LOOKING AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
- Imagine a special occasion or holiday. You have a special drink or glass of wine with dinner. You might think of this sort of alcohol use as helpful—it’s adding to a festive celebration.
- Another night, you go out with friends and have a bit too much to drink. You feel tired and run-down the next day, but otherwise don’t experience many negative consequences. If this situation is not a regular occurrence for you, alcohol may not be very helpful, but it also may not be very harmful.
Lately, you’ve been going out several nights a week. Alcohol is becoming a way to deal with stress at work, and it’s the only time you feel like you’re having fun. You may start to see more serious consequences—maybe you feel sick often, your employer is upset that you often come to work late, and you are getting into fights with your friends. In this situation, alcohol use is becoming more harmful.
Maybe you drink a lot or often, including by yourself. You’re spending too much money on alcohol, you’re missing a lot of work, and you have alienated important friends and family members. Perhaps you’re using alcohol in risky ways, like drinking and driving. This represents a serious problem, and you see serious consequences as a result of your drinking.
The positive and negative outcomes are important—more important than the substance itself. If we look at people first, we can see that there are opportunities to help them take control of health or other goals no matter where they currently sit on the spectrum of substance use.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR SUBSTANCE USE
The idea that you must hit ‘rock bottom’ and experience serious consequences like losing your job or losing important relationships before you’re ready for help isn’t true. You can seek help or support any time you reflect on your own substance use and would like to make some changes. Some people may be able to deal with substance use problems on their own. Others may need some help, like a support group, psychotherapy or counselling, or medication. Some people may need a significant amount of help and support. And when it comes to treatments and supports, there are many different approaches and philosophies. That might mean self-reflection, a weekly meeting after work, or a stay at a residential treatment facility. Your treatment plan may include a combination of approaches at different times. If you’re not sure where to start, try talking with your doctor or health care provider. They can help you look at different options that fit your needs and your wishes.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE’S SUBSTANCE USE
It’s hard to remove all of the factors that might lead to substance use problems. Perhaps the best protection from using substances in a harmful way is feeling connected and supported by people and having the skills to cope with life’s challenges.