"It's ok to talk about alcohol and other drug use"
When people seem a little off, it’s often their friends and whānau who are the first to notice, because they know them so well. If you’ve noticed a change in your friend’s behaviour and think it could be because of their substance use, it’s ok to bring it up with them.
“It is absolutely your job as a friend or member of the family to start a conversation with someone if you’re worried about them,” says Anna, a social worker. “You gotta remember you can't fake whanaungatanga, you have a relationship,” adds Hera, Kaitiaki Matauranga Māori for Te Rau Ora. Sparking a conversation about someone’s substance abuse shows you care about that person.
Plan what you will say and pick the right time to bring it up. Create a safe space where both parties feel relaxed and connected. “Don't do it off the cuff, be prepared with the message you’re wanting to get across,” Hera says.
When you are thinking about how to broach the conversation, consider these four things: thoughts, facts, feelings and needs. Prepare for the possibility they may not want to hear it the first time – it will be a journey.
Our loved ones will want to feel heard and not told, so create a place of listening, korero and aroha, Hera says. “Being able to have an open and honest korero about what's going on is what’s gold.”
Remember, it’s ok to bring drug and alcohol use up with our friends or family. “What I found is when we bring it up with our mates it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” says Andre, a clinical psychologist. “It gets into a place where we can actually talk about it.”
It’s great that you are supporting someone to reduce the impact of alcohol and other drugs.
You may have found that being in the same house as someone 24/7 caused some harder to release tension, and made the situation feel more intense. Now we are in Level 2, this could be a good time to reconnect with people outside your initial bubble who you have been concerned about.
Try these things to help you, and those you care about, stay well:
You are not alone. Many New Zealand families speak about feeling lonely, worried and emotionally exhausted when supporting someone through alcohol and other drug issues.
Identify people that can support you and talk with you about what you’re experiencing. You can call, message, or video call them if you can’t visit them.
Check out these videos to hear how other New Zealand families got through this time: https://drughelp.org.nz/stories/24
During Level 2, you may still be in the same house with less time apart than before the lockdown started. Try agreeing on expectations and boundaries, and setting a time to hear how everyone is going.
Think about these things:
You can help people in your household stay healthy and live well together by having a plan for how things will work. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re human and we’re learning how to deal with another change to the way we live after weeks of being in lockdown. Keeping talking to each other in a household helps issues get dealt with earlier before they explode.
You might like to talk about these things as a household, or as the adults in the household:
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