Are you wondering what to do if a family member is on drugs?
Drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of families every day. Watching the tens of millions of loved ones throw their lives away to alcohol and drugs takes a toll on more than just the substance abuser. It stresses parents, partners, friends, siblings, and all the loved ones of those individuals.
One of the first steps to take when dealing with a substance abuser is to educate yourself. Find out what is happening in their mind and body, what treatment options are available for their situation, and lastly, how you are going to approach the problem.
Once you know the options to present to the addict in your family, addressing them will become the task at hand, and it is never easy. Substance abusers are often mentally fragile, and commonly in a state of denial.
Defense mechanisms, including anger, are likely to result in a confrontation. You can call in a professional to approach your family member with you, but we also provide insight for how to do it on your own.
Tips on how to approach a family member with a drug problem:
- Make notes before you talk; make sure you address specific instances of problems
- Only open the discussion when the family member is sober
- Speak non-judgmentally
- Speak in private and in quiet
- Use “I” statements, so the conversation is about how you are affected by their actions; not judging their problem
- Prepare for denial and anger
- Offer your love and support for their betterment
- Stay positive
- Understand this may only be the first of many conversations
- Say what you came to say; do not give in to anger or upset reactions
If you are dealing with an addict before or after the time of approach, there are still many ways to ensure you are not enabling the substance abuse to promote better behavior by the family member.
How to help yourself when a family member is on drugs:
Anything you do to allow their current lifestyle to continue without complication is enabling. This includes helping with rent, cell phone bills, grocery food, car insurance; lending a car to drive; bailing them out when arrested; tolerating or making excuses for abuse or behavior; giving them more of the substance to ease withdrawal.
Try extending or returning privileges as a reward to lack of substance use, paying bills, going to work consistently, etc.
Avoid personal abuse: The emotional abuse from a family member who is addicted to drugs is immense, and it will likely be disguised as your own guilt for trying to help them. If you are feeling guilt, shame, stress or sadness, you need to make a change or seek professional help to resolve the situation. Physical abuse should be reported to and taken care of by authorities. Do not ignore abuse.
Put more effort into well-being
Dealing with a family member who is addicted to drugs is going to be a taxing experience, there is no way around it.
During this period, put an extra emphasis on your own health and wellness – get to yoga, meditate for ten minutes, see a therapist, step outside, do things that remind you joy is abundant and all around you.
You will need your fuel as you live with and help your family member through substance abuse.
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References and Resources