People with addiction are known for manipulating other people to get what they want. It’s usually put down to psychopathology. But to the person in active addiction, it’s simply the price of doing business.
Imagine you awoke one morning to discover you had a mighty craving for strawberry lollipops. In fact, you felt you couldn’t possibly be content until you had a strawberry lollipop. You found you felt nervous, tense, irritable – and just knew a strawberry lollipop would relieve it.
And not just one, either. You needed a steady supply. Sometimes you wondered if there were enough lollipops in the whole city to satisfy your hunger.
You’d set out with great determination to obtain more lollipops, wouldn’t you? And to protect against any possible threats to your supply.
Just for fun, imagine they made lollipops illegal. Wouldn’t stop you, would it?
Anyway, that’s where manipulation springs from.
To the person in active addiction, manipulation is a survival skill. Takes a while to become really good at it, but most do. Addicted people are not always great manipulators – that would be somebody so skilled you never realized you were being manipulated — but they’re bold, persistent, and creative when it comes to getting what they want.
The occupational therapists on the neighboring psych unit decided to undertake an elaborate project involving a vegetable garden for the patients. Problem: It would cost several thousand dollars, and there was no money in the budget. A recovering addicted client volunteered to help, asking only for a list of what was needed, a phone, and the Yellow Pages. Within two days he’d procured everything they on the list, from local merchants and charitable organizations.
Free of charge.
We’ve all heard it said that if the addicted person put that same energy to work in productive activities, there’d be no limit to what he could do. And there’s truth in it. To succeed as an addict, you must get people to do what you want.
But that’s not our goal in recovery, is it? From the standpoint of treating addiction, it’s the wrong lesson. The addicted person has to take the steps. Not us. We can’t walk the path for him.
But that may not stop him from trying to convince us to.