Helping a loved one struggling with alcoholism or drug dependence can be heartbreakingly painful, but with help, it can be remarkably rewarding.  At times, it can seem so overwhelming that it would be easier to ignore it, pretend that nothing is wrong and hope it just goes away.  But in the long run, denying it or minimising it, will be more damaging to you, other family members, and the person you are concerned about.  Don’t Wait, Now Is The Time.

Alcoholism and drug dependence are complex problems, with many related issues. And, although there is no magic formula to help someone stop his or her drinking or drug use, here are some important suggestions: 

Learn All You Can About Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Utilise the resources of NCADD and ADF to learn about alcohol, drugs and support services available.

Speak Up and Offer Your Support
Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, including your willingness to go with them to get help. Like other chronic diseases, the earlier addiction is treated, the better.

Express Love and Concern
Don’t wait for your loved one to “hit bottom." You may be met with excuses, denial or anger, but be prepared to respond with specific examples of behaviour that has you worried. 

Don’t Expect the Person to Stop Without Help  
No doubt, you have heard it before -- promises to cut down, to stop, but it doesn’t work. Treatment, support, and new coping skills are needed to overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Support Recovery as an Ongoing Process  
Once your friend or family member is receiving treatment, or going to meetings, remain involved. While maintaining your own commitment to getting help for yourself, continue to support their participation in ongoing care, meetings and recovery support groups.  Continue to show that you are concerned about their successful long-term recovery.

Some Things You Don’t Want To Do
Don't preach:  Don’t lecture, threaten, bribe, preach or moralise.
Don't be a martyr:  Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink or use other drugs.
Don't cover up, lie or make excuses for them and their behaviour.
Don't assume their responsibilities:  Taking over their responsibilities protects them from the consequences of their behaviour.
Don't argue when the person is using:  Arguing with the person when they are using alcohol or drugs is not helpful; at that point they can’t have a rational conversation.
Don’t feel guilty or responsible for their behaviour, it’s not your fault.

Reprinted with permission from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc

See Lovlinks for further information and services available in Australia.