Monday, November 28, 2016

Wanting to help

You can't tell people what to do.  I have definitely found this when it comes to relationships.  There is no point in trying to tell people that they should break up with someone, no matter how bad it is.  All that happens is they get bitter at you or become more entrenched in their problems.  People have to come around to figuring out that their situations are crappy on their own.  It isn't just in the arena of relationships that this advice seems to apply though, it also it just as true when it comes to substance use.

There have been a bunch of incidents in my life in the past while where people have been using substances in way they aren't happy about and I have sat there, unsure if or how I could help.  If they aren't convinced they have a problem then I really can't do much as I don't think that trying to convince them works.  I don't judge people by some arbitrary metric - I don't say that X drinks of alcohol or coffee makes you an addict, or that Y pulls on a cigarette or joint is an issue.  You have an addiction problem when your addiction causes problems, not when you meet some particular usage benchmark.  When someone doesn't feel they have a problem, it isn't my place to tell them they do.

The trick is when they decide they have a problem and I have to figure out what to do to help them cope.

I could try to say "Hey, maybe you have had enough for tonight...", which is fairly blunt, or just try to arrange things such that the environment controls the usage on its own.  If I invite people over and don't have their substance around, it is easier to avoid the issue.

But I just haven't found that anything I do helps.  At best I have no effect, and at worst I end up in opposition to people's desires and conflict threatens.  Even when that conflict comes up, it doesn't change how anyone behaves, so why even try?

It is hard to not try to help people who have said that they are trying to stop doing a thing, or that they know that doing that thing is hurting them.  I don't want to be anyone's keeper, or run their life, but I want to do what I can to help them make the decisions they want to make.

I also can't be sure that I truly understand the problem.  I have my own compulsions and poor decisions, no doubt, but substance abuse isn't on that list.  I drank a lot of caffeine in years gone by, but quitting was trivial for me, and that is the closest to kicking a substance habit I have had.  My compulsions are things like sex and video games, which while they can be compelling, lack the biological factor of substance usage.  That difference is huge and it means that I can't really grasp other people's experiences and that disconnect may lead me to misunderstand what they need.

I can and do provide encouragement and acceptance.  These things are a given.  Nonetheless, I want to do more.  I want to help shoulder the burden, if I can, but I can't ever seem to find a way to take it on myself.  I have the strength to spare, if I could just way a way to apply it, but every active application just seems to do nothing helpful.

Maybe that's all there is.  Maybe there is nothing I can really do aside from listen and offer a shoulder to lean on, and people just have to solve their own problems.  I don't like it, and especially now with so many people I know being distraught at the state of the world these things seem to be coming up more often than before.

If you are asking "Is it me?  Am I the potential addict Sky is talking about?" then the answer is maybe you are.  But you are in good company, at least.  You can take comfort in that.  There are many people with the same kinds of struggles, mostly they are wonderful and amazing folks, and you are most definitely not alone. 

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