Dealing with a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is very challenging, and it definitely takes a toll on even the strongest families. No one can prepare for this type of situation, and certainly no family deserves to be placed in the middle of this level of stress. While you can’t change another person’s behavior, there are some things you can do to deal with having an addict in the family.
1. Educate yourself about the disease of addiction
The person you love who is living with a drug or alcohol addiction has a disease that has altered the way he or she thinks. It is in control of the addict’s behavior. No amount of willpower alone can stop it. Your loved one needs professional help, in the same way that anyone else with a chronic disease needs appropriate monitoring and care.
2. Join a support group
According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, there were 1,224,127 clients in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in 2011. This is an issue which affects many families, and sharing your experiences at an Al-Anon or a Nar-Anon meeting can be very helpful. You’ll be surrounded by people who are dealing with the same kinds of issues and who understand exactly what you are going through. A 12 step recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous may hold open meetings where family members are welcome to attend, and you may find them helpful as well.
3. Get some financial counseling
Once you realize you have an addict in the family, you may have to make some decisions about financial boundaries. It may not make sense to allow your loved one to have access to joint accounts, lines of credit or credit cards. You can order a copy of your credit report at no charge once a year; be sure to take advantage of this service to monitor your credit for any unusual activity, such as new accounts opened in your name or large increases in your debt.
4. Participate in normal family activities
When you are dealing with a loved one who is living with addiction, it can be easy to focus most of your attention on his or her issues. Don’t forget about your other family members. Try to maintain a “normal” family life, even if you are doing things like investigating substance abuse programs as well.
5. Look after yourself
It’s all too easy to put yourself last on the list when you have much stress going on around you. Try to eat well, get enough rest, and exercise regularly. Learning how to meditate or doing yoga are both excellent stress-busters.
Having an addict in the family is a very trying situation, and you’re not alone. Taking time out for yourself to recharge your batteries can make coping with it a bit more manageable.
Follow these tips, and you will be able to hang in there while your loved one gets the help they need.