Having a family member or friend with an alcohol or drug problem is hard. You will know only too well about the damage they are doing to themselves and those around them. For you it seems crazy they can’t see the damage they are doing and why they can’t just stop their behaviour. Some people even start to think it's in some way their fault. But you need to accept there is nothing you alone can do to help.
Pleading, begging, bribing, reprimanding and delivering ultimatums won't work. Your relative or friend is trapped in their cycle and has lost the ability to care about themselves. All they want is their next drink or drug fix.
Help Me Stop offers a free drop in group for family members, friends and colleagues who are concerned about someone's drinking or drug taking. The goal of this group is to:
Contact us to find out more about our free drop-in sessions.
In the meantime, here are a few techniques that you might want to explore:
It can be really hard to empathise with someone with an alcohol or drug problem. But often it's the best way to make a connection with someone who's struggling.
People always want to make decisions for themselves, so instead of trying to force decisions on them, an empathetic approach can help them come to the right conclusion themselves.
If they feel something is their own decision, they’ll be much more likely to do it. The goal of your conversations is to help them accept they have a problem with alcohol or drugs that they need to do something about it.
The best approach is to:
Laura's husband, Andy, was a heavy drinker when she met him, but when the children came along, she hoped he would calm it down. Unfortunately, his drinking seemed to increase, meaning he would often get home from work late, and drunk. And weekends were often ruined by his drinking bouts and hangovers that left him in bed most of the day.
Confrontations usually turned into big arguments with Andy denying he was drinking too much and accusing Laura of being a kill joy. In reaction, he would drink even more - blaming Laura for 'driving him to it'.
After months of being left to look after the children on her own when Andy was either drunk or hungover, Laura was on the brink of leaving. She knew Andy needed help, but he wouldn't listen, and didn't acknowledge he had a problem.
Laura changed tactics and began to ignore Andy's drinking. She made sure she was already in bed when he came home from work, and she arranged activities with the children without including him. She stopped mentioning his problem and left him to do as he pleased.
After a few weeks of Laura's detachment, Andy began to realise his drinking was causing his family to pull away from him. Laura's boundaries helped Andy to finally admit he had a problem.
Being empathic doesn't mean you have to roll over and accept your friend or relative's behaviour, nor does it mean you have to enable their continued addiction. Setting boundaries is key to creating strong relationships in all walks of life. Boundaries establish guidelines for suitable behaviours, responsibilities, and actions. Alcohol and drug issues often distort family roles: it turns family members into caretakers, scapegoats, doormats, enablers and pleasers, setting boundaries can negate these things.
When your boundaries are weak – or don’t exist at all – you are compromising your own needs as well as enabling your loved one to “get away with things”. When you set boundaries, you increase the chances that he or she will seek help. Setting boundaries involves taking care of yourself, understanding your wants and needs, and determining what you don’t like, want or need. It also involves clear communication with your loved one with real consequences that you will need to follow through on.
Some of the boundaries you might want to set are:
Alcohol misuse thrives on chaos and lies. Setting boundaries will help to remove you from such chaos and will force your friend or relative to take ownership of their actions and behaviours.
When your friend or relative eventually has the light bulb moment and decides they need help, the window of opportunity can be very short. Recovery is not the same for every person, so knowing the treatment options and finding what’s best for them is an important factor when deciding on treatment.
Talking to one of our team or coming to the drop in is a good way to explore these. Choosing the right treatment can mean the difference between success and relapse.
It's important to give your friend or relative some choices, so provide them with a menu of options for them to look at and let them decide themselves. Ultimately it must be their decision, so let them know you will support them with whatever treatment option they choose.
The world of alcohol and drug addiction treatment can be overwhelming. The team at Help Me Stop have years of experience in helping people recover from alcohol and drug problems and are more than willing to discuss your personal circumstances. We give unbiased advice, so we'll tell you honestly whether our service meets your needs. If we feel we can't help, we'll advise you on other options.
If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or know someone who does, please get in touch for free, confidential advice.