What to Do If Your Partner, Family Member or Friend Abuses Alcohol or Drugs
Always take care of yourself first. This is the first principle when dealing with a possibly addicted loved one, and the principle exists for good reason, although it is not intuitive for those new to the disease. Many people have given up their own health and happiness trying to help a loved one with drinking, but it simply doesn’t work well for anyone involved. Living day in and day out with a partner or family member who has a drug or alcohol problem can be a difficult, heartbreaking, and dangerous experience. No actions that you take as a friend or family member will make them get sober. If you sacrifice your own well-being to try to make them get sober, it will probably end in heartache or worse.
You can find support, answers and resources through Al-Anon, a mutual support group for people affected by a loved one’s addiction. Many addiction treatment programs and substance abuse professionals offer support and education for friends and family members, also. This includes Florida Springs in Panama City, the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida. A family inclusive program is one of the founding principles of Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery.
Dealing With Denial
Even though it is shocking when looking from the outside, people who binge drink alcohol every day, and have massive negative consequences from that drinking, are often capable of denying they have a problem. In reality, even people who drink much less than that can have a substance abuse disorder, if their life is getting unmanageable or they are unable to stop drinking even when drinking is harming them. This is normal, but it can be extremely frustrating when trying to talk to them about it. Always remember, a caring and compassionate approach is usually more likely to break through this barrier of denial. When faced with a hard denial from a loved one, it is okay to back away from the situation. People with substance use disorder often come around later, after a seed has been planted by a loved one who spoke to them about alcoholism. Never stop showing concern, tell the person you will be there if they want to talk about drinking, or even seeking treatment, in the future. What to say? You can say something like, “I value you as a friend, and if you change your mind and want to talk or seek treatment, I will do whatever I can.”
Always be prepared with good information. Many family members of alcoholics have helped themselves and others by learning about the disease of addiction. Some of the best support comes from being able to offer good information. Websites like SAMHSA.gov have great resources for both sufferers and loved ones of sufferers to educate themselves. Information will be your armor in the battle with this terrible disease of addiction.
What Does Support and Encouragement Look Like
People with addiction are not bad people. They are people with a serious medical condition. Your family member or friend may have stolen from you or others in the past, or hurt you in any number of ways. Many people who wronged others get sober and completely change the way they deal with other people. Many people who stole from friends get sober and never steal again. Many people who hurt someone while drunk would never think of doing the same thing again while sober. Addiction is a disease, and it’s been recognized as such by the American Medical Association since 1956. Blame or criticism may be well founded, but it won’t help get the person into medical treatment. You are speaking up because you care about your friend’s life and health, not to force them to do something they don’t want to do. Sobriety may completely change their life, but you can’t do it for them. Offer support, educate yourself, encourage positive change.
That doesn’t mean you can’t mention the things that have made you concerned in the first place. If you must make the case that treatment is necessary, you will likely have to bring up previous events. Be specific about what happened and why it was harmful/unacceptable. Rather than saying “You have lied to me 1000 times”, you should say, “I know you lied to me the other day and that you were drinking, this is how I know, and I love you and want to help.” Telling a loved one how their drinking is affecting you is part of the process, and it can be done without blame and without causing unnecessary resentment or hostility.
Talk about the effect your friend’s drinking or drug use has on whatever he or she cares about most: career, children, sports, etc. This is how people get sober. The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us that life becomes unmanageable while living with substance use disorder. That unmanageability leads to us losing the most important things in our lives eventually. You must encourage your loved one to take steps to save themselves and those things they hold most dear. If you are reading this article in order to help a loved one struggling with drinking, that is incredibly admirable. Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center is the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, located in Panama City, and we support everyone fighting to save lives from the disease of addiction.
By Tim Cannon
- Hazelden Betty Ford, Al-anon Information. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/what-can-i-say-to-get-you-to-stop
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.gov)