Learning a loved one is stealing for drugs is surprising, disappointing, and frustrating. Knowing that an addict is stealing from family members—or even your own house—will leave you shocked, aggravated, and frightened.
Addiction is never satisfied. Once it has found a place in someone’s life it will refuse to leave without a fight. And it won’t be a fair fight.
You’re not alone. Addiction has affected most families at some level. We all want comfort in every phase of life. We all have something inside us craving to be fulfilled. It’s normal to have tough questions that feel impossible to answer. Our experts are here to help you, and anyone you are worried about, get the help that is needed.
If you give us a call at 626-602-2966, we’d be happy to guide you through this stressful time. Don’t be afraid to seek support for yourself.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. They often do things out of character, like stealing from their loved ones in order to get the drug.
The first few times a person does drugs it’s probably socially, and often for free because a friend provided it for them. The first few times they use a drug they think “well, that wasn’t so bad. I kinda wanna try that again.” This is typically when they buy for the first time. It becomes an expensive craving real fast. If you’re out of money and the beast of withdrawal is breathing down your back, you literally feel you’re going to die. So in that mindset, taking money or a valuable item seems like a better option than death.
Many dealers will accept a valuable item or heirloom on a “front.” Using this item, they will give enough to stop withdrawal. The addict then has a brief window of time to pay them back.
In Too Deep
The person with the addiction will think, “Oh, I can take Auntie’s gold bracelet and get a front for it. I’ll pay it back and return the bracelet before she ever knows it is missing.”
In reality, though, the high wears off before this happens. Now they’re in so deep they just stole from family. They’re still out of money. And, the beast of withdrawal is breathing down their back again.
The only thing they think will make it better is another fix.
However, every time they use the substance there is a physiological change in the brain.
No one purposefully declares they want to be an addict. It’s something that happens over time. It starts as a reward or a good time, then it turns into abuse, and from there it turns into an addiction.
The mind and body go into shock and withdrawal when they stop using. This can last from days to weeks, depending on the substance of choice and the length of addiction. After, there’s the ongoing mental battle that lasts a lifetime.
Why Do Addicts Steal From Family?
Many times the addict knows they need help. They know what they’re doing is indescribably bad and hurtful. Often they are stealing out of desperation because the part of their brain that distinguishes good from bad has been damaged by drugs.
When pushed away, addiction will wait in the corner for the right time to strike. It waits for the guard to come down ever so slightly.
The part of the brain telling them stealing is wrong is hijacked and convincing them it will be worth the fix. Often, the addict doesn’t want to be this person. They may even promise to never do it again.
Until then the next craving comes.
Their brain switches paths. The brain begins to start the trickery and the addict is back in the vicious cycle.
The brain will only feel happy or satisfied when it gets the drug. They are convinced they are going to die if they don’t get the drug right away.
Can you imagine?
Being so addicted to drugs—being so manipulated by the brain damage caused by drugs—you truly fear you will die without it.
But What if They’re Stealing From Me?
Law enforcement and reformed criminals constantly say stealing from someone is a crime of opportunity. The addict may not steal outside the house because that’s too risky. However, inside the house it’s easy for them to access what they’re looking for.
They often steal with the expectation of replacing what’s missing before anyone notices.
While support is what the addict needs during this time, it doesn’t mean you allowing them to take advantage of you.
As much as they need help, you must take care of yourself at the same time. This is a good time to create boundaries for yourself and them.
- Maybe you spend time with them, but don’t leave them alone.
- You might have lunch with them, but not at your house.
- You may let them live in your home, but put locks on all the doors and the medicine cabinet.
These are the hard decisions you have to make for yourself. Nevertheless, supporting them doesn’t mean letting them walk all over you, abuse you, or continuously betray your trust.
Helping Them Through Denial
When it comes to addiction, the person with the problem often struggles to see it and acknowledge it. There are times they think those who don’t use are crazy because they don’t understand how good it feels.
Many people mistakenly think those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower. It’s possible to think they could stop using drugs just by deciding to stop.
In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease affecting the brain. Quitting takes more than good intentions or willpower.
Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who desperately want to quit.
If the person with an addiction is resistant to help, see if you can at least convince them to get evaluated by a doctor. Keep in mind, they may push back because they are afraid the doctor will call the cops on them and send them to jail.
Take time to emphasize to your loved one it takes a great deal of courage to seek help. There is a lot of hard work ahead and it’s scary.
There is a great deal of scientific evidence that treatment works, and people recover every day without landing in jail.
Do not force a doctor’s appointment upon them.
You may need to collaborate with others and create a formal intervention. Those with an addiction are often in denial and resist treatment. It’s possible the addict doesn’t recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves or others.
An intervention involves a group of people gathering together to confront your loved one about the consequences of addiction and asking them to accept treatment.
Be Sure To…
- Provide specific examples of destructive behavior, and the impact the action had
- Offer a defined treatment plan that includes clear steps, goals, and guidelines
- Spell out what each person will do if your loved one refuses to accept treatment
Helping Them Recover
Different people need different levels of support.
Like many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment isn’t a cure. Addiction isn’t something that goes away forever after a few weeks of therapy.
When someone has depression you don’t get mad because they won’t get out of bed. Or because the simple act of taking a shower it a chore for them.
You likely show concern and compassion and you probably help them get through their day.
Sure, you might be annoyed because you don’t understand why they can’t just “be happy.” Regardless, you still do what you can to help support them. Relapse is often part of the journey because addiction is so complex. The addiction has affected the brain so deeply the craving is essentially a reflex. If there is a relapse, provide an understanding, non-judgemental shoulder and encourage them to return to treatment.
People recovering from addiction are at risk for relapse for years. Possibly their whole lives. Nevertheless, addiction can be successfully managed.
Remind them they are courageous for tackling this medical problem. As well as reinforcing if they stick with the treatment plan you will continue to support them.
It may help to attend a 12-step program with your loved one. Some people are nervous about going to their first meeting. Offering to support them in the meeting could be valuable. While a 12-step program is not treatment, it is particularly helpful in recovering. The sense of community and understanding that comes from these programs cannot be matched within the home.
Find new activities to enjoy together and support their recovery
- Offer a ride to treatment or support group meetings
- Help them find a place to live
- Assist them in finding a job
- Help them avoid people and places that trigger them
- Talk with them about their feelings and cravings
- Offer to attend a group meeting as a support person
- Attend family days at their rehab program
There is Still Hope
There is hope for every family with someone who is addicted to drugs.
Treatment allows people to change the powerful unruly effects drugs have on the brain and their behavior. They can regain control of their lives.
Like many diseases, it can take several attempts at treatment to find the right approach. Continue to promise your loved one you will support them in their courageous battle.
It’s possible this is the first time you’ve ever experienced anything like this. Or it’s possible this has happened in your family before.
Regardless, it hurts just as much every time it happens. There’s no easy fix when someone betrays your trust. If you need help processing what’s happening or helping a loved one get into treatment, please call us at 626-602-2966 so we can help guide you through this tough time.
Written by: Krystina Wagner
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