Project 6

Living with a substance user

Living with a substance user

Living with a substance user

It is important to appreciate that when living with a substance user our behaviour has a direct effect on their behaviour and their substance use.


When living with a substance user how you communicate with each other is significant. It is easy to get into the habit of shouting at each other and making threats. It is important that when talking about the substance use both of you are calm and neither is intoxicated, let them know that you do not wish to argue with them as it doesn’t help either of you. Often when upset we tend to blame the user and make sweeping statements, we use what are called “you “ statements, i.e. “you’re stupid getting drunk all the time” or “You should be ashamed of yourself” which automatically puts your loved one on the defensive. Instead try using what are known as “I” messages which allows you to put across how you feel, how their substance use is making you feel i.e.”I find it hard to understand why you have been drinking” or “ I like you so much more when you are sober.” Constant conflict is draining and unproductive for the both of you. Conflict has a powerful effect on the loved one’s use and the concerned other’s well being.


It is easy to make threats to the loved one, but ensure that any threats made are ones that you are willing and able to carry out. Otherwise the substance user will begin to think that all threats are “empty threats” and therefore they won’t change their behaviour as they know that you won’t carry out the threat, there are no consequences to their behaviour.

Points of view

Try to see the situation from the loved one’s point of view. Offer empathy and recognise why the situation might be difficult for them, whilst reiterating your own feelings and explaining why and how a situation is difficult for you. Offer to help the loved one suggesting that between you, you can find a way to resolve the situation or you can support the loved one making change.

Useful websites

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