when friends or family members get on your case about taking drugs it might seem unfair, but there are ways of handling the situation so that you are both happy.


You started with a bit of weed, but now you're smoking every day and you can't be bothered getting up for work or college anymore. Maybe you're partial to the odd beer or 10, and your hangovers leave you begging for a dark room and a couple of cans to get you back on your feet. Or do you knock back a few ecstasy pills at the weekend then feel like the comedown is lasting all week?

So now your parents have started noticing what a stinking mood you're in and they're giving you grief about it. Or your sister is giving you a hard time after she found king-size papers in your room. Maybe your partner is nagging that things have got to change otherwise they're leaving you? And you're left wondering why they don't just get off your case and leave you alone.

What problem? There's no problem!

If your drug or alcohol use has reached a point where other people have noticed or are getting involved - by nagging you to stop, begging you to change, or even completely disowning you, the chances are they are viewing it as a problem. You might not see it as an issue, but if you do, it's annoying that they're all butting into your life.

Jenny is now 24 but was using large amounts of ecstasy, speed and cocaine between the ages of 15 to 18. At the time, she wasn't that concerned about the effect it was having on her family and friends, but her situation escalated to the point where her she completely alienated the people who cared about her.

"My friends hated the way I changed into a moody cow who only cared about going out at the weekends," she says. "My best mate at school said I had to choose between her and drugs. At the time I just laughed at her and said there was no competition. We didn't speak for years after that."

How do we feel?

Looking back on her situation, Jenny can see how wrapped up she was in drugs and how she didn't really consider anyone else around her. "I think users only see what they want to see and don't realise the hurt they can cause," says Jenny. "They can become very self-centred and anyone who doesn't share their love of drugs is seen as ignorant."

Though you may find it difficult to consider the feelings of your parents, siblings, friends or partner, doing so can help you communicate with them better, which will only improve your situation in the long-term.

Louise, a parent and family worker in a substance misuse service, has a brother who is heroin dependent. "When we found out about my brother my family was in shock. We knew nothing about drugs and were frightened about what could happen to him," she says.

This is a normal response; you may be on familiar territory, but your family is often in the dark when it comes to what your lifestyle actually involves. Think about it - while it might just seem like a few bongs or a couple of lines of coke to you, to your dad, who has a limited experience of drug taking, you could already be on the road to ruin.

"If your family or friends have actually started asking you questions about drugs, one of the best things you can do is talk to them," says Louise. "Their imagination about what's happening is usually a hundred times worse than the reality. Once your drug use is out in the open, lying and keeping secrets only increases anxiety and makes relationships suffer."

Can we get on?

Whether or not you're feeling ready to change your behaviour, or whether you even want to, it will be a long while before people will realise that they can't make you change. Finding ways to keep them on your side will help enormously in easing tensions on the home front. It could also stop you from losing the people who care about you, as Jenny did.

Be proactive and responsible to show them that at least you will look after yourself. Go to a drug advice centre and find out all the information you need about the substances you're using (even if it's booze - you may be surprised at how little you know). You can also make a harm reduction plan along with the people who are concerned about you. For example, always tell them where you are going, tell a friend what drugs you are taking, and don't mix with other drugs or alcohol.

Feeling fearful is a major reason why family members try to force you into help you might not want. Point them in the direction of a family drug worker who will support them and help to improve communication between everyone.

Jenny adds: "Remember that their concerns stem from love and worry, they only want you to be okay. I just thought my mates were jealous of what a great time I was having, I didn't realise how much I was scaring them."

 

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