By Sandy Baker
Your focus and attention is on your loved one.
He or she is struggling with addiction and seeking treatment. You are very hopeful, but overwhelmed. Yet, one thing remains very true. In order to care for your loved one, you have to care for yourself as well.
Addiction Impacts Every Member of the Family
Addiction does not just impact the individual using drugs or alcohol. It impacts families including parents, spouses, children, and friends. Watching a loved one continue to use and put his or her life on the line is terrifying.
There’s simply no way to overlook what this does to you physically and mentally. The Drug Enforcement Administration notes how drug abuse impacts the entire family:
- Financial difficulties occur and hurt every member of the family.
- Individuals struggle to maintain relationships with immediate family.
- They may steal or otherwise put themselves in dangerous situations.
- They stop spending time with family.
- Every day, a parent, spouse, or child worries his or her loved one will die.
To help you see the impact, step back for a moment. Visit a friend for the weekend. Removing yourself from the turmoil surrounding your loved one can give you some idea of just how much addiction is impacting your health, your mental wellbeing, your future, and your ability to live your own life.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
It comes down to recognizing how your loved one’s substance abuse is impacting your life. You can and should take steps to care for yourself throughout the recovery process. Here are simple things to do now to help you overcome the impact.
1. Let Go of Some of the Control
Perhaps the hardest part of all is the most important step to take. You have to let go of what you cannot control.
- Recognize their behavior is the result of their actions.
- Note you cannot make them change.
- Appreciate the simple fact that you cannot control their life, health, or wellbeing.
It’s important to maintain your perspective. Otherwise, you may feel anxiety, pressure, and fear at these situations when there is nothing you can do to prevent it.
2. Remain Physically Healthy Yourself
It’s easy to spiral out of control when you cannot fix your emotions or the circumstances outside of your life. You may feel the stress causes you to eat too much. You may be unable to exercise the way you used to. You may be financially unable to maintain the healthcare you need as a result. Still, it is important to do your best to maintain your own health.
- Get routine exercise. Don’t sit at home and just wait.
- Spend time outdoors. The sun can help to improve your overall mental and physical health.
- Eat a balanced diet. When you are anxious, your heart is racing, and your organs are working overtime. You need to fuel your health.
3. Support Yourself Mentally
No matter what your relationship is with your loved one, you need to protect your own mental health as you work through this process. Stressors such as drug overdoses or relapses can be very challenging. They can create anxiety, depression, and even lead to suicidal thoughts. To protect your mental health:
- Develop a support network of people you trust removed from your immediate situation.
- Seek out a therapist. In a quality recovery treatment program, family support is available and should be utilized.
- Walk away from intense situations to give yourself the ability to process what is happening.
4. Work to Improve Your Future
These are all steps to take right now to help you cope with what is happening in your day-to-day life. But, you do not have to live in this type of situation. You need to also consider steps you can take to simply prevent the type of intense, overwhelming situations you are facing on a daily basis.
First, consider avoiding some key problems most caregivers and loved ones face:
- Don’t take on the responsibility of taking care of this person.
- Avoid enabling behavior that could be allowing the circumstances to continue.
- Stop being inconsistent. Set limits and stick to them.
- Focus on building your life outside of your loved one’s addiction.
- Work to reduce the risk of resentment. Recognize this is not just your battle.
These steps give you the ability to care for yourself. Recognize what is happening to you during this process. When you seek help for yourself, you give your loved one a framework to work with you and through you. And, you have a way of ensuring your quality of life remains high.