Last Updated on October 12, 2022 by Umer Malik
There have been numerous researches on how chemical dependence and substance abuse has pathological effects on the abuser. There also have been many studies that indicate how addiction changes the social dynamics for the addict. It is well-documented how an addict’s relationships with friends and family are adversely affected. Unfortunately, the family members and friends of a substance abuser go through physically and emotionally draining experiences while looking after a loved one who has chemical dependence. Their addiction causes extreme stress, poor health, financial burden, and an overall reduction in the quality of life for the people around them.
In recent times, mental health has gained the spotlight. Psychologists are encouraging people to be more vocal about their emotional struggles. It has caused many to open up about dealing with addicted family members and associated difficulties. Researchers have sought ways to devise coping mechanisms for the family members affected by substance abuse. If you or anyone you know is struggling due to a chemically dependent family member, we’ve gathered ways to help you look after yourself and your loved ones.
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It is a known fact that the recovery process becomes easier when an addict has a strong support system among close friends and family members. You can be that support and encourage your loved one to seek the right professional help. Be one step ahead and find a center near you that offers detox and rehabilitation facilities, local support groups, and counselors for your addicted loved one. You can also offer to accompany them to all sessions so that they know you have their back and are supporting them to achieve sobriety.
Go for family Counseling or private therapy
Living with an addict can be very stressful for all the household members. The caregivers are expected to manage everything while bearing the brunt of financial expenses and dealing with the drug-addicted family member’s abusive behavior. A study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review Journal stated that family members of addicts are at a higher risk of developing depression, stress, and health issues compared to families where there were no such issues with substance control.
Many new coping models have been designed that specifically help family members. Some of these programs work with addicts to reinforce the importance of social support in recovery. Some programs involve all family members for joint therapy sessions. Then, there are private therapy sessions for addicts where they learn to cope with all the stress, develop assertiveness, and work towards better anger management.
Educating yourself about your loved one’s addiction can be a silver lining. Thanks to the advancements in research, there have been in-depth studies about how chemical dependence alters the cells inside the brain and messes up certain hormones in the body. This information is being used to develop new treatment plans that include detoxification. Studying more about the science of addiction can assure you that addiction is treatable.
It also opens up the opportunity to see that addiction is a disease, not a personality flaw. Addicts are not weak or stubborn. It is just that these chemicals react with the healthy cells of the mind and alter the mind’s chemistry that forces addiction. This insight can help families escape the blame game and take up a united front to fight this disorder.
Connect with others
Addiction can cause huge amounts of stress that can harm your physical and mental health. The dysfunctional setup of a household with substance abuse-related issues can damage the trust in these relationships, and it becomes natural to lose all hope. Like the AA, many groups help heal the connections between the addict and his family members. Al-Anon believes that addiction is a family illness and that onboarding all members together can help fight the addictions.
In these meetings, the friends and relatives of addicts share their grief, experience, and strength in dealing with an addict. These meetings are very helpful in diminishing the feelings of isolation and confusion. You feel understood when you see that so many are going through exactly what you are. Meetings also help reduce levels of stress and ward off feelings of guilt for the entire family. You can also learn a lot from other people’s experiences and how they cope with addiction.
Look after yourself
We understand how exhausting and overwhelming it can be to live with and look after an addict. But we cannot stress enough how your well-being is important. It should always be your top priority. There are many ways you can help yourself in this stressful living situation.
- Eat well – there are many food items enriched with healthy minerals and nutrients that fight off depression. You should also ensure you are getting the desired number of calories during the day. Eating less or missing meals can contribute to poor health and a lousy mood that worsens matters. You must also stay hydrated and drink ample water.
- Sleep well – the nighttime is the hardest in such households. Addicts usually meet dealers in the dark, stumble back home from a party drunk, or overdose. The worse situations associated with drug abuse and alcoholism happen in the latter parts of the night. Therefore, it is not surprising that people living in such a situation can get no sleep. A study by Harvard Medical School showed a deep link between mood and sleep. People who get less than 5 hours of sleep experience anger problems and are more stressed. You need your 7-8 hours of sleep to feel your best and stay at the top of your game to help your family members recover.
- Look for a hobby – hobbies or different activities can be therapeutic. They are known to boost self-worth and keep the mind occupied. It would help if you found a hobby that can be relaxing for you. There are many options like cooking, gardening, painting, playing an instrument, social work, etc. These activities can be your escape when things get too stressful.
Addiction can affect everyone close to the addict. It’s a disease that can destroy relationships and the mental peace of all individuals. It is not just the addict that needs help and assistance to recover. The family members and friends need equal attention and guidance to recover from the dysfunctional dynamics of their relationship with the addict. As stated above, addiction is a disease, and it can be fought and overcome. There is hope for everyone that things can change and get better. This hope is the beginning of recovery.