Taking Care of Yourself While Helping a Loved One With Addiction
| 4 min read
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1 in 7 Americans aged 12 and older struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.
Growing up the portrayal of those struggling with addiction fit into an archetype on film of someone who maybe didn’t grow up with the best family life, or had gotten in with the wrong group of friends. This archetype no longer exists today — addiction can happen to anyone.
If you have a family member struggling with addiction, especially if you are living with them, it is important to not forget to take care of yourself. Yes, you need to be there as a support system for your family and loved ones, but don’t forget that it can be filled with a whirlwind of emotions. It can be confusing, frustrating, and all together overwhelming.
When I was in my early 20’s I was part of an intervention for my mom (which would change the dynamic of our relationship forever), whose drinking had gone from bad to worse. We all gathered with the help of a psychologist to let her know how much we loved her and wanted nothing more but for her to get better and seek treatment. One thing that they do not tell you about holding an intervention is what to do if it doesn’t work, which was to continue to love them but hold true to how you feel about their addiction and the ultimatums you gave them.
Fast forwarding a few years, my younger brother had been struggling with heroin addiction for some time, but had gotten dangerously extreme. He attended a treatment facility in Michigan, which is something that even when you’re ready to commit to, it is a difficult process and nothing like you’d expect. Although he was making progress, my brother would say that it felt like he was in middle school with the whole world ahead of him. Addiction is a battle that you fight forever, my brother lost his battle at age 20.
No matter what your family and loved ones are going through, it is important for you to also take care of your own mental health while being a support system for your family or loved ones. Here are a few things that I did during this time that helped me stay focused.
Have a support system: Keep people who love and care for you close. It’s easy to block people out with excuses. “How could they possibly understand what I’m going through?” Fight the urge to do this. Even though they may not understand, it’s always good to have a shoulder to lean on. Never underestimate the power of sitting with a best friend.
Have a way to escape the noise: It can be very overwhelming to watch a family member struggle through addiction, and at times you feel helpless. Having a place to escape to either physically, mentally or both is so important. It can provide you with time to yourself to recognize how you are truly feeling and what your needs are. Sometimes a little bit of an escape from reality can do you wonders. I had a coffee shop I would always go to with some good music and a notebook with pages to fill.
Have an outlet: Put your energy into something that allows you focus on a goal. Whether you want to run your first 5K or write your first short story, having a way to positively channel your energy when you feel like the world is falling apart will help you not only accomplish your goals but give you something that brings you joy to focus on.
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Editor’s note: The author’s name has been removed from this post for privacy.