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A Loved One Has a Substance Abuse Issue: How to Cope

Educate Yourself about Substance Abuse

How to Cope with Loved One's Substance AbuseDon't stay in the dark about drinking and drugs - the more you understand about the facts, the greater your understanding will be about what someone's going through, and how he or she can overcome it.

If you're not sure what kind of drug an individual is using, or whether one has an addiction, education will help you recognize certain behavior patterns or health issues an individual may have that are associated with different types of substances and addictions.

Determine If You Are Safe

Sometimes people can behave unpredictably when they drink or take drugs. Their moods and actions can become erratic, which at best can be embarrassing or frustrating for friends and family, but at worst can become aggressive or violent. You have the right to put your safety and the well-being of your family first. If you're living with a person whose substance abuse or addiction behavior puts your safety at risk, consider having a backup plan. That plan may include arranging with family or friends to stay with them, or knowing where you can go in your community if an emergency arises.

Substance Abuse is a Disease

It is important to realize that substance abuse is a disease. The person who is truly addicted is not able to take control of this problem without professional help. As a loved one, you cannot stop the individual's substance abuse. Families can, however, avoid covering it up or doing things that make it easy for the person to continue the denial. Encourage your family member or friend to get the treatment needed through a professional licensed treatment provider or family physician.

The Goal Is Recovery - Not To Stop Abusing

This is not the time to demand your loved one stop abusing alcohol or drugs. The goal is simply to acknowledge that you believe your loved one needs treatment. You want this person to know you care about him or her and that you can help with entering treatment.

State calmly that you believe drug or alcohol use is occurring, provide the evidence, and what you want the person to do about it.

Be supportive and truly listen to his or her responses, but be firm in your course of action and refuse to argue with the person.

Have a definite 'next step' plan in mind, including a contact person at available treatment center, telephone numbers, etc., so you can proceed immediately if he or she should agree to treatment.

Avoid a moralistic tone about substance abuse. It is better to focus on the consequences that you have observed for the person and for his or her family.

Talking to Someone Who Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

Perhaps you feel upset, angry, frustrated or even ashamed about someone's problem. Whatever you're going through, it's okay to feel the way you do. What's more, it's often worth talking to the person about your feelings - being honest may even encourage one to open up to you about underlying emotions, too. When you talk with someone about drinking and drug use, listen and respect what he or she has to say. It may also help the individual to face up to the problem. If someone shuts you down initially, it may be more difficult to get him or her to open up later. Just listen.

Make Time for Yourself

However much someone else's problem has become a part of your life, it's still important to take care of yourself properly. Don't feel guilty about spending time doing what you enjoy, such as a hobby or socializing with friends. If the situation is affecting your studies or work, make sure you tell someone (such as a tutor or colleague) so that you're given the understanding and space you need to help you cope.

Figuring Out Who Is To Blame for Addiction

Whatever issues have led an individual to develop an alcohol or drug abuse problem, you are not to blame. Addiction is not something that one person can do to another.

Someone you know who abuses drugs or alcohol may blame you for addressing the problem, the individual may see their behavior as your problem. The person believes the problem is not with oneself, but with everybody else. Even if you are correct in assessing the substance abuse problem, understand that you may be blamed for accusing the individual. Just remember, you are not to blame for another person's drug or alcohol abuse.

Understanding Co-Dependency and Enabling

A co-dependent relationship occurs when you are involved with a person who abuses drugs or alcohol and you enable his or her behavior. It's when you cover up for the individual when he or she lies, makes mistakes, or doesn't show up for work due to the addiction. You make excuses for the behavior, give money or in other ways take care of the individual even though he or she can, and should, but don't because of a substance abuse problem. You may believe you are helping your spouse, friend or family member, but ultimately you are only enabling your loved one to continue abusing drugs and alcohol while depleting your own energy and resources.

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