Are you stuck with trying to help your husband, wife or other family member with their drinking or drug use? You are probably is a position where you feel you have tried everything and nothing works. They wont stop, they’re lying and you are stressed out with a combination of trying to help them and getting mad/upset with their behaviour. The model I use in my family work was written by Phil Harris. He wrote a guest blog for me last year about the history of the programme and how effective it is. Check it out here. This blog is about four ways you can help yourself with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.
I want to explore some strategies you can use to help get your loved one not only to accept, but get into treatment for their drug or alcohol use. More importantly, this will reduce your own stress and pressure and improve your quality of life, whether your loved one changes or not!
Did you get that? The focus in my family work is for YOU to get your own help in your own right. I can’t tell you how many calls I get from family members to get their loved one’s into rehab or to work with them, even though they have no intention (currently) of changing! Family members need help too. They are so used to neglecting themselves that they don’t even think about their own needs.
The starting point
The first thing I always advise is to accept the drug and alcohol use into your life. Stop fighting against it. It just takes away all your energy. I’m not saying you need to accept it forever, or forgive alcohol or drugs, but accept it enough so that you can work with it. This is hard but a necessary step.
Once you’ve done that, if you can put these four strategies into place, and stick to it, you will see a change and tip the balance so that the negative consequences of their substance use outweighs the positives. In other words, by changing the environment your loved one is living in, you will help to make drugs less attractive to them. They will also see the benefits of being sober. Sound easy? It’s not, It’s hard. It is a long process and you will need to be consistent.
The 4 key strategies for family members affected by a loved one’s drug or alcohol use are:
- Withdraw from a loved one when intoxicated-ignore ignore ignore when under the influence. Don’t get into it. Get away. Go to bed. Go out. Anything you can but do not take on board what a loved one is saying. EVER! Only listen when they are sober. Send a clear message that you will not offer your company when they are using their substance of choice. They will only get you when they are sober. This will also reduce your stress and anxiety and store your energy for yourself.
- Reward when sober- This doesn’t have to be outings, anything from telling a loved you like spending time with them when they are sober, to doing something you like together (a sober activity!) or making their favourite dinner. This is telling them that when they are sober, they get your company and a reminder of how good life is without their substance.
- Disable enabling- avoid doing anything that makes your loved one’s drug or alcohol use easier. It’s useful to make a list of how you might make it easier for them. Helping must not involve anything they can do themselves or that rescues them from the consequences of their drug or alcohol use. Examples of this are clearing up their mess, calling in sick to work, giving them money, making excuses for family and so on!
- Use positive communication techniques, even when you want to scream! Again, the best way to do this is to walk away when you are filled with emotion, particularly if your loved one is under the influence. Walk away and don’t address anything with them until they are sober (or as sober as they ever get). It can be so tempting to forget everything when a loved one is sober and you are getting on great, just to keep the peace, however, these are the times you need to bring how you feel up. The best way to do this is by using I-Messages. Instead of saying you this, you that. Try this;
I would like it if…
Give these strategies a go. It’s not easy to do this on your own but you can join my Facebook Group, Vesta Confidential, for support from others in your situation and for information and advice from me.