Coping and Conflict

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Support for families faced with problematic alcohol and other drug use

An informative resource called A Guide To Coping is a valuable resource for families faced with problematic alcohol and other drug misuse in family/whānau members.

This book has been produced by Family Drug Support Australia.

This book is free for Family Drug Support Aotearoa members. Additional copies are available to members at a reduced rate. Sign up here.

For non members of FDS Aotearoa New Zealand the cost of A Guide To Coping is $30.


About the book

All relationships where people live and/or interact together need boundaries in place to develop trust, stability and respect within the relationship.

Effective boundaries give a sense of security and respect.

When a substance user lives in a household, boundaries often get stretched to the limit or even broken down completely – giving the family/whānau members a sense of helplessness. Some family/whānau members have described feeling like they were walking around on egg shells.

Family/Whānau members firstly need to remember who pays the rent, the mortgage or owns the house. Giving away power through fear or threats is not effective and will only lead to more chaos and anxiety. The truth is that the drug user would be at a disadvantage without a place to stay. They usually know this very well.

There are three stages to effective boundary setting:

  1. Defining the boundary and consequences that everyone agrees on and can live with
  2. Setting the boundary and communicating the understanding of all parties
  3. Keeping the boundary


Action learning

Action learning is a useful concept here because the truth is that boundaries need setting and modifying many times. So there is a constant process of:

  • setting,
  • reviewing,
  • modifying
  • and resetting.

So it is always important that you don’t see boundaries as totally set in concrete.

Why set boundaries?

  1. They encourage the drug user to take more responsibility for their behaviour
  2. They help the drug user become aware that their behaviour impacts on those around them
  3. They model a healthy and safe way for people to coexist, even when there are difficulties
  4. They help the whole family/whānau to minimise the harm and negative impact of substance use and the attendant behaviours
  5. They help break down the negative roles that members get stuck in i.e. mothers rescuing users, users relying on others to accommodate them, fathers getting angry etc.