By Corinne Yeadon, of the Being Better private therapy practice based in Newmarket Street, Skipton

WHEN working with people affected by a loved one’s drinking or drug use, I often liken it to watching a car crash in slow motion, waiting for the impact and being powerless to intervene. The challenges facing people in the grip of an addiction or problematic drinking/drug use are widely acknowledged, but the impact on those nearest is often overlooked. Family and friends often neglect themselves because all energies are focused on their loved one. Sometimes grandparents find themselves in a position of taking on parental care and responsibility for grandchildren on a temporary or permanent basis.

Concerned others often refer to their loved one as “Jekyll and Hyde” because of the marked difference when under the influence. It’s crucial to make the distinction between the person and the addictive behaviours.

When feeling helpless the inclination is to try and take charge which is completely understandable but can result in drug or alcohol use becoming even more hidden and alienate the loved one further.

Beginning open conversations coming from a place of care and concern is a good starting point. Words are powerful but even the most carefully worded communication can be misunderstood if someone is intoxicated, so timing is crucial. Avoid beginning conversations with “you” as this can sound accusatory. A positive way to express concerns is to use “I” or “It”. Asking questions can prove helpful and feels more collaborative and supportive. “What would help?” or “What can I do?”

It’s not uncommon to want to keep a loved one’s drinking or drug use a secret out of feelings of loyalty and protection. It can feel like a betrayal talking to others. There is also the worry that people will think badly about the person you love and care about.

Don’t shoulder it alone or be afraid to ask for help, speak to selected, trusted people or drug and alcohol specialists and support services. Be direct about your needs whether it’s about needing to offload or seeking advice or information.