When a loved one is addicted to substances, it becomes a struggle for the whole family. The person that you once knew may now be replaced by a version of themselves that is hardly recognizable. Someone who was once happy, friendly, welcoming, and trustworthy, may now be depressed, angry, confrontational, and dishonest. As you watch the person you love go down the dark road of addiction, it is very easy to be taken down that road with them. Your efforts to support them and save them can easily turn into you draining financial resources, becoming emotionally exhausted, and alienating other people in your life. How do you support someone that is struggling with an addiction to substances without enabling or losing sight of who you are as a person? It’s something that we must learn how to do with practice, trial and error, and patience.
One of the most important things to remember as a supporter of someone struggling with substance abuse, is to always practice self-care. You cannot take care of others if you are not taking care of your own physical and mental health. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty glass. You are not a miracle worker and you are not responsible for the actions of your loved one. Always make sure that you are carving out time in your day to do activities that are enjoyable for you and to spend time with others that you care about. During this time, try to avoid discussing your loved ones addiction or fixating on it. This may be a difficult task for you, but remember that there are plenty of other hours in the day to problem solve. Make this time for yourself and remind yourself that you can go back to helping once you have recharged a bit.
Another important thing to remember is that setting boundaries is not mean or selfish. Boundaries help you to avoid enabling and ensure that you are preserving your emotions, personal belongings, and other relationships. Also, if we do not inform our loved ones of our boundaries and present consequences when they violate these established boundaries, then there is no reason for them to change their behaviors. It is important for them to recognize how their substance use is affecting their personal relationships and other activities of daily living. If someone is not respecting your personal property, is speaking down to you, or has stolen from you, it is within acceptable limits to separate yourself or provide other consequences until the behavior changes.
Lastly, as difficult as it is, try not to blame yourself. As supporters, we can educate them about substance use, provide treatment options, and help them to recognize their behaviors, but we cannot change them or save them. That is entirely up to them. They must want the help and accept it. We can remind them of the beautiful and intelligent person that we know is still in there, but they have to believe that too. You are also not responsible for the outcome of their addictive behavior. Some people get better, while others do not. No matter what, it is not your fault.
If you are looking for more information on how to support someone struggling with addiction, while also caring for yourself, we have SMART Family and Friends meetings on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 11:00 am. Please contact the library during regular business hours for more information or contact the social worker at 631-654-4700, Ext: 257. Walk ins are welcome.