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5 Ways to Care for a Loved One Using Drugs Including Alcohol

Family member of loved one with drug or alcohol addiction
  • Are you struggling with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use?
  • Tried everything and nothing’s changing?
  • Want to get them addiction help?
  • In this blog, drug and alcohol family therapist, Victoria Seed, gives her top five tips for family members, partners or friends, who are living with a loved one’s alcohol or drug use.

Millions of Family Members and Friends are Affected by Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Astonishingly, 1 in 10 people are struggling with a loved one’s problem drinking or drug use in England and Wales (ADFAM: #Forgotten5Million Campaign, 2020). I hope you can seek some comfort in the fact that you are NOT alone. There’s no doubt that dealing with this issue causes a great deal of stress and worry for everyone involved.

Substance use affects the whole family, not just the person having problems with it. Family members, friends and partners often wait to see if things will change and really struggle with this situation, often at a cost to themselves emotionally and physically.

If you want to find out about the most affordable and flexible treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, contact Help Me Stop today. We provide low cost, effective Dayhab and Digital Dayhab programmes. With our Dayhab programme, we also offer an optional family programme, to support loved ones of people in treatment with us.

So What Can You Do as a Carer?

You may be entitled to carers support. There are amazing carers’ services that can help you out. You are well with in your rights to request an assessment. You can also contact your local carers’ service for help.

The message I would like to give you is this: as soon as an individual’s substance use causes you or your loved one problems, it’s time to get help. Don’t worry about diagnosing the seriousness of your loved one’s alcohol or drug use. You already know it’s a problem at this point. It probably isn’t going to go away without support. There are services out there for family members of people with problematic alcohol or drug use

Ultimately, we cannot make decisions for someone else. We need to focus on what we can do for ourselves.

5 Top Tips for Family Recovery

The priority is you and your wellbeing. It’s time to start putting yourself first. I can’t stress that enough!

In terms of your loved one’s substance use, here’s what you can do.

1. Set healthy boundaries

This sounds so simple, but hardly anyone I know has clarity around their boundaries. What will you accept? What won’t you accept? What do you need to consider if these boundaries are broken?

The next step is to tell them how you feel. I’d probably avoid going through a long list of expected behaviours (that never went down well at school, did it?). Focus on one or two things at a time that are most important.

2. Plan activities with you loved one that don’t involve alcohol or drugs

Show them there is more to life than their substance. Sound silly? It’s not. Think about the positive reinforcement we use with toddlers? It works. It’s exactly the same concept.

This isn’t about buying gifts or going on expensive outings (we can only dream!). It’s about naming the fact that you like spending time with your loved one when they are sober. It’s about planning to watch their favourite film to compete with the times that they normally use their substance. Showing them more love, care and affection. This is conditional. It only happens if they are sober.

3. Use positive communication

I know, I know. We get this rammed down our throats all the time, but how many of actually do it? The thing is, it is so important in this situation. Firstly, because shouting, screaming, crying, yelling, slamming doors, passive aggression DOES NOTHING except use every last bit of your energy. Secondly, because conflict can be a trigger to go and use a substance. When you want to get a point across, focus on your feelings and not your loved one’s behaviour.

4. Become a helpful helper

If a person experiencing problems with alcohol or drug use does not experience the natural consequence of their use, then they will not have any reason to change. Enabling is where a family member does so much for their loved one, that they remove these consequences, so the helping become enabling. The person using substances has really no reason to change, because the costs of change outweigh the benefits.

Family members I work with often cover up for their loved one, make excuses, call in sick to work, clean up after them, lie to children, minimise their behaviour, pay off dealers and a great deal more. It’s important to take stock of all the ways you have helped and whether this has actually (unknowingly and always from a place of love) made it easier to continue to use their substance.

Continue with the things that are genuinely helping. These can be things like supporting and encouraging your person to get help, such as through Help Me Stop’s Dayhab or Digital Dayhab programme. Cease any enabling behaviours that feel safe to stop.

5. Withdraw your company when your loved one uses alcohol or drugs

The message is: use the substance and I don’t really want to be around it. Leave without conflict or passive-aggression. Go and do something nice for you instead. You can simply say something like, ‘I can see you’ve had a drink. I prefer spending time with you sober, so let’s try this another time.’

Support for Family and Friends of People with Addiction

I’m Victoria Seed. I offer a confidential service to families affected by a loved one’s alcohol or drug use. I work with Help Me Stop to support family members in their own right, where their loved one is not yet ready to access help with their service.

I support family members with effective strategies to cope, helping to improve their own wellbeing and to have the best chance possible of getting a loved one the help they need.

I have a free download called Ten Ways to Family Recovery, where you can get these tips, a handy checklist and useful organisations to help you and your family.

If you would like to find out more about what I do, please follow me on LinkedIn or Facebook, where you can get in touch.

Please note, this family support is not a replacement of the drug and alcohol treatment programmes that Help Me Stop offer to clients and their families. Call 0208 191 9191 for a confidential chat about effective and affordable addiction help.

If you are caring for someone with a drug and alcohol problem, you can get fantastic and free support and advice at ADFAM or Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs.

Please note, if your loved one has experienced any obvious signs of withdrawals or require a medically-assisted detox from alcohol or drugs, please seek professional advice without delay.

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