Many of us have a strong impulse to help and support someone we care about when we think they are having a problem with their Tina use. Whether we are a friend, lover or family member of someone with problem Tina use, we are affected.
Problem use, especially if it develops into dependence, has progressive impacts. Addiction is difficult for the user to manage and it’s difficult for the ones impacted by it to manage as well. How relationships feel and function will change. They may get worse before they get better.
Our ability to cope and manage the stress of being in relationship with someone with problem Tina use determines how effective we can be in helping the person we care about.
Many people in this situation report that one of the biggest lessons they learned was the need to take better care of themselves in the process. It’s easy to get drawn into the drama of dependence and Tina is the reigning queen of drama! It’s easy for the focus of the relationship to be only about the person with problem use. It’s easy to abandon our needs in this dynamic. It’s easy for us to succumb to stresses when we do this. The truth is we cannot help the one we care about or the relationship, if we are falling apart.
This section provides information to help lovers, friends and families understand the process of a loved on getting off Tina, as well as tips and strategies.
It’s important to know that you are not alone. You may be isolated by your shame and guilt at having a loved one who is having a problem with crystal meth. It’s an illegal substance, and mainstream media depicts only worse-case scenarios. We may not know how to talk about it with friends, co-workers or other family members.
We likely have strong feelings about our loved one’s use and it’s impacts, such as fear, anger, sadness and frustration. One of the most difficult experiences a mother, brother or partner will ever go through is witnessing the downward spiral of crystal meth dependence in someone they love. The impacts can progress quickly and be devastating. It can look, feel, and sometimes is, a path of self-destruction. Coping with these changes can be overwhelming.
On top of that we may have little or no experience in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, of practicing ‘tough love’ and detachment, which are important skills to hone when supporting someone with problem use.
Signs of poor coping can include eating, drinking or smoking more, trouble sleeping, disruption in normal appetite, fatigue, missing work, pulling away from friends because you’re too caught up in stress at home, trying to hide our loved one’s use, or thinking they just don’t want to hear you gripe about it anymore. See these signs as alerts when it’s time to tend to self-care.
Check out the Support section of this site. One-on-one and group counselling can be very helpful supports for you along the way. Resource Guide.
While problem Tina use has some telltale signs, some of these behaviors can be the result of other causes besides Tina use. Some people can use Tina and not show signs of use, or hide them well, especially in the early stages.
Adapted from KnowCrystal.org with permission
Drug use is a continuum, from: non-use – use – abuse/misuse – dependence/addiction – slips/relapse – recovery. We tend to have different judgements about drug use. We establish different boundaries about what we use or not use and to what extent, and these change throughout our lives. This is true for those we care about as well. When thinking about someone we care about who is using Tina, we may find ourselves full of judgements about that person or the drug. In addition to what we think about it, we may also have strong feelings as well. Being able to identify what we think and feel about our partner, friend or family member’s use is an important first step for us and for our ability to help them.
It is up to your loved one to make the decision to cut back their use, or to quit if that’s what they want, for themselves. However you can help them decide or move the process along. The popular expressions: “You can’t do anything unless they want to stop,” or “Addicts have to hit bottom before they want help”, are not factually true. Loved-ones can and do play a major role in motivating people stuck in problem use to seek help. Consider the following when getting ready to help…
No one ever thinks they will become dependent or sets out to become addicted. Most guys believe they can control their use. The line between casual use and dependence is hard to predict. Our society values willpower and self-reliance, and people tend to believe they can control their behaviors and manage the consequences. Try not to blame people for losing control.
Tina causes changes in brain chemistry. A brain used to Tina gets rewired to choose big doses of pleasure (or relief from pain) from the drug, at the expense of other options. This may explain why your loved one keeps getting high even after he repeatedly swears he won’t. Until he stops using long for a period of time, his behaviours may seem irrational.
Dependence is both biological and psychological. Problem Tina Use is driven by changes in brain chemistry, but also by underlying, difficult emotions, and can include anything from poor self-image to internalized homophobia and racism, to mood and anxiety disorders. Don’t assume he can just stop using and ‘snap out’ of his problems with the right prescription or a few therapy sessions.
While some treatment approaches insist that declaring oneself an “addict” is a critical step towards recovery, most people associate the term with shame, criminal activity and failure. It is difficult to be labelled with it. Don’t insist that your loved one has to adopt it. To start, it’s enough for him to acknowledge a problem. What you label the problem – problem use, addiction, dependency, a tough time – is less important than the ways you you talk about it.
Getting ready to confront a loved one about their problem use is difficult. They may sense you are getting ready to bring it up, and attempt to avoid or distract away from the discussion. Understand that resistance and denial often accompany problem drug use. Here are some tips that others have found helpful:
What follows are 5 principles to strategic, successful helping. They are support by CRAFT, Community Reinforcement Approach Family Therapy, an evidence-based alternative to the Twelve Step Fellowships (e.g. Crystal Meth Anonymous). These principles are:
Do Not Rescue… …be there when they are sober
Do Not Enable … …allow consequences to happen
Explore Non-Using Activities Together… …and do them together
Step Away from Harmful Behaviour… …may only be temporary
Set and Maintain Your Boundaries… …communicate these clearly
What if he’s not ready for help or even talk? Don’t despair or take it personally. Let your loved one know you care, and that when he’s ready for help, you’ll be there. You’ve planted a seed of change, and let that be for now. Do not try to rescue your loved one from his problem. You do not have the power to do so.
What you can do is to positively influence the possibility that that he will seek help, without losing yourself along the way. Positive influencing and encouraging to access a service is different than doing things for a person. This is what rescuing is.
Avoid rescuing when your loved one is high or crashing. Doing things for people once they are high, such as making them dinner, or spending time with them when they are difficult for you to be around them is counter-productive. It increases the likelihood that whenever your loved one is high, or crashing, that they will come to you. This level of involvement tends to breed resentment and can lead to conflict.
Instead, let your loved know about your concerns (see above), but let natural consequences of their choices occur, do not seek to save them from those. Be there for them when they are sober, 100% is a helpful way and communicates respect for your own boundaries. Cleaning up the mess every time things get messy actually helps reward the problem behaviour of the person, a process called Enabling.
Enabling is protecting your loved one from the negative consequences of his dependence. Do not cover up for him. He needs to feel the downsides of his Tina use even if it’s hard for us to witness. Many people enable people they love who have a problem. It is surprisingly easy to fall into. If you find yourself focusing on what he does, where he goes, or how much he uses, you are trying to rescue and control his behaviour. Even if you could control such behaviour, it is not yours to journey.
His problem drug use is not our fault and you are not responsible for his struggles, or successes in recovery. All you can do is talk honestly with him, show him we care, and encourage his own positive steps. Helping a loved one with a drug problem is hard work. Find support. Talk with a peer, counselor, co-worker, etc.
Model the behavior you wish to see. Being hypocritical when it comes to our own substance use isn’t helpful. Requiring your loved one reduce substance use, while you continue to use, even if your use is not the problem, is extremely triggering for your loved one. This can be challenging if you used to use Tina or other substances together. You may have to re-examine how you spend time together. Many users are triggered by other substances and various social situations which can include you! If you really want to help, understand what his triggers are, and eliminate your part in them, such as not using around him. Do not punish them either, such as not hanging around them because you have to curb your use when around them. Reward their efforts to be well, by exploring alternative activities. Help them by coming up with ideas for things you can do together, and do these things with them.
It can be hard to love and support someone who steals from us, lies to us, manipulates us, breaks promises, borrows money they don’t pay back, and who spend more time getting high with others than with us. If you are being hurt by a loved one’s problem behaviours, it may be time to walk away from the situation. It’s hard to do, but sometimes losing people we love, is a temporary measure that helps them in the long run. Sometimes guys report that they finally understood how serious their problem was when lovers, friends, or families distanced themselves. Sometimes the damage to the relationship is too great to be repaired and we lose people permanently. Sometimes we need to disengage completely to save ourselves.
Decide how much you are willing to put up with. Be clear with your loved one what will happen if he pushes this limit – do not hint, suggest, or make them wonder why you stepped away. Be straight up, and whatever you decide, stick to it. This is called setting and maintaining boundaries. It is also called ‘tough love’ and is essential to pull back from Rescuing, Enabling, burnout and resentment. Pulling back rarely feels “good,” but it is more helpful for both of you in the long run. Trust us, we’ve been there. The closer you are to the person, the harder setting limits can be. Get help and support with this.