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The Dilemma of Danger

Girl passed out on floor Father looking on
Illustration © Eleanor Davis

In this recent comment, AiR member GudgeonPintle, gives examples of verbal exchanges with a Loved One, and expresses frustration and fatigue around this ongoing communication.

"I have a disorder like any other medical disorder."

"But they won't give me what I need to deal with it."

"So It's not like it's actually my fault."

"You're not taking me to the right doctor."

"It's not like I can cure it."

My frustration with the last one is that it gets used as an excuse rather than a statement that they are willing to acknowledge as a self-issue that can be managed and addressed. I listened to my daughter chastise her boyfriend for using and OD'ing in her arms (he made it through) and "how could he do that to her" when she was using too, and it could have as easily been her parents and sister with her in our arms!

In detox tonight.

It's not my fault!

I have no control over it!

I can't fix her!



What does a Loved One do when we confront them about their addiction? They defend or deny. What may feel to you as the right moment to bring up drug use usually gets you two very predictable responses: a defense of their use, or a denial that there is a problem. It sounds like your daughter and her boyfriend have become genius in their excuses.

Waiting for the right moment is a critical part of your work

It’s critical to wait for the right moment to talk about use or treatment (see Module 8 for strategies). Raising the topic in the wrong moment just teaches your Loved One to get ever more sophisticated in their justifications.

Pushing off responsibility for one’s addiction is a hallmark of addiction. The central challenge of treatment is getting the person to take responsibility for their addiction. The family also has a role to play: resisting the temptation to pick up that responsibility if/when your Loved One drops it.

Your daughter’s boyfriend overdosed. For the family, this opioid epidemic is like living in active combat. Death is within striking distance. It colors every day, every moment. It can make family members act protectively. It’s hard to avoid policing, and thus taking on the responsibility for the drug use. Where’s the line?

I think a lot about this fundamental dilemma. How do you keep from encouraging further drug use by raising the bottom and protecting your Loved One from overdose?

Can we protect them from overdose?

How as a family member do you live with the dangers your Loved One is facing, day in and day out?

How do you avoid depleting your energy and becoming obsessed with the circumstances of your Loved One’s life?

We’d like to hear your thoughts. 

In the coming weeks, we are launching an exclusive podcast series hosted by Annie Highwater and Laurie MacDougall. Please send us your thoughts and questions and Annie and Laurie will explore them.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)