Let’s begin this article slightly differently than how it would normally be done. If you want to start an angry, “no-holds-barred” argument – something along the lines of World War III – with a loved one who is an active drug addict or a chronic alcoholic, all you need to do is simply constantly nag at them, moan at them, belittle them or even shout at them about their substance use.
Using derogatory language, with words like “failure,” “disgrace,” “embarrassment,” and “disaster!” will certainly get your point across more effectively, too.
Within a few short moments of your endless, negative, and unsympathetic badgering, all hell will break loose, and your home will literally become a war zone.
Raise your head above the trenches even for a second at your own peril…
Talking to a loved one – a brother or a sister, a parent, a husband or wife, a romantic partner, or one of your closest friends – about their abuse of drugs or alcohol is no easy thing, as you’d imagine.
However, speak to them in your normal, conversational tone, without any form of judgment whatsoever, without lecturing them on what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and do it all with genuine, honest empathy, you will be pleasantly surprised – they will listen to you.
You might find, too, if you discuss their substance use issue with them in this calm and concerned way, they may not only just listen – they may understand, too.
Or, at least, begin to…
You may not even need to broach the subject of the specialist medical assistance you believe they need, like a professional drug or alcohol rehab program, to get them well again – they’ll probably realize that basic truth themselves.
Here are a few things about drug and alcohol addiction you may not know:
- Substance addiction is not a moral failing. It is not a lack of willpower. It is not Instead, substance addiction is quite the opposite.
- Substance addiction is actually a severe form of a medical condition known as Substance Use Disorder (or SUD, for short).
- Substance use disorder is commonly defined as a: “chronic, relapsing brain disorder, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.”
- Just like other chronic diseases – such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma – SUD can be life-threatening if left untreated.
- The majority of chronic alcoholics and drug addicts are unable to stop drinking or using drugs without the need of specialist medical assistance, and in many cases, the need of a residential inpatient addiction rehab program.
- Individuals do not have to drink alcohol or use drugs every day to be addicted – many people in active addiction have good jobs, homes, and bank accounts, and they can be good partners, parents or friends.
Common Signs of Substance Addiction
In addition to the clearly negative consequences of substance use that you notice with your loved one, there are several common signs of substance abuse and addiction that can be witnessed in most addicts:
|● Noticeable increase in substance use (more than usual)||● Periodic failed attempts to control their drinking or drug use|
|● Only interested in social events where substances are freely available||● Clear change in personality when under the influence of substances|
|● Drives under the influence of substances||● Trouble at work and frequent absences|
|● Difficulties at home||● Showing signs of memory loss|
|● Boasts about their exploits when drunk or high||● Secretive and withdrawn about drinking or drug use|
|● Has frequent flu or colds, always sniffing||● Spends more time with people who drink or use|
|● Financial problems – borrowing money or bad credit||● Legal issues, eg. DUI or drug possession|
Expert Advice on Beginning “The Drug/Alcohol Use Conversation”
Addiction is a truly difficult topic to discuss with someone who is addicted. When a loved one of your own is dealing with addiction, it’s common for you to feel a multitude of different emotions.
In fact, it’s quite normal to be overwhelmed by it all.
However, it’s important for you to remember that there is always hope in recovery, and, equally, there are always ways you can help your loved one.
The most important first step is sharing your deep concerns with them, and that involves a conversation.
The Conversation: When?
- Do not try to talk when your loved one is drunk or high; it can be difficult for them to take in what you’re saying and understand, and the situation could escalate.
- Do talk when they are sober and clear-headed, like when they are hungover or remorseful following a drinking or drug-related incident.
The Conversation: What Do You Say?
- Do not worry about saying things perfectly.
- Do remember, the aim of the conversation is to express your concern in a caring and honest
- Additionally, do ask someone else or others who understand your concern, too, such as family members, other friends, an addiction specialist, or perhaps someone connected to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), to accompany you.
- Do not blame or criticize.
- Do be 100% supportive. You know that addiction is a medical disease. Be specific about what you’re seeing. Be encouraging, too. Talk about the effect your loved one’s drinking or drug use has on whatever he or she cares about the most.
- Do be prepared. Plan what you are going to say (you may even want to write it all down beforehand).
- Don’t be surprised, or take it personally if they say they don’t need help and refuse to discuss the issue with you. Denial is one of the most common symptoms of addiction.
- Do be ready with detailed information about local addiction resources and support services in your area if they say they are ready to accept help and support.
Substance addiction is a powerful and chaotic disease that deeply affects the individual’s ability to seek their own resolution to the condition. It is a viscous, spiralling circle of abuse that’s very difficult to break without professional specialist help and intervention.
Lastly, always remember to look after yourself, too. Stay safe.