Today’s Thrive Talk is about alcoholism. I am sure most Americans can identify at least one person struggling with either drug addiction or alcoholism. This subject does not get a lot of media press and tends to have a high stigma attached to any association to addiction. This is America, land of the “bootstrap” mentality.
I am also sure that there is a large number of individuals who have witnessed family, parents, friends, or partners experience drug or alcohol addiction. This is a difficult place to be. Family, parents, friends and partners are the people we love and want to support. We want to see our loved ones do well and live well.
When our loved ones become addicted to alcohol and or drugs, it is still natural to love them and and want to show them support. Below, I have some tips you can try to show support and love, while also considering what will help you maintain health and “support” fatigue. It is important that you protect yourself to avoid the relationship with your loved one experiencing addiction becoming toxic.
1. Understand that it is Not Your Fault: You cannot control anyones addiction. You are not responsible for their addiction. You can not make them stop drinking or using drugs. The person experiencing addiction is self soothing in the way they believe will help. This is something that they have likely found effective. They may not even realize they have a problem and may think their addiction is simply recreational. Just remember it’s not your fault and drug and alcohol use is a disease, that requires time and real effort to manage and control.
2. Create Distance: Creating distance will be helpful for you to keep perspective on your own life and development. The more time you spend with someone who is actively in a state of addiction the more emotional energy you will spend. Create distance from your loved one to maintain an emotional energy reserve. This will help when you do spend time with your loved one who is in addiction, you will have more patience and be more balanced in your interactions with your loved one.
For situations where there is a caregiver in addiction, kids can try to create distance by doing more after school activities, athletic activities or joining clubs such as the debate team, chess club, key club, drill team, or other groups. Adults can also look for healthy adult relationships to curb spending excessive time with your love one while in addiction.
3. Provide Great Self Care: In order to stay balanced and emotionally strong you need to take great care of yourself. There are many ways you can choose to provide self care. It is a good idea to have a few self care opportunities planned for immediate access if you live with a loved one experiencing addiction. Some examples are to read, draw, journal, cook, clean, exercise, go for a walk, or spend the night at a friends home.
4. Find A Safe Outlet: In most cities there is an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous chapter where you and you loved one in addiction can find out more information to local support resources. There is also drug detox and rehab facilities in most cities. There is also general outpatient counseling services for addiction and recovery in most cities. Most outpatient counseling services offer family counseling as well. This is a great opportunity to show your loved one support while also holding them accountable to their actions.
If you do not want to access AA or NA, rehab or outpatient counseling with your loved one, you can try connecting with your local church. Most churches will have information resources for addiction or they may also offer informal counseling for addiction or even family counseling.
Additionally, a safe outlet can also simply be other healthy and safe friends and family that you feel comfortable enough to vent and share your story with. Your friends and family may be able to help you problem solve the issues you are having with your loved one experiencing addiction.
5. Set Boundaries: It is important that you set boundaries with your loved one experiencing addiction. This helps your loved one to better understand that their addiction is effecting you enough for you to shift the relationship into new parameters. They may not even acknowledge the boundary setting but eventually the message becomes clear as long as you maintain the boundaries that you have put in place. The trick is to keep your end of the bargain and do not relent or else the boundary setting will be ineffective.
For children living with a care giver who is experiencing addiction, it will be harder to feel absolute control over boundaries but you can still let your care giver know when they are sober how their addiction makes you feel. You can also talk to your caregiver about spending more time or staying with family who they trust to care for you. Maybe you have an aunt, uncle, grand parents, or older siblings that would be willing to let you stay at their house on the weekends. They may also be able to back you up when interacting with your loved one in addiction. Staying with safe family or friends will be a nice respite (vacation) from excessive time spent with your loved one in addiction.
For Adults you can simply tell your loved one that you will not spend time with them when they are drinking and using drugs. It is helpful to let them know that you love them and want to see them do well but you are not willing to participate in their addiction. The best thing you can do to support the person in addiction is to create healthy boundaries and maintain them.
6. Avoid Enabling Behaviors: If you want to help your loved one to recover from their addiction, do not participate in their addiction including loaning or giving out money. Also do not go to the bar or spend time with your loved one while under the influence or in pursuit of drug activity. You can actually save your loved one time in their addiction by not enabling the behaviors, this will help the loved one to see the addiction more clearly if friends and family do not stand by and support the behavior as though it is “normal” or healthy.
As example to think about:
A woman experiences addiction for 10 years with friends and family enabling and normalizing the behavior. The woman has 10 years of damages from her addiction to her health, mind set, and relationships.
A woman experiences addiction for 2 years with family and friends limiting contact and encouraging the woman to seek treatment. This woman is more likely to understand that there is a problem. This woman may be able to save 8 years of addiction and damages to her health. mindset and relationships.
This is just an example and may or may not be true for each person experiencing addiction but there is a likelihood of change that can come from acknowledgement to the problem and action behaviors that do not support the problem.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have more that you think could help, please leave them in the comments below. You never know who may be in need.
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