When you see someone you care about doing something to themselves that you believe is harmful, it’s natural to experience a range of emotions and reactions. You may find yourself questioning whether or not to bring it up, or how to cope with the circumstances. There are no hard and fast rules about how to handle these kinds of situations. The important thing is to make a decision that honors your needs and values and prioritizes your own health and wellness.
One way to begin unpacking how this behavior has impacted you is to journal, meditate, pray, or self-reflect about what you’ve been going through. Some people find it helpful to clear their minds or get centered first by exercising, spending time in nature, or doing a familiar hobby. Take your time with it, find what works for you, and if possible, allow yourself some private space so that you can acknowledge emotions that arise in the process. Acknowledging your emotions without judgment will help you understand yourself better and guide you to the path that feels right for you.
Many people feel ashamed or afraid to open up about their loved one’s use because they don’t want to make them look bad or for others in their lives to hold this against the loved one later on. There are many approaches to the situation so it’s important to ask yourself what you need most, and how you might get those needs met.
If you do decide to open up to someone about how you’re feeling, remember that it’s okay to set boundaries around what you need from them, like, “It would really help me to talk through some things on my mind. Are you open to listening without giving me advice or opinions right now?”
If you can’t think of anyone you know personally that you feel safe opening up to, you have other options like calling a hotline, or reaching out to a religious/spiritual figure, mental health professional, or an anonymous support group or online forum.
If you decide to work through your feelings about the situation on your own, consider the potential consequences of keeping it to yourself. Do you feel compelled to hide how you feel? Do you feel it’s impacting your engagement in your own life? Has your loved one’s use become a heavy burden for you, or something you are ashamed of? These are all common feelings to have. While coping with your feelings, remember that you are not responsible for the actions of your loved one. Part of caring for yourself through this situation is understanding that no matter how much you care for this person, you cannot control their behavior or choices.
Whether you talk to a friend or mentor about what you’re going through, or decide to work through it on your own, it’s important to acknowledge the stress of the situation and the toll it might be taking on your emotional and physical health. Remember to take good care of yourself. Your Crossover care team can help with this; connect with us if you want support.
Even when you come to a point where you understand your own thoughts and feelings clearly, it’s natural to question whether or not to directly express your concerns to your loved one about their substance use. Your current communication patterns and dynamics with your loved one might give you some clues about how they might respond, but there is no clear and definitive way to know how they will take it. That’s why if you do decide to talk with your loved one, it’s important to come to the conversation with a clear idea of your intention and expectations. For example, you can’t control whether or not your loved one will agree to decrease the substance use, quit, or seek help. But, you can control how you choose to respond to their reaction. What would you most like to convey in this conversation? Care, support, concern, or boundaries? Maybe all of those things? Know your objective at the start and allow that to guide your decision and responses, rather than the heat of the moment.
If you decide to initiate a conversation with your loved one about your concerns regarding their substance use, here are some general guidelines to help you with the conversation. We know that coping with this issue can be a real challenge. Remember that you can always reach out to your Crossover care team for help at any point in the process for more tips, strategies, and support.