Caring for yourself While loving an addict
Caring for Yourself While Loving an Addict
Loving an addict can be one of the most difficult experiences. It’s normal to feel hopeless, scared, angry, and overwhelmed by the situation. Many people think they can use force to end the drug use, and think things like “if I cry enough,” “if I yell enough,” or “if I threaten enough,” they will stop. The drug using person may make lots of promises, too. The lesson to be learned is that you cannot stop the addiction. But, you can take steps to help yourself and help the person you love.
10 Strategies to Help You Cope1. Come face-to-face with reality. Addiction is an illness. It can happen to anyone. Addiction is treatable. Learning how to deal with reality is the first step to help an addicted person. It may seem easier to continue to believe things will magically get better somehow. Sadly, things will not get better just because you wish they would. Accept that parts of your life may be out of control as a result of loving someone who is addicted to drugs.
2. Learn about addiction. There are lots of online resources that can help you learn. You can also find books and use local resources like the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center. What you learn can help you have more hope and confidence that the addiction can be treated. Learning how addiction works can also help you escape “the blame game” and focus on healing.
3. Avoid “co-dependency.” Co-dependency involves a desire to help the person and show love, but the “help” encourages the addiction. This is unhealthy for everyone in the relationship. Don’t take responsibility for the addicted person’s behavior. Don’t make excuses for them. Ask yourself “How would my life be better if I wasn’t absorbed in behaviors that enabled my loved one?”
4. Learn the difference between “helping” and “enabling.” Unhealthy helping is called enabling. When addicts are not ready to change, they are very skilled at manipulating others so they can keep their addiction going. They may do things like lie, cheat, blame, and guilt-trip other people. Stand your ground and don’t let yourself be manipulated. Saying “no” is an important step for change. You may think your loved one will be worse off if you do not help them. But, doing things like giving them money, letting them stay in your home, buying them food regularly, driving them places, and crossing boundaries you have already set with them are not healthy ways to help.
5. Find healthier ways to love your addict. It is important to set boundaries for them and for yourself. Look for ways you may have been enabling their addiction in the past, and set strong boundaries to keep it from happening in the future. Speak up—share your concerns in a caring way. Remember, addiction is treatable. Encourage them to get help, but try not to push too hard.
6. Don’t wait for things to get worse. If this situation is just beginning for you, it is best to find support right away. If you have been waiting to see if things will get better on their own, please get support NOW before things get even worse. The sooner you reach out for help, the better it will be for everyone involved.
7. Love yourself. Caring for yourself is not selfish! Respect yourself enough to take good care of your mind and body. Take time to do things you enjoy, whether it is exercising, spending time with friends, listening to or playing music, arts and crafts, cooking, or something else.
8. Connect with others who understand. You are not alone! As part of loving yourself, reach out to others for support. It could be family, friends, people from church or a support group like Nar Anon. Your support system will provide you with stability you can rely on. A strong support network can be there for you and the addict. It can show the addict that people care about them and want to see positive change.
9. Don’t blame yourself. Remember, you are not to blame for the addiction and you can’t control it. Let the person with the problem to take responsibility. The only person you have control over is yourself. Think about your actions and what you may be able to change. There is value in looking at what you may be adding to the situation.
10. Rebuild your own life. The best way to get away from “enabling” and “people pleasing” behavior is to focus on your own life. Does your life feel empty in certain areas? Maybe you would like to try a new activity or get a new job. Think about going to a personal counselor. Private therapy is a good place for stressed family members to unload and talk openly, with no blame or judgment. It can help you find the strength and support you need.