For many, watching a loved one battle with addiction is heartbreaking and draining. Often times we want to try to control our loved one’s addiction or stop it all together, but that is truly only up to them. . .
What we often don’t realize is
the best way to cope with a loved one’s substance abuse problem
is to get support for ourselves.
Educate yourself: One of the first things we can do to help ourselves is learn about the process of addiction and recovery. There are many platforms to educate ourselves; self-help books, family support groups, podcasts, open meetings, individual therapy, family therapy, and through film are just a few.
Set Boundaries: It’s important for you to role model healthy balance and hold good boundaries with the family member. Set boundaries that the whole family can agree upon and easily follow. For example, everyone must be home by 6pm to eat dinner together. The goal of boundaries is to improve the health of the family as a whole. Do not use boundaries to punish or shame but to improve communication and positive behaviors. Boundaries should also be to protect yourself from your loved one if they are acting out in their addiction. For example, if you continue to use drugs and alcohol you cannot live in our house. It will be hard to enforce at first but gets easier the more consistent you are with your loved one.
Limit Financial Support: It’s recommended that individuals limit the amount of financial support they provide family members who are actively using. Giving that person cash could provide them the means to support their drug habit. A better alternative if needed is to purchase things they may need directly for them; for example, food and toiletries. Ultimately, the best investment one could make financially may be to help them with treatment. Not only can treatment help your loved one gain skills for sobriety but most treatment programs have a family component that teaches family members skills on how to cope during this hard time.
Don’t Enable: Being a caretaker can be enabling and it’s not good for the family or the addict. Understanding that there is only so much you can do is crucial. Do not work harder than the person you are trying to help. You can give them options, but they need to be willing to follow those recommendations. Avoid self-blame as you didn’t make that person sick you cannot make them get better. Do not shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. People are more likely to make real and lasting changes if they have suffered through enough pain and consequences.
Join a Fellowship Group: Joining a fellowship group for yourself can connect you with others who understand exactly what you are going through. When things seem overwhelming, you may find support in others and also through sharing yourself. For example; you can be reminded that you aren’t responsible for your loved one’s addiction and that you cant force your loved one to stop. These groups can also teach you effective ways to cope, as your friend or family member faces the consequences of addiction.
Self Care: Following through on all of the above can be stressful and self-care is very important. Doing things to keep yourself healthy is imperative like working out, relaxation, or meditation. Attending support groups listed below is a good way to promote self-care and have a safe place for you to share your feelings. For additional support you may want to seek advice and support from an addictions therapist, clergy member, doctor, or social worker who is knowledgeable in addiction and recovery.
Here is a list of helpful resources below for additional support and education.
- Alanon Groups can be found through the al-anon website, www.Al-Anon.org, this is a good group if your significant other is the addict.
- Families Anonymous is a group where family members can get support if their loved one is using drugs or alcohol www.familiesanonymous.org/
- Nar-anon is another family group for those suffering with a drug problem, www.nar-anon.org/
- SMART Recovery family and friends is a group that follows the SMART recovery goals instead of the 12 step approach. They have support groups for the addict and for their family and friends, www.smartrecovery.org
- For a co-dependent individual to learn more about how to break the cycle of codependency groups like Codependency Anonymous, www.coda.org, can be helpful. They have 12 step groups online and in most major cities.
- For family members who grow up in addicted households and may not be addicts themselves but have the addictive traits going to groups like adult Children of Alcoholics and Addicts can be helpful to learn new coping skills, www.adultchildren.org
Author: Jenny Wagner LCPC, CADC – Footprints to Recovery – Clinical Director