Manipulation and exploiting guilt is the key component to an addict’s survival while in active addiction. Whenever I felt the slightest form of pressure from my parents, I would literally do or say anything I could to smooth over the situation as quickly as possible.
This utter disregard for any minute inclination of integrity was my main defense mechanism for protecting my using. I spent hours, even days forging plans to divert the attention off of myself in order to manipulate whatever was going on in my favor. Deceitfulness, rationalizing, and justifying were just the start to the web of lies I created in order to pull the wool over my parent’s eyes.
One of the most shameful aspects of my manipulation was my ability to play on my parent’s guilt. Addiction has a ripple effect that causes emotional pain and disruption in far more people than just the individual who is struggling. Unfortunately, this affects the people closest to us the most: our parents. The emotional turmoil that landed on my parents as a result of my actions created a weakness in them that I could exploit. I recognized this weakness as an opportunity that I could systematically exploit and play into my favor. Like a cat with a ball of yarn, I found the end of the string and pulled on it until I unraveled the entire ball and got what I wanted.
Financial Guilt Trip
“I don’t have enough money for food/gas/work/rent, are you just going to let me starve/not be able to have a social life/get to work/or be homeless?”
As I couldn’t blatantly ask them for money for drugs, I figured I would utilize common expenses and exploit them with “worst case scenario” issues that could arise as a result of me not getting the money.
“If you and Dad didn’t get divorced we would not be in this situation.”
“I learned these bad behaviors from you; remember than one time you did this____.”
“You used to have a problem with drugs/alcohol, so it’s my fault I have the same problem.”
“How could you be suspicious of this, are you crazy?”
“You just don’t understand.”
It doesn’t matter what aspect of life I blamed them for; it didn’t matter. Whatever mistake, weakness, or fault I could play on would surely put me on the offensive. It was an emotional error that they had made, so why do they want me to be so perfect?
“My sister got to do this, why can’t I?”
“You give her money, what’s so wrong with me that I can’t have any?”
“She has always been the golden child, I’m sorry I can’t match up to her positive qualities.”
Although it is impossible to compare the two of us, that was my goal. I wanted to be treated the same as my sister. I would carefully observe the juxtaposition of treatment between my sister and I and if there was the slightest discrepancy, I would exploit it.
“You better not tell dad about this.”
“You better not tell mom about this.”
In creating a contract between with an individual parent, we now had a secret. That meant that in the future since we already had a secret, it would be easier for me to get what I wanted with that parent, because of the unsaid threat of blackmail in revealing that secret.
Exploitation of my parent’s guilt was one of the most disgraceful experiences of my using career. This is just one facet of many of the lengths that an addict will go to in order to safeguard their using. Although disgraceful at the time, it was effective. My parents did not have an understanding of the tactics I was using. Therefore, I could capitalize on it at any moment. This is why it is so important for parents of struggling alcoholics/addicts to submerge themselves into their own recovery. Knowledge is power. With a better understanding of how and why an addict acts, a parent is now armed with their own skillset in handling them.