Lovers, Friends and Families

Self care
Telltale signs present in early Tina use
Someone we care about is a problem Tina user
          Understanding Tina dependence
          Tips for talking with someone about their problem use
          Strategies for helping
          Recovery issues

Understanding Tina dependence

Be Aware Of Our Own Judgments

Drug use is a continuum from non-use, use and abuse through to dependence or addiction. 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 or may even be addicted to it, 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.

Common Questions

Tina use, abuse, and dependence can seem hard to explain, frustrating, and contrary to all logic, especially when it's someone close to us with the problem. How long do we watch the harm being done before we step in? How can we help when we don't even understand what's going on?

Full-blown dependence is a chronic condition and like others, can be more easily and successfully treated when recognized early. Although individuals do have to make the decision to change their use or quit for themselves, that doesn't mean we can't do anything to move the process along. Myths like, ‘You can't do anything unless they want to stop,’ or ‘Addicts have to hit bottom before they want help’ are well known, but not true. Lovers, friends and family members can and do play a major role in motivating people they care about to seek help.

When you're ready to help, you may be confused by the numerous and often conflicting advice that's out there. Let him hit bottom or get involved now? Tough love or unconditional love? A surprise intervention in the living room with all his friends or a gentle one-to-one over coffee? Which strategy is the right one? Everyone has different needs, communication styles, reasons for using, and readiness to reduce use or quit altogether. You already know a lot about your lover, friend or family member’s personality and may be able to choose the helping strategy that's most likely to work. In addition, you need to understand a few basics about dependence if we are going to be helpful.

Understanding the Basics

First, no one ever thinks they will become dependent. Most guys believe they can control their use. Some can. Many cannot. The crossover line between casual party use and dependence is sneaky and hard to predict. As you can learn elsewhere on this site, Tina is particularly seductive in this respect. Most guys who use stumble over the line unexpectedly and without even knowing it. The further one goes across the line, the harder it is to cross back. Our society values will power and self-reliance, and people generally think they can control their behaviors and manage the consequences. Try not to blame the one you care about for losing control.

Second, Tina causes immediate and profound changes in brain chemistry which result in powerful pleasure cravings and mood swings. At the same time, the brain may start losing its ability to process information and make decisions effectively. 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 the one you care about keeps getting high or engaging in risky behaviors even after he repeatedly swears he won't. Until he stops using and stays clean long enough for the brain to recover at least in part, his thoughts, actions and decisions may seem irrational and, quite frankly, just plain stupid to you.

Dependence is both biology and psychology. While the cycle of withdrawal-craving-reward is certainly driven by changes in brain chemistry, it’s also shaped by deep and often difficult emotions. We often call these our ‘issues,’ and they can include anything from poor self-image to internalized homophobia and racism to serious depression or 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.

Finally, the term ‘addict’ is largely negative in our society. While 12-step philosophy insists that publicly declaring oneself to be an addict is a critical and even liberating step towards recovery, most people associate the term with failure, shame, criminal activity, and irresponsible self-neglect. It's difficult to take on a label like that. So don't insist that your lover, friend or family member does. To start, it's enough for him to simply acknowledge a problem. What you call that problem – problem use, addiction, dependency, a tough time -- is less important than how you talk about it.

It may also be helpful to refer to our companion article, 'Signs of Dependence', written from the perspective of the user.

Adapted from with permission