Ara's Blog- our family clinician
Hi, by way of introduction, my name is Araluen, and I work as an Alcohol and Drug Counsellor in Auckland. I am also personally connected and have a passion for Kina’s work with families, as I am what we call an “Affected Other” meaning that my life has been impacted by my loved ones use and dependence on substances.
I have been asked by Kina to share my experience of working with Affected Families.
The question I am most frequently asked in my role is “How do I get my loved one to stop their use, How can I fix them? … I need to fix them… I make them stop…” This desperation and motivation to do whatever it takes to change and fix the person they love is really common in the people my work brings me into contact with.
I have witnessed family members gradually become healthier and happier by 1 simple but difficult change- shifting the focus off their loved one and on to themselves. I had one lady recently say, “you know what… when I decided to have a social life again and accept invitation’s I felt better -more ME, and my loved one is recognizing that things are changing.”
Below I have suggested some guidelines to support your loved one towards change. You will notice that none of them request or require a direct change in your loved one’s substance use. These are ideas for you and your family to embrace in order to make your own changes. The changes you implement in your own life can be an influence for good and a catalyst for change in your loved one’s life and hopefully support them towards recovery.
So how can I help motivate my loved one to change?
1) Let your loved one know in an assertive caring way how their use is affecting you and those close to them
These changes maybe frightening you may have concerns that your change may negatively affect your loved one, “if they know how much they’re hurting me, it may lead them to use more, or harm themselves.”
However, by silently tolerating your loved one’s unacceptable behaviour and allowing them to avoid facing the consequences of their using, you are actively shielding them from the truth of their situation. By raising this awareness you are increasing the possibility that they will begin to consider making changes. They may even put plans in place to change. Allowing yourself to speak the truth can be a very empowering and healing experience.
“If nothing changes nothing changes”.
2) Work towards a constructive, caring, and supportive, relationship
You may feel as if you are living in a war zone, and perhaps you are with everyone in your household in a hyper alert state. Perhaps you alternate between warily circling one another while walking on eggshells, to engaging in heated arguments and personal attacks. These defensive walls need to come down for anybody to be able to consider change, including your loved one. No one is going to lower their defences (blame, anger, frustration) in a war zone.
Think of the type of support that you have needed (you may not have received it however) in difficult times?
Honest and constructive feedback and support = belief and hope in change
3) Recognise that you are only responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and actions
How much time do you spend worrying over your loved one? At a guess I would say a disproportionate amount of time, and all this worry does is to exhaust you mentally, and physically, which results in little change and does no good for your loved one either. If you become ill you will not be able to support your loved one or anyone else.
Recall the safety instructions when you fly:
Put your own oxygen mask on first THEN attend to these who need you
Focus on yourself - how I hear you ask? (See 5 areas of self- responsibility post)
The 5 areas of self-responsibility.
Physical: the basics they really work -are you eating well and regularly? When is the last time you went to your GP/ naturopath/ health provider?
How is your sleep?
Have you forgotten to exercise?
Mental: Are you your own worst critic? Do you feel at the mercy of your anxious thoughts?
Monitor and challenge these intrusive thoughts. A regular mindfulness practice is proven to reduce your mental clutter and improve your quality of life.
Emotional: Check in with your-self, how are you feeling today? Acknowledge whatever feelings are going on for you and if you’re able find someone supportive to communicate them to.
Social: Time for you – spend time with people who nurture, inspire, and make you laugh. Return to your old enjoyable activities, join that group you’ve always wanted to, celebrate the good things in your life.
Spiritual: Reflect on life’s bigger meaning, reflect on your values- have they been altered/ can you return to them/ how?
What makes you special??- develop this.
Remember when we focus on someone who we can’t control, we neglect our own needs and it becomes difficult to be responsible for ourselves. Start small, pick one area of self- responsibility, and make a commitment to address this as soon as possible. Next week do the same, and so on. Notice the difference in yourself, and in others around you, as you begin to allow yourself to experience a new way of being.