Drink and drugs are part of our society whether we like it or not and it’s unlikely they’ll go away any time soon.
The harm they cause is well known but even those who abstain still face the risk of damage to their wellbeing because alcohol and, to a lesser extent, drugs are so much a part of wider society.
It’s far easier to pretend drink and drugs aren’t causing us issues than it is to face down the problem but, as with most troubles, the longer it is ignored, the greater it becomes.
If you drink or take drugs yourself
Drinking in moderation is not wholly discouraged, even by most health professionals, unless there’s a specific reason it poses greater harm to an individual.
But, in reality, drink and drugs can pose a lot of danger to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Taking an honest look at your drink or drug habits and appraising whether they’re healthy can be an empowering thing.
If you are worried your drink and drug use is too frequent or too extreme or if you binge drink or tend to turn to drink and drugs to help numb emotions, to build your confidence, forget, escape or rely on substances to help you de-stress – there could be a problem.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dependent or addicted, but it could mean you’re not behaving in the most healthy way.
Drink is a causal factor in more than 60 health conditions – including numerous cancers as well as mental health issues such as depression. Recent studies show what a huge problem drink and drugs are in many communities.
Be bold. Take a look at your substance use, consider how it makes you feel and act and, if the outcome isn’t good, make a decision to change and seek whatever help you need. If you’re already a moderate user, who isn’t dependent, that may be as simple as making a firm decision to reduce your own use. You may decide that sharing that decision with friends and family will help you to stick to it.
If you need more help, it’s out there. There’s no need to be ashamed and the sooner you take action the less of a mountain you’ll have to climb.
Someone you love, care about, or work with drinks or takes drugs
When someone you love drinks or takes drugs and it causes you concern, that can also have a major impact on your own wellbeing.
They don’t need to be an alcoholic or addicted for there to be an impact on you. Perhaps you’re just opposed to drinking and drug use and it is, therefore, uncomfortable for you. Maybe you don’t feel like the person you love is their best self when they drink or use drugs. Or perhaps you have genuine and valid concerns about the harm drink and drugs are causing a loved one.
It can cause a lot of worry, concern, and heartache if you are close to someone who drinks or takes drugs in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
Looking after yourself and exploring how you feel is important. There are family support services for people who are concerned about someone else’s alcohol or drug use.
It’s vital to remember that, whilst you can offer love and support to someone over their alcohol or drug use, you are not responsible for their behaviour and cannot make them stop. If they are addicted they may not be able to stop and may need professional help. It can be a long process – and their continued drinking or using does not mean they don’t value you. It may mean they don’t treat you well as a result and you may have to take steps to protect your own wellbeing whilst they continue their behaviour or take steps to get well themselves.
If the person with the issue is a colleague and you find yourself covering for them it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes people with a drink or drug issue need to feel the consequences of their actions before they will face their problem and change. The burden you are shouldering in covering for them may not even be helpful in the longer term.
You don’t drink and people aren’t understanding of your position
When you decide not to drink or take drugs, you can face a lot of peer pressure – even when you’re a grown adult. Especially if such behaviour is common in your social circle.
People seem to care a lot about someone choosing not to join in when they are drinking or using drugs. Their comments and incitement to ‘have a drink’ or ‘just have a little bit’ are often not intended to be malicious. They may even come from a loving place. Just like when someone turns down a piece of cake. You may encourage them to go ahead and have a piece – to live for the moment. You probably don’t consider if they were doing something good and healthy in refusing the cake, you just want them to be relaxed and to enjoy a treat.
Peer pressure of this type can be upsetting, isolating, embarrassing or may even make you feel you can’t stick to your decision to stay sober.
Remember, though, that if you’ve decided not to drink or take drugs, it’s a great and positive decision. Whilst there is an ongoing debate around whether a little alcohol or even a little of some drugs really does a lot of harm, few people or medical professionals would deny that you’re more likely to cause no harm if you decline altogether.
The advice here is really the same as you’d give to a child in a playground who was suffering peer pressure. You have to be strong and you have to realise that real friends will want what’s best for you and will accept your choices. That’s not to say that advice is easy to take or put into practice.
You may well discover that some of the people you thought were friends haven’t got your best interests at heart in the way you hoped they did. You may discover there are some people who aren’t as much fun as you thought they were once you’re sober when you’re around them. On occasion you may just want to seek out other like minded people who also don’t drink or take drugs and to socialise in an environment where that pressure to conform goes away.
Club Soda is a ‘Mindful Drinking Movement’ for people who want to reduce their drinking or to stop.
If drink and drugs are affecting your well being
It’s not easy to take action if your own drinking or drug-taking or that of someone else is damaging your well being, but it is possible.
Seek whatever help you need, consider, and make your decisions and then have faith in yourself to do what’s necessary – you can do it!
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