Living with a drug addict is never easy. You may have a loved one who has lost his of her job, family and friends because of a drug problem. While professional help is integral in treating his or her addiction, your role as either a family member, friend or lover is just as important as you will have to provide guidance and support.
What’s the Problem?
Your loved one may have a drug problem is he or she:
- uses drugs regularly
- only attends parties if drugs are offered or allowed
- displays personality changes
- misses time from work
- has relationship and money problems
- often gets in trouble with the law
- avoids friends and family
- lies about using drugs
- increases high-risk activities like unprotected sex and sharing needles
He or she may also be suicidal, depressed or hopeless. Ultimately, this person often breaks his or her promises and commitments.
Dealing with the D
No Enabling – Make sure that you don’t transform into an “enabler”. What is an enabler? You instantly become an enabler when you unintentionally allow a drug addict to keep on leading a dishonest, unproductive and irresponsible life. The root of being an enabler is usually concern, generosity and love. You think you are helping the person, but you are just tolerating the problem.
You may become an enabler by covering up and hiding the problem from the rest of the world. If, for instance, your brother is an addict and is too high on drugs to make a decent call to the office for being absent, do not offer to do it for him. You become an enabler by lying on his behalf.
Do not fill in for what he can no longer do, like handling chores or paying the bills. Helping, in this case, will not help him at all. Filling in is giving the offender a problem to use whatever space or time there is left for him. Giving money is yet another way to enable him to buy more drugs. Your brother may tell you that he needs it for something important and convince you that he is not going to use it for drugs. Do not believe what he says.
Tough Love – Tough love is showing love and concern in a different way. With tough love, clear rules are set and explained. You also set clear consequences along the way. If your brother breaks a rule, you should follow the consequences set even if these seem too harsh. He needs to learn his lesson the hard way.
The Guidelines – Living with a drug addict requires you to institute rules to make sure that your home is a safe place to live. It is painful and hard to imagine that someone you love, like your brother, is turning violent or is stealing money just to buy drugs, but you have the drugs to blame for his character.
Enforce the house rules you have initially set. You can set a family meeting to let everyone know about the consequences of breaking the rules. Here are some suggestions for house rules:
- Do not keep large amounts of cash in the house. Avoid keeping valuables on display. Put all these in a safe place and lock them away.
- Make sure that only the people who don’t do drugs have keys. If you suspect that other people have keys, change your locks.
- Avoid keeping weapons, like guns, in your home. Tools like scissors and kitchen knives should be out of the offender’s reach.
- It is best to keep the phone behind a locked door. If you can’t afford the service, ask about low-cost phone services. Your local telephone company will do something about it because it is required by law.
- Anyone who is high on drugs should never be allowed to visit your home.
- Weapons are not allowed inside the house.
- Illegal drugs cannot be tolerated inside the house.
- Methadone or alcohol and other legal drugs should be kept out of children’s reach.
- Violence and threats should never be tolerated inside the house.
- Asking for money is a big no-no. Everyone should refuse to anyone who requests it.
- Before visitors come over to your house, they need to make a call and let you know about it. If you think they are overstaying, ask them to leave in a polite way.
- Be firm about everything you say and with the way you say it, but make sure that you are still caring and calm.
- You may feel too angry about a broken rule, but try your best to avoid criticizing or shouting. Your anger will only make the already unlikable situation a dangerous one.
- Follow the guidelines all the times. Do not take justifications as excuses for breaking rules.
- If necessary, call the police. The offender can be escorted safely away by the police without them making an arrest.
- Skip the warning if violence is threatened. Just use the phone and contact the police as soon as possible.
- Following the event, get the support and help you need for others and for yourself, like talking to a family member or a close friend, counseling session or support group. Support is important in working out your feelings and in deciding what you can do to make the condition better.
Keep encouraging your loved one to stay away from drugs and accept treatment. Never give up on on him or her because your actions and concern will certainly go a long way.
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