How do you cope?

You’ll soon discover that you’ll go through a range of feelings, emotions and thoughts when coping with a family members drug or alcohol misuse.

We’ve put together a short list, which might help you through some difficult times.

Accurate information

Try to find out as much as you can on what your family member is drinking or taking.  The Internet provides a wide variety of information but you can also call local and national help lines or even visit your local library.  We have quite a comprehensive list of substances ourselves, including the new so called ‘legal highs’, so feel free to browse our drug or alcohol information pages.

Who can help?

It is also a good idea to find out what services are available to both you and the drug or alcohol user, as this may well come in handy in the future.  If you can’t find anything local, don’t forget to look at little further afield, as there will be something out there for you both.

Offer help

Although it is a known fact that drug or alcohol user won’t get help until their actually ready to do so, but it will help them to know that you’re there for them and that they have your support when they’re ready.


It may be tough and often distressing, but for both your sakes, you need to set boundaries.  For example, if the drug or alcohol user is displaying unacceptable behaviour, you don’t need to accept it and as such you should tell them so.


You may always have that niggling fear at the back of your mind, about what may happen in the future, but you must try to live for today!  We don’t know what will happen in the future, so take each day as it comes and only worry about things as and when they happen.


One of the most natural emotions in these cases is guilt.  You’ll always think “What did I do wrong” or “what could I have done to prevent it”, but the simple answer is nothing!  Whatever has happened is not your fault, as individuals we are free to make our own choices and mistakes.  It might help you to repeat this to yourself again and again, because you really have done nothing wrong.


It’s normal to feel angry at the situation, especially if you feel unable to do anything about it.  However, you need to deal with these feelings in your own way in order to achieve peace of mind and start to move on with your life.  So how do we deal with our anger?  However you want really, you can write it all down and either keep it for reflection when you’re on your road to recovery or even burn it!  You can cry, shout, exercise, dig the garden, go for a walk or talk to a friend or support group, whatever works best for you.

A drug or alcohol users changing behaviour

When a person is using drugs, or alcohol you will often notice a change in their behaviour.  They will lose the skill of patience, when they’ll start to feel a need for their drug or drink of choice they will not be able to wait  They simply can’t say to themselves ‘Okay, I’ll wait a few hours or another day or so’, they must have it straight away.

This generally means that a drug or alcohol user is often unable to deal with certain feelings, such as displeasure, aggression, sorrow, disappointment, tension or conflict.  This is especially true if they can’t be immediately resolved.  This provides a considerable obstacle for them to understand the changes that must take place, which is a necessity for ending any addiction.  It also unfortunately means they’re unable to comprehend how their family or friends are feeling about their drug or alcohol use.

It is also worth noting that drug or alcohol misuse is an extremely selfish activity.  The drug or alcohol user will start to think about and look for drugs or alcohol in such a manner which is ultimately detrimental to everything else, including family and friends.  They often no longer take an interest in what’s happening with those around them, unless this suits their own needs.  This is when family and friends tend to start trying to satisfy the drug or alcohol  needs, in the hope of distracting their attention.

It is an unfortunate fact that as a drug or alcohol  user will begin to lose interest in the outside world and other people, their own world becomes smaller and smaller.  They’ll find themselves becoming imprisoned in their own world, which is totally dependent on their drug or alcohol use which ultimately damages their emotional development.

Letting go

So what exactly does letting go mean?  It’s the acceptance of having no control over a drug or alcohol user .  It is important to remember that you can’t force or push a drug or alcohol user into giving up drugs or alcohol and that unfortunately the outcome of their problem is not in your hands.

Although you can’t be responsible for their decision to seek assistance, you can try to help by discussing their addiction with them and trying to offer constructive suggestions.  You may feel slightly powerless in this process, but it doesn’t mean you should give up or think there’s no point in trying. 

Tough love

So you’re wondering what ‘tough love’ is all about.  Tough love is what you need to display to the drug or alcohol user for both your benefits, because without it you will find it harder to cope.  If you amend your attitude to the situation you’ll find that life gets easier.

You will find that tough love and letting go are very similar and in order to do both, you must evaluate your priorities and take appropriate steps.