Research is finding that the use of substances like alcohol or drugs is a spectrum and it can be hard to identify where you or your partner fit into that range. Perhaps the most accurate answer is that if at least one person in your relationship believes substances are causing a problem, they are.

If you are the non-using member of the partnership, you’re probably the one seeking help initially. Maybe your partner is in denial that their use has turned to abuse. The signs of substance abuse include self-medicating for other problems, not fulfilling obligations or responsibilities, or trying unsuccessfully to cut down. You might also feel like even social use of a substance is no longer fun.

Some couples manage to sustain a relationship even when one is abusing substances. If one of you is willing to play the role of caretaker, you may be able to carry on, but it does require both of you to buy in to the situation and the caretaker often tends to develop feelings of resentment for giving up their own needs in order to maintain the relationship.

The more likely result is for the substance abuse, or the relationship, to end. If you are the non-user, your partner may actually choose to end the relationship because he or she can see that they are hurting you, or you are getting in the way of their use.

If you are dedicated to trying to save your relationship, there are tools to bring your partner to recognize how his or her use hurts the relationship. There is also support on how you can contribute to feeling more fulfilled in other areas of your life and learning how to detach with love. If you choose to attempt to intervene, confronting your loved one with friends and family can be very effective, particularly if you are a group that normally doesn’t talk about problems. You can’t expect it to look exactly like the interventions on TV, however. Sometimes it takes several interventions. Interventions can be a very powerful tool, especially if your children are involved. Your partner may assume they know how their problem is affecting others, but when they hear the truth it can be eye opening. It is recommended that you work with a trained interventionist to try to get the best results.

If children are also negatively impacted by a parent’s use, then it can be helpful to include them and offer them a chance to share their experience, as long as including them is not used for manipulation. Having a counselor for them to talk to can help them learn to articulate what they are experiencing and cope with those difficult feelings.

When your child is the user, it’s important to help him or her decide whether their use is a problem, so they feel more empowered to make the right decision. They’re smarter than they seem and they’re in a real transitional place, so if they have support they can change.

Many people have great success with support groups like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon and Narc-Anon. There is a group for people who are users, and for those who love them. There are groups for children and teens of users, and even adult children of users. This option has worked because you can belong to a community that understands your unique situation, get support to cope and thrive in your own life, and learn healthy habits. If you’re not comfortable with the first group, keep checking until you find the one you fit in with best. Therapy can enhance the effectiveness of those groups because a lot of time, it helps to have someone to sound it out with, outside of the group setting.

There are a lot of coping skills to handle feelings that are uncomfortable rather than numb them with alcohol or drugs. Breathing techniques, meditation, and exercise have all helped a lot of people. It’s important to make sure that you are using healthy coping skills to deal with difficult feelings rather than slip into a cross-addiction like nonsmokers becoming smokers.

It is hard work. Using alcohol or drugs might be the easier choice but has long term consequences, while the harder way of coping, like counseling and self-care, are more difficult at first but can have lifelong positive effects on not only you but the ones you love. Everybody will have moments of weakness. Support systems are essential to success. These can be loved ones, people from group, or a counselor.

If you are concerned about your use, or someone else’s, don’t hesitate to call today to talk to someone right away.