When Someone You Love

Is Abusing Drugs and Alcoholáá

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 Removing yourself from the addiction cycle is probably one of the hardest things you'll ever do. It is the one situation where doing less can actually save a life.

áThere is a solidly based prescription for intervention and recovery that is fairly black and white. By sticking to these guidelines, you'll be most likely to get someone you love to seek professional help. First and foremost remember addiction is life threatening, then base all your actions upon that belief. Remember, when someone you love is using, the substance has taken over his or her thinking. Their job becomes saving that addiction. You aren't talking to the same person you talked to who was not using because the drugs have clouded their ability to make healthy decisions.áá They can look you in the eye and lie to you, not because they don't love you, but because the addiction has taken control and their fear of giving up that is intense.

It's time to throw away all you've been taught about nurturing and taking care of someone you love when they are down. You can show how much you care by exercising more tough love, and not letting the addiction pull you in. If you do, your life can be as chaotic and ineffective as the substance abuser.


Here's some ways you can show your loveáá

1. Get the help of a professional in planning an intervention. You'll be asked to document behaviors and situations in your life that were adversely affected by your loved one's drug or alcohol abuse. Then, you'll arrange a meeting with other significant people in your loved one's life where you will present that information, set your boundaries and request the person get into treatment. (Watch for more details on this in the months to come.)

2. Observe. Look for symptoms, then explore the Internet or talk to a professional to get a better idea of whether the person is using alcohol or drugs, and which ones. This will be helpful to you at the intervention, and also alert you if you see it in your home.

3. Do not give this person money -- no matter how sad their story is. In order to want help, the substance abuser has to face the consequences of his or her actions. That can't be done if you are shouldering those consequences. Therefore, if the rent is not paid, by having to face finding a place to live, her or she is more likely to want to change. Besides, you could give money to the substance abuser for years and only be feeding the habit. You would then be participating in their substance abuse by funding it.

4. Do not get lost in their manipulation. Remember that the substance abuser's primary motive is always getting the next drug or alcohol.

5. Promises are cheap. Watch behaviors. Don't believe someone who says "I have stopped using" or "I'll stop tomorrow." Addiction effects every area of one's life, relationships, work, and communication. Inconsistencies occur frequently when someone is using, and sometimes in early recovery, too. It's probably better for the whole family to enter counseling to help you through this time. Most therapists knowledgeable about addictions will insist that the substance abuser have random drug tests because even though they are trained, they realize it is easy toá be conned.á Their ultimate goal, as is yours, is to help the substance abuser maintain sobriety long enough to see that it is a better place than their using environment.

6. Get involved in Al-Anon. You may want to visit several meetings to find one that matches your personality. Commit to going at least 4 times because many times people are uncomfortable initially. "It seems like everyone else has too many problems," is often the comment. However, if someone you love is a substance abuser, you have problems, too. Sharing the hope, experiences and knowledge of others can benefit both you and the substance abuser because it will help you maintain healthy boundaries. There's a phrase in substance abuse treatment that may help you understand the importance of this. If you're too close to the person using you can become a "co-alcoholic." You may never take a drink or use a drug but your life becomes overwhelming and chaotic as you try unsuccessfully to save someone else. Remember, you have only control over yourself.á

7. Visit AA on an open night. Your emotions and feelings toward the substance abuser can include deep anger, hurt and fear. When you can sit quietly during an open meeting, you can absorb the recovery stories of others in the room. You'll begin to see that many people have become sober and traded their chaos for full, successful lives. You'll also see people in various stages of recovery. It won't be the time to share your personal experiences, as you would in Al-Anon, but it is a meeting that is open to family and friends because it ultimately will increase their understanding and support of a person in recovery.

8. Stand tough. If you think someone is using you're going to need to set some strong limits on your involvement. Let the person know in advance why you are backing away, then do what you say you are going to do. If you need to change your locks because you fear that person may come in and steal money, change your locks. If you need to keep your children away from the substance abuser because it puts them at risk, do it. Again, you are not only taking care of yourself and family but letting the substance abuser see that there are consequences for their actions.

8. Seek support for yourself, through friends, church, information and counseling. Do an emotional effectiveness thermometer, though. If you are just venting, it is probably not doing you any good. In fact, it can serve only as a Band-Aid to your troubles. You want to be connected to people who you can go to for feedback, problem-solving techniques and nurturing.

9. When you have progressed through all these things, accept that you have done everything you can do. There is freedom in letting go of all that responsibility for something that you can not change. Be true to yourself by taking the actions that are well-tested in intervening, then bite the bullet and let go. You'll find a weight has been lifted off your shoulder.

You may also find additional help in our online course Improving Your Relationships. Remember, though, if someone you love is addicted, that addiction gets in the middle of any relationship. Following the tips above will help you establish some strong support systems.

Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, NCC

Author: Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions 

ęCopyright 2001 Brenda Crawford-Clark

Copyright Brenda Crawford-Clark