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- Open and honest communication is almost always the best policy. Listening is the most
useful communication skill.
- Try not to be judgmental, accusatory or emotional. Defer communication if you are not
- Acceptance is not the same as approval. Just because you are not kicking them out of the
family home, does not mean that you are sanctioning their drug use, or giving them
permission to use drugs under your roof. Telling them, in a calm way, that you do not
approve of their drug use and behaviour, while, at the same time, reminding them that you
love them and are there to help them, can reinforce your own views, without nagging or
alienating them further.
- When verbal communication is impossible or very difficult, try writing a letter.
- No one’s drug use can be directly controlled by another person. You cannot monitor their
every movement and so cannot ensure that they are drug-free – no matter how much you
wish they were.
- Support is not the same as rescue. Let them know that you are there if they really need you,
but don’t come to their financial or emotional rescue every time they have a mini crisis. By
keeping a reasonably close eye but still letting them make some mistakes, you are reminding
them that you care, without being a doormat.
- Be clear on the boundaries. Take your cues from them. Their boundaries are usually very
- Different situations demand different strategies. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of dealing
with drug issues. It is no good doing something you are not comfortable with. Before taking
action, think through the consequences and choose the one you can live with. ‘Follow your
heart’ and be guided by your head and you will usually find the decision that is right for you.
- Separate negative behaviour from the person you love.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask for help. Families also need help – not just the drug
- Be informed. Educate yourself about drugs and the issues.
- Remember – no treatment will work until he or she wants it to.
- Not every treatment is right for every person.
- Lapsing should not be seen as a failure. It is normal and is still a step forward.
- While you continue to love them, you don’t have to accept negative behaviour.
- Drug users have the right to be treated with dignity.
- Families have the right to peace and quiet.
- Most families have some influence over some aspects of the drug user, especially when he
or she lives at home or has regular contact. The drug user values food, shelter and company
but because many families don’t realise this they don’t bargain with it.
- Expression of emotions and acknowledgement of feelings is therapeutic.
- Never give up hope.
From ‘Not My Family Never My Child’ Tony Trimingham