he had a serious coke habit. He'd been using his unemployment checks to buy drugs, and then would vanish for a couple days.

I found him at his mom's house. Where he came clean to me me about what was happening with him. He said he needed help and wanted to get into a rehab program.

My wife and I worked with his elderly mother to find a facility, luckily he still had insurance with his families policy and we got him into an inpatient facility.

After a month when the insurance ran out, we let him live with us. We turned our house into a "sober house", drove him to AA meetings everyday, fed him, and hung out with him virtually all the time. After a couple months, he felt he was ready to drive his car again.

A few months passed, I think he had 90 days, and he had a relapse. When we confronted him about he blew up at us, packed up and left.

We still have many friends in common, and still talk to him occasionally. He's not sober anymore. (Neither am I, for the record, I quit drinking while he lived with me though) I don't know how to act around him anymore, I get uncomfortable when he calls. I wish I could have done more for him, but I don't think it's smart to do anything like what I'd done in the past for him.
posted by eggm4n to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At a certain point, I think you have to give yourself permission to disengage. You've tried to help, harder than many others would have, and his relapse was not your fault. You're a good person for having extended yourself as much as you did.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

"I can't save you from you. I can save me from you."
posted by Debaser626 at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2010 [12 favorites]

If someone is committed to dragging themselves as far down as possible (and many addicts, whether they'll admit it or not, are commited to this) you can't help them. All you can do is decide how far down you want to go with them.

He's the only one that can help himself, and the only one that can decide to. If he hasn't made this decision, anything you give him, while it may feel like helping, is also enabling.

Decide what from your own life you're willing to sacrifice for him, and what you aren't willing to sacrifice for him, and stop as soon as he crosses that imaginary line. It probably won't help him either way, but it'll help you cut your losses.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: This kind of situation is precisely what Al-Anon is for. You might find it helpful. I know I did. Basically, I had to come to an understanding about my role in life when it comes to my loved ones who have alcohol or drug issues. Namely, I can't cure them, and I can't take care of them, and it's okay not to let that chaos into my life.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:15 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, guys I really appreciate it. I think I get a little too hung up on the "disease of addiction". I wonder if I should just cut him out completely or learn to keep him at arms length. We have so many friends in common and run into each other occasionally.
posted by eggm4n at 2:16 PM on December 20, 2010

Don't bring him into your home and take responsibility for him like you did before. But he's an old friend, and if you still like the guy and enjoy his company, I don't see the need to cut him out of your life entirely -- it would be just as easy to be friendly when you see him, etc.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:50 PM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Yes, when it's not their "fault," it's hard to detach. This is true of abuse (e.g. someone who had a horribly abusive upbringing, then ends up being abusive) and untreated mental illness, too. Ultimately, they do make the choice to stay sick, you can't make the choice for them, and the kind of help that seems kind is, as someone said above, actually enabling them.

This is coming from someone who broke up with an addict eight months ago and still had to ignore five calls and two texts today.
posted by Pax at 3:11 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

There have been a number of advances in addiction science and treatment in the last 10 years, that are worthy of your understanding, as a concerned friend; many are covered in the excellent HBO series "Addiction," which has its own reference Web site, which I recommend. In particular, you might find that CRAFT is an approach to strengthening whatever remaining family and community ties your friend may still have, into a more effective treatment outcome.
""There are two main misconceptions that really drive me crazy when it comes to addictions," says Dr. Kathleen Brady, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. "One of them is this whole idea that an individual needs to reach rock bottom before they can get any help. That is absolutely wrong. There is no evidence that that's true. In fact, quite the contrary. The earlier in the addiction process that you can intervene and get someone help, the more they have to live for. The more they have to get better for."
posted by paulsc at 6:33 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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