Mark Twain famously said, “quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a hundred times.” If you are a family member of someone struggling with addiction, it can feel like you’ve seen this cycle play out a hundred times. While it’s important to help your family member through a season of addiction, it’s equally important to help yourself. Having compassion for the addict is essential to help them end up sober; you can’t pour from a half-empty glass. Keep reading for helpful tips for living with an addict, so you both end the journey healthy and happy.
Understand Your Role
Your family member or housemate’s addiction is not your fault, but understanding the roles family members play in addiction can be eye-opening regarding recovery. While their recovery is ultimately up to them, understanding that you are an enabler who creates excuses for their behavior can be a game-changer. Perhaps you’re a Hero who prioritizes displaying the rest of the family’s success to hide the guilt and shame you feel around their addiction. These behaviors on your end will only prolong the cycle of addiction and destroy your mental health, potentially even your physical health.
Maintain Healthy Habits
Just because your family member is struggling with addiction and you see their health spiraling doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy habits. You may spend too much time helping someone who won’t help themselves. While being there for your loved one is essential, prioritize your self-care. Make sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet, maintain regular physical exercise and get recommended amounts of sleep. When you’re in excellent physical health, you’re better able to deal with their addiction and its effects on your life, and then you can help get them the treatment they need.
Learn About Their Addiction
Families struggle with all types of addiction, from alcoholism to prescription drug addiction. By learning as much as possible about your loved one’s addiction, you can better empathize with their situation and provide resources to aid their recovery. There are many resources online that can provide a wealth of knowledge about their addiction type, and scientists and doctors are always learning more about addiction and treatment options. This knowledge can be a beacon of hope as families struggle with someone’s addiction.
If your family member has completed addiction therapy, whether outpatient or inpatient, it’s important to understand aftercare therapy as a treatment for addiction doesn’t stop after the person has detoxed and completed withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Aftercare therapy is critical to a patient’s chances of successful sobriety and staying sober for the rest of their lives. Relapse rates for substance abuse are around sixty percent, so staying committed to aftercare is essential for the addict, and you being their cheerleader and remaining supportive means a world of difference.
When you have a family member living with addiction, it’s a stressful life, and every day can feel like a crisis. Connecting with peers who understand what you’re going through is imperative for protecting your mental and emotional well-being. Groups like Al-anon or Alateen help family members of those struggling with addiction. Even after loved ones have achieved sobriety, most people still find it beneficial to continue these meetings. Not only can you gain insight and help from attending, but you can also support newer members.
If someone has never struggled with or seen addiction in a loved one, they may have plenty of misconceptions. From thinking addicts are weak to say it could never happen to their family, even the medical community is susceptible to damaging stigmas. Use your experience to educate others about addiction and advocate for those struggling. Studies have shown that people who do this work enjoy better mental health and higher self-esteem. You’ve been through a lot, and sharing your journey and knowledge can be invaluable to someone just starting down this road.
Living with someone struggling with addiction is overwhelming and stressful for everyone in the household. By utilizing the above tips, individual therapy, and managing expectations, you all have a strong chance of coming out on the other side healthier and happier than before.