Let’s Talk About Drugs & Alcohol
My name is Caroline, and I’m an alcoholic. I’ll tell anyone and everyone that, because it’s not something I’ve ashamed of whatsoever. I graduated from an elite university in 2013 (with excellent grades, I might add), and then I graduated from rehab in 2014. I haven’t had a drink since. Because of my own history with addiction, the news of Demi Lovato’s drug overdose – which has been plastered all over every news site and social media platform – hit me pretty hard. After all, she had six years of sobriety under her belt. Could it have been avoided? Could she have gotten help before her addiction landed her in the hospital?
If you asked my best friends in college if they could tell I had a problem, a few of them would say yes. However, even more of them would say no. After all, I didn’t drink every day! And a lot of college students binge drink and party! Sadly, a lot of college students also develop problems. Addiction does not discriminate. No amount of money, education, or professional success makes you immune.
Because I’ve been so transparent and open about my own journey, I’ve been lucky enough to have many young women (and a few young men!) come to me for advice about quitting substances. I will tell you this: I am nearly always shocked by the people who reach out. They are smart, they are capable, they are beautiful, they are genuine, and they seem happy. I would never have guessed that they were struggling – not in a million years. Because I’ve seen firsthand how sneaky and hidden addiction can be, I’ve become even more zealous about talking about it, and helping people help themselves and help their loved ones.
If you’re considering approaching a friend with a problem, Recovery.org has some advice. The following list, and much more information, can be found on their website here.
“Being gentle and respectful may make your friend more likely to hear what you have to say. You also might want to consider the following:
- Timing is important. While it is best to talk to a friend while he or she is sober, this may not be feasible. Try to find a time when the person is calm. Some people are also more receptive to talking about their drinking problems shortly after they are faced with consequences, such as being arrested.
- Find a private place where your friend feels comfortable. If possible, talk to a friend in his or her home. Consider whether or not your friend would like other people present.
- Focus on your feelings. Many family and friends of people with drinking problems have a tendency to focus on the drinker’s shortcomings. This is often taken as an attack and leads to defensiveness, anger and resentment. Instead, focus on how your friend’s drinking has made you feel. Try using statements such as, “When I see you get drunk like that I feel scared” or “I feel hurt when you call me names when you are drinking.”
- Express concern. Feeling concerned about your friend is likely the reason that you want to talk to him or her. However, many people forget to express their concern because they become focused on their anger toward their loved one. Remind your friend that you are worried about his or her wellbeing, rather than shaming him or her.
- Provide treatment options and other support. Create a list of options to give to your friend, such as treatment centers, therapists and local recovery meetings. Providing several options may make your friend feel like he or she has a choice, rather than is being forced into getting help."
If you feel out of control using drugs or alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not the first person to need help, and you won’t be the last. Talk to an adult you trust, and tell them you need assistance. If you don’t have anyone to talk to in “real life,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is available 24/7, 365 days a year by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They can help you with the next step.