Taking Care of Yourself while Caring for a Drug Addict
When someone you love is suffering from addiction or trying to succeed in addiction recovery, it is normal to want to help. But in order to properly help the addict, you must first take care of yourself.
When someone you love is suffering from a drug addiction or going through recovery you want to help in any way possible. However, if you are not caring for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs it is very difficult to help someone else. This is especially true when it comes to trying to help the drug addict in your life, as it is a stressful, heart-breaking, and exhausting endeavour.
The following tips can help you care for yourself while trying to care for someone you love who is dealing with addiction as well as recognising the difference between ‘helping’ and ‘enabling,’ so that you and the drug addict you love have the greatest chance of being and getting well.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself when you Love a Drug Addict
The agony faced by those who care for an addict is great. You may worry each day that your loved one will end up either in jail or dead. Unfortunately, you have no control over the life or choices of your loved one. You can, however, choose how you care for your own life — so that you can be of the best help to them.
- 1. Exercise. Exercise is important for everyone, but can be particularly helpful for dealing with stress — which anyone who loves a drug addict has a lot of. Find something you enjoy and do it even for short periods of time. Follow a yoga video on YouTube, take a 10 minute walk in your neighbourhood, or join a fun aerobic dance class. Whatever it is, moving your body is good for you and will help clear your mind.
- 2. Eat well. It can be easy to neglect healthy eating habits, but caring for yourself means caring for your body. Avoid too many high-fat and sugary foods which will slow you down and compromise your overall health. Make sure you are getting the nutrients you need by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. The fact that eating well can also help reduce stress could be a good incentive to prioritise a balanced diet.
- 3. Sleep well. It can be difficult to sleep well when you are worrying about the drug addict in your life. However, sleep is an important aspect of physical health and mental well-being so make getting enough sleep a priority. Practice a healthy sleep routine and do not sacrifice getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
- 4. Do something you love. Doing something you love will help you find balance in your life and bring joy into difficult times. Reengage in old hobbies you once enjoyed or find a new one. Make a point to designate days or times that are solely for you to do anything that you enjoy.
- 5. Understand that self-care is not selfish. Too many people get these two ideas confused and mistakenly believe that by putting their own needs first they are being selfish. Taking care of your physical and mental health by spending time doing things you love and prioritising your eating, exercise, and sleep habits is not selfish and is in fact necessary if you want to have the energy to help someone else.
- 6. Learn about addiction. One of the best things you can do in your quest to help a drug addict is to learn as much as you can about the effects of drug addiction. Educating yourself about addiction and recovery will allow you to deal more compassionately and effectively with the drug addict in your life, which in turn will lower your level of stress.
- 7. Avoid self-blame. You cannot control another person’s decisions. Nor can you force them to change. You did not cause the addiction, and blaming yourself will only hinder both your own and the addict’s ability to be well.
- 8. Recognise and stop enabling behaviours. This may be the most difficult task that those who want to help and care for a drug addict face. It can be very difficult to recognise that much of what you are doing to ‘help’ an addict is actually enabling their addiction. As hard as it can be to see your loved one struggle, giving them money, letting them live with you while they are still using, and making excuses for their behaviour are all actions that allow the addiction to continue and shield the addict from facing the consequences of their addiction. It will feel counterintuitive, but to help an addict you must recognise and stop all enabling behaviours.
- 9. Ask for help and join support activities. The best thing you can do to help yourself if you love a drug addict is to reach out for support. Seek your own personal counselling, join a support group such as al-anon or nar-anon, or join online communities that offer support for families of addicts. Although it can feel very lonely, you are not alone in your pain and there are many people who can help you learn how to best help an addict you love.
Remember that Addiction Recovery is Possible
There are millions of people worldwide who have successfully recovered from an addiction. Never give up hope and always let the drug addict in your life know that you love them and believe in them and you are willing to help them get into treatment, or actively work on recovery when they are ready.
You can do your best to get your loved one into treatment by working with professional addiction counsellors to stage an intervention. An intervention is a carefully planned meeting between friends and family members and the drug addict with the goal of getting them into the appropriate treatment. Even if an intervention or treatment has failed in the past, each exposure to alcohol or drug rehab has benefits and will get your family member one step closer to recovery.
There are many types of drug addiction help available, and understanding the different choices can help you determine which type of addiction treatment centre is the best choice. Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist can help you further understand the options so that when your loved one is ready you know where to send them to get the best care for their addiction.