Having a family member or friend with an alcohol or drug problem is hard. You love them but providing support can seem like you are enabling their addiction or making the problem worse. At Help Me Stop, we understand this issue and so we provide advice and support for friends and families.
The best advice we can give anyone is to call a professional to discuss your situation. 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. We also have a family plan as part of our treatment that offers 20 hours of family treatment for up to 2 family members or friends. It also does the following:
Provide information about the nature of alcohol and drug issues and give an understanding of the 12-Step Programme.
To give strategies on improving quality of life.
To advise on how you might help-seeking treatment seem more attractive to your loved one than drinking or taking drugs.
To outline various treatment options and to explore more about our programme.
Contact us to find out more about our free drop-in sessions.
There are some general pieces of advice for anyone dealing with an addict that we have included below.
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. That is not to say they don’t care about you or your relationship but addiction is clouding their judgement.
Keeping conversations generalised and open-ended rather than accusatory and attributing blame or putting them on a guilt trip.
If the conversation gets heated, walk away rather than digging your heels in and arguing.
Do not give solutions when you haven’t been asked.
Change your approach – if you keep doing things the same way the outcomes will also be the same.
Contact someone like Help Me Stop for professional help and advice.
One of the most important things to do with someone struggling with drugs or alcohol is empathise. This can be hard 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.
Another important step is to set boundaries. 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 the key to creating strong relationships.
Some of the boundaries you might want to set are:
No drug use at home and/or drunkenness around me and the children (if there are any): Let them know what substances and behaviour are acceptable and unacceptable in the home and when they are out with you and your children. Make sure they understand the consequences of violating those boundaries. Will you force them to find somewhere else to stay if they break this boundary or will you leave yourself? You must follow through with any consequences you have set out.
No financial bailouts: By setting the boundary to no longer giving financial support, you're focusing on your own well-being and mental health. Remember, setting boundaries won’t cure the alcohol and drug use – but it will protect you and your family. You may need to put tighter controls on any joint accounts or set up your own separate account to protect your money and pay the bills from.
No lies, excuses or cover-ups: Setting a clear boundary that you will not lie, excuse or cover up the consequences of their drug and alcohol use sends a message about their personal responsibility. If they are hungover or “strung out” and aren’t going to work then they will have to phone in themselves. If they miss a family occasion or other form of gathering due to their drug or alcohol use then they will have to provide their own reasons for not attending. They need to know that, if you're asked where they are, you will not lie on their behalf.
The final piece of advice is to research your treatment options and get professional help. 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. Once the options are laid out help them choose the one that works for them and get professional help.
If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or know someone who does, please get in touch for free, confidential advice.