When a loved one struggles with addiction, it can change the way you interact with the world. Often, your priorities change, and you may spend most of your time taking care of your loved one rather than yourself. This is one way people tend to cope when a loved one is addicted, but it is not the best way. While it may feel like the right thing to do, it can be painful and destructive, and addiction can cause co-dependency to develop. These behaviors, while they may seem necessary, actually enable addiction and allow a person to continue engaging in dangerous activities that further drive a wedge in relationships.
It can be difficult to stop enabling behaviors in fear of how it may negatively impact your loved one. Often, this means that you must stop helping them, but the fear of what may happen to them stops many people from taking this action. Although it may seem like it can be damaging, it often plays a vital role in helping your loved one make positive changes.
No matter what actions you take, you cannot force your loved one to change, but you have the power to change yourself. The changes you make not only improve your quality of life but can also benefit your relationship with your loved one. While it may feel like you should prioritize the needs of your loved one, you must take care of yourself first.
Strategies for Coping
The best way to care for someone with an addiction is to care for yourself. Addiction is a family disease, affecting not only the person with the addiction, but those closest to them. Without care and support, family members often succumb to the negative effects of addiction as well. Taking care of yourself does not mean abandoning your loved one. Instead, it helps you learn how to care for your loved one without further enabling addiction and provides you with the tools to care for yourself. Your needs should not take the backseat to addiction.
- Get support: There are countless support groups for those who are impacted by a loved one’s addiction. Many of these groups are open and free to anyone in need of help. Providing members with the opportunity to connect with others who share similar experiences removes feelings of isolation and reduces the influence of stigmas. These groups provide education to members so that they may better understand the nature of addiction and their relationship to it. Many also teach members how to cope with a loved one’s addiction in a healthy way.
- Do not change your plans: When a person struggles with an addiction, it can change how you go through day-to-day activities. You may find yourself canceling plans, avoiding situations, or making excuses because of a loved one’s addiction. It is important, however, to not allow your loved one’s addiction to dictate your life. Canceling plans and not doing the things you want to do because of addiction only reinforces negative feelings and creates strain. It is important to not lose sight of yourself and your interests because of the consequences a loved one is dealing with.
- Change your language: It is easy to fall into patterns of using negative language because of the situations that often arise due to addiction. Rather than adding on to the shame or guilt your loved one may already be struggling with, changing your language to encourage and support them can help improve your mood. Negative remarks may fuel continued substance abuse, but encouragement and support to get help may motivate them to make a change. Using more positive language can help you think more positively as well.
- Set boundaries: No matter what support or guidance you provide, you cannot change your loved one’s behaviors. Understanding that early on can help reduce the resentment, anger, and other negative emotions that can inevitably develop over time. Instead, focus on setting boundaries that can protect you and teach them what you will or will not tolerate. You are entitled to your own space and able to make rules for what is or is not acceptable. Setting concrete boundaries (and keeping them) is vital in protecting your own mental and emotional health.
Above all else, it is important to remember you are not alone. Countless people are affected by a loved one’s addiction and facing it without support can leave you feeling isolated. Finding help through a support group can help you more effectively cope and equip you with the tools need to support your loved one. Family members are able to help enact change by helping themselves, modeling positive behaviors, and developing supportive, non-confrontational ways of communicating. The combination of these characteristics can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, providing benefits to physical, mental, and emotional health, regardless of what their loved one chooses to do.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.