To not have the ability to eliminate the pain and suffering of a loved one is truly heartbreaking. When you’re dealing with the impact of another person’s addiction, you experience a wide range of emotions, especially if they’re one of the more than 85 percent of individuals not seeking treatment. But ultimately, you have to, as the saying goes, “put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.” Here are some tips that might help.
Loving Someone With Addiction
When someone you care for has alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), there are many challenges. Whether they’re your child, a romantic partner, a sibling, or a close friend, you want to believe the person you knew before the disease still exists. And theoretically, they do. But they’re also struggling with a serious illness.
It’s only natural to want to “fix” things. There might be shared generational trauma or family dysfunction. Or there are dynamics of co-dependency in the relationship which compromise the structure of emotional and mental health. Your association may also be complicated by financial, legal, or safety issues, which make maintaining a healthy connection even more challenging.
It’s critical to keep in mind that numerous factors contribute to addiction. You can’t accept fault for your loved one’s AUD or SUD any more than you can heal them from it. However, you can still provide support without compromising your well-being by caring for yourself first. This ensures you develop resiliency to deal with whatever happens.
Ways to Stay Focused on Your Health
Self care isn’t selfish: it’s a primary foundation of strength to help you navigate many issues out of your control. Take stock of some of these suggestions to determine which ones work best for you.
- Keep exercising and eating right. Fluctuating emotions make it all too easy to forget how much better we feel with regular movement and whole foods. Stay true to 10–30 minutes of exercise daily and avoid processed products.
- Prioritize sleep. While every person varies in the amount of rest that makes them feel just right, most adults do best with 7–9 hours each night.
- Set boundaries. This is probably one of the most challenging actions to take, but it’s essential to your well-being. Just make sure you communicate the boundary in clear terms so there’s no confusion. For example: “I love you, but I can’t allow you to live in this house as long as you’re still abusing drugs and alcohol. I’ll support you as you seek treatment. However, if you’re not willing to do this, then you must find another place to live.”
- Find the support you need. This might be from a professional therapist or mutual aid group.
Resources You Can Use
If you’ve been feeling a little lost and uncertain about how to manage your emotions caring for someone with AUD or SUD, you’re not alone. Here are some resources that can help.
Mutual Aid Groups
While you might be familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, there are also other organizations that help loved ones talk with peers who understand what they’re going through. These include:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families, to help people identify and heal from trauma.
- Al-Anon Family Groups, for people who are worried about someone with AUD.
- Co-Dependents Anonymous, to “help people break the pattern of unhealthy living.”
- Nar-Anon and Narateen Family Groups, for individuals who have a loved one with SUD.
Many states also extend supportive agencies through their health departments. For example, Mental Health Texas directs you to numerous services, including support groups, crisis lines, behavioral health providers, and more. Also reach out to a city government office, community center, free clinic, or hospital for additional referrals.
Courage to Caregivers
This organization provides one-to-one caregiver peer support, support groups, breathing and meditation classes, and education, along with a collective or resources for members of the BIPOC and LGBTQAI+2 communities.
Coverage to Care Roadmap to Behavioral Health
This downloadable comprehensive guide offers everything from veterans crisis lines and resources for behavioral health treatment to making a checklist of what to talk about before your first counseling visit and how insurance can help cover costs.
We the Village
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recognized the burden loved ones often feel and started a new program to help. We the Village is a special study “designed to help families learn skills and receive support to get their loved ones into and stay in treatment.” Eligible participants “receive 12 weeks of support at no cost.”
The Family Program at Great Oaks
The board certified clinical team at Great Oaks Recovery Center just outside of Houston understands that addiction doesn’t only affect one person. The disease erodes many aspects of relationships. But healing is possible.
Our family program helps individuals and their loved ones:
- Reestablish a foundation of trust
- Release shame, blame, and guilt
- Learn new techniques for addressing conflict
- Create a stronger understanding of different perspectives
Unfortunately, the truth is not all families survive the consequences of addiction. It’s also possible that once an individual achieves sobriety, it’s healthier for them not to interact with negative family members or circumstances.
But everyone deserves peace. Ask a member of our admissions staff about how we might be able to help you and the people you love connect and forgive.