House Rules For Living With An Addict

Creating house rules for living with an addict

Living with an addict can be like balancing on a unicycle while juggling flaming torches – challenging, to say the least!

In this article, I’ll unveil the secrets to creating house rules that promote a harmonious home environment while supporting your loved one’s journey to recovery.

Whether you’re dealing with a partner, family member, or friend struggling with addiction, these house rules will provide the foundation for a healthier and happier living situation.

About Addiction

As a mental health counselor, I’d like to share some insights about addiction, which might help you better understand and support a loved one who is struggling with this disease.

Addiction is a complex disease that causes significant changes in the brain’s functioning. When a person becomes addicted, their brain’s dopamine receptors are triggered, interpreting the substance use as rewarding.

Over time, the brain adjusts to the presence of the substance, leading to dependency.

This profound alteration in the brain’s structure and function is why addiction is classified as a chronic or long-term disease.

The power of this disorder can be so overwhelming that it becomes challenging for your loved one to regulate their substance use, despite being aware of the physical, emotional, and financial repercussions.

However, it’s crucial to remember that addiction is treatable. Short-term interventions like inpatient rehab can be beneficial, but long-term strategies such as counseling and health coaching are often necessary for sustained recovery.

During this recovery process, the support and accountability provided by friends and family can be invaluable.

In your journey to support your loved one, it’s essential to avoid personalizing their struggle with addiction. This might be challenging, especially when you feel like you’ve exhausted all your resources in helping them.

However, addiction is one of the most formidable diseases to combat, often requiring a team approach that includes medical professionals, friends, and family members.

Your loved one’s struggle is not a reflection of your efforts, but rather the severity of their disease.

The Ripple Effect of Addiction Within a Household

It’s essential to understand that the impact of addiction extends beyond the individual and can significantly affect all members of the family, each in unique ways.

Here are some of the potential effects:

  1. Financial Strain: Addiction can lead to excessive spending on drugs or alcohol, causing financial instability within the household. Family members may struggle to cover basic needs, bills, and other expenses due to the addict’s compulsive behavior.
  2. Emotional Turmoil: Addictive behavior can result in emotional distress and conflicts among family members. Trust issues, anger, guilt, and sadness are common emotions experienced by both the addict and their loved ones.
  3. Neglect and Abandonment: An addicted individual may prioritize their substance use over their family’s well-being, leading to neglect of responsibilities and relationships. This neglect can cause feelings of abandonment in family members.
  4. Breakdown of Communication: Addiction can hinder open and honest communication within the family. Misunderstandings, secrecy, and avoidance may become prevalent as everyone copes with the impact of addiction in their own way.
  5. Health and Safety Risks: Addicts’ erratic behavior, impaired judgment, and potential criminal activities can put the safety and health of family members at risk, creating an unsafe environment within the household.
  6. Role Reversal: Addiction may force family members, especially children, to take on adult roles and responsibilities to compensate for the addict’s shortcomings. This role reversal can disrupt normal family dynamics and hinder the child’s development.
  7. Mental and Physical Health Impact: Family members living with an addict may experience increased stress, anxiety, depression, and physical health issues as they struggle to cope with the challenges arising from the addict’s behavior.
  8. Isolation and Social Stigma: Families dealing with addiction may face social isolation and judgment from others who don’t understand the complexities of the situation. This can lead to feelings of shame and further alienation.
  9. Legal Consequences: The addict’s actions related to their substance use can lead to legal issues, such as arrests or fines, which can further strain the family both emotionally and financially.
  10. Relapse and Uncertainty: The cycle of addiction and relapse can create an atmosphere of uncertainty and instability within the household. Family members may never know when the addict will seek help or experience setbacks, making it difficult to plan for the future.

Understanding these potential impacts can help in seeking appropriate support and intervention for all members of the household affected by a loved one’s addiction.

How Do You Live With Someone Who Has an Addiction?

In my professional opinion, the foremost aspect to remember when living with an addict is that the person you are living with may be struggling and needs your understanding and support.

That said, it’s equally crucial to set clear boundaries for yourself and the addicted individual in order to maintain your safety. In this article, I want to provide you with some guidelines that may be valuable when living with an addict in your household.

Goals of House Rules

The main goal in establishing house rules is to create an environment that encourages the addict to take responsibility for their actions and seek help.

House rules can also provide an opportunity for family members or roommates to express their concerns, set boundaries, and discuss changes that need to be made.

The Top 5 Rules

When living with an addict, establishing clear and essential house rules is crucial for maintaining a safe and supportive environment for everyone involved.

Here are five of the most important house rules to consider:

  1. Zero Tolerance for Substance Use: One of the most critical rules is to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for any substance use within the household. This rule applies to the addict and all other household members. Enforcing this rule can help create a substance-free living space and prevent triggers that may lead to relapse.
  2. Seek Treatment and Support: Require the addict to actively seek treatment and support for their addiction. This may include attending therapy, counseling, support groups, or participating in a rehabilitation program. Encouraging professional help is essential for the addict’s recovery journey.
  3. Respect Boundaries: Establish and respect personal boundaries for all household members. This rule ensures that everyone’s physical and emotional space is honored. It also includes respecting each person’s need for privacy and personal time.
  4. Open Communication: Emphasize the importance of open and honest communication within the household. Encourage family members to express their feelings, concerns, and needs in a respectful manner. Healthy communication helps address issues constructively and builds trust among family members.
  5. Safety First: Make safety a top priority in the household. This includes not only physical safety but also emotional and mental well-being. Ensure that everyone feels safe and supported, and if necessary, establish a plan for handling emergency situations related to the addiction.

Remember that these house rules are meant to support the addict’s recovery journey while creating a healthy and stable environment for all household members.

Consistency in enforcing these rules and providing love and support can contribute to a positive and healing living situation.

Establishing Rules

When establishing rules with an addict, it’s important to ensure that they understand the expectations and are held accountable for their actions.

Rules should be kept simple and straightforward, with clear guidelines on what’s expected from each party.

Here are some steps to help you navigate this process:

  1. Educate Yourself: Before setting any rules, educate yourself about addiction, its nature, and the challenges it poses. Understanding the complexities of addiction will help you approach the situation with empathy and knowledge.
  2. Seek Professional Guidance: Consider consulting with a therapist, counselor, or addiction specialist who can provide valuable advice and support in establishing appropriate rules and boundaries.
  3. Involve All Household Members: If there are other family members living in the house, hold a family meeting to discuss the situation and get their input on what rules they believe are necessary. Involving everyone promotes a sense of unity and shared responsibility.
  4. Set Clear and Specific Rules: Define the rules clearly, making sure they are specific, measurable, and reasonable. Avoid vague statements and ensure everyone understands what is expected.
  5. Communicate Compassionately: Approach the addict with empathy and compassion while discussing the rules. Avoid blame or judgment, as this can lead to defensiveness and resistance.
  6. Discuss Consequences: Outline the consequences for not adhering to the rules. Consequences should be reasonable and consistent, promoting accountability without being overly punitive.
  7. Be Firm and Consistent: Stick to the established rules consistently, even when it becomes difficult. This shows that you are serious about maintaining boundaries.
  8. Avoid Enabling Behaviors: Be mindful of behaviors that inadvertently enable the addict’s substance abuse. Set boundaries for yourself to avoid being drawn into codependent patterns.
  9. Encourage Treatment and Support: Offer help and encourage the addict to seek professional treatment and support. Provide information about available resources, such as support groups or rehabilitation programs.
  10. Practice Self-Care: Caring for an addict can be emotionally taxing. Remember to take care of yourself and seek support for yourself as well, whether through counseling, support groups, or talking to friends and family.
  11. Monitor Progress: Regularly assess how the rules are working and whether adjustments are needed. Be open to communication and feedback from the addict and other household members.
  12. Celebrate Positive Changes: Acknowledge and celebrate any positive changes and progress made by the addict. Positive reinforcement can be motivating and encouraging.

Remember that dealing with addiction is a complex and challenging process, and relapses may occur.

Supporting the addict while maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for their long-term recovery and the well-being of everyone involved.

Communication Rules

One of the most necessary sets of rules to follow when living with an addict is communication rules. Many of us know that but few of us know how to execute this.

So, here are some tips on how to best set up and practice communication within the members of the household:

  1. Practice Active Listening: Encourage active listening among all household members. Give each person the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings without interruption and with genuine attention.
  2. Use “I” Statements: Encourage the use of “I” statements rather than “you” statements when discussing feelings or concerns. For example, say, “I feel worried when…” instead of “You always make me feel…”
  3. Remain Calm and Respectful: Encourage calm and respectful communication, even during difficult conversations. Avoid raising voices or resorting to insults or derogatory language.
  4. Avoid Blame and Judgment: Remind everyone not to place blame or judgment on the addict or each other. Focus on the issue at hand and explore potential solutions.
  5. Be Honest and Transparent: Promote honesty and transparency in all discussions. This includes being honest about feelings, concerns, and any challenges related to the addiction.
  6. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for communication, such as not discussing important matters when the addict is under the influence. Boundaries help maintain a safe and constructive space for communication.
  7. Use Empathy and Understanding: Encourage family members to practice empathy and try to understand the struggles and challenges the addict is facing. This will help create a more compassionate environment.
  8. Limit Defensiveness: Remind everyone to be aware of defensiveness and try to avoid becoming defensive during discussions. Instead, focus on listening and understanding the perspectives of others.
  9. Take Breaks When Needed: If discussions become heated or tense, allow for breaks to cool off and collect thoughts before revisiting the conversation later.
  10. Avoid Enabling Behaviors: Communicate the importance of not enabling the addict’s destructive behaviors. Enable each other to promote healthy choices and actions.
  11. Celebrate Progress and Efforts: Recognize and celebrate any positive changes or efforts made by the addict. Positive reinforcement can encourage continued progress.
  12. Encourage Professional Support: Emphasize the value of seeking professional support, such as counseling or therapy, for both the addict and other family members. This can provide additional tools and strategies for effective communication.
  13. Address Issues in a Timely Manner: Encourage addressing issues as they arise rather than letting them fester. Prompt communication helps prevent conflicts from escalating.
  14. Focus on Solutions: Shift the focus of discussions from blame to finding practical solutions and strategies to cope with the challenges of addiction.

Establishing and following these communication rules can lead to a more supportive and understanding environment within the household, contributing to the overall well-being of everyone involved.

House Meeting Rules

An effective way to set up and maintain house rules is through regular house meetings. This allows everyone in the household to stay up-to-date on any issues or challenges they may be facing and provides an opportunity for open communication.

House meetings should be held regularly and involve everyone in the household. During these meetings, it’s important to be open and honest with each other while also providing a safe space for everyone to discuss any issues they may be having.

Maintain consistency when setting expectations and providing support so that progress can be tracked over time.

House meetings are a great way to stay invested in the addict’s recovery and provide the necessary support they need. By providing this type of safe space, you can help them make progress towards long-term sobriety.

Regular Check-In Rules

In addition to house meetings, it’s also beneficial to schedule regular check-ins with the addict. These check-ins can help monitor their progress and provide an opportunity for honest communication about any challenges they may be facing.

During these check-ins, remain supportive and understanding while still providing feedback on how they’re doing with their recovery.

By scheduling regular check-ins and providing feedback, you can help the addict continue to make progress on their journey towards long-term sobriety.

This type of support is crucial for those living with an addict and can help create a safe and supportive environment for them.

Self-Care Rules

It’s very important to remember that taking care of yourself is essential when living with an addict.

The road to recovery can be difficult and in my professional experience, I can tell you that you must have self-care practices in place to help manage your stress and take care of your own mental health.

Here are some tips about how you can practice self-care:

  • Make time to practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.
  • Schedule regular breaks from caregiving activities.
  • Connect with other people who understand your situation.
  • Take part in enjoyable activities like reading a book or going for a walk.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Get enough sleep and eat nutritious meals.
  • Speak up about your feelings and needs to those around you.

Self-care is a necessary part of living with an addict and can help ensure that everyone in the household is supported during this difficult time.


Living with an addict is a difficult experience that requires a great deal of patience and understanding. Establishing house rules, setting boundaries and expectations, and providing support are all essential steps to foster a safe and supportive environment for the addict in your life.

No matter what, it’s essential to have patience, understanding, and faith that the individual can make progress towards long-term sobriety. With the right approach and support, recovery is possible.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this process as well. Self-care practices such as yoga, journaling, meditation, or getting adequate rest are all important for managing stress and maintaining your own mental health.

Finally, remember to seek professional help when necessary. With the right resources and support, it is possible for those living with addiction to make meaningful progress towards long-term sobriety.

For more information about our counseling and neurotherapy services, contact us today via email or call us at 404-449-1236.

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Laurie Newcomb, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP

Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP My goal for each therapy session is to respect the client, allow them to be heard, appreciate where they are coming from, and help guide them through their struggles or issues. My approach to therapy is to utilize an integrative approach with clients. What this means is that I utilize different approaches for different people, as we are not all alike. Whether you're suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other kind of challenge, you want a therapist you feel comfortable with and who can help you bring about change. I have experience working with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transitions. I am personally passionate about assisting clients who have endured trauma in their life. I am certified in trauma therapy and continue to work with clients with substance abuse.