I know you are feeling tired frustrated and at the end of your tether and that is why you are here, looking for answers. While this might not be the answer you want, I have to tell you that you can’t stop your loved one drinking or taking drugs. Why not? Because it is their decision to make. What can you do? You can influence their behaviour and I can show you how.
Why wont they stop?
When somebody starts using drugs or alcohol, they have a choice when they start using and probably believe that they are fully in control of whatever they are taking. There are many factors involved as to why someone becomes an “addict” or, as I prefer to say, has problems with alcohol or drugs. This can include having a genetic disposition if there is a history of addiction in the family. Environmental factors, such as where somebody was brought up, friendships and attitudes to alcohol within the family. This means that your partner may be more likely to develop problems with drinking than others. The other factor is that they continue to take drugs or drink because they are getting something out if doing so.
The other thing that happens when we drink or use drugs is that it affects the dopamine in our brain which regulates how we feel and think and respond to pleasure. Taking substances can increase to a point where an individual’s tolerance is increased, so they need more of the substance to produce the same effect. They then begin to experience withdrawals and may pick up a substance to ease the discomfort of this and this pattern of behaviour over a period of time, actually changes the way our brain works.
It’s all they want to do!
Dopamine affects decision making and impulsivity and eventually, it is difficult for a drinker to enjoy anything except their substance. Their brain adapts to the dopamine experienced from their substance so much that they struggle to get pleasure from anything else. Life becomes an obsession with drinking or drug taking, planning activities around it, withdrawing from it and then using again.
This means that the person you love is still that person, but they have lost an element of control over their substance of choice. This substance is contributing to the decision making for them. The promises your loved one makes and doesn’t keep have been overtaken by the need to have their drug or drink.
An important note is that a problematic drinker or opiate user should never stop using their substsnace without medical support. This is because if they are dependent, it is very dangerous to stop without supervision if they are physically dependent. Please always ask your loved one to seek advice from their GP or drug and alcohol service.
What can I do?
So, you can’t stop them using, as I have said it is their choice, but, what you can do, is focus on your quality of life and that of the rest of your family while learning strategies to influence your loved one’s substance use. You can live a better life without substances deciding how your day is going to go. You can also encourage your loved one to access treatment at the right time. You can make your loved one realise that they are missing out on brilliant things with you, your family and friends.
Here is something you can put in place right now. Think about 3 ways that you tried to stop your loved one drinking. Write them down. Then, think about how effective each strategy was is stopping or reducing their drinking.
Did your strategies work?
Now, think about how much effort you put into each strategy. Was it easy/hard? Write this down.
So, what has worked? What hasn’t?
If there is anything that has worked well, keep doing it. If they haven’t, stop doing them. Right now! Give yourself a break because in order to change things, we need the energy to be able to make those changes.
Doing the same thing over and over again with no effect is not working and is draining your precious energy.
Don’t worry if none of your strategies work as this is often the case.
Want to know how to get your loved one into treatment and live a better life?
I can help
My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area.
You can also get help via Skype and my online group therapeutic programme which I’ve launched this week! Take a look here
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