Bipolar can be difficult to manage, but when you add addictions to alcohol and drugs into the equation it's very difficult.

Sometimes those around a person abusing alcohol, drugs or gambling try to cover up the problem. Unfortunately, you help the problem continue if you help someone hide his or her problem. Many times people think that if they can just hide the problem for the person, he/she will snap out of it eventually and then everything will be fine.

After speaking to hundreds of people over a long period of time, I have found that this generally doesn't work. The situation just gets worse and worse as time goes on. And if you decide to give the person a 'loan' or some 'spending money' when he/she asks for it, this money is almost always going right to drugs or alcohol.

To protect your loved one, there are a few very important things you should do. You should inform their doctor right away about their addiction (remember that drugs and alcohol don't mix well with most medications used to treat bipolar, so it is important for the doctor to be aware of any drug or alcohol use). You should also inform their therapist if he/she has one.

Even if your loved one doesn't have a waiver signed allowing you to speak to the doctor and/or the therapist, you can still fax/email/write the person. The doctor/therapist will not be able to respond, but he/she can listen. This may help.

There's no question that addictions and bipolar are a tough thing to conquer. But don't make it even worse by hiding and covering up the addiction part hoping that it will magically fix itself.

Even if your loved one won't help himself, you can get help for yourself. Whether or not your loved one seeks help, you can get support to help you make your situation better. There are a number of programs that are designed to help family members cope and deal with loved ones with addiction problems. If you shop around, you can find one that also understands bipolar (since it often goes hand in hand with addictions).

The two main organizations are: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous. You can find Narcotics Anonymous at http://www.na.org/basic.htm and you can find Alcoholics Anonymous at: http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/.

NOTE: These groups have various chapters all over the world. Realize that each chapter is slightly different even though they are all part of the same organization. So you may have to 'shop' around to find the chapter that best fits your situation. You also may have to go to 5 or 6 to get a feel for each chapter or group. Even though it's work, it will be worth it. Just don't be lazy and give up after 10 minutes of research. Just like recovering from an addiction itself, coping with being the loved one of an addict is work, and requires dedication and commitment on your part.