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First steps: Understanding emotions and family when loved ones have problematic alcohol and drug use

By Tim Woodley

In this first of two articles, we’re hoping to help you understand and appreciate the emotions you’re probably dealing with right now. With greater context and explanation, you’ll be better able to process the feelings you have as a family member of someone misusing drugs and alcohol. By doing this, you’ll be better set to help them begin their road to full recovery.

Being close to a person misusing substances can be a whirlwind of emotion and distress. At a time like this, it’s important to accept your emotions and to seek guidance from professionals. As a family member to an individual misusing drugs and alcohol, you have real potential to help their rehabilitation if you act in an informed manner.

 

Appreciate the ‘ripple effect’ of drug and alcohol misuse

As is often the case in life, it’s important you allow yourself to ‘sit’ with any negative emotions you experience as a friend or relative to a person struggling with problematic drinking or drug use. 

Ask anyone who has loved ones and close friends who have experienced addiction; the pain and trauma spread from the affected person to those around them. If you are close to someone with such a predicament, it’s important to keep this in mind instead of feeling anger or guilt over your own ‘collateral’ suffering. It’s OK to be frustrated; it’s usually the case that the troubled person is seemingly immune to or unaware of the suffering and chaos they cause to those around them.

While the road to recovery - and the focus of work and attention - lies with the individual dealing with their problematic alcohol or drug use, accepting and honouring the presence of your own pain and distress is important. By doing so, feelings of guilt about the difficulties you face are more easily understood and tolerated, despite you not being the person actually engaging in problematic alcohol or drug use. It’s OK to feel lost and hopeless at first; you aren’t flawed or at fault for experiencing these emotions.

As irritated and frustrated as you are probably feeling, it’s important to remember this: People always want to make decisions for themselves. Sometimes, all we can do is gently guide them towards making that choice for themselves.


Families matter. Here’s how our support for them differs from traditional rehabilitation

The family is a vital part of recovery for anyone misusing substances. Understanding how to best support a person as a family member is critical, and at first, it’s important to accept your possible lack of knowledge about treatment and recovery.

From there, it’s a simple first step to seek that knowledge from organisations like ours. Help Me Stop places great emphasis and priority on the family during and after recovery, and our process for any person who comes through our doors usually begins with advising those people on how they should and should not act as the journey of recovery begins.

Where many traditional treatment services provide one hour per week for ‘family and friends’ support, Help Me Stop provides more support on a tailored basis. Our treatment process includes a free ‘point of access’ drop-in help for family members, allowing them to book in for an appointment at any time – even on the same day of their enquiry. These can be times where family and friends can ask questions and learn more about our processes, or can simply be used to ‘de-load’ intense emotions in a safe, judgement-free space.


Life can become better once more

If you are a friend or family member to a person misusing alcohol or drugs, life is likely very challenging at present. We hope you’ve found our article informative, and the Help Me Stop team would like to remind you that life can return to a happier, more normal place once recovery is undertaken properly and with professional help.

Be sure to return to our blog section for our second ‘First steps’ article, which will outline practical first steps to take in helping a loved one misusing drugs and alcohol. If you’d like to speak to a member of the team urgently or in future, please feel free to either call us on 020 191 8920 or by email via our contact form.

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