What you can do to support an LGBTQ loved one around alcohol and drugs

If a partner, friend or family member needs support or if they are ready for a change, you can help them to address their relationship with substances.

We care for the important people in our lives in so many ways - by listening and talking about what’s going on in each other’s lives, by letting people know we are concerned about them, by just being there when we are needed… this is great but it’s not always easy.

Knowing what to do or how best to provide support can be challenging.

Below we have listed some tips that can help you with this:

  • Practice open communication. Talking about issues as they arise will allow people to plan the steps they need to take.
  • Allow the person to make choices for themselves and be mindful that their choices may be different from your choices.
  • Get to know the outcome that the person you are supporting is seeking, for example, do they wish to stop using altogether or do they want to cut down their use? Try not to get too focused on one solution or outcome, there is no one solution or outcome that works for everyone.
  • Being positive and encouraging is generally far more effective than placing pressure on someone who is already in a challenging situation.
  • It is helpful to discuss the issues when you are calm.
  • Be aware that temporary lapses (i.e. using alcohol and/or other drugs) are common when people are aiming to change their use. This can be an opportunity to reassess things and start afresh and does not mean failure
  • Keep things private, LGBTQ communities are small and respecting confidentiality is important.

Remember it’s ok to feel like we don’t have all the answers, nor can we fully understand what’s going on for someone. It is also natural for us to want to help or even ‘fix’ the situation or the person we love, but we must understand that we can’t. Often the best thing we can do is to be there for them and convey we are available to listen, believe things can get better, and help them to get support. If you are unsure of what your friend or family member needs from you in terms of practical support, ask them, “If I were being really helpful when you are having a bad day or moment, what would I be doing?”

What if using alcohol and drugs together is part of your relationship?

If using alcohol and/or other drugs together is part of your relationship you may need to change some of your own practices and behaviours in order to be supportive. Not using alcohol and or drugs around the person is a supportive act.

While you may be in control of your own use, being around drugs and alcohol can be a trigger to those with more harmful patterns of use so be mindful of any difficulties they might be experiencing. Try to spend time with them engaged in activities and in environments that don’t involve substance use. While you are not responsible for policing their substance use, you can be thoughtful and caring, and try to avoid what might be triggering for them.

If you are out and about with the person at an event where people are drinking and/or taking drugs, let the person know that you’re happy to leave with them at any time should they wish to leave.

ACON offers an LGBTQ specific substance support service, visit this page for more information.

For a list of of services that are inclusive and culturally safe for LGBTQ people visit our services directory.

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