Category Archives: Someone else’s drinking

What to say to someone who has a drink problem.

I get asked a lot how it’s possible to help someone with a drink problem. What do you say? What do you do? The following are some simple steps and phrases to use with someone who clearly has a drinking problem but may still be in denial.

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

• Start the conversation by telling them what you value about them.
• Tell them that anything spoken about will remain confidential
• Inform them briefly about what you have observed about their drinking and behaviour and why it
isn’t ‘normal’ drinking.
• Outline briefly what you believe an alcohol problem to be and what help is available
• After a couple of weeks if nothing has changed, repeat what you have said

The following may be useful:

– “your drinking doesn’t look like it’s fun any more”
– “When did your drinking stop being fun?”
– “I’m frightened for you when you drink”
– “You don’t have to drink everyday or first thing in the morning to have a drink problem”
– “It’s not your fault that things have ended up like this but it is your responsibility that
you do something about it”
– “Drinking because of stress is an excuse, there are different ways to respond to stress”

What is an alcoholic?
• An alcoholic doesn’t necessarily drink every day or first thing in the morning.
• An alcoholic can stop drinking for periods of time
• Once an alcoholic has started drinking it’s very difficult for them to stop
• An alcoholic feels ‘uncomfortable in their own skin’
• Alcoholics feel lots of fear and shame about themselves
• Alcoholism is much more to do with how someone thinks and feels rather than how much they

When friends stop drinking…..

Steve Whiteley for many reasons decided to stop drinking. It just didn’t agree with him anymore, he’d stopped enjoying it and the idea of getting drunk was boring to him. He’d just turned 33 and the whole cycle of going out at weekends and getting drunk and then being hungover had just run it’s course. Plus, he was beginning to realize how much money he was spending on going out and partying. So he stopped and here is a video of how his friends reacted:

It’s brilliant isn’t it? The Magaluf intervention – genius! Anyone who has ever quit drinking will totally relate to the reaction of his friends….
Steve is a comedy/actor.producer and has recently launched the YouTub channel OffKey.

Heroin addiction, a mother’s story…

I’ve always wanted this blog to show all sides of addiction, including the stories from those affected by addiction. I’m honored to share with you today Kim’s story. Kim tragically lost her beautiful daughter Kayela to heroin addiction. Here she bravely tells her story.

Addiction doesn’t just affect the person using drugs it affects the whole family. I know because I lived through my daughter Kayela’s addiction to heroin.

We raise our children and its hard work, changing diapers and heating formula and lining up daycare, the first day of school and homework we don’t understand.
We care for them until they are ready to go off in the world and we can only hope that we did the right thing, made all the right choices.
On my daughters 18th birthday I gave her a gold angel wing with a card that I made, it said: ” I give you this wing and its only one wing not two, so you can find your way in life but keep both feet on the ground ”
My daughter is Kayela Faye Ayers and she passed away at the young age of 21.

She was a heroin addict.
I am her mother and this is my story.

Kayela (right) with her mother Kim

Kayela (right) with her mother Kim

If you think raising a child is hard work, then try watching that same child come in the house high or drunk and not being able to do anything to stop it.
Please don’t ever think ” It won’t happen to me ” because addiction can affect anyone. Once they take hold of that child, the same one we took to teacher conferences, that same child who you get that midnight call from the police department saying they have been arrested on drug charges, or a frantic person saying she stopped breathing and they took her to the hospital.

No one can imagine what a parent goes through when they hear these things unless you have been there.
My daughter started using heroin when she was 18, shortly after she went through some personal issues that involved putting a man in jail and then getting a beating because she did so.
That put her in the hospital with a head concussion and blackened eyes.
I pinpoint that moment because that’s when I saw a change in her and it was a violent change.
It’s hard to see these things and feel you can’t do anything about it. She hid it at first and I thought things were going great but deep inside she wasn’t ok. I don’t know how many times I look back and think, “If I only knew then what I know now, would it have mattered?”
I just don’t have that answer.
I spent a lot of nights crying, picturing her dead somewhere.
Kayela was under a Doctors care so I wanted to discuss with the doctor what was happening.
I called the doctor and told her that my daughter was abusing her meds and was using heroin, but the doctor told me she couldn’t discuss it with me. The doctor just kept filling her scripts.
After Kayela died they kept sending me bills for the prescription they had given her.

Kayela eventually agreed to go to Detox, but we could only get her admitted for 3 days and then there was nowhere for her to go after.

There was so much I didn’t know and I was so frightened. Kayela overdosed and her heart stopped, I naively though that would scare her into not using heroin. But I was wrong, she was back using as soon as she was released from hospital.
We tried to get her into rehab but we couldn’t get her a bed or they were too much money.
She became violent and there were many arguments and fights, as she got more and more desperate. My marriage to her stepfather fell apart because of the stress.
She finally got herself in a mess and was pulled over with heroin in her car and was arrested. She spent time in jail and upon release had to go to a halfway house. I think I slept more during that time then I had in so long, things were looking great and she was doing really well.
She was homesick and during her stay I bought a place for us to live for when she got out.
I painted and put carpet in her room to make it look the best I could. We were both excited.
Around April of 2012 she was able to come home but was on probation and had to attend AA every day. I often went to meetings with her.
Then she began to push me away again and began lashing out in anger. I tried to help her but she says I was nagging her and I needed to trust her. My head would spin because I wanted to trust her but part of me just couldn’t. I was always looking around her room and checking for signs of her using.
She wanted to go back to school, which I was really happy about. She was a smart girl so I wanted to do everything I could to help her. We got new clothes and school supplies, she seemed really happy.

One day I had to drive her to a store to return some clothing that didn’t fit.
It was only $25 and she said it was too small.
She came home and it was a quiet evening. I was watching TV with her sister and Kayela was upstairs sorting out her new stuff.
For some reason Kayela’s sister said I should check on her before I went to bed
I was always told to announce myself as I go upstairs so I called out ‘I’m coming up.’ Her light was on and as my head peaked over the top railing I saw her face down on the floor.
I screamed her name but she did not move. I ran over to her and when I felt her skin she was cold I yelled to her sister to call 911 “I think your sisters dead.” Her touch was cold and the color in her hand was grey.

The operator was asking me to do CPR but I didn’t know how to and I was scared I would hurt her. A couple of minutes passed and I heard sirens coming down the street. The next thing I knew the paramedics were there and they worked on her for over an hour. They took her to the hospital where they worked on her for another hour.
But she was gone.
In my gut I knew she was gone when I first found her face down in her bedroom.
I don’t remember much after that, it was a blur.
I blamed myself; I went through everything trying to think what I could have done differently, how I could have helped her.
Kayela’s addiction affected everyone, when she died a piece of me died with her that day.
You never get over loosing a child.
The only way I could live with the pain of loosing her was to try and help prevent other addicts suffering the same fate.

Kayela (right)

Kayela (right)

I tell my story wherever I can and took classes to become a Recovery Coach.
I don’t want anyone else to have to live with what I’m going through, the only way through this pain is to help others.
I miss Kayela every day; no mother should ever have to go through this. Yet drugs take more and more children everyday and we are still not doing enough to stop it.
Goodbye my beautiful angel.

How to deal with a loved one’s drinking – part 4

Entering treatment
This is the last instalment on how to help someone who drinks. If you are in the fortunate position that your loved one is about to enter a treatment facility then the following might be helpful:

"Psychiatrist Examining A Male Patient" by Ambro courtesy of

“Psychiatrist Examining A Male Patient” by Ambro courtesy of

Don’t send him/her money, gifts; cigarettes directly; always refer these via the clinical team.

Don’t accept phone calls during the first week, however much you or the children miss him/her. This is
a life and death illness and the focus needs to be on treatment, not what’s happening at home.

Don’t arrange visits until you are sure that the clinic has authorised them. Don’t take his/her word for it.

Don’t take everything he/she says at face value; always verify facts with the clinical team. Alcoholics often tell their families they are being treated badly and that they want to come home. Usually, all they want to do is get away so they can drink/use again. Sometimes they will engineer conflicts to justify leaving.

Don’t take any drastic action without first talking to his/her counsellor: never arrange to collect them from treatment without speaking to their counsellor first.

Don’t be taken in by allegations that the treatment centre are forcing religion on them. This is a common excuse for getting out of treatment, though it’s unjustified. If they are in a 12-step treatment programme this involves simple spiritual principles, not religious dogma. If in doubt, speak to a counsellor who can explain things further.

If your loved one tells you that treatment is not suitable for them but they still want to get clean or sober just not in treatment, don’t be hoodwinked. Ask why and speak to a counsellor. Alcoholics are brilliant liars and manipulators; they have had to be to survive.

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by your loved one, either physically, emotionally or verbally; its time for things to start changing.

If this all sounds harsh, as if treatment treats your loved ones like naughty children, please be assured that anyone who enters treatment is always afforded the respect they deserve for taking such a courageous step. Practically all staff in 12-step treatment centres are in recovery themselves. They know from personal experience how to manipulate and get their own way, no-body could be better equipped to deal with them!

The Do’s
Do get on with your everyday life as much as possible. Try to carry on as normal.

Do read the chapters ‘To Wives’ and ‘The Family Afterward’ in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. A counsellor will tell you how to get hold of a copy (it’s available on

Do attend Al-anon or Families Anonymous meetings. You will find people in exactly the same situation as yourself at these meetings; search the web for meetings in your area.

Do stand up for yourself. Your loved one may have become accustomed to having things their own way. You matter too, be assertive.

Do make sure that there is someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. If there is no one suitable, speak to one of the counsellors at the clinic.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to all the problems you may encounter as a family getting into recovery it is meant as a starting point to enable you to gain a wider understanding of the problem you are dealing with.

You can read last week’s instalment here.

How to deal with a loved one’s drinking – Part 3

Put your oxygen mask on
When you fly in an aeroplane the air stewards will normally give a demonstration of what happens in the event of an emergency. They will demonstrate how to apply an oxygen mask in the event of air-pressure in the cabin dropping. Whilst demonstrating this they often instruct passengers that if they are sitting next to a small child or elderly person to put the oxygen mask on themselves, before helping the person next to them.

Oxygen mask

Oxygen mask

Often when we have been in a relationship with someone in active alcoholism we are busy taking care of their needs and not our own. We worry and fret about them and all our thoughts and conversations are taken up with their issues, we end up neglecting ourselves.

This is very simple you need to take care of yourself before you can help the people you love.
Try and identify where you need to do this and make the necessary changes, this isn’t selfish, this is self-preservation.

Imagine that you were on the aeroplane and you were running around putting on oxygen masks on everyone else before yourself, eventually you would run out of air and pass out.
Then what would happen? In order to serve, assist and love the people who matter to you, make sure you are taking care of yourself first.

Avoid blame
Blame serves no one; it punishes people and drives families and relationships apart. Blaming yourself for your loved ones problems is a very punishing thing to do, this is very common if the alcoholic is your child, parents tend to blame themselves. Accept that you have always tried to do your best and no-body is a perfect parent, everyone makes mistakes. Take responsibility by getting help or support and making necessary changes but stop beating yourself up.

Take one day at a time
If your loved one gets the right kind of help then they have a strong chance of getting well and living a healthy productive life. Accept it’s up to them to do the work, not you.
You can help and support within your boundaries but this really needs to be their effort. Don’t project about the future, we have no idea how that is going to work out all we can do is try our best and take life one day at a time. That’s all that is required of you.

If you have been in a relationship with an alcoholic, you have probably not thought about yourself for a long time. You may have been running around after them for so long, worrying about how they feel that you have forgotten how you feel.
Stop, and breath. How they feel is not your responsibility, as hard as that may be to understand. Only your feelings are your responsibility.
It’s time to take care of you.

Next week: The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ when your loved one is in treatment.

You can read the last weeks entry here.

How to deal with a loved one’s drinking – Part 2

Setting boundaries
It’s probably true in many cases that were it not for the love and support of families, many alcoholics and addicts would be dead today. There is a point however, when the balance tips towards enabling rather than helping.
As family members we do what we feel is right, though often we sense that in trying to help, we only make matters worse. It is so painful watching a loved one suffer that we are prepared to do almost anything to relieve their pain. In doing so we may inadvertently prolong the suffering for everyone.

In order to really help the person we love we may need to make some changes in how we are dealing with the problem, remember your loved one isn’t wrong or bad. They are ill; they are unable to comprehend fully what they are doing or the consequences of their behaviour. You can help support them by learning a different approach to dealing with the problem.

Keeping boundaries
Boundaries are vital in all relationships; they protect us and other people. We are responsible for putting down our boundaries and protecting them. People will naturally push against them but it is our job to keep them.

Boundaries are the ‘line in the sand’ that we use to decide what is unacceptable or acceptable for us. When dealing with a person we love who is in active alcoholism we often move our ‘goalposts’ or ‘line in the sand’ and will do things we don’t want to do because we think it’ll help the other person.

However what usually happens is we end up angry or resentful because they have hurt us again.
Keeping your boundaries means not agreeing to do something that feels uncomfortable or ‘wrong’ to you no matter how hard the other person is trying to persuade you.

A good example of this would be calling in sick for your loved one when they are too hung over to go to work (again). By doing this you would be violating your own boundaries and values and would inevitably feel resentful for being put in this position. But you would probably feel you were helping your loved one by doing it, which is how you justify it to yourself, and hence the ‘goalposts’ get moved.

In reality you are taking the consequences away from the alcoholic. If they are left to deal with the consequences of their actions then they may find the motivation to get the help they need.

Be consistent
Make your feelings clear as simply as you can to your loved one, let them know how their behaviour makes you feel. Try to do this without anger or resentment (hard I know) but consistently let them know that you felt hurt, confused, let down by their behaviour.
Be consistent in letting them know that you love them but that their behaviour affects you so badly that it is difficult for you to continue your relationship with them whilst they are still drinking.
Communicating how you feel is much more effective than being angry or resentful.
e.g. “I feel hurt and disappointed when you behave like you did last night, I love you but your behaviour is unacceptable to me, I’d like you to get help”
Repeat this message consistently.

Putting down boundaries with an alcoholic is going to be a case of trial and error. What’s important is you start practicing them. The alcoholic in your life will keep taking as long as you keep giving. Strange as it sounds, loving yourself may be the first step in them realising there is a problem. If you stop saving them, they may wake up to the fact that they have to save themselves. You have probably learnt by now that you can’t stop someone drinking, they have to make the decision themselves. Having boundaries and therefore allowing them to feel the consequences of their actions, may actually save their lives.

Next week: How to take care of yourself.

If you missed the first part of this series you can read it here.

How to do deal with a loved one’s drinking: Part 1

Guidelines for family members
I’m often approached by people who have a loved one who has a serious alcohol problem. They are in despair and don’t know what to do.
Living with the consequences of someone else’s addiction or alcoholism can be devastating.
Standing on the sidelines watching someone you love destroy themselves and you are powerless to stop it. You can feel alone, isolated, frightened, angry, bitter, ashamed and hopeless with no idea what to do next.
I’m starting a series of posts on ‘how to deal with a loved one’s drinking,’ that I hope will help you understand and find strategies to deal with the situation. There is actually a lot you can do, what’s important is understanding what helps and what harms.

Please be reassured that you are not alone that many people have experienced what you are going through as alcoholism can touch anyone regardless of circumstances. What is important is that you don’t go through this alone and access help and support wherever possible.

Addiction/alcoholism is a disease not a life-style
Alcoholism is an disease. This is hard to understand because it doesn’t seem like one. Alcoholism has bee recognised by medical professionals and researcher as a primary, progressive, chronic and sometimes fatal disease. It’s true that nobody held forced the drink or pills down anyones throats, people choose to use alcohol and drugs. but if you have a predisposition to alcoholism or addiction the likelihood is you won’t be able to control or stop your use.

Why it happens to some people and not others is still unclear. The most helpful way to view alcoholism/addiction is that it is a symptom of a deeper emotional and spiritual problem.

Human beings are very complex and some people are just born better equipped to deal with life and their feelings, other people struggle with living life and use substances or unhealthy behaviour to cope.

All human behaviour is ultimately a manifestation of how someone feels.

So to put this in context of your loved one, their behaviour may have been outrageous, annoying, inconsiderate, hurtful, stupid or unmanageable but the reason that they behaved in any of these ways was because of how they felt at any given moment. Their behaviour was the best way they had at that time to deal with how they felt. Often they felt so bad that they were just anesthetising their feelings because they couldn’t bare it any longer.
So your loved one isn’t a bad person they are simply a sick person who needs help. It isn’t their fault they became an alcoholic or addict but it is their responsibility they do something about it.

So the most important thing to do is educate yourself about the disease. Once you understand what you’re dealing with, then you can begin to do something about it.

Here are some resources that might help: Al-anon is a self help organisation dedicated to helping the loved ones of alcoholics. Coda focuses on helping people develop healthy relationships.

Alternatively you could contact a local treatment centre or rehab and see if they run a family program. Sometimes it’s the family member that seeking help first that prompts the alcoholic to do the same.

Next week: How boundaries will save your sanity, and help the alcoholic understand how their drinking impacts others.

How alcoholism effects the people we love.

One of the reasons I wanted to write my book ‘Why you drink and how to stop: A journey to freedom’ was because alcoholism can be such a difficult disease to understand.
Particularly for the loved ones of an alcoholic.

I wanted to write something that would help these people understand how an alcoholic thinks and why they behave the way they do. So they could see it wasn’t a question of will power or confidence. That alcoholics drank because of they can’t cope with how they feel.
We all know alcoholics and addicts suffer but what I feel is under reported is how much their loved ones suffer too. I think the feelings of these loved ones have been sidelined for too long.
Which is why I’m pleased the Guardian is starting what looks like a great weekly column from the perspective of the wife of an alcoholic.

I’ve counselled many families who have spent years watching someone they love self destruct finally get some hope when the alcoholic finally goes to rehab or AA.
Of course, they think that everything is going to be alright now, especially after spending a month in rehab. They think their loved one is going to come out the other side just how they remember them, back in the old days.
They are usually shocked and upset to discover that this isn’t the case.
That rehab or a few AA meetings is just the start and the real hard work is about to start. They may also be shocked to find out the problem was never alcohol in the first place and even now the loved one isn’t drinking, things are still not ok. That recovery is about the sober alcoholic learning a better way to manage their emotional life and that can take a while.
It’s time loved ones had more of a voice.