People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often believe that their choices and behavior doesn’t hurt anyone but them. This belief is compounded when the addict is also depressed and believes that no one cares about them anyway. As someone who loves an addict, you know, of course, that addiction is incredibly painful even when you’re not the one abusing substances – but learning to handle these emotions is equally important for you. These tips will help you develop effective coping mechanisms to deal with your own pain while supporting your loved one.
- Know what behavior to expect. Understand that a person’s actions when they are addicted and actively using are not the same actions the person you know would take when sober. Addicts often lie, hide their behavior, and even steal from people they love in order to support their habit. Most wouldn’t do these things under normal conditions, but addiction can quickly lead to desperation.
- Know what to do in case of an overdose. One of the most troublesome aspects of knowing a loved one is battling addiction is the fear that they may overdose. Knowing what to do if you suspect your loved one has overdosed gives you peace of mind – and it might just save their life.
- Set and maintain appropriate boundaries. Your love and concern for an addict can leave you vulnerable to be taken advantage of if you don’t set healthy boundaries and stick to them. Make sure you are tending to your own needs and maintaining a healthy balance between all areas of your life. Maintain healthy friendships, practice good nutrition, and get regular exercise. When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to offer the support your loved one needs.
- Seek outside support. Going to counseling for yourself or joining a support group can help you manage your emotions and learn to set appropriate boundaries.
- Don’t shield them from consequences. If you protect them from experiencing the consequences of their actions, you might be standing in the way of the very thing that could lead them to make the choice to stop.
- Encourage them to seek professional treatment. Inpatient rehabilitation is often the only way for an addict to recover. They may tell you that they can quit on their own whenever they choose, but without professional intervention, this rarely happens.
Loving an addict is hard, and it’s often a long and unpredictable road. Coping with a loved one’s addiction can be even more emotionally draining if you don’t set boundaries, take care of your own health and well-being, and learn how to allow them to make their own choices and experience the consequences of those choices.
Jackie Cortez works closely with The Prevention Coalition and helps gather official, informative resources dealing with substance abuse and addiction. It is her hope that this information can help anyone whose life has been affected by substance abuse. Outside of bringing awareness to this topic, Jackie likes to relax when she can, whether it’s enjoying a good book or playing with her dog.
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