What If Someone Close to You Is Still Using Drugs?Anna Ciulla
Maintaining a sober lifestyle is easiest when your family, work associates and close friends support your decision to give up drugs. But what if they don’t? What if your partner, longtime best friend or parents still enjoy a “social drink” and don’t understand why they should have to do without in your company? What if they still urge you to “have just one” yourself? Worst of all, what if they’re actively addicted themselves, have no desire to quit, and see your sobriety as a judgment on their behavior, if not an enemy to be sabotaged?
Do you have to choose between your sobriety and your job, your old friendships, your extended-family relationships or even your marriage?
No question, there are hard decisions to make. Get a therapist’s advice on dealing with your specific situation. Here are the main points to consider:
WHAT IS THE OTHER PARTY’S REAL ATTITUDE?
Are they really being pigheaded and selfish? Or do they genuinely care about you and the relationship, but lack understanding of how deep your problem goes? Before you tell your spouse or roommate that that nightly glass of wine goes or you go, try a gentler approach:
- Explain that your addiction disorder is a medical condition and that “one taste,” or even enticement toward one, could be dangerous for you. You might liken your problem to diabetes or a severe allergy, where certain everyday foods or sensory experiences pose serious risks to someone with that condition.
- To further help your loved one understand your needs, invite them to attend therapy or a support group with you.
- Plan things you can enjoy together without alcohol/drugs on hand: board games, old comedy movies, a jog through the park, a latte at the local coffee shop.
People who want to stay close to you will usually be supportive, once they understand you aren’t out to judge or thoughtlessly inconvenience them.
WHAT’S THE NATURE OF THE RELATIONSHIP?
The worst-case scenario is having someone assume you’ll continue seeing them on a regular basis—or even that you’re obligated to do so—while themselves holding firm to the attitude “I’ll use drugs whenever and wherever I want, whether you like it or not.” If they’re just “friends”—no commitment other than habit between you—you can usually get away with politely making yourself unavailable until they drift elsewhere. But if you’re bound by blood or legal ties, and especially if you have other family members whose attitude is “blood is thicker than water” or “till death do you part,” a painful confrontation is almost inevitable.
You’ll need professional counseling and a strong support network to help you decide how to deal with such a situation. If extreme circumstances are involved, you may also need legal advice. You may even have to relocate without a forwarding address, and change your email and phone number. It’s a hard situation to face, but remember: continuing to share your life with a drug user who doesn’t care about your needs can only lead to harder and harder situations down the road.
(See also “How to Find a Support System When Your Family Dynamics Threaten Your Recovery.”)
WHAT SETTINGS/VENUES ARE INVOLVED?
It may be that your problem isn’t with any specific individual, but with a setting where alcohol is part of the menu. This is a common problem at family gatherings and after-hours business events.
If you don’t want to skip the gathering altogether, you can:
- Make an advance plan (with accountability) on how long you will stay, what you will focus on instead of the bar, how you will say “no thank you” if someone offers you a drink, and what circumstances will signal “temptation gaining ground, leave at once.”
- Engage a trusted friend or family member to be your support partner and steer you away from the bar and from drink-pushers.
- Volunteer to drive, so you’ll have one more incentive (and excuse) not to drink.
- Keep a glass of water in your hand so people won’t feel they should offer you a glass of something else.
- If you’re at a seated dinner and wine glasses are part of the setting, turn them upside down as a “do not fill” signal. (While traditional etiquette frowns on this approach, it’s more practical than constantly heading off “refill” attempts or letting an already-filled glass sit there to tempt you.)
Whatever your situation and however you deal with it, always keep these key points in mind:
- Even if all your old friends abandon you, you have detox aftercare, support groups and a Higher Power to turn to.
- You were strong enough to get sober. You are strong enough to stay sober.
- You will make new friends who live sober and who respect your needs and the person you are.