Have you been unable to speak to your son or daughter, a substance abuser, you tried and had no results? Has it occurred you had zero success in getting them to listen? Frustration occurs because they don’t listen. Do you feel your words are being ignored or brushed off? If you answered yes to any of the above questions and asked, why don’t they listen? Please know that it’s part and parcel of addiction. In fact, attempting to speak with a person under the influence of some mind-altering substance is a waste of time. Though when we say “speak,” it entails a conversation, back & forth. More often than not, family members who attempt to help an abuser will try to “convince” or “talk some sense in them,” get them to see,” “to wake up,” etc. It becomes a one-way communication. You, telling the person to do something.
Taking a quick look into a person’s mind on illicit drugs, abusing meds, or drinking will give some idea of the reason. Let’s look at a regular individual who could be a friend or colleague. You come up to this person, and you say, “what time is it please?” The person will generally look at their watch and reply, “it’s three o’clock.” And you will typically respond with, “Thank you.” This exchange happens because the person is pretty much aware of their surroundings.
You do the same to someone high on drugs or drunk, and chances are you will get a response like, “Hey man, uh… its time to do another line.” Or “Thyme? … uh, …I d-don’t… have any thyme”. So, why don’t they listen? It is because they are very unaware of their current surrounding as they exist. Most likely, they are sitting in some past imagined environment – mentally.
Using drugs or alcohol creates a change in responses—no need to enter into the chemical changes in the body. Suffice to state that much of the change is due to the effects of these poisonous chemicals. To be aware of one’s surrounding it requires a functional mind.
Each person has a memory bank with one’s educational data, ability to differentiate, and observation of environments. Mind-altering substances tend to install barriers. To a greater or lesser degree, they disconnect access to correct information and open the door to a jumble of disassociated information. Examples are as simple as hearing a sound from a song while high and believing it’s the phone ringing. There are countless ways the mind will misinterpret the existing information from the present surroundings and twist them around.
To dialogue with someone who abuses drugs, alcohol, or other substances, it is best to get their attention. This dialogue can occur by using a short-term step called environmental locational. It is a simple process by which you point out various items and objects in the existing surroundings and get the person to notice them, look at them. The intention is to get the individual slightly interested in that object.
This action redirects the person’s attention off themselves and their introverted state towards the outside world. Such as: “look at that chair,” when they do, “Thank you” (letting them know you know they did it.) Then, “look at that lamp,” “good,” “look at that table,” “good,” and so on. This exercise is done repeatedly until the person shows signs of being more aware of the here and now. The person may react, comment, be emotional and such. Just keep it up. The person will look, feel, and appear more present. Sometimes soon, sometimes after a while. Or you can also wait for the person to be sober.
The action above is a temporary fix, a small means to get the person more present and exchange with you. It may seem silly but, it works! However, if the person has consumed too much, sometimes the only remedy is to sleep it off.
In all cases, speaking with a drug-addicted individual, it is always best when they are not currently under the influence. Nor when the person is in withdrawal, as this is a very rough time for them. Their only desire is the next line of coke, glass of beer or liquor, pipe of crack. Locational can also help at this point too. Talking to a person who is affected by mind-altering substances is no easy task. It is always best to speak with an experienced addiction counsellor. They have the experience and know-how to deal with the condition. Don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to a professional in the field – there is help available.