Dealing With Alcohol or Drug Problems / Addictions in Relationships – Marriage Counselling Advice
Watching someone, you love harm themselves with alcohol or drugs can be very painful. I am passionate about this topic because I use to suffer from a secret crushing daily drinking habit years ago, where despite wanting to stop, I found I could not. Thankfully I sort help and recovered and my life is so much better now I am free of it. Free not just of the excess drinking but free from the mental thinking about drinking, the self-hate, guilt and shame that used to come with it. The good news is millions recover every year and say the same, they love their new life. Unfortunately though, I do have a family member that is struggling to control their alcohol, they don’t drink every day but when they do they find they cannot stop and get into all sorts of trouble. So I do know how hard it is to sit there and watch while they change personality, stop communicating and do things they wouldn’t normally do. It hurts because you love them, care for them, care for their health and relationships. Many people think an alcoholic or a drug addict is the sterotype of a man on a park bench or someone waking up and taking a substance first thing in the morning– this just isn’t true. It’s whenever it is causing a problem, such as relationship problems, mental or physical health issues, financial problems.
If you have a suspicion that a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, it can be hard to know what to do. Part of you may want to approach them and ask them to see a counsellor, doctor or to enter rehab. The other part of you might fear that the loved one will become aggressive, abusive and sever the relationship you have with them. Therefore you may want to keep quiet and sweep it under the carpet. Part of you may feel like you have already tried everything and feel hopeless and helpless in this situation. If this is true for you, then you are not alone and are in the right place.
The most common questions I get asked are
What do I do if they refuse to talk about it?
What do I do when they keep denying they have an alcohol or drug addiction?
What do I do when they blame me for their drug / alcohol addiction?
There are various ways to approach a loved one with a plan that shows a true desire, love, and concern, to help. It is vital for anyone who is dealing with this kind of situation to be aware though, that ultimately, the loved one has the choice to acknowledge that there’s a problem and accept help or to reject it. That is why it is crucial not to tell them what to do or to make threats. As it may back fire and in some circumstances lead to them not getting help in the future. Conversations conducted in positive way offering support and sharing concerns can have a powerful impact in the long run. The key thing to remember is that very rarely will drug addicts and alcoholics get help in the time frame you set out for them. For many drug abusers and alcohol abusers it’s a process. The process begins with them messing up, acting in a way they wish they didn’t, hurting someone (maybe you) or themselves and dealing with the shame of it. They will then believe that it will never happen again, as they will take control of it, by themselves. Then it happens again, they cannot seem to manage to take control of it and this will make them want to try even harder to prove to you and themselves that they can handle the drug or alcohol and are not addicted and don’t have a problem. Sadly in my experience this dance of trying to take control of the addiction and dealing with the sense of failure when the drug or alcohol addiction wins can take weeks, months, years or decades before help is sort.
The reason I am sharing this is because, whilst discussions can be beneficial recognise that they are unlikely to be ready for help at the exact time you want them to get help.
Here are some practical tips that can help you based from my work where I have supported alcoholics, people addicted to steroids, prescription drugs, sleeping tablets, sugar, and illegal drugs.
If you want to talk to me about this then do take advantage of the free 30-minute personal breakthrough session I offer. Apply on the website.
Tips to Help with Alcohol & Drug Addiction In Relationships
EMPOWER YOURSELF: LEARN ABOUT ADDICTION
The first step toward helping a family member you suspect has an alcohol or drug addiction is to learn as much as you can about it. This can give you a deeper insight into their thinking and behaviour and also prepare you for the road ahead.
If you find yourself constantly assessing, monitoring and analzying your spouses / family members behaviour, you are likely to burn out. Focusing all of your attention and obsessing about them will only exhaust you in the long run. Plus they will hate that and become more secretive and withdraw from you further. So focus on learning more about their addiction, that is an action you can take and can control. When I speak to the husband or wife concerned about their loved ones alcohol or drug use, I educate them on the psychology behind it, the patience needed, how denial plays out.
There are also many resources on line that outline the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction, which some do find helpful. My only caution with this is be careful not to label them an addict, because no one even if it is true wants to be labelled or thought of as that way. They themselves have to realise that they are addicted to alcohol or drugs for them to address it. If they are not ready they may fight your diagnosis.
Learning about possible treatment options can help you feel more self-confident about talking with your loved one too. Showing you support them and have done some research of your own.
KEEP YOUR COOL
Know that at times, you’re going to feel as though your anger and frustration will overcome you, and when you experience these emotions, it’s vital for you to take a few steps back. Judging your loved one, or accusing him, or she of anything is only going to make your situation worse instead of better. The best advice I can offer for approaching an active alcoholic is to be as genuine as possible, remain calm even if he/she “pushes your buttons” and share some of your issues and concerns. Let them know that you don’t blame them the substances are after all addictive so it’s natural for someone after prolonged use; to become addicted. It takes 20 minutes for the body to cool down after it getting hot from anger, according to experts, so go for a walk, a shower, lie down and listen to some music or a meditation or call a friend to destress and unwind.
ROOTING OUT ANY ENABLING BEHAVIORS
It can be hard to acknowledge to yourself that someone you love has a serious problem. Enabling can take different forms depending on the age of the substance abuser, their status in the family, and the makeup of the family. When a family member is battling with an addiction, the whole family can often adapt to make room for it. This could include adjusting responsibilities, attitudes, expectations, finances, and communication.
Avoidance or denial are not effective ways to handle addiction. This is because both are a form of enabling. This means that you do things, intentionally or unitentionally -subconsciously, that allow them to continue using the alcohol or drugs. It is particularly common among husbands and wives of substance abusers. Ultimately though, you enable someone because you love them and you want to ease their pain or change their behaviour. Unfortunately, the result is more pain since they haven’t moved out of their alcohol or drug addiction. Sometimes, for an addict to get sober, the whole family needs to make changes.
This may be hard, as you will have to witness your loved one confronting the issues and overwhelming results of their addiction, but remember, these moments can help them to understand better the necessity of finding strength, hope, and help.
Here are a few practical guidelines to avoid enabling behavior:
- Don’t tolerate excuses, and don’t make excuses for them.
- Stop saving your loved one whenever they get in trouble.
- Set healthy boundaries and limits. I have another episode on this and do contact me if you have any questions on it.
- Talk to your extended family and friends and tell them not to assist or excuse the behaviour either
- If they do get help for their alcohol or drug addiction allow them to put their recovery first.
- You can provide incentives by telling them they can have certain things they want by stopping (occasionally this can work)
- If it’s at the stage where they are spending all their money on it and financial concerns are at play. Don’t indiscriminately give money to feed the addiction, better to buy things they need.
DON’T GIVE UP
This doesn’t mean commenting and criticizing whenever they’re drinking or taking drugs, but let them know your feelings and that you’re there for them and know they are better than their habit.
FIND PROFESSIONAL HELP
Alcoholic Anonymous provide an opportunity for members to find new friends that do not drink alcohol or drugs. Same with Narcotics Anonymous. Recovering with a group of peers who share the same problem can be liberating. You’re free to assist by proposing to go with him/her to Open meetings which means for general public. This can eliminate fears associated with taking the first step towards sobriety and drug addiction freedom.
Consider having support for yourself, whether that is from a friend, a counsellor, addiction coach, someone who can listen wholeheartedly to you without judgment or telling you what to do.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
An addict will often, deny, hide and lie about the truth. It’s a defensive mechanism and it’s to protect their own ego and image they have of themselves. It’s never about you. You also may think if they loved me, they wouldn’t continue to use alcohol or drugs. The thing is, most people forget the consequences when their drug of choice is put in front of them and find they cannot stop. Alcohol and drugs are powerful, so don’t assume that it’s true they don’t love you. Focus on beating the addiction together rather than each other.
It can be a challenging road; however, with motivation, compassion, and getting support when needed you will be best equipped to deal with the challenges it brings. Sadly some people will not commit to their own recovery and unfortunately there is nothing you or I can do about that.
If this applies to you and you would like to explore some support to help you handle this, do feel free to reach out to me to book an online call or meeting in a Dubai.