The Painful Realities of Loving an Addict.
Loving an addict isn’t easy. It puts an enormous strain on caretakers, who so often find themselves hovering among frustration, anger and despair.
Of course, we want to help our loved ones, but trying to maintain a balance between caring for self and caring for our loved ones can be difficult. TV programs such as Intervention only show the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what living day to day with an addict is like.
Loving an addict takes strength, both strength enough to stay and strength enough to know when walking away may be the only solution to save a life.
Dealing with Your Feelings
Loving an addict can be unbearably lonely. You have so many emotions, and it’s hard to deal with them in the midst of the maelstrom that living with an addict can bring. It’s important to realize certain feelings are normal.
Many people who love addicts become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. This guilt can stem from knowing you once enabled the addict you love. It may also take the form of guilt that your love isn’t enough to get them to stop their addictive behavior.
Depression and sadness often haunt those who love addicts. This depression can stem from how chaotic living with an addict can be. It can come with the stress of finding financial resources to help them get treatment. Many people who love addicts find themselves regularly prostrate with grief that they can’t help the one they love most.
Anger and rage can flare, as you become exasperated with your loved one’s behavior. While it can be a relief to lash out, the guilt that follows can be deep. You begin to question whether you pushed your loved one over the edge.
Finding Help for a Loved One
The most important thing to realize is that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault. You had nothing to do with them becoming an addict. Many scientific studies have shown that addiction is a disease like any other, one that drives the individual to their substance of choice.
That being said, it is critical for you to accept the reality of your loved one’s addiction. Oftentimes, the addict vehemently denies they are addicted. It is up to you to convince them that they need help, which is far from easy.
Because dealing with addiction is such a difficult thing for even experts to do, let alone those who are close to the situation, it’s advisable to seek outside help. There are a number of wonderful support groups designed for family and friends of addicts to get the support they so desperately need. They can also point caregivers in the right direction in terms of finding places where their loved ones can seek help.
Fortunately, many treatment programs for addicts exist. One of my dearest friends suffered from an addiction to heroin, one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Just a single dose can lead to addiction. With the help of the right program, he is now drug-free. The tough part is realizing that even with treatment, an addict is still an addict. However, with professional help, maintaining recovery is possible.
Keeping Your Sanity
As I said earlier, loving an addict is hard. As important as it is to care for them, you need to remember to take care of yourself too.
Addicts are master manipulators. In order to assuage any guilt you may feel, you must set boundaries, and refuse to give in to manipulation. This means learning to say no, loudly and clearly, to requests for money for a fix or for help with other enabling behaviors. This can often become easier over time.
Also, take time to focus on yourself. Engage in a practice you find relaxing. For some, this may involve some sort of physical exercise or meditation program. For others, it may mean carving out at least 30 minutes per day to take a nice long bath or watch a favorite program.
Finally, find a support system of your own. It’s impossible for you to help your addict friend when you yourself need help and feel like you have nowhere to turn. Build a network of friends and associates familiar with the subtleties of addiction so you always have a caring voice to listen to when you are at wit’s end. If needed, seek counseling for yourself.
Loving an addict is hard, I know, but not impossible. With the right support, both you and the addict you love can go on to lead healthy, productive lives. Remember to keep self-care in mind as you work to be there for those you love.