Try to come from a place of concern and be non-judgemental. Remember that this person may be struggling with health problems.
At this point in time, they may not be thinking about consequences or be able to control their cravings or use of alcohol or other drugs. Listen to their story in a supportive and understanding manner and resist offering advice and suggestions until you know exactly what it is that they want from you.
Once you have determined what kind of help they want you can explore how you might be able to help them. Acknowledge their feelings.
It is really important that you keep the information they share confidential.
Things to remember:
- Arrange a safe time and place to talk
- Try to approach them when they are not currently under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- It’s OK to ask about alcohol or other drug use but don’t assume that they are using alcohol or other drugs
- Avoid judging or lecturing
- Provide concrete examples of their behaviour i.e. “I’m worried about you because your fines are mounting up or you’re constantly asking for money or you’re isolating yourself.”
You might start out with something like:
- “Things seem different with you lately. Do you want to talk?”
- “You haven’t talked about your friends for ages. What’s going on with them?”
- “I haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been up to? Everything alright?
- “How are you travelling? You can talk to me at any time”
You may want to do some research, e.g.: check out websites, ask a professional, call ADIS (1300 13 1340), go to the library, find out if there is anyone in your network that has been through something similar (maintaining confidentiality), attend a support group (like Family Drug Support).
At a suitable time, share the information and let them know that when they are ready that you are willing to support them.
Remember, it can be difficult for people to talk about their alcohol or other drug use and if they react badly, it doesn’t mean the conversation was a failure – it may take some time for them to process what has been said.
Just starting the conversation is a step in the right direction.
Remember you can’t force them to change. They have to want to do it themselves.
Like any behaviour, changing alcohol and other drug and use can be a long and difficult process.
It’s common to use many different services at different points in time and it can take many attempts to get the results you want. There is not one approach or service that suits everyone.
Taking care of your own mental and physical well-being is important for both you and the person that you are supporting. This can often be exhausting and overwhelming. It’s okay for you to seek professional support as well as help from other family and friends. Slow down. Look after yourself.
It’s easy to get fixated on caring for the person you are supporting and finding help for them but it is equally important to recognise the need for support for yourself.
It is also easy and normal to feel frustrated and impatient with the person you are helping which is why it’s important to talk to someone about how you’re feeling.
As a carer or support person it is important that you recognise that you can’t fix or rescue another person. Your role is to encourage, support and guide them into professional services but ultimately allowing them to take responsibility for their own behaviour and actions. Without them taking responsibility, nothing changes.
Walk away from confrontation. Maintaining your own safety is paramount at all times. Set limits that you are prepared to follow through with. Don’t hesitate to call emergency services if you feel unsafe.
It is important to be informed about the substance that your loved one is using and learn positive strategies to be an effective carer. There are support groups and services for family and friends.
For further information check out Family Drug Support or call their support line on 1300 368 186 (available 24 hours/ 7days).
Eat well, exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep.
Don’t put your life on hold.
Try to do something for yourself every day and if you can take 30 minutes a day to completely tune out, e.g. practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present and being in the moment rather than being caught up in your thoughts. Check out the ACT Mindfully website if you want to learn more about mindfulness.
If you are feeling stressed or having problems with caring, it can help to talk with friends, family, a GP or a professional counsellor.
If you would rather speak to someone anonymously, you can call ADIS on 1300 13 13 40, the Family Drug Support Line on 1300 368 186 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Family Drug Support has specific resources to assist those supporting someone with an alcohol or other drug issue.