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“I’m not a bad mom because my son has a substance use disorder. But sometimes I feel judged or alone – people don’t know what to do or say about his addiction. I wish the people in my life knew the whole story.”

“I felt frustrated because I didn’t know how to help my son with his addiction. Things were hard between us until I remembered he is more than his condition. He’s my son. He deserves love and support – while we figure this out together.”

“When I realized my parents still loved me, it made the biggest difference. They let me know they’re there. It’s taken time, but we learned that ‘tough love’ actually pushed us apart. Connecting with my family about my addiction helped me feel worthy of getting help.”

“I was nervous to reach out to my friend because I didn’t know what to say. I began to ask what he needed. I started to listen and not judge. Now, we are figuring out how to get through it together.”

“I’m not a bad mom because my son has a substance use disorder. But sometimes I feel judged or alone – people don’t know what to do or say about his addiction. I wish the people in my life knew the whole story.”

“I felt frustrated because I didn’t know how to help my son with his addiction. Things were hard between us until I remembered he is more than his condition. He’s my son. He deserves love and support – while we figure this out together.”

“When I realized my parents still loved me, it made the biggest difference. They let me know they’re there. It’s taken time, but we learned that ‘tough love’ actually pushed us apart. Connecting with my family about my addiction helped me feel worthy of getting help.”

“I was nervous to reach out to my friend because I didn’t know what to say. I began to ask what he needed. I started to listen and not judge. Now, we are figuring out how to get through it together.”

It may feel hard to know how to support people in your life who are being impacted by addiction. Connecting in compassionate ways can make a real difference.

There are ways to be there for your loved ones or friends.

Make the connection

This can look different for every person or family. This might be telling someone you care. Or letting them know you’re there if they want to talk.

You could try: “Hi, it’s been a while – I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. How are you? I’d love to meet for a coffee soon and talk. Any chance you’re free this weekend?”

Come from a place of compassion

The ‘tough love’ approach can cause people to feel shame or blamed. Approaching connection with others using kindness and compassion goes a long way.

You could try: “I’m glad we had a chance to talk this week, I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time and wish I could make this better for you. I’m here for you, and I’ll do what I can to help – what’s the best way I can support you right now?”

Understand their story

Taking time to learn about someone’s experience and how they’re feeling can make your connection stronger. It can help them to feel seen and respected.

You could try: “It sounds like this is really tough for you right now. If you’re okay with it, I’d like to hear about your experience, whatever you're comfortable sharing. Can we talk over a cup of tea?”

Be kind to yourself

Finding ways to support someone is not always easy. Taking care of yourself helps you to be able to show up for others. Creating healthy boundaries can be one of them.

You could try: “Thank you so much for trusting me with that. I really care about you and I want to talk more about this. I might just need a few days to process and learn more, so I can support you in the best way.”

Language matters

Words have a big impact; they can hurt others, even when they’re not meant to. Everyone can find ways to be mindful and inclusive with language choices and communicate in a supportive way.

You could try: “When I told you that we needed to ‘fix you’, I was coming from a place of wanting it to get better. I realize now that my words hurt you. I want to be here for you – I’m learning too.”

Have the conversation

Conversations that are free of blame or judgement let others know you care. Reaching out to check in and talk helps them to know they’re not alone.

You could try: “Hey, I hope I’m not overstepping here, but it seems like you’re not yourself lately. Would you like to meet up? I’m here for you.”

Learn about substance use and addiction

Educating yourself about addiction is both empowering for you and whoever you’re connecting with. It can help you understand their journey.

You could try: “I have to be honest – I want to be there for you, but I don’t really know that much about what you're going through. Is it okay if I ask you some questions? You can let me know if there’s anything you’re not comfortable answering.”

Make the connection

This can look different for every person or family. This might be telling someone you care. Or letting them know you’re there if they want to talk.

You could try: “Hi, it’s been a while – I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. How are you? I’d love to meet for a coffee soon and talk. Any chance you’re free this weekend?”

Come from a place of compassion

The ‘tough love’ approach can cause people to feel shame or blamed. Approaching connection with others using kindness and compassion goes a long way.

You could try: “I’m glad we had a chance to talk this week, I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time and wish I could make this better for you. I’m here for you, and I’ll do what I can to help – what’s the best way I can support you right now?”

Understand their story

Taking time to learn about someone’s experience and how they’re feeling can make your connection stronger. It can help them to feel seen and respected.

You could try: “It sounds like this is really tough for you right now. If you’re okay with it, I’d like to hear about your experience, whatever you're comfortable sharing. Can we talk over a cup of tea?”

Be kind to yourself

Finding ways to support someone is not always easy. Taking care of yourself helps you to be able to show up for others. Creating healthy boundaries can be one of them.

You could try: “Thank you so much for trusting me with that. I really care about you and I want to talk more about this. I might just need a few days to process and learn more, so I can support you in the best way.”

Language matters

Words have a big impact; they can hurt others, even when they’re not meant to. Everyone can find ways to be mindful and inclusive with language choices and communicate in a supportive way.

You could try: “When I told you that we needed to ‘fix you’, I was coming from a place of wanting it to get better. I realize now that my words hurt you. I want to be here for you – I’m learning too.”

Have the conversation

Conversations that are free of blame or judgement let others know you care. Reaching out to check in and talk helps them to know they’re not alone.

You could try: “Hey, I hope I’m not overstepping here, but it seems like you’re not yourself lately. Would you like to meet up? I’m here for you.”

Learn about substance use and addiction

Educating yourself about addiction is both empowering for you and whoever you’re connecting with. It can help you understand their journey.

You could try: “I have to be honest – I want to be there for you, but I don’t really know that much about what you're going through. Is it okay if I ask you some questions? You can let me know if there’s anything you’re not comfortable answering.”

Myth

‘People should just stop using drugs.’

Fact

Recovering from addiction is much more complicated than just stopping drug use.

When someone uses drugs, chemical changes can occur in their brain, making it challenging for them to stop using substances, especially if they don’t have access to supports to stay safer or begin their recovery.

When someone is using substances, stopping "cold turkey", in an abrupt way, can be dangerous and can cause withdrawal symptoms. If someone stops using drugs, it is important that they do so in the safest way possible. For some people, this might mean using drugs in a safer way, such as accessing prescribed safe supply or having drugs tested.

Myth

'Addiction is a choice.'

Fact

Addiction is not a choice; it’s a complex health condition. People experiencing addiction haven’t failed, neither have their families.

Why do people use drugs? What causes addiction? People may use drugs due to any numbers of experiences that happen in a person’s life, such as: childhood trauma, intergenerational trauma, physical pain or injury, or mental health challenges. Every person’s story is unique, and their  experiences need to be acknowledged.

Myth

‘Tough love will fix someone with addiction.’

Fact

Having an addiction does not mean someone is broken. People experiencing addiction may feel disconnected and alone. Tough love can push people further away.

People who use drugs and people with substance use disorders deserve kindness and compassion. Showing your support is not enabling their addiction.

The approach of ‘tough love’ can have the opposite effect that is intended. Coming from a place of connection and love can help someone feel heard, seen, and valued.

Reaching out to someone can make all the difference. It can support them to take the next step in seeking help.

Myth

‘Once an addict, always an addict.’

Fact

These types of statements, including the label of ‘addict’, can cause people to feel small, powerless, and ashamed. It can hold someone in a place of not feeling deserving of help or recovery. While some people may choose this language to describe their own experiences, we should avoid placing labels on others.

A person’s situation can always change. Everyone has the right to control their own health and wellbeing, including when it comes to substance use.

People may have different goals for themselves: Safer use, treatment, and/or recovery – each path is unique. It is not a linear process, there can be ups and downs, even setbacks. There are many ways to be well.

Myth

‘What I think doesn’t affect anyone else.’

Fact

Stigma has a big impact on people who are experiencing addiction and their families.

This can be isolating. Stigma creates feelings of shame and blame. And makes it hard to reach out for help, for fear of being judged by others. People may hesitate to speak to health professionals because they are afraid of discrimination.

Stigma can contribute to a higher risk of both fatal and non-fatal overdose for people who use drugs – they may hide their drug use and use drugs alone.

Myth

‘People with addictions are using up all our tax dollars.’

Fact

Addiction is a health condition and not a moral failing. No one chooses to have an addiction, and no one deserves to be shamed or blamed for it.

People who are experiencing addiction are deserving of compassion, dignity, and access to care.

We have a serious and tragic public health emergency in B.C. – nearly 6 people die every day in B.C. due to the poisoned illicit drug supply. The costs related to this ongoing crisis are relative and comparable to any life saving health service or treatment. Preventive health measures, like harm reduction, provide cost-effective ways to keep people safer and help to prevent overdose events and related death.

Myth

'No one I know has an addiction, this doesn't involve me.'

Fact

People with substance use disorder come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and experiences. They are someone’s child, partner, or parent. They have passions, jobs, and hobbies. They love, care, and feel.

Educating ourselves and each other helps stop the stigma. We all have a part we can play. No matter what we’ve thought in the past, we can always begin to look at things in a different way. It may not be easy. There may be bumps in the road, but that’s okay.

Learning empowers us: we can show up in more supportive and caring ways, and make sure we’re not causing hurt or harm to others without knowing it.