The loved ones of addicts, whether it be dependency on drugs, pills, alcohol or a mixture of these, live a life that can be difficult for many to imagine. It is common for a loved one to want to help, but in reality, the loved one often becomes co-dependent. By these we mean that the loved one has allowed the addicts’ behavior and way of life control his/her own life, thus making the addict’s problem his/her own.
Giving away control of one’s own life can often lead to illness in the loved one as well as the addicted. Our experience is that co-dependents facilitate the life of an abuser through misunderstood care, allowing the abuser “get high in first class.”
Our social resources page is meant to help both loved ones and the addicted navigate some of the difficult social aspects of an addiction illness.
How to Talk to Someone About Their Substance Abuse.
As a loved one, you may need advice on how to communicate or relate to the person having a substance or mental illness. Many may feel a strong desire to help the sick. However, this can be difficult because the sick person does not always want help or refuses to realize that he/she has a problem. Below you will find some helpful advice on how to talk to someone about their substance abuse.
Substance abuse problems often carry a lot of guilt and shame with it, and talking about it can therefore be experienced as difficult both for the addicted and the loved ones. From our experience, we have learned that there are many relatives and friends of an abusers who wonder how to proceed in a conversation with the person who is suffering. There is no one size fits all templet for such a conversation. Everyone is different, but there are some general advice that may be helpful.
Here are some tips for communicating with someone who uses:
- The person should be sober (or as close to sober as possible) when having a conversation about their substance disorder.
- It can sometimes be easier to talk if you are out and about, instead of a “forced” conversation at home.
- Be calm when talking to the person and try to avoid being unreasonable. Don’t do this when you’re in a bad mood or upset.
- Ask the person about his/her use instead of making assumptions.
- When the person finishes talking, repeat what he/she has said (from what you understand) so that the individual can get the chance to correct any misunderstandings.
- Talk specifically about the person’s actions, rather than talking about his/her personality/ character. Don’t expect any confessions.
- Use statements that begin with “I” rather than statements beginning with “you”. For example: “I find myself worried/angry/frustrated when you …” instead of: “You make me worried/angry/ frustrated …”
- Stick to the topic, the person’s substance abuse. Don’t be dragged into quarrels or discussions on other topics.
- Don’t criticize the person’s substance abuse.
- Try to avoid terms such as “drug addict,” “alcoholic,” or other negative descriptions of the person.
- Avoid negative approaches that create feelings of guilt, such as bringing up criminal charges or moralization. This rarely contributes to change.
Does the person want to quit?
- What is needed for the person to make the decision?
- What does the person think he/she can do it?
- How can you as a loved one help?
- Is there a need to seek help?
Here you can read more about how to get started with treatment.
- Will the person agree to talk more later?
- Does the person want information on harm reduction and/or treatment options?
- Avoid attempts to control the person by bribes, threats, crying and the like.
- Do not use intoxicants with the person (including alcohol even if that is not the person’s problem drug).
- Do not take over responsibility for the person.
- Don’t make excuses for the person.
- Don’t deny the basic needs of the person like food, clothing and shelter (but don’t give him/her money either).
It is important to keep in mind that a single conversation is unlikely to change the person’s behavior immediately.
If you want additional information how to talk to a person who suffers from substance abuse, don’t hesitate to call StepHouse Recovery at 888-923-7623.
We Offer Intervention Assistance
Anytime someone needs help but refuses to accept it, a family intervention is appropriate, which can be done in a respectful and non-confrontational manner.
Do you need intervention help? Does someone you love need help, but are not willing to go through with getting the intervention help they need on their own? Staging an intervention is the most loving thing family and friends can do.
Because each family situation is different, the scope and approach to each intervention help must vary accordingly. What is practical and appropriate for one family may not be for another.
For example, some family interventions require several weeks of preparation, others can be done in a few hours or days. Others have a designated “intervention day” on which a formal intervention occurs, others not. Some family intervention help has a professional leader present, but many do not.
IMPORTANT! FAMILY INTERVENTIONS ARE DIFFICULT AND DELICATE MATTERS. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THEY ARE DONE PROPERLY. NO FAMILY INTERVENTION SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN WITHOUT ADVICE AND COUNSEL OF A PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCED IN THE INTERVENTION
Often a family intervention occurs in the person’s home, or occasionally in a professional’s office.
Some are a surprise, others are not. Sometimes a great deal of family education takes place before the intervention, in others it takes place afterward.
If you would like to stage an intervention for a loved one, please contact us or call one of StepHouse Recovery’s friendly staff at (855) 201-2832.
Rebuilding Relationships While In Recovery
We know better than anyone that coming face to face with the damage afflicted on to loved ones left behind and the amends that need to be made can be overwhelming.
The process takes time and requires a lot of patients. By using the tools, advice and approaches that are discussed below, we hope you will find a way to slowly rebuild damaged relationships while in recovery.
The process of repair and forgiveness is analogues to the circle of ripples that result from throwing a stone into a body of still water. It starts out small but slowly expands outwards. The first circle contains you and your higher power, the second circle contains your loved ones and your family, the third circle contains your friends and associates, and onward and onward until the entire universe is included. Our first advice is therefore to beginner with yourself.
- BEGIN BY FORGIVING YOURSELF
- LIVING AMENDS Anyone who has been or is part of a 12-step program knows that it is important to follow the steps and in order and not jump ahead. It is therefore important to distinguish between making amends (specified, which is covered in step 8-9) and living amends (which can be started early in the recovery process). As opposed to or taking a particular action like paying someone back, a living amends means a change in behavior and attitude. Through living amends you will learn how to live differently, bringing about a genuine change in day-to-day behavior instead of relying on verbal apologies alone. By embracing a living amends, not only will you take on a whole new way of life, but you allow that way of life to be demonstrated through your actions rather than your words. If you are living with your family, this can be simple changes like doing your dishes, engaging in family activities, do your best to avoid past behavioral patterns, etc. when it comes to friends, it can be small things like reaching out to hear who they are doing, prioritizing the relationship, and contributing with a positive attitude. Once your family and friends sees that you are not only making promises, but actual behavioral changes, then the rebuilding will slowly begin to happen.
- DON’T MEASURE THE REBUILDING BY YOUR YARDSTICK. When first becoming sober it can be easy to expect to be welcomed back by family and friends with applause and open arms. However, this might not always be the case. The more damage afflicted on the relationship the longer it might take before forgiveness is received. We therefore recommend that you do not measure your loved ones’ forgiveness process by your own yardstick. Try to avoid expectations of time and reaction. Give your family and friends time to trust and believe in you again.
- LEARN HOW TO LISTEN It is a known fact that people who are suffering from a drug, alcohol, or behavioral addiction are experts at explaining away whatever they are struggling with; a true master of rationalization. Continuing to do so is also very common in the earlier stages of recovery. However, when rebuilding relationships it’s important to learn how to listen without always having an explanation ready to be fired. Once you do, you may discover that your loved ones have something to say and that their perception of what was going on than vs. now is part of both yours and their healing process. Let them express their feelings to you – even if negative aspects of your past are brought up – without receiving any excuses in return. By learning how to listen without having to explain, you might helped them almost as much as you help yourself.
- ACCEPT THAT SOME RELATIONSHIPS CANNOT BE REPAIRED.
In early recovery it is common to realize that some relationships are beyond repair. However, accepting that fact is a whole other story. Knowing that someone you once considered a friend or even family now want nothing to do with you can be a particularly hard pill to swallow, nevertheless, you will have to respect that person’s decision. While you may want to attempt to reconcile even after they have turned their back on you, it is often best just to let the person be. This is hard, but it is still easier than the alternative of doing more damage. One day, they might be ready to talk and reconnect. But for that to happen, the best thing you can do for now, is leave it be.
- UNDERSTAND THAT EVERY RELATIONSHIP IS UNIQUE.
I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is to forgive someone who hasn’t yet forgiven themselves. If you want your family and friends to see the new you, you need to stop punishing yourself for the past and provide your loved ones with evidence that you have changed. The best way to do so is by learning to be a positive and productive member of the relationship that you are trying to mend.
When facing each family member/friend and their individual fears and resentments, it’s important to understand that the process of forgiveness will differ with each one. Some will definitely be quicker than others to forgive, and some will probably never be able to completely let go of the bad feelings caused by all the wreckage addiction has left in your wake. Yet, by believing in your heart that the process is as it should be, you can allow yourself to celebrate your present reality while remaining hopeful about the future.