Anyone who has experienced addiction or the addiction of a loved one knows that manipulation is an extremely damaging behavior. Addicts can use many tactics to get what they want and in the end they end up hurting themselves and the ones closest to them. These manipulations can often feel like games that involve everyone, whether or not they wanted to play in the first place. Here are some common ways addicts play those around them and how to avoid getting played by addiction.  


Playing the Victim

A principal way that many addicts mismanage their anger and negative emotions is by playing the victim. This response is most often unintentional, but it helps the addict avoid feeling these negative emotions by projecting blame for their circumstances on to others. Since feelings of anger, guilt, or frustration feel overwhelming; finding someone to blame for circumstances helps alleviate those painful emotions. This “blame game” always finds fault with others. It’s always someone else’s fault for the addiction, whether that be directed at the parents, a boss, friends, or family history or genetics.

“People who become mired down in feeling victimized tend to view events in their lives as happening to them and feel ineffective and overwhelmed.” – Robert W. Firestone, PhD.

The feeling of victimization is really rooted in a childlike notion that everything should be “fair.” The victimized stance is one that is characterized by passivity and behaviors based on negative power. This is different from the personal power that must be developed as an adult to cope with difficult circumstances. Victimization focuses on injustices and leads to resentful attitudes.


Playing with Your Emotions

Because of the desperation of addiction, morality and the capacity for rational or objective thought is severely diminished. Addicts can manipulate with little guilt as long as they get what they want.

  • An addict might not feel guilty about playing a game of divide and conquer between family and friends.
  • They might start an argument between siblings so they can come in an save the day as the mediator.
  • They might do favors for loved ones or friends out of nowhere, but then request favors later on.
  • They might throw tantrums, threaten stop talking to those around them, or even threaten self-harm or suicide if things don’t go their way.

Manipulation is really an addict using your own emotions against you. They know that you care and want to help, but and addicted person is responsible for his or her life and happiness, not you. It is a telltale sign that you are being manipulated when the addicted person is only nice to you when he or she wants something. It is worse still when your interactions with the addicted person leave you feeling confused, ashamed, or even bullied.


Playing Childish Games

A clever article by Elizabeth Hartney, PhD. likens addict manipulation to real-life versions of childhood games. Where once it was meant for fun, in adulthood and surrounding addiction these games are very serious:

  • Bluffing/Lying: Probably the most pervasive and damaging aspect of addiction manipulation the addict’s ability to lie to loved ones about his or her addiction. Addicts can become very convincing liars, especially to themselves in admitting they need help.
  • Hide and Seek: An addict will have the need to hide his or her addiction from those closest to them. This not only involves hiding the evidence of addiction like drug paraphernalia, but hiding the severity of their addiction as well.   
  • Taboo: like hide and seek, the addict is also hiding the stigma or shame and guilt that accompany addiction. Addicts might find ways to shift the blame or guilt onto family or friends.
  • Cops and Robbers: Addiction is so powerful it can lead to stealing from loved ones or even straight out robbery or theft. Not to mention, using or trafficking in illegal substances can lead to serious jail time.


Next Steps:

There are countless ways that addicts manipulated their loved ones and even themselves. The information presented here is in no way comprehensive, but offers some of the most common games addicts play with themselves and those closest to them while struggling with their addiction.

If you are the victim of addict manipulation it is very important that you don’t face it alone. Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help you with advice on next steps. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.

For further resources on how to cope with addict manipulation, check out our resources here.