Family Drug Support Australia
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Coping Tips

A Guide to Coping


Our family education kit A Guide To Coping is receiving acclaim across the country. Many professional agencies have praised the soundness of the information and strategies contained in the kit.
This revised edition contains extra information and fact sheets introducing the new model of family coping and management and the Stepping Stones to Success and Stepping Forward courses.
This book is free for members. Additional copies are available to members at a reduced rate.


Boundary – 'a limit on what is reasonable' Oxford English Dictionary
One of the areas that families of substance users have difficulty with is in setting boundaries that are effective and manageable.
All relationships where people live together need boundaries in place to develop trust, stability and respect within the relationship.
Effective boundaries give a sense of security and respect.
When a substance user lives in a household, boundaries often get stretched to the limit or even broken down completely – giving the family members a sense of helplessness. One mother said "It was like our home had been taken over by a tyrant. We all had to walk around on egg shells while he did whatever he wanted, if anyone said anything he threatened suicide or moving out onto the streets".
Family members firstly need to remember who pays the rent, the mortgage or owns the house. While giving away power through fear or threats it's not effective and will only lead to more chaos and anxiety. The truth is that the drug user would be at a disadvantage without a place to stay. They usually know this very well.
There are three stages to effective boundary setting:
  1. Defining the boundary and consequences that everyone agrees on and can live with.
  2. Setting the boundary and communicating the understanding of all parties.
  3. Keeping the boundary.
Action learning is a useful concept here because the truth is that boundaries need setting and modifying many times. So there is a constant process of setting, reviewing, modifying and re-setting. So it is always important that you don't see boundaries as totally set in concrete.
Why set boundaries?
  1. They encourage the drug user to take more responsibility for their behaviour.
  2. They help the drug user become aware that their behaviour impacts on those around them.
  3. They model a healthy and safe way for people to co-exist, even when there are difficulties.
  4. They help the whole family to minimise the harm and negative impact of substance use and the attendant behaviours.
  5. They help break down the negative roles that members get stuck in i.e. mothers rescuing users, users relying on others to accommodate them, fathers getting angry etc.
Remember the key FDS principle- you can never change anyone else no matter how much you want to. What you do have total control over is you, your behaviour and how you respond to situations. The great thing about this is that if you do change yourself it may then provoke change in the other.

Walking a Tightrope

Alcohol and other drug use and violence: A guide for families
Alcohol and other drug use and family violence often occur together. Families already coping with a family member who uses alcohol and drugs can also be exposed to violent behaviours. Living with a family member who uses alcohol or other drugs and who is violent can be frightening. It can feel like walking a tightrope. Specialist support and medical attention may be helpful.