Dealing with drug and alcohol addiction – whether personally or that of a loved one – is a nerve-wracking, confusion-laden experience.
What steps then can you take to ensure you don’t lose yourself while helping a loved one on the road to recovery?
1. Learn all you can about addiction and recovery
We have all heard the saying “knowledge is power” and this cannot be overemphasized when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Educating yourself on nature and effect drug and alcohol addiction has on an individual helps you become empathetic to the highs and lows associated with the addiction recovery process.
2. Reduce stress at all cost in your life
The emotional rollercoaster associated with dealing with an addict can be stressful. Without a proper outlet, there’s a high probability you’d internalize all that stress, making you a ticking time bomb! It is therefore important you take time out to recharge. Take a walk. Meditate. Hit the gym. Take a nap. Do whatever it takes to retain your sanity and practice self-care.
3. Understand that “Self-care” does not mean “Selfish”
Many people mix these two ideas up and erroneously believe that practicing healthy self-care and prioritizing their physical and mental health before taking care of their loved one is selfish. In reality, taking care of yourself holistically ensures that you have the energy needed to help someone else.
4. There’s a difference between “enabling” and “helping”; know it!
This may perhaps be the most difficult concept to translate to reality when dealing with addicts. You might think you’re helping them by giving them money, allowing them to live with you while they’re still hooked but in reality, you are actually encouraging – or enabling – them. It might seem counterproductive, but to effectively help an addict, you must set boundaries and endeavor to keep them.
5. Avoid guilt-tripping yourself
Understand that it is impossible for you to control another person’s behavior, neither can you impose change on them. Many addicts are expert manipulators and will exploit any perceived weakness if it will let them have their fix. You can only control yourself. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the sooner you accept this fact and live by the knowledge it gives, the easier your life becomes.
6. Admit your co-addiction and deal with your co-dependence
Care-taking makes it look like we are loving, selfless, thoughtful, caring but in reality, we are trapped in a cycle as insidious as that of drug and alcohol addiction. The bulk of our actions stem from fear; fear of helplessness, emptiness, loneliness. Acknowledging these feelings is the first step to dealing with them, the next being to actively “turn the tides” and address the root causes of these feelings.
7. Seek help. Join a support group
It can feel quite lonely dealing with a loved one who’s an addict. There are many people who have gone through this same process and it is always wise to seek help as soon as possible in order to avoid making mistakes that could make things more difficult.
Investing in yourself makes you feel happier and healthier and better equipped to support your loved one in his/her recovery journey.