drug paraphernalia on table

How to Tell Your Family About Your Alcohol or Drug Use

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic increased alcohol and drug use. A June 2020 report found that 13 percent of Americans started or increased substance use.

Are you struggling with drug use? Do you want to get help but feel reluctant to admit you have a problem? Many people fear rejection by friends and family if they share their “secret”.

Making the decision to tell your loved ones about your addiction is hard. Keep reading to find strategies that have helped others take this step.

Medical Definition of Drug and Substance Abuse

Understanding what’s happening to your body can help you understand why you can’t just stop. The chemicals in the drugs change the way your mind and body works.

Depending on the substance and length of use, these changes may be permanent. But this does not mean that you’re beyond help. Today, the medical community has many treatments to help you work on sobriety.

What Are “Drugs”?

Drugs include over the counter and prescription medications, tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Examples of illegal substances include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs: Ecstasy, Molly, Special K, K, Roofies, LSD
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants: gases, aerosols, volatile solvents, nitrates
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamines: Ice, Speed, Meth

One of the most abused prescription medications is opioids. So, what does it mean to abuse prescription meds? Abusive behavior includes:

  • Taking someone else’s prescription
  • Taking more of the medicine than the doctor prescribed
  • Taking the drug to get high instead of for the reason it was prescribed

Another abusive behavior involves using the drug in a way that you’re not supposed to. For example, crushing a pill and then snorting or injecting it.

What Happens to the Brain with Addiction?

When you use these substances, chemical compounds enter your brain and bloodstream. This causes you to lose impulse control. The intense stimulation acts as a reward system for the brain, and it craves more.

This causes people to keep using the substance to maintain these euphoric feelings. They also crave the changes in their behavioral traits while under the influence.

The addictive brain response depends on several factors. This includes the type of drug use, frequency of use, and stage of addiction. As substance use continues, the addiction grows and can become life-threatening.

With addictive brain changes, you feel physical symptoms and develop less control. You can experience paranoia, hallucinations, fast heartbeat, nausea, and other disturbing feelings.

The addiction can cause you to become consumed with feeding your habit. Individuals lose concern for loved ones or the importance of meeting obligations. They may become unrecognizable.

Recognizing That You Have a Drug Use or Alcohol Use Problem

The first step to fighting an addiction is recognizing that you have a problem. The act of reading this article is a big step. The following list describes experiences and feelings of addiction.

  • Decreasing contact or interaction with friends and family
  • Not meeting life’s obligations such as school or work
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Not knowing when it’s time to stop using the substance
  • Needing more of the substance to get the same feeling
  • Changes in your mood
  • Not feeling like “yourself” if you aren’t using the substance
  • Ongoing cravings for the substance
  • Using the substance excessively when you’re alone

Are you experiencing these behaviors or feelings? If so, it’s time to seriously think about telling your loved ones and asking for help.

Telling Your Family About Your Use

When you know that you have a problem, the next challenge is telling loved ones. How do I tell them? What will they think of me?

You may want to write down what you’re going to say. This helps organize your thoughts and can reduce nervousness. It also helps you remember everything you want to say.

The following guide can help you with this seemingly overwhelming task.

“Spit It Out”

This may seem odd, but often the best way to start is by not beating around the bush. Just say, “I’ve got a problem with drug use.” There’s no easy way to say this and, in fact, your family may already know.

Next, tell them that you want them to know what you’re going through. Let your loved ones know if and how you’ve tried to stop.

Be Open and Honest

In some cases, you may blame others for causing your addiction, and this may be true. But, at this moment, blame will not help you. Remember, you have decided to get help and overcome the problem.

It’s time to focus on you and take responsibility. Leading a life of addiction involves lying and taking desperate actions to get the drugs. It’s difficult to break the habit of deceit as well.

Take Pride in Your Sharing

Tell yourself that openly facing your problem makes you stronger. Be proud of your decision to share this news with your family. Remind yourself of this strength and stay committed to your goal.

Take Responsibility

Apologize for your actions that have hurt others. This shows your family that you recognize what you’ve done and that you want to change. As you go through treatment, you will spend time working on mending relationships.

Ask for Your Family’s Support

Having a supportive community is invaluable to achieving and maintaining sobriety. Directly ask your loved ones to help you. Tell them that you want their advice and guidance to make the right choices.

Discuss Treatment Plans

If you have already found a recovery treatment plan, discuss this with your family. And/or ask them to help you explore different options. Make a list of questions to ask when you contact programs.

Ask loved ones to come with you to visit facilities. This not only supports you but also demonstrates your commitment to getting better.

What If Your Family Isn’t Supportive?

All families are unique with their own interactive styles. While some families will be happy that you want help, others may not. Are you worried that sharing about your substance use will cause more strife?

Consider the following strategies to ease the situation. Start by talking to a family member that you feel closest to. This can help build your confidence, and they can suggest the best approach.

Having an ally at your side to voice support may also soften other family member’s responses. Be prepared for some loved ones to be unsupportive.

This means they won’t be part of your team, but that’s okay. They may in fact be fighting their own battles.

Don’t hold on to their rejection. Focus on your allies.

Addiction Help Programs

Depending on your unique situation and needs, there are different addiction recovery programs. The following describes some examples of treatment options available.

Short-Term Inpatient

Short-term inpatient programs offer non-emergency treatment and care. They’re designed for people with substance use or related behavioral health problems. You’ll receive an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan.

This includes an initial assessment and screening. You’ll participate in individual and group counseling and life skills training. Your family will also participate in education programs.

Outpatient Detox Programs

If you’re experiencing limited withdrawal symptoms, this program can help you. You’ll have medical care and support to ensure your comfort and safety during withdrawal.

You receive supervised outpatient detox services while you’re at home or work. A licensed medical director conducts a physical exam and oversees all treatment. They’ll prescribe medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

You’ll attend counseling sessions with a licensed substance use therapist. The staff will help you find and arrange to attend AA/NA support groups. They also provide discharge planning and referrals as needed.

Inpatient Detox

For individuals experiencing symptoms of active withdrawal, they’re admitted for 24-hour care. An individual treatment plan provides medical support and counseling during this critical time. This acute care manages the symptoms experienced during withdrawal.

Recovery Support Services (RSS)

RSS offers a long-term program for those who suffer from repeated relapses. These services focus on teaching individuals to overcome barriers to living in recovery.

This comprehensive program addresses physical and mental health and reuniting families. You’ll also receive help with housing, employment, education, and legal issues.

Sober Living

Sober living programs offer a safe, supportive place when you re-enter the community. For example, a men’s sober living environment acts as a bridge. You alternate between a controlled treatment setting and the “real world”.

The goal of this program is to provide structure, resources, support, and security. This is key to achieving successful first steps toward independence.

Clients must meet the rules of 30 days of sobriety. They’re also required to attend or complete outpatient treatment. Also, they must participate in local support groups and keep steady employment. The program focuses on developing personal skills to become responsible, employable citizens.

It’s Time to Take the Next Step

You have already taken one step toward fighting alcohol and drug use by reading this article. You’ve learned how to approach your family. Cenikor is ready to give you a place for change.

We strive to provide quality substance use and behavioral health services. Our comprehensive programs are available for adolescents and adults. You’ll find a compassionate staff that understands that it’s hard to ask for help.

Contact us today to learn about our programs and get help moving to a new life.

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