In case of emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. This is true when it comes to airplanes, and it is true when it comes to dealing with addiction. You might think it sounds selfish to think about yourself while your loved one is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, but the truth is that you cannot help them if you are in a constant state of panic and despair.
Whether you realize it or not, your loved one’s addiction takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. While it is natural to want to help them, it is important to realize that addiction is not something that you can control.
Prioritizing yourself can seem odd at first, but there are steps you can take to start claiming back your life while helping your loved one battle their addiction.
Educate Yourself: Many see addiction as a moral failing. They believe that the individual chose to get addicted and that they can stop at any time if they wanted to. That is simply not the case. There is a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding substance abuse, which is why it is important to educate yourself about addiction. It will help you understand the science behind addiction, let go of your anger, and stop the blame game.
Manage Your Expectations: Recovery is possible, but it does not occur overnight, or even in 30 days. It is a lifelong journey, with some bumps along the way. It is important to have realistic expectations and to avoid scrutinizing your loved one’s recovery. Having realistic expectations will help reduce your stress levels and improve your relationship with your loved one.
Seek Support: Addiction can be overwhelming. It can lead to feelings of despair, loneliness, and even depression, but know that you are not alone. Finding someone who understands what you are going through can make all the difference. Try counseling, or finding a support group such as a Nar-Anon Family Group. Discussing the addiction will help you address your guilt, distrust, and stress.
Set Boundaries: It is important to set clear boundaries about what is and is not acceptable in the home. Everyone should follow the rules, not just the individual battling addiction. Set expectations encourage better communication and will improve the overall family dynamics.
Spend Time Together: Rebuilding trust and improving communication takes times, which is why it is important for families to spend time together. An easy way to squeeze some family time into everyone’s hectic lives is by scheduling a weekly family dinner. Another way to improve family dynamics is by attending family counseling or family wellness workshops.
Get Healthy: Taking care of yourself is pivotal to your loved one’s recovery, but you cannot truly be there for them if you are exhausted, stressed, and resentful. Be sure to make time for yourself. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Being the healthiest version of yourself will help you manage stress and improve your quality of sleep.
Find Your Bliss: In an effort to save their loved one from addiction, family members often forget to live their lives. It is important to not let addiction take over your life. Find something that makes you happy and do it — to excuses. Whether it is art, music, writing, exercising, cooking, or watching movies, make sure to find the time to do what brings you joy.
Addiction is a family disease, and recovery is a family effort.