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Lifting the Right Stones: Surviving Addiction in a Loved One

Researchers estimate that substance abuse in the United States costs business and industry over $100 billion each year and that governments will soon be spending over $100 million every day to incarcerate individuals arrested for alcohol- or drug-related crimes. What has not yet been calculated, however, is the emotional toll borne on a daily basis by those who love or live with an alcohol- or drug-addicted person.

Are you part of the approximately 43 percent of the U.S. population that falls into this category? If so, then you well know this emotional toll and you have probably tried countless ways to influence your partner, parent, sibling, child, or friend to stop. And, undoubtedly, none of these measures has helped. In fact, despite your best intentions and sincere attempts, things have probably gotten worse.

As an example, someone I once worked with had a 23-year-old son living at home who had been drinking and drugging since the age of 14. Her many vigorous approaches to address “the problem” had included everything from trying to talk with him calmly to throwing him out (and then taking him back in when he made all those promises to stop). Sometimes, depending upon her own mood and other circumstances in her life, she coped pretty well with the situation. At other times, she felt like she herself was “going crazy,” and that she just couldn’t do it anymore. This kind of scenario is repeated every day in millions of households, without regard to demographics, social or financial status.

Why Is My Approach Not Working?

The problem isn’t that the well-intended approaches are iwrong. The problem is really very simple. When another person is the one who has “the problem,” and you are the one lifting every stone to find the solution to his or her problem, you cannot and will not find it. No matter how much you love that person, no matter how much sincerity you have, regardless of how hurt or frustrated you feel, you simply cannot solve this situation for the other person. Alcoholism and other addictions are now understood to be a complex disease of the body, mind, and soul. Only the affected person can find the answers to his or her unique problem or the first steppingstone on his or her journey into recovery.

Lifting the Right Stones: Surviving Addiction in a Loved One

Pamela Hyman

APA Reference
Hyman, P. (2020). Lifting the Right Stones: Surviving Addiction in a Loved One. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.