How to Recognize Manipulation in Addiction

How to Recognize Manipulation in Addiction
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If you know someone currently struggling with a substance use addiction, you undoubtedly know the emotional toll it can take. Loving someone who is fighting for their sobriety is difficult. Yet, our loved ones seem to decline any support we offer and readily avoid encouragement to seek help. This is often done by using manipulation in addiction and making postponing rehab a long-term habit.

What is the Purpose of Using Manipulation in Addiction?

It may be hard to understand why the topic of getting help is off-limits to most of those grappling with addiction. Why is the thought of getting better so uncomfortable? And more importantly, why do they manipulate those who are trying to help?

To react in a healthy way to attempts of manipulation, we need to understand where it comes from in the first place. [1]

  • They’re trying to make up for the control they lack in other parts of their life
  • They’ve convinced themselves their behavior is okay due to their intense need
  • They are no longer able to make a clear decision due to the drugs/alcohol
  • The dependency has won over the feelings of loved ones
  • They believe it is too late to get help and don’t know what else to do

7 of the Most Common Manipulation Strategies

Awareness of the strategies individuals struggling with addiction will use to manipulate others is key to keeping a level head. When you are prepared for these reactions, you can respond more caringly and encourage sobriety with a different approach. This video by Benjamin Hogan explains some common manipulation strategies to be aware of.

1. Baby Steps

They will try to “compromise” or negotiate their way out of getting help. This leaves little to no room for resolution, treatment, or growth [1]. An attempt at negotiating may sound like this:

“Instead of 90 days of rehab, I’ll just do 30.”

“Instead of going to rehab as an inpatient, I’ll just do outpatient care.”

2. Fear

Using fear to keep control is intended to trigger an emotional reaction. This is often done to get you to drop the subject and back off entirely. This may sound something similar to:

“I’ll just kill myself.”

“I’ll move away and out of your life.”

Continued after video:

3. Invalidation

Invalidation is meant to make you second guess your own suggestion, thus weakening anything you may offer as a solution. For example:

“I know 6 people that went to treatment. None of them are even sober now.”

“Those places don’t work. All they want is your money.”

4. False Hope

When a person with an addiction uses false hope to gain your support, they may appear optimistic enough for both of you. But they will still be tempted to use it when the urge is strong enough. This will often sound like this:

“Tomorrow will be a better, brighter day. I’ll be fine.”

“I need you to believe in me. You do, don’t you?”

5. Sympathy

Our loved ones’ addictions and struggles never alter how much we care for them. That’s why playing the “sympathy card” may work in their favor. As much as they care for the person who’s trying to help them too, it may almost be automatic for them to say something along the lines of:

“Fine, I’m a loser. Are you happy now?”

6. Explosive Reactions

Although rare compared to the other manipulation tools, the individual you wish to help may react violently, either physically or verbally.

7. Postponement

Manipulating the situation by simply postponing going to rehab may not sound too bad. Technically, they said yes, but did you know that 96% of our loved ones who say they’ll go to rehab don’t? An attempt at “postponing” may come off as:

“I’ll go as soon as I have my affairs in order.”

“I just need a couple of days, and then I’ll be ready.”

What Can I Do to Stand My Ground?

It may ease your mind to learn that even though every substance use journey is unique, most addiction behaviors are similar to others. Reactions, responses, and thought processes can oftentimes be predicted and prepared for. Using these tools will help you stand your ground and end the cycle of manipulation: [1]

  • Say “no” and clearly state what you will not do for them. Lend them money, let them borrow your car, etc.
  • Stay honest with them and state when they have crossed boundaries.
  • Remember not to blame yourself for their behavior or lack of stability.
  • Make sure to care for yourself and keep a healthy distance for the time being

Contacting Clear Life Recovery

If you have a loved one who struggles with an addiction, we understand how isolating and challenging the road can be. If you find yourself being able to relate to manipulation in addiction, Clear Life Recovery can help. We offer the support, resources, and personalized treatment programs that will not only help you or a loved one reach sobriety.

If you have any questions about our programs or would like to hear more about the steps that can be taken to beat addiction, please contact us. Together, we can change how tough conversations are handled and get the help they need!