Coping with their behaviour

It is normal to feel helpless, frustrated, worried and upset by a loved one’s substance use. Drug and alcohol users can have very erratic behaviour, and it can be difficult to know how to act around them. Their substance use may lead to patterns of behaviour that can be distressing, distant, cold or even aggressive, angry and violent. Some drug users may commit crimes and go to prison.

Each family is different but family members often take one or more of the following approaches:

  • Denying – ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away
  • Enabling – inadvertently enabling drug/alcohol use to continue by paying debts, lying to cover up for the user, tolerating very difficult behaviour, giving them money which goes on drugs/alcohol etc.
  • Controlling or ‘Fixing’ – trying to take control of the user’s life and drug/alcohol use in an attempt to make them stop using.
  • Apathy – withdrawing, giving up.

Although common and natural responses, these approaches rarely help. It is important to:

  • Keep yourself safe
  • Establish and maintain clear boundaries
  • Think about your own health and wellbeing

Explore the other pages in this section for more tips.