Considering letting an addict live with you whether in recovery or not? Even I, an addict with a little bit of sobriety under my belt, live with the fear of my roommate relapsing. The fact of the matter is once an addict/alcoholic, always an addict/alcoholic; no matter how sober we get, if we are not working a program of recovery, we can always relapse. And is the addict isn’t even trying to get sober, the question goes even deeper. There are many considerations for you and the addict when deciding whether to take up residence together.
Have They Gotten Sober?
If you have a loved one who is a recovering addict or alcoholic, you surely still have frequent doubts about how long they will remain that way, especially if they are living under your roof. Your concerns are valid; however, there are some qualifications that a recovering addict will be able to check off to prove that they truly mean this getting sober business. For example:
- Have they entered into the rooms of a 12 step fellowship?
- Have they gone to a detox if need be, in order to safely flush the drugs and alcohol from their system?
- Have they started working a program of recovery at all? This program can be a 12-step program, or church, or even volunteer work as a way to bring about the psychic change that is needed to recover from addiction.
- Has the person shown willingness to adjust back into society, i.e., have they shown willingness to get a job, or participate in their probation hearings, etc.
The tricky part is, especially if the person is living at home, is finding people that will motivate and inspire them to continue with their journey of recovery despite the tough times ahead. That can be where you come in! Let me give you fair warning, though, don’t expect to get through to an addict by force or by heartfelt pleadings to attend meetings or calls to their sponsor. Begging and yelling just doesn’t work for us. Instead, we need someone to talk to without judgment. And, although you may not understand what they are going through, it can sometimes just be enough to provide a listening ear. Keep an open mind and an open heart to your recovering addict, ensure them that they are doing great and that you are on their team. Chances are, with lots of love and support, they will continue on their path of recovery just fine.
On the Other Hand, Are They Still Actively Using?
If you’re thinking about letting an addict live with you when they are actively using, think again. This is a whole other situation entirely, and it can be sticky. Let’s start with the general question: Has their addiction started to affect their general morals and decision-making i.e. are they stealing, etc.? Are their actions putting the rest of the home at risk? Drawing on my own experience as a dope addict crack-head, I can confidently tell you that my mother would have saved a lot of money and jewelry if she had kicked me out. My niece would have had a lot more money in her piggy bank, and my little brother would still have the guitar he was so excited to get for Christmas that one year.
Where to Draw the Line
There is a thin line between being supportive and enabling, and while my family tried its best, in the end, allowing me to stay with them during my active addiction only perpetuated my using. I knew I could always go home and raid the cabinets, sleep for three days, and borrow money (or find it in purses and wallets) if the struggle got the best of me. If I had been forced to find my own way, I would say it is pretty likely that I would have hit my rock bottom a heck of a lot sooner. Today, as a sober member of a 12-step fellowship, I get to start making amends for the wrongdoings of my past, and I am grateful for that.
It can be difficult to decide if and when to cut off a loved one, as it becomes painfully obvious as their using progresses that they tend to burn bridges, and as parents, friends, and loved ones, it can often feel as though we are the only hope they have. But when we enable our loved ones by providing them with a home while they are using, aren’t we really just keeping them close so we can try to control them or, at the very least, keep an eye on them?
What if They Just Can’t Seem to Stay Sober, Despite Trying?
Those who have attempted addiction treatment, but failed can often be one of the most heartbreaking varieties. However, if you ask any member of a 12-step fellowship, chances are they will have the same response, that person simply hasn’t given up their need to control their own life. It might sound crazy to an outsider, but if you are living with an addict, who can’t seem to stay on the wagon, I guarantee that while even though they might put the drink or drug down for a few days or weeks, they are probably still “living dirty” in other areas of their life. If you notice that they are still getting involved in romantic tangles or making a dishonest living, or even if their room still looks like a bomb site, as simple as these things sound, they are a huge red flag for a “messy head” as we like to call it.
So the question remains, should you let an addict live with you? Honestly, the answer is a muddled one, and the question seems somewhat loaded. The only way to really and truly know the best move for you is to ask yourself a few simple questions.
- Am I willing to put up strict boundaries with this person for house rules?
- Am I willing to be gentle, loving, and understanding with their mental and emotional issues, and come from a non-judgmental perspective?
- Am I in any danger if I let them stay in the home?
- Am I only allowing them to stay so I can hopefully “save” them?
Trust your gut; maybe say a little prayer after you answer the questions, and I think you will find that the right answer will come. It may not be the one you wanted, but if I believe in anything today, as a now sober addict-alcoholic, it is that the answers that come from prayer are always the ones I needed.
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as programs for medical professionals, veterans and members of the Seminole Tribes of Florida. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.