KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

Your Role As A Caregiver To An Addict

It's a very delicate balance between being a caregiver to an addict and being codependent to the addict. The two positions are very easy to confuse so you're going to have to understand the definitions of both words to better understand how to care for your addicted loved one.


This is the behavior that sets you up for an unhealthy relationship. You begin to balance your happiness on your addicted loved one. It's important to note that your happiness should never hinge on the addict. Your happiness must come from within you and you must learn to find happiness in your own life.

A codependent is stressed out and exhausted from trying to control the situation. Codependents don't take care of themselves and they frequently lose sight of their own needs. If you're spending more time worrying about the “what ifs” than tending to your own needs and those in your care you're likely a codependent and you need to take some time and step back from the situation and re format your role as a caregiver.

Codependents are by their very nature judgmental. They pass judgment on others regardless of the situation. Codependents tend to attract needy people and they always want to fix said people. Care taking is a common trait among codependents. They tend to use the word “You” in lieu of th word “I”.


A caregiver on the other hand, knows that they must do what is right even if that involved tough love. Only in this fashion will they truly find happiness. A caregiver will give from the heart and be sincere in their giving while not enabling the addict to take advantage of the situation. The caregiver knows when and how to say “No” and mean it without crossing the boundary into codependency.

A caregiver knows how to take time for themselves and how to take care of themselves. They don't cater to the addicts every need and whim, they know how to set healthy boundaries and stick to them.

Caregivers adapt a live and let live attitude and they are much happier for it. They are also much less stressed and much more likely to attract healthy friendships and relationships. By adapting this attitude, they are much more likely to address a situation by asking the addict “what are you going to do about this issue” than try to take care of the issues for the addict.

Everything that the caregiver does is done with love and tenderness. There is no resentment and there is no judging going on at all. They have simply adapted to the situation and focus on taking care of themselves and not controlling any situation.

Your Role

Now that you understand the difference between a codependent and a caregiver you can redefine your role as a caregiver. You want to encourage your addicted loved one to do their very best and to stay away from their drug of choice, but you need to do this without nagging.

In most cases the addict is an adult. They are painfully aware of their shortcomings and they know that they are miserable. You don't need to remind them of any of this. If they choose to lie around all day in the bedroom, it's not your responsibility to stop them. It's not your responsibility to rebel rouse them and send them on their way to work.

You will know that you must go about your day as normally as possible and let them be. If they ask you to call into work for them you'll have to be strong and say “No”. It's not your responsibility to cover for them. They may be angry if you won't call, but you know they will get over this so you leave it be. It's their issue, not yours.

As a caregiver the person knows that they must wait to be asked for their help in lieu of simply jumping in and doing it for the person. Of course it's always easier to have someone else do the work for you, but a caregiver knows this and will therefore wait to be asked so that they aren't being codependent.

By learning to focus on solutions in lieu of creating drama and judging, the caregiver will gain far more ground with the addict. It's all a matter of perception and many addicts resent being “told” what to do so they will therefore do exactly what someone tells them not to do.

By adapting these strategies a caregiver can often gain far more ground in helping the addict than a codependent. The caregiver will also save themselves a lot of heartache by adapting these strategies.

As in any behavior, understanding the behavior is the key element to changing that behavior and learning to deal with our shortcomings. The addict may be resistant at first when you begin to change your behaviors (when you say “No” to calling their boss etc.) but you'll get the hang of it and so will they and once they do, they too will be well on the road to recovery.

Always remember to say “No” respectfully and graciously. You don't need to give any explanation but if you feel that you must give an explanation, give something short and rehearse it ahead of time. They may not like it, but in time they will indeed accept it.

Andrey Rossin's picture
CEO & Founder, Into Action Treatment Center

Into Action Treatment Center utilizes a progress-based treatment for individuals by offering options to transition to different levels of care based on individual need. We offer a continuum of services with the goal of a minimum stay of 70 to 90 days and with the integration of continuous treatment at different levels of care with a lifetime aftercare program.