Living with a drug or alcohol user- why you need help too.
Living with someone who has problems with drugs or alcohol is usually an all-consuming, emotional and relentless journey. You love them so you keep going and before you know it, every waking moment is spent thinking about them, their problems and how you can make it better. You haven’t even time to think about help for yourself. Sound familiar?
Your feelings are determined by what your loved one’s behaviour is like that particular day. Have they had a drink? Have they used? How much have they used? How will I find out? I’ll ring so and so. They’ve let me down again. The children are upset. Oh no, will there be another row? Might they get violent? How can I stop it?
I get it. I’ve been there too.
Are they really addicted?
You may be in a bit of denial or not so sure yourself that your loved one has a problem. Some people spend most of their time together with their loved one and friends using substances themselves so maybe you’re thinking have I really got room to talk? Everybody else does it. Maybe because they are not using every day then they can’t be an “addict?”.
Forget that word, “addict”, for now. I prefer the term, “problematic substance use”. It’s a bit easier to understand that if somebody is having problems in other areas of their life because of drugs or alcohol then they are having problems. These problems aren’t a one-off, and a number of aspects of life such as relationships, work, finances, health and so on may be affected. Something needs to change. Sometimes, this might be a friend or family member having a chat and helping them realise. Sometimes, they may be in denial or need some specialist help. This all depends on the individual, the amount of their substance being used, frequency and how long it has been going on. Unfortunately, nobody can make your loved one access support. You can only influence it. It is their decision to get help.
If your instinct is telling you that you loved has a problem and you also have evidence for this, then they probably have. It might also be completely obvious.
What is so hard about asking for help?
If you know your loved one has a problem, you can influence them to access treatment, but when it comes down to it, it is their choice. There are lots of treatment options for substance misuse which I can talk about another time. It is useful for you to know this, in case an opportunity arises for you to discuss this with them at a time when they are sober.
What we are never good at is asking for help or admitting we need this ourselves! Why?
There are loads of reasons. You might be so intently focussed on your loved one getting help that you don’t even consider yourself at all! Unsure about what support is out there for you? Perhaps you are worried about people finding out for all different reasons, like wanting others to just think you are living a “normal” life. Lots of powerful emotions like fear, anger, worry, shame, embarrassment, frustration and guilt, as well as not wanting to let our loved one down are barriers to accessing help.
These are all common feelings and thoughts of family members affected by a loved one’s substance use. You’re not on your own, have a look at the stats from ADFAM’s evidence pack which was published in 2012! ADFAM are amazing. Have a look http://www.adfam.org.uk/docs/adfam_evidencepack.pdf
Remember that your loved one choosing to drink is not your fault. NACOA have lovely words for children with alcohol misusing parents which I think are important for you to remember too:
I didn’t cause it
I can’t cure it
I can’t control it
I can take care of myself
I can communicate my feelings
I can make healthy choices
I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone in your situation.
If you’re still here, you know that your loved one has a problem, we’ve considered some of the feelings and daily thoughts you might be experiencing and you know you’re not on your own. So, what have you got to lose? I’m wondering if there is anything else stopping you from getting your own help.
I know from working with families affected by substance misuse for many years that there can also be a number of practical reasons why it is difficult to get help (as well as the above):
- Work may mean you can’t go for sessions during the day.
- Childcare- you might not want to leave your children with your loved one.
- Evenings may be taken up with other responsibilities, if not work.
- You might just be knackered all the time and not have the energy.
- What’s out there might not be your thing.
- Fear of leaving your loved one alone.
There is some help out there to suit everyone. You might think that once your loved one gets into treatment, you will get help too. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as your loved one needs to give consent for you to be involved in their treatment journey. If they don’t, you may not get support yourself. Some services do offer family services as part of their recovery process which is fantastic. Have a look yourself online and see what’s available for you in your area.
How the Vesta Approach is different
I set up The Vesta Approach because I know how difficult it is for some of you to even get out of the house. I offer my service face to face in Manchester, UK. Don’t worry though, as you don’t even need to go out to access my programme as I offer Skype sessions and soon, an online therapeutic programme. Read more here https://vestaapproach.co.uk/services-2/
This service is for you. I will teach you how to respond differently to your loved one’s substance use in an evidence based programme that supports you to recover from your loved one’s drug or alcohol use, get them into treatment and improve your quality of life.
If you want to know more, sign up to my mailing list and receive my “Ten Steps to Family Recovery Guide” to give you a taster of the programme and my top tips to starting your recovery journey https://vestaapproach.co.uk/ten-steps-family-recovery/
Remember that you are not alone so take that first step and have a look at what help is out there for you.
See you next week,