If you are supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder who is also an addict, then you are in a difficult position.  Unfortunately, you may be making some common mistakes that others in your position have also made.


1.      Being sympathetic instead of empathetic

When you are sympathetic toward your loved one, you are also being sympathetic toward their addiction and poor bipolar behavior, making it easier for them to maintain it.  Being sympathetic pulls you too far into the addiction and improper behavior. Being empathetic, however, means showing your understanding, unconditional love, and support in their struggle toward recovery without being pulled into the addictive process yourself.


The danger with empathy, unfortunately, is that too much of it can lead to co-dependency.  You need to balance it with getting your own needs met instead of putting your loved one's needs ahead of your own.


2.      They are part of the problem, instead of part of the solution

By keeping your focus on the solution, you keep your emotions in check and keep yourself from being pulled into the problem. You see an opportunity to act, and you act upon it. Then it becomes your loved one’s choice whether he accepts your help or not. Either way, you have offered it and you can feel good about that.


If you are focused on your loved one's addiction and poor bipolar behavior, then you are focused on the problem. By taking your eyes off this, you are focusing on the solution and will no longer be trapped in the problem – there will be space between you and your loved one, and you will be a more effective supporter.


3.      They don’t take care of themselves

You will be no good to your loved one if you are not good to yourself first.  You need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.  When your own well-being is intact, you will be more able to support your loved one.


4.      They fail to protect their finances and valuables

The most common cause of eventual financial crisis is the abuse of credit cards. Excessive spending is one of the characteristics of a bipolar episode, and also a sign of addiction as well.


Planning to protect your finances is essential – not because you can’t trust your loved one, but because you can’t trust the addiction or bipolar episode!


5.      They fail to protect their medications

You must also protect your prescription medication. Keep it locked up, hidden, or keep it on your own person if you need to. This is for your own protection. What would you do if you didn’t have your medication?  No matter how long your loved one is stable, there is always the chance that they will relapse and fall back into their old addiction or have another bipolar episode.  Remember to never let down your guard!