Are you struggling with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use?
Tried everything and nothing’s changing?
Want to get them help but they don’t want it or won’t accept they have a problem?
In this blog, I’m going to cover some top tips for family members, partners or friends who are living with a loved one’s alcohol or drug use.
Astonishingly, 1 in 10 people are struggling with a loved one’s problem drinking or drug use in England and Wales (source: 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.
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.
Substance use affects the whole family, not just the person having problems with it.
You may be entitled to carers support. There are amazing carers services that can help you out and 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, 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 use, you already know it’s a problem at this point and it probably isn’t going to go away without support.
There are services out here for family members.
Ultimately… we cannot make decisions for someone else, we need to focus on what we can do for ourselves.
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, this is what you can do…
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?) but focus on one or two things at a time that are most important.
Sound silly? Nope. It’s not. Think about the positive reinforcement we use with toddlers or dogs? 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.
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.
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 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 those that are genuinely helping. These can be things like supporting and encouraging your person to get help, such as through Help Me Stop and minimise any enabling behaviours that feel safe to stop.
The message is: Use the substance and I don’t really want to be around it.
Leave without conflict or passive-aggression and go and do something nice for you. 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.’
Who am I?
I’m Victoria Seed and I offer a private and 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, in improving their own wellbeing and to have the best chance possible of getting a loved one the help they need.
I have a free download, Ten Ways to Family Recovery where you can get these tips and more, a handy checklist and useful organisations to help you and your family.
If you would like a friendly chat about how I can help, just drop me an email
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Please note, this family support is not a replacement of the support Help Me Stop offer to clients and their families.
*Please note, if your loved one has experienced any obvious signs of withdrawals or require a detox or, please seek professional advice*
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