Unless you have ever had a loved one entrenched in addiction, with no desire or will to pull themselves out of their misery, you can simply never understand the conflicting guilt, physical and anger that a loved one of the addict goes through. Living with emotions, like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another, rarely settling in the middle.
You worry about them constantly — you can’t sleep, you can’t focus, and your heart stops every time the phone rings. The fear of losing them consumes you, and your focus becomes doing anything and everything you can to help them get better.
Now I am not suggesting that dealing with a loved one’s addiction is easy but keeping the following things in mind can help you better address your loved one’s alcohol and drug abuse.
Letting go of control
While you may be tempted to make it your mission to save your loved one from themselves, this will only leave you exhausted, hurt, and maybe even resentful. You may feel as if you are not doing enough to help your loved one, but you need to understand that no matter how hard you try, you cannot control their addiction. No amount of begging, pleading, threatening, or ultimatums will make your loved one stop drinking or using.
Whether you realize it or not, your loved one’s addiction is taking a toll on your life. And you need to start making yourself a priority. Working on letting go of trying to control their addiction, you must come to accept that you are only in control of your life, you also have a life, away from the addict and embark on your journey of healing and recovery.
Letting go of blame
You probably never imagined that addiction would become a part of your life, but it has you may be wondering if you were responsible for your loved ones use. Did you not love them enough? Too much? Was it something you said? Did? Didn’t do? The questions are endless, and they can drive you mad, but the truth is that you didn’t cause your loved one to drink or use — even if they blame you for it.
The underlying cause for their addiction may not be clear to you. They may be dealing with trauma that you’re unaware of or having difficulty managing their emotions. Regardless of what’s behind their addiction, remember that you are not responsible, and allowing unwarranted guilt to consume you will only end up hurting you and your loved one.
But remember you are not alone, research estimates that in the UK YouGov that almost 1 in 3 adults in the UK have been negatively affected by the substance use of someone they know.
Don’t let their addiction become your addiction
It is normal for your loved one’s addiction to have an impact on your life. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to allow it to consume your every moment. As challenging as it may be, you will need to set boundaries. Whether it’s not giving them any more money, refusing to engage with them when they’re under the influence, or establishing a curfew or boundaries can help you and your loved one know what is and isn’t acceptable.
Remember though, it may take a few tries, there is no right or wrong, just try to find a balance between helping your loved one and taking care of yourself. Remind yourself that you should never feel guilty for doing what is right for you, even if it upsets your loved one. Just be sure that your decisions come from a place of love rather than anger or fear.
Don’t lose hope
Watching your loved one tackle addiction day after day is incredibly taxing. It can be a particularly hard pill to swallow if your loved one has tried to get clean before but continues to relapse. I know, I get it! it is like you are on the roller coaster with them. But it’s important to hold on to hope no matter how many setbacks you’re loved one experiences.
It may seem counter-intuitive to put yourself first, make time for you, but trust me, focusing on you, your needs, making time for your own maintenance or recovery is essential.
Here are some of the things that families often find helpful:
- Carving out a small slot in the week to do something just ‘for you’. Re-read a favourite book, take a walk in the park, curl up with a magazine, take a bath, paint your nails, re-discover a long lost hobby.
- Mindfulness. There are now many apps and local classes to help us practice mindfulness which is scientifically proven to improve wellbeing and reduce stress.
- Re-connect with old friends. Families affected by drugs and alcohol often become isolated from previous social networks.
- Get some exercise. A brisk walk, a cycle or a favourite class has many health and wellbeing benefits, not least that it will release endorphins that improve your mood.
- Buy a diary, offload your thoughts, clear your mind
- Take a break. Many family members of those who use drugs or alcohol feel unable to get away because of the unpredictability of their loved one’s behaviour. But a change of scene, even for a weekend, can make a huge difference to the rest of the family.
- Find a local support group or an online forum where you can speak openly and offload how YOU are feeling
A word from the author
My dad died with as much dignity as an addict could, he wasn’t found on a street, out in the cold, he was at home surrounded by his daughters, he died knowing he was loved. I learned that dad was more than his addiction and in a bizarre kinda way we had a unique relationship, one that I will cherish If I am guilty of cooking meals, doing laundry, running errands then sue me?
My dad’s addiction and ultimate death took my on a journey at the time I wasn’t ready or prepared for, but as I look back, I am no longer left with regrets or sadness, I am left with memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. Learning to let go of the guilt, the anger has helped me see beyond myself and see the past for what it was, a series of events that took place. I am a stronger version of who I once was and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Shithappens whether we like it or not, its how we deal with the shit that counts, so on that note.
I don’t write for financial reward or gain, I just want to help share my lived experience with others in the hope that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.
Love Fordy x