Many family members ask why they should have to do anything differently when they are not the one with the problem. Of course, your loved one’s substance use is not your fault and you should not take responsibility for it. However, psychology shows that we can have a huge influence on those around us through the way that we interact.
You may not want to maintain or build your relationship with your loved one, and you may be at the stage of wanting to take a step back. In that case these tips may not be for you. But many families affected by drugs and alcohol report huge improvements after they took some simple (but sometimes challenging!) steps towards more positive communication.
- Avoid accusations, blame, aggressive tones and nagging
These feed a cycle of negativity and rarely succeed in persuading loved ones to do what we are hoping they will do.
- Keep communication clear, simple and brief
- Look for positives and thank your loved one for them (doing the washing up, coming in when they said they would, saying ‘good morning’ rather than ignoring you – anything!) We all like to feel recognised and valued. These kinds of interaction create a chemical reaction in the brain which can be similar to the effects of drugs and can lead to a positive cycle of reinforcement (but don’t hold your breath! It can take time.)
- Find ways to have fun together.
Life can end up revolving around the drug or alcohol use and simple pleasures can fall by the wayside. Obviously depending on the level and pattern of your loved one’s substance use, are there ways to build in fun together that takes the focus off the substance use and rebuilds trust and positivity in the relationship if these have been lost?