Loving someone who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction puts you on an emotional roller coaster.
In any given day, you may be frustrated, hurt, angry, fearful, worried, or overwhelmed.
It’s not easy to watch a partner, family member, or friend spiral out of control, but practicing these 8 self-care tips can help you be the strong support system your loved one needs to begin the process of recovery.
1. Get the Facts
Addiction can be difficult to comprehend if you’ve never struggled with a substance use disorder. If you’re basing your expectations on popular misconceptions, it’s easy to mistake a loved one’s addiction-related behavior as a personal attack against you or your relationship.
Here are some resources to help you learn more about what it’s like to live with an addiction.
- Debunking the 6 Top Myths About Addiction
- Victim Mentality and Addiction
- The 5 Biggest Lies Addicts Tell Themselves About Addiction
- Is There Such a Thing as an Addictive Personality?
2. Do Not Engage
Addiction can cause dramatic changes in mood and behavior, which can make your loved one seem like an entirely different person. When your loved one is being argumentative or trying to bully you, aim to keep your own temper in check. Retaliating with insults or arguments of your own will only add fuel to an already tense situation. Take a few deep breaths and count to 10 before responding. Calmly changing the subject to a neutral topic is generally the best way to de-escalate the situation.
3. Practice Loving Detachment
Practicing loving detachment means that sometimes the best way to manage a situation is by giving someone the space they need to fail. If you’re always covering for your partner who misses work and social engagements because he’s under the influence, he’ll never see the consequences of substance abuse. If you keep paying your daughter’s rent when you know she’s spending her own paycheck on drugs and alcohol, you’re inadvertently enabling the addiction. Your goal should only be to provide moral support and encouragement to seek treatment.
4. Find Time to Socialize
When you’re always busy dealing with crisis situations caused by a loved one’s behavior while he or she is under the influence, it can feel like there is no time left for a social life. However, human beings are naturally social creatures. Even if it’s just a short meet for coffee or a walk around the park, find time to connect with friends at least once per week. Connecting with people who are important to you will help provide a more balanced perspective on life.
5. Seek Support from People Who Know What You’re Going Through
Although socializing with friends is important, someone who has never loved someone with a substance use disorder will have a hard time understanding what challenges you are dealing with. Seeking support from a group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon can help you feel less isolated as you encourage your loved one to seek help. These groups are open to parents, children, spouses, partners, brothers, sisters, other family members, friends, employers, employees, and coworkers of people with substance use disorders.
6. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Proper nutrition, sleep, and regular exercise greatly increase a person’s ability to cope with stressful situations. When you’re tired and worn out, you won’t have the physical or mental energy to support your loved one. If making a complete lifestyle change seems impossible given your current circumstances, focus on small actions such as setting a consistent bedtime, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, or increasing your intake of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.
7. Enjoy Stress-Relieving Hobbies
Listening to music, gardening, practicing yoga, drawing, painting, or other activities that you find soothing can help keep your stress level in check so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges associated with supporting your loved one. Setting aside time each morning for stress relief can help you feel confident about tackling the day’s to-do list, while enjoying stress-relieving activities before bed can help you clear your mind so you’re able to sleep better.
8. Protect Your Safety
Although it’s admirable to want to do everything in your power to help a loved one who is struggling, you should never put your physical safety at risk. Most people with a substance use disorder are not violent, but some can lash out when they are under the influence or feel attacked by the people around them. If your loved one is dealing with aggression and anger issues in addition to substance abuse, you may need to involve law enforcement officials to prevent harm to yourself or others.