After having worked in the field of addiction recovery for a decade, I have had many of the same questions asked by families of those with Addictions. Each week I am addressing one of the five of the most frequently asked questions regarding addiction and the treatment of addictions.
Families of Addicts Question # 5 – What can I do to help?
Take care of yourself. Self care is vital when you are caring for someone else. We have all heard that we are no good to others when we don’t care for ourselves. I am going to go ahead and assume I am not alone in my struggle to practice self-care. So I will challenge you to do something today for yourself. Whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book, going to lunch with a friend, or just listening to your favorite song. Loving someone with an addiction is an emotional roller coaster at times. It takes a lot out of you physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So practice self-care.
Helping so much it Hurts
The next step is to evaluate if you are enabling the person you love to continue to engage in their addiction. I have worked with many family members who meant well but were actually contributing to the progression of the disease. My favorite definition of Enabling:
Enabling: Removing the natural consequences of someone’s behavior.
A few examples can include: calling in sick for them from work, paying their bills for them because they ran out of money, making excuses for their inappropriate behaviors to others, allowing them to abuse you (emotionally, verbally, physically). If you are engaging in these behaviors then it is time to set some boundaries. I challenge you to really sit down and even write out where you feel you are enabling and what boundaries you can set to stop doing so. This is not easy and seeking counseling for yourself to navigate these challenges may be needed.
Seek Help for yourself
I strongly encourage anyone who loves someone with an addiction to seek help for themselves. We cannot control anyone’s behavior but our own. Take care of yourself. There are many self-help groups for families including Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, ACOA, and CODA. If your family member is in treatment, see what the treatment program offers families and what additional education you can gain from them. Also, I encourage you to seek professional counseling for yourself. Look for a therapist that understands addictions and families that can help you through this stressful time. Regardless of the choices your loved one makes, you can choose to make changes and choices for yourself that lead to a happier, healthier life for you.