Monday, April 14, 2014

Battling Substance Abuse

This past weekend, I heard some terrible news.  A friend and co-worker from a previous job had passed from the effects of substance abuse.  Her heart became too weak to do its job, and she was gone.  A sweet, vibrant, funny girl, who always had a smile for you when you were talking to her, a hug for when you were down or got great news, and someone you could always talk to, no matter what.

But she, like many others, had a problem with substance abuse, and while she was trying to clean herself up, they overcame her and took her life.

My heart is heavy, as I think of her family, friends, co-workers, and her two little pups who she loved to the moon and back.


If you have someone in your life who is dealing with a substance abuse problem, there is help out there for them, and for yourself.

But, how do you know if someone is dealing with substance abuse?  Sometimes, it can be more difficult to spot than on someone else.

Physical Signs Can Include:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming
  • Unusal smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral Signs Can Include:
  • Drop in attendance & performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, interest, activities
Psychological Signs Can Include:
  • Change in personality or attitude
  • Mood swings, irritability or outbursts
  • Unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation, lethargy or lack of concentration
  • Appears fearful, anxious, paranoid or becomes panicky for no reason
Not everyone will have these symptoms, and someone else may have all of them.  Substance abuse targets each individual differently.

How can you help someone who has fallen into the substance abuse trap?

  • Talk to the person.  If you are comfortable talking to this person, do so.  Talk about your concerns, offer your help and support, and be non-judgmental and unbiased.  
  • Don't attempt threats or bribes
  • Provide resources, like the Distress Centre's phone number 613-238-3311 and information about rehabilitation for the person, but be prepared to hear that they don't want or need help.  This happens more often than not, but it's not your fault for offering.
  • Research substance abuse rehabilitation programs in your area for them to help take the pressure off of them finding one.  Keep it to 3-5 choices, max.  
  • Listen to them.  There is a reason that the substance has taken over the person's life.
  • Don't hide, throw away or do the drugs or alcohol with the person.  
  • Don't argue with the person when they are under the influence
  • Do let them know that you are there to help them (if that is the case) when they are ready and willing.
Also, be sure to take care of yourself during this time - ensure that you too have support.

All of this being said, substance abuse comes from somewhere.  It is the age old question of "What came first, the chicken or the egg?".  Did the person start abusing because he/she is dealing with something in their lives they wanted to escape from?  Did she/he start abusing and then with the effects of abusing, came depression, anxiety, etc when they weren't using, so they had to use to "stay normal"?  Only the person abusing knows for sure.

While getting clean and sober is a scary feat for so many, there are hundreds of thousands - possibly millions who have done it, and stayed clean and sober for a very long time.

If you or someone you know needs to talk about their lives, their substance abuse, or are looking for community resources, we are here to listen and provide support.  You can call us at anytime of day or night at 613-238-3311.

I'd like to close this post off with a simple Rest In Peace for my friend whose smile and warm heart I will remember for a very long time.

(Name of deceased is withheld from this post)

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