Parents, Stop Feeling So Guilty – Maybe We Just Like Being Drunk or High

Addiction and alcoholism are some pretty misunderstood phenomena. Doctors don’t really know what’s going on, addicts themselves are hard pressed to explain just why they act as they do, and loved ones can’t fathom how we could let ourselves get and stay this way. And because the whole mess is just so bewildering, a lot of myths and half-truths supplant reality – myths that make a lot of sense, but that just aren’t true.

For example

It’s a myth that people need to hit bottom before they can benefit from treatment. A whole lot of people do finally get help after experiencing the worst, but they could have probably avoided all that pain by getting help sooner.

Treatment works better when it comes earlier. But most people believe the whole rock bottom thingy – and it’s not helpful. Now, I have to be careful here, because a lot of what’s backing my arguments to come are personal experiences, but I don’t think my path to addiction was so unique, in fact I think it’s a pretty common route.

So here goes…

I think that a popularly held conception has it that alcoholics and drug addicts use or drink as a way to escape from life’s problems or from past trauma or abuse. When someone we love becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, we tend to spend a lot of time searching for the reason why. We wonder what in their life was so traumatic as to cause this; and it can make us crazy, and in a lot cases, for parents especially, it can cause unnecessary and undeserved guilt.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I know that a lot of people do drink or drug to escape past trauma or to self medicate mental health issues – I just think there are also a whole lot of drunks that drink just because they like to drink. I was one of them. Raised by involved, loving and kind parents, given every middle class advantage, reasonably smart, best friends, little league; no unusual and tease-worthy physical defects – I had a fine childhood. And still I spent a decade drinking hard.

I discovered booze in my mid teens, and I loved it, couldn’t believe how much I loved it – loved just about everything about it; and I spent the next many years of my life enjoying it to great excess. I drank because I liked getting drunk too much. It fit just right inside my mind.

Eventually, of course, the drinking got less fun, certainly less exciting, and the negatives of drinking started to weigh heavily on my life and happiness. I knew I had to quit for a long time before I did anything about it. By then of course I was an alcoholic, and by then, quitting wasn’t so easy.

Now, I don’t tell you all this because my story is just so darned interesting – it’s not; but I’ve spent a lot of my life talking with drunks, some still drinking, some not – and as far as I can tell, my story is a pretty common one. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you got yourself addicted, once you are you have a struggle ahead of you, and I don’t think that falling into addiction this way is any "worse" than falling into addiction and abuse for any other reason. Nobody plans to become a desperate drunk, but we are all hardwired to seek out pleasure – and for those of us that seem to get more pleasure out of a drink than others, it’s understandable why we might get ourselves into trouble.

So if you’re tormenting yourself, trying to understand a loved one’s drinking, and just can’t think of any traumatic reason compelling such abuse – maybe there isn’t one – maybe they too just love getting drunk or high. And so maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. If you did something terrible, then you’d know it, probably – and if you can’t think of anything you could have done to cause them to drink or drug in this way – then there probably isn’t anything.

Addiction and alcoholism are some pretty misunderstood phenomena. Doctors don’t really know what’s going on, addicts themselves are hard pressed to explain just why they act as they do, and loved ones can’t fathom how we could let ourselves get and stay this way. And because the whole mess is just so bewildering, a lot of myths and half-truths supplant reality – myths that make a lot of sense, but that just aren’t true.

For example

It’s a myth that people need to hit bottom before they can benefit from treatment. A whole lot of people do finally get help after experiencing the worst, but they could have probably avoided all that pain by getting help sooner.

Treatment works better when it comes earlier. But most people believe the whole rock bottom thingy – and it’s not helpful. Now, I have to be careful here, because a lot of what’s backing my arguments to come are personal experiences, but I don’t think my path to addiction was so unique, in fact I think it’s a pretty common route.

So here goes…

I think that a popularly held conception has it that alcoholics and drug addicts use or drink as a way to escape from life’s problems or from past trauma or abuse. When someone we love becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, we tend to spend a lot of time searching for the reason why. We wonder what in their life was so traumatic as to cause this; and it can make us crazy, and in a lot cases, for parents especially, it can cause unnecessary and undeserved guilt.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I know that a lot of people do drink or drug to escape past trauma or to self medicate mental health issues – I just think there are also a whole lot of drunks that drink just because they like to drink. I was one of them. Raised by involved, loving and kind parents, given every middle class advantage, reasonably smart, best friends, little league; no unusual and tease-worthy physical defects – I had a fine childhood. And still I spent a decade drinking hard.

I discovered booze in my mid teens, and I loved it, couldn’t believe how much I loved it – loved just about everything about it; and I spent the next many years of my life enjoying it to great excess. I drank because I liked getting drunk too much. It fit just right inside my mind.

Eventually, of course, the drinking got less fun, certainly less exciting, and the negatives of drinking started to weigh heavily on my life and happiness. I knew I had to quit for a long time before I did anything about it. By then of course I was an alcoholic, and by then, quitting wasn’t so easy.

Now, I don’t tell you all this because my story is just so darned interesting – it’s not; but I’ve spent a lot of my life talking with drunks, some still drinking, some not – and as far as I can tell, my story is a pretty common one. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you got yourself addicted, once you are you have a struggle ahead of you, and I don’t think that falling into addiction this way is any "worse" than falling into addiction and abuse for any other reason. Nobody plans to become a desperate drunk, but we are all hardwired to seek out pleasure – and for those of us that seem to get more pleasure out of a drink than others, it’s understandable why we might get ourselves into trouble.

So if you’re tormenting yourself, trying to understand a loved one’s drinking, and just can’t think of any traumatic reason compelling such abuse – maybe there isn’t one – maybe they too just love getting drunk or high. And so maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. If you did something terrible, then you’d know it, probably – and if you can’t think of anything you could have done to cause them to drink or drug in this way – then there probably isn’t anything.

3 things grandparents can do to protect kids growing up in homes with substance abusing parents

Photo: LovelypetalDealing with substance abuse in the home, and worrying about the safety and welfare of grandchildren should never be thrust upon grandparents wanting only to enjoy and spoil their young grandkids. But with so many kids growing up in abusive homes, too many grandparents either assume the role of primary caregiver, or worry constantly about the safety of the kids. There a number of proactive steps grandparents can take to improve the situation.

Grandparents want to play with, enjoy and spoil their young grandkids, and they never want to be concerned about the stability of the home environment or worried about the safety of their young grandchildren. But with so many kids growing up in homes with alcoholic or drug abusing parents, too many kids, and by extension grandparents, have a lot more than normal to worry about.

About a million and a half kids in America are being raised by grandparents…and substance abuse and addiction is a major casual factor for grandparents assuming the role of primary caregiver; and while grandparents surely never wished for the responsibility of parenting again, the stress and concern of leaving kids in questionable or dangerous environments can be even worse.

The pains of addiction resonate through the family, and extend beyond the borders of the immediate family home, and nothing is worse than a feeling of impotence to effect change for the better and constant worry for the welfare of beloved grandchildren.

Getting help

The obvious solution to the problem is to convince abusing parents of the need to change behaviors, and to attend needed drug or alcohol treatments; if only for the good of the children. An organized family intervention with pre arranged and ready treatment can be extremely effective at convincing even unwilling and denying addicts of the need to concede to treatment. Nagging, shaming and lecturing don’t work, and can even exacerbate the level of abuse; and neither does pretending that all is well do anything to improve the situation. Proactive and constructive actions are needed, and an intervention is a great place to start.

If an intervention does not convince of a need for treatment, grandparents need to take other proactive steps to ensure the safety of the children in the home. The behaviors of addiction can be painful to bear, and although taking extreme measures to protect the children is never easy, acting out of concern for the welfare of the children is always appropriate, no matter how emotionally complex and difficult the decision to intervene may be.

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, there are three concrete things that grandparents need to do when children remain in an abusive household.

1 Get informed

To really affect daily realities, grandparents need to understand the nature of addiction and abuse, and understand the real risks to the children in the home. Information can be sourced from print and web resources, from professional organizations, and through peer support groups such as al anon, or other grandparents groups.

2 Know your options

No grandparent ever wants to call child protection services on their children, but if the situation becomes desperate enough, it may be required. Grandparents need to get educated as to the legal and community organizations offering support, and know what their legal and community options are in case of extreme eventualities.

3 Be a source of stability and comfort

Children of alcoholics or drug abusers crave stability and comfort, and grandparents can offer sanctuary and a needed place of emotional and physical escape to children suffering in abusive homes. Grandparents can be sure that children understand that addiction is a disease, and that the behaviors of addiction are all a part of the disease; and make sure especially that children understand that they are in no way at fault, that they didn’t cause the situation, and they are not responsible to change it.

Kids always want to love their parents, so grandparents should also strive to accentuate anything positive about the parent child relationship, and never to needlessly degrade the abusing parent.

Grandparents can do a lot to help kids in homes with substance abuse

Grandparents should never need to worry about the safety of their grandchildren, but too many kids are growing up in very negative environments and suffering the alcohol or drug abuse of one or both parents. Grandparents can help, and they need to get involved, try to enact change, look out for the safety and well being of their grandkids, and always be ready to offer needed comfort and stability.

Photo: LovelypetalDealing with substance abuse in the home, and worrying about the safety and welfare of grandchildren should never be thrust upon grandparents wanting only to enjoy and spoil their young grandkids. But with so many kids growing up in abusive homes, too many grandparents either assume the role of primary caregiver, or worry constantly about the safety of the kids. There a number of proactive steps grandparents can take to improve the situation.

Grandparents want to play with, enjoy and spoil their young grandkids, and they never want to be concerned about the stability of the home environment or worried about the safety of their young grandchildren. But with so many kids growing up in homes with alcoholic or drug abusing parents, too many kids, and by extension grandparents, have a lot more than normal to worry about.

About a million and a half kids in America are being raised by grandparents…and substance abuse and addiction is a major casual factor for grandparents assuming the role of primary caregiver; and while grandparents surely never wished for the responsibility of parenting again, the stress and concern of leaving kids in questionable or dangerous environments can be even worse.

The pains of addiction resonate through the family, and extend beyond the borders of the immediate family home, and nothing is worse than a feeling of impotence to effect change for the better and constant worry for the welfare of beloved grandchildren.

Getting help

The obvious solution to the problem is to convince abusing parents of the need to change behaviors, and to attend needed drug or alcohol treatments; if only for the good of the children. An organized family intervention with pre arranged and ready treatment can be extremely effective at convincing even unwilling and denying addicts of the need to concede to treatment. Nagging, shaming and lecturing don’t work, and can even exacerbate the level of abuse; and neither does pretending that all is well do anything to improve the situation. Proactive and constructive actions are needed, and an intervention is a great place to start.

If an intervention does not convince of a need for treatment, grandparents need to take other proactive steps to ensure the safety of the children in the home. The behaviors of addiction can be painful to bear, and although taking extreme measures to protect the children is never easy, acting out of concern for the welfare of the children is always appropriate, no matter how emotionally complex and difficult the decision to intervene may be.

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, there are three concrete things that grandparents need to do when children remain in an abusive household.

1 Get informed

To really affect daily realities, grandparents need to understand the nature of addiction and abuse, and understand the real risks to the children in the home. Information can be sourced from print and web resources, from professional organizations, and through peer support groups such as al anon, or other grandparents groups.

2 Know your options

No grandparent ever wants to call child protection services on their children, but if the situation becomes desperate enough, it may be required. Grandparents need to get educated as to the legal and community organizations offering support, and know what their legal and community options are in case of extreme eventualities.

3 Be a source of stability and comfort

Children of alcoholics or drug abusers crave stability and comfort, and grandparents can offer sanctuary and a needed place of emotional and physical escape to children suffering in abusive homes. Grandparents can be sure that children understand that addiction is a disease, and that the behaviors of addiction are all a part of the disease; and make sure especially that children understand that they are in no way at fault, that they didn’t cause the situation, and they are not responsible to change it.

Kids always want to love their parents, so grandparents should also strive to accentuate anything positive about the parent child relationship, and never to needlessly degrade the abusing parent.

Grandparents can do a lot to help kids in homes with substance abuse

Grandparents should never need to worry about the safety of their grandchildren, but too many kids are growing up in very negative environments and suffering the alcohol or drug abuse of one or both parents. Grandparents can help, and they need to get involved, try to enact change, look out for the safety and well being of their grandkids, and always be ready to offer needed comfort and stability.

Inaction is Enabling. Why Doing Nothing Doesn’t Help.

Curtailing enabling behaviors does not require complete inaction on our part.

We often confuse doing anything for enabling, while what enabling covers are only those actions of ours that make it easier for an alcoholic or addict to continue using.

  • We do not enable when we take steps towards getting someone into treatment.
  • Running an intervention is not enabling, it is a proactive and positive step towards a solution.

We are told that the alcoholic needs to come to terms with their own addiction, needs to decide for themselves when and where to turn for help.

Baloney!

Waiting for an addict to decide for themselves to get help is nothing more than inactive enabling. The addict wants to be left alone to drink or drug, they want nothing more than that! Which would be fine, of course, if that was their decision alone, if we didn’t care for them, and if their actions did not have profound and negative implications for our own quality of life.

But we do love them, we live with them, and when they abuse drugs or alcohol, even if they consider it a matter of personal choice, they harm those that must live with them in deep and sometimes lasting ways. Does an alcoholic have the right to subject children in a household to drunkenness, poor role modeling, drunk driving, abuse etc.? Does their personal decision to drink affect them alone?

Family has a right to get involved, inaction is enabling.

Curtailing enabling behaviors does not require complete inaction on our part.

We often confuse doing anything for enabling, while what enabling covers are only those actions of ours that make it easier for an alcoholic or addict to continue using.

  • We do not enable when we take steps towards getting someone into treatment.
  • Running an intervention is not enabling, it is a proactive and positive step towards a solution.

We are told that the alcoholic needs to come to terms with their own addiction, needs to decide for themselves when and where to turn for help.

Baloney!

Waiting for an addict to decide for themselves to get help is nothing more than inactive enabling. The addict wants to be left alone to drink or drug, they want nothing more than that! Which would be fine, of course, if that was their decision alone, if we didn’t care for them, and if their actions did not have profound and negative implications for our own quality of life.

But we do love them, we live with them, and when they abuse drugs or alcohol, even if they consider it a matter of personal choice, they harm those that must live with them in deep and sometimes lasting ways. Does an alcoholic have the right to subject children in a household to drunkenness, poor role modeling, drunk driving, abuse etc.? Does their personal decision to drink affect them alone?

Family has a right to get involved, inaction is enabling.

Confirmation Bias – Understanding Addicted Thinking – or – Why They Don’t Stop

Why can’t they see what their drinking or drugging is doing to them, and to us?

For family, few things frustrate like the seeming inability of the addict or alcoholic to recognize the extent of their self destructive behaviors. What seems so obvious to us seems not to register with them, and if losing a job, career, family or health won’t convince a using addict to change their ways – what possibly can?

Addiction changes the mind, it is complex and pervasive, and no single phenomenon fully explains the influence it exerts over thoughts and behaviors; but understanding confirmation bias takes us a step closer to understanding the realities of addicted thinking.

Confirmation Bias and the Addictd Mind

Confirmation bias refers to a cognitive process in which we selectively and unconsciously assign more weight to stimuli, information or events that seem to confirm our preconceptions or world-view. We all unconsciously use confirmation bias; it is simply a psychological streamlining for informational processing.

When we read a political editorial that matches our world-view, it resonates more profoundly and influentially than when we read an editorial that opposes our notion of the world – even if both are factually accurate. We are the choir – and we like to be preached to!

Addicts unconsciously use conformational bias as a way to preserve activities (drinking or drugging) that are important to them. It is conformational bias that allows addicts to disregard or minimize negative information that might force them to question their behaviors, and over-emphasize positive information that convinces them to continue their use behaviors.

An addict or alcoholic might process information on a night’s events such as this:

  • Pros: HAD A GREAT TIME LAUGHING WITH BUDDIES GOT A PHONE NUMBER FROM THAT CUTE/HANDSOME BARTENDER
  • Cons: Vomited in the bar bathroom Was asked to leave Performed badly at work the next day, and was noticed for being hung-over

Alcoholic thinking=A good night’s fun.

Most of us would call such an evening a lesson against excessive drinking, but an alcoholic will assign much more weight to the positive parts of the evening, and gloss over any negative aspects that don’t align with alcoholic thinking.

Alcoholics maintain denial through unconscious conformation bias internalization; thinking that keeps them sure that although drinking may cause a few minor headaches…on the whole it brings more happiness than pain. Addicts are not purposefully obtuse when they fail to recognize how much their use hurts them, it’s a psychological process, and one an addiction hijacked brain makes full use of in defense of its consumptions.

Eventually, if it gets bad enough, most alcoholics and addicts will concede that they have a problem – but it can take a long while and some pretty overwhelming (and often tragic) evidence. Understanding why addicts and alcoholics continue to drink or drug even as things get bad helps family and friends to enact better and more successful interventions – Helps them to realize that just letting an addict see the problems abuse causes won’t necessarily be enough to induce change.

Rock bottom can motivate, but rock bottom is sad; and there is no need for it. Although an addict may not come to an internal conclusion of a need for change, family and friends can help them along, and can help to change their thinking. Interventions work, and they can get some pretty reluctant addicts into treatment. You can wait for an addict to see it on their own, but with conformational bias…it may take a long, long time.

Why can’t they see what their drinking or drugging is doing to them, and to us?

For family, few things frustrate like the seeming inability of the addict or alcoholic to recognize the extent of their self destructive behaviors. What seems so obvious to us seems not to register with them, and if losing a job, career, family or health won’t convince a using addict to change their ways – what possibly can?

Addiction changes the mind, it is complex and pervasive, and no single phenomenon fully explains the influence it exerts over thoughts and behaviors; but understanding confirmation bias takes us a step closer to understanding the realities of addicted thinking.

Confirmation Bias and the Addictd Mind

Confirmation bias refers to a cognitive process in which we selectively and unconsciously assign more weight to stimuli, information or events that seem to confirm our preconceptions or world-view. We all unconsciously use confirmation bias; it is simply a psychological streamlining for informational processing.

When we read a political editorial that matches our world-view, it resonates more profoundly and influentially than when we read an editorial that opposes our notion of the world – even if both are factually accurate. We are the choir – and we like to be preached to!

Addicts unconsciously use conformational bias as a way to preserve activities (drinking or drugging) that are important to them. It is conformational bias that allows addicts to disregard or minimize negative information that might force them to question their behaviors, and over-emphasize positive information that convinces them to continue their use behaviors.

An addict or alcoholic might process information on a night’s events such as this:

  • Pros: HAD A GREAT TIME LAUGHING WITH BUDDIES GOT A PHONE NUMBER FROM THAT CUTE/HANDSOME BARTENDER
  • Cons: Vomited in the bar bathroom Was asked to leave Performed badly at work the next day, and was noticed for being hung-over

Alcoholic thinking=A good night’s fun.

Most of us would call such an evening a lesson against excessive drinking, but an alcoholic will assign much more weight to the positive parts of the evening, and gloss over any negative aspects that don’t align with alcoholic thinking.

Alcoholics maintain denial through unconscious conformation bias internalization; thinking that keeps them sure that although drinking may cause a few minor headaches…on the whole it brings more happiness than pain. Addicts are not purposefully obtuse when they fail to recognize how much their use hurts them, it’s a psychological process, and one an addiction hijacked brain makes full use of in defense of its consumptions.

Eventually, if it gets bad enough, most alcoholics and addicts will concede that they have a problem – but it can take a long while and some pretty overwhelming (and often tragic) evidence. Understanding why addicts and alcoholics continue to drink or drug even as things get bad helps family and friends to enact better and more successful interventions – Helps them to realize that just letting an addict see the problems abuse causes won’t necessarily be enough to induce change.

Rock bottom can motivate, but rock bottom is sad; and there is no need for it. Although an addict may not come to an internal conclusion of a need for change, family and friends can help them along, and can help to change their thinking. Interventions work, and they can get some pretty reluctant addicts into treatment. You can wait for an addict to see it on their own, but with conformational bias…it may take a long, long time.

Don’t Enable…Do Help

I hear a lot of true sad stories about people who have had enough of addiction or alcoholism, finally want to get better, but who just don’t have the money they need to get into even the lower cost rehabs right away. They may be eligible for some subsidized care, but with waiting lists as long as two months, this is pretty far from ideal; and a story I get a lot is, "My family has had enough of me, and they won’t help me anymore".

Which I can understand! When we are using and abusing, we tend to do things that force our families away. We burn our bridges, lie, cheat and steal one too many times, and they just get fed up. And they don’t want to enable the abuse either!

And it’s true:

  • When they let us live rent free in the home, getting high in the basement, that doesn’t help us get better.
  • When they give us money for drugs or alcohol when we get desperate…that doesn’t much help either.

They are taught that the only way that they can truly help us to change our ways is to stop enabling, and to start giving a little tough love. And it’s true too, and tough love can help. But tough love gets a little too tough when we finally reach the point when we can no longer deny the extent of the problem, when we accept that things are out of control and when we realize that to have any chance at a better life; we are going to need some help.

When we reach that point and we come pleading for a bit of money for our treatment, turning us away is awfully hard, has nothing to do with enabling or otherwise and just keeps too many of us out of treatments that could really get us up out of the mess we’ve made of things.

We may not deserve it, but we’ll make it up to you once we’re better. You don’t have to give the money to us either, we can understand how that might make you feel a little uncomfortable…pay the treatment center directly.

You won’t regret it.

I hear a lot of true sad stories about people who have had enough of addiction or alcoholism, finally want to get better, but who just don’t have the money they need to get into even the lower cost rehabs right away. They may be eligible for some subsidized care, but with waiting lists as long as two months, this is pretty far from ideal; and a story I get a lot is, "My family has had enough of me, and they won’t help me anymore".

Which I can understand! When we are using and abusing, we tend to do things that force our families away. We burn our bridges, lie, cheat and steal one too many times, and they just get fed up. And they don’t want to enable the abuse either!

And it’s true:

  • When they let us live rent free in the home, getting high in the basement, that doesn’t help us get better.
  • When they give us money for drugs or alcohol when we get desperate…that doesn’t much help either.

They are taught that the only way that they can truly help us to change our ways is to stop enabling, and to start giving a little tough love. And it’s true too, and tough love can help. But tough love gets a little too tough when we finally reach the point when we can no longer deny the extent of the problem, when we accept that things are out of control and when we realize that to have any chance at a better life; we are going to need some help.

When we reach that point and we come pleading for a bit of money for our treatment, turning us away is awfully hard, has nothing to do with enabling or otherwise and just keeps too many of us out of treatments that could really get us up out of the mess we’ve made of things.

We may not deserve it, but we’ll make it up to you once we’re better. You don’t have to give the money to us either, we can understand how that might make you feel a little uncomfortable…pay the treatment center directly.

You won’t regret it.

Husband drinking too much? If you stop, he will too.

Photo: ApesarahWatching a loved one flirt with disaster over risky drug taking or drinking behaviors can put a lot of strain on a relationship. You want to help, but your words have little impact, and you’re not even sure if the problem is as bad as you make it out to be.

What to do?

There are a couple of actions that can have a powerful impact over the behaviors of a family member. Firstly, you need to decide just how bad the problem is, and if you determine that your husband, sister, mother…whoever, has become dependant, then you need to get professional help.

Once addicted, the family can offer support but the addict really needs professional intervention and treatment for the best chance at a betterment of the problem. A family intervention can be a very powerful tool in convincing a reluctant addict of the need for treatment. But hopefully you decide to take some action before abuse behaviors have reached the point of addiction, and if abuse has yet to proceed to addiction, you may still exert a powerful influence over abuse behaviors, and you may yet save the problem user from addiction and a necessary period of treatment.

Do as I do, not as I say

The single greatest way to help someone in your life who is using drugs or alcohol at a potentially unsafe level is to set a good example. Words mean little to the substance abuser, but actions speak with power!

Clinical research reveals that if a spouse quits drinking, the other spouse is five times more likely to quit as well. If you can drink or use drugs recreationally and maintain control, but a loved one whom you use with cannot, you can very likely spur that person into a change of behaviors simply by setting a good example.

No wine with dinner

Don’t buy beer when you do the grocery shopping, don’t order wine with dinner at a restaurant…just stop all personal use behaviors and your loved one will very likely reduce theirs as well; and if they don’t or can’t, this tells you a lot about the level of their problem, and tells you that professional help may well be needed.

It’s not much to ask, and if you can cause such change simply through a temporary abstention from drugs or alcohol, you’d be hard pressed to justify continuing use; and if you find yourself having trouble with the thought of quitting, you may need to evaluate your own habits as well.

There is natural progression from use to abuse and abuse to addiction; and once dependent, the difficulty of treatment and achieving sobriety increases tenfold. If you can possibly influence use behaviors before they get to the point of addiction, you do real good and you save someone from a very scary battle for life with use and addiction.

Grab a coke, and watch your partner do the same.

Photo: ApesarahWatching a loved one flirt with disaster over risky drug taking or drinking behaviors can put a lot of strain on a relationship. You want to help, but your words have little impact, and you’re not even sure if the problem is as bad as you make it out to be.

What to do?

There are a couple of actions that can have a powerful impact over the behaviors of a family member. Firstly, you need to decide just how bad the problem is, and if you determine that your husband, sister, mother…whoever, has become dependant, then you need to get professional help.

Once addicted, the family can offer support but the addict really needs professional intervention and treatment for the best chance at a betterment of the problem. A family intervention can be a very powerful tool in convincing a reluctant addict of the need for treatment. But hopefully you decide to take some action before abuse behaviors have reached the point of addiction, and if abuse has yet to proceed to addiction, you may still exert a powerful influence over abuse behaviors, and you may yet save the problem user from addiction and a necessary period of treatment.

Do as I do, not as I say

The single greatest way to help someone in your life who is using drugs or alcohol at a potentially unsafe level is to set a good example. Words mean little to the substance abuser, but actions speak with power!

Clinical research reveals that if a spouse quits drinking, the other spouse is five times more likely to quit as well. If you can drink or use drugs recreationally and maintain control, but a loved one whom you use with cannot, you can very likely spur that person into a change of behaviors simply by setting a good example.

No wine with dinner

Don’t buy beer when you do the grocery shopping, don’t order wine with dinner at a restaurant…just stop all personal use behaviors and your loved one will very likely reduce theirs as well; and if they don’t or can’t, this tells you a lot about the level of their problem, and tells you that professional help may well be needed.

It’s not much to ask, and if you can cause such change simply through a temporary abstention from drugs or alcohol, you’d be hard pressed to justify continuing use; and if you find yourself having trouble with the thought of quitting, you may need to evaluate your own habits as well.

There is natural progression from use to abuse and abuse to addiction; and once dependent, the difficulty of treatment and achieving sobriety increases tenfold. If you can possibly influence use behaviors before they get to the point of addiction, you do real good and you save someone from a very scary battle for life with use and addiction.

Grab a coke, and watch your partner do the same.