It is simply one of the realities of this life: ultimately we are responsible for our own health. We can spend large amounts of energy trying to fix the lives of those around us; we can care so much about their wellbeing that we lose sleep or stop eating. We might even be so overwhelmed by someone else’s addiction problems that our care for the rest of our family or loved ones begins to get lost in the fray.
And this is simply not fair. It’s not fair to you, to your family, and ultimately it’s even unfair to the addict. If you have someone in your household or who has a drug or alcohol addiction what can you do? Importantly we do not suggest condoning this behavior or enabling it, but life is complex. So here are some ways you can help keep yourself (and your family) healthy while you survive life with an addict.
There is a reason AA starts off with the famous phrase. It’s about being real with the current situation, and what it means to a person recovering from an addiction in the room at that moment. The same is true for those of us living with an addict. When we are able to admit our loved one has a problem and that the problem is intense, real, and even life-threatening, we are on the right track. Our first instincts might be to keep the status quo for as long as we can, but the truth is the only way to eventually find recovery. And more importantly, we are unlikely to make the changes in our lives that are necessary until we can admit how serious the situation is.
We can’t love, nag, berate, insist, guilt, entice, bribe, or coerce an addiction away from a substance abuser. Through a combination choices and life circumstances, our loved one has developed a serious physical and psychological dependence on substances that are destructive. Once a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is not possible (or safe) for them to separate from the substance without professional help. You can’t fix an addict, but you can take care of yourself.
The addict in your life will lie to you and manipulate you and your family members. It is not because they are evil or bad people, their dependence is as strong to them as the need to breathe. The need to find a fix brings with it an eroded moral compass which means there is little to no compulsion to do anything other than find the next high. You don’t have to take it.
You are the only one you have control over. Write down your own personal list of behaviors that are unacceptable to you. Decide the consequence for when certain boundaries are crossed, and stick to them. If your loved one is physically abusive, there must be a consequence for this action. Remember, you have every right to love an addict, but to choose to not be around them when they are in a self-destructive (or destructive to you) cycle. Making that clear is appropriate and lets them know your personal boundaries.
There is a reason the airline safety video tells adults to fix their own mask before helping others: if you are unconscious, no one is going to benefit. Make sure you exercise, sleep well, find your own space, find a support group, and refuse to blame yourself.
Your safety and your children are your priority. Notify schools that the person with an addiction is not allowed to pick up the kids. Notify neighbors about your situation. If you don’t feel safe, or your children don’t feel safe, temporary relocation might be necessary.
Be open about what is happening and about the consequences. If your partying high-schooler didn’t get their book report done, it’s not your responsibility to get the assignments done. And it’s not your responsibility to cover for a spouse when the boss calls wondering why they are late for work again. When kids are involved, hiding the truth is not helpful either. Explain the nature of addiction as an illness to the children in the family.
You did not create the tendencies nor do you need to handle the issues by yourself. Go to an al-anon class, find a support group, talk to a therapist. You don’t have to hide this from your addicted loved one either. Keep it in the open, look for help and make use of the resources available to you.
As professionals we know all the tricks in the book—we have heard all the lies and manipulations and are ready for them before they are even out of the mouth of an addict. This puts us in the singular position to make a true and lasting difference.
Addiction in a loved one is one of the most difficult trials you will ever face. It is vastly important that you take care of yourself in order to keep others in your life safe. Please let us help you in this process. Call us today for information and guidance on what your next steps should be: 844-244-7837.